Notes on Some Narnia Novels

These are not reviews but old notes I found. They are pointers for rereadings.

The Magician’s Nephew

Narnia’s creation story. Lewis does a fine job with it. His strong Platonism comes through at times. Never entirely sure how Lewis squares creation theology with Platonism.

*the hall of images in Charn, suggesting a less real reality. Probably ties in with evil as a privation of good.
* the horse compares his existence in Earth as a shadowy one compared with Narnia.

And of course, Aslan’s creation is speech-act. He speaks and things happen. 

The Last Battle

This is one of those books you aren’t allowed to “Review” and “Criticize.” You simply sing its praises.

In some ways it is the hardest of the Narnia books to read. Not because of any density or ambiguity, but because so many themes echo one another and Lewis is utilizing advanced Platonic metaphysics. In this book we see Lewis in his fully Platonic self. The last chapter is simply a running explanation of Archetype and Image.

In many ways this could explain the problem of Emeth. Is Lewis saying that unbelievers who simply “Try hard” get into heaven? I don’t think it is that simple. We become what we worship. Aslan tells Emeth there was a disjunct between Emeth’s offering noble worship to “Tash” when the character of that demon couldn’t except that worship.

Should we adopt this into our theology? Probably not, but it does explain Romans 1 and the Psalms. All the gods of the heathens are demons. We become like we worship. Emeth, however, was not becoming like Tash. Therefore, Emeth wasn’t worshiping Tash.

In terms of style the prose is glorified and exalted. Towards the end Lewis’s descriptions made the glories of heaven real.

And in terms of sheer greatness, few characters in literature match King Tirian. And while we are speaking of “kings:” There is a not so subtle connection between the abandoning of Aslan and the rejection of monarchy.

My favorite passage in all of Lewis’s literature:

But immediately, from behind Tash, strong and calm as the summer sea, a voice said:

“Begone, Monster, and take your lawful prey to your own place: in the name of Aslan and Aslan’s great Father, the Emperor-over-sea.”

The hideous creature vanished, with the Tarkaan still under its arm. And Tirian turned to see who had spoken. And what he saw then set his heart beating as it had never beaten in any fight.

Seven Kings and Queens stood before him, all with crowns on their heads and all in glittering clothes, but the Kings wore fine mail as well and had their swords drawn in their hands…

Reflecting on Theonomy After I left it

EDIT AND CORRECTION: Prof Clark linked David Bahnsen’s post where his father, Greg, supported Norman Shepherd.

A few blogs ago, I did a series called “The Theonomy Files.” I have since updated my own thinking more in line with Reformed Scholasticism since I wrote that. Here is the gist of it. Part of this will be a number of problems in theonomy. These aren’t “gotcha” but they are difficulties to which I never saw a satisfactory answer. I do plan on offering more substantial criticisms later.

 Let’s briefly define our terms:   theonomy is the position that all of the old testament laws are binding for the new covenant Christian, unless rescinded by command (or presumably practice), and are to be applied in their new covenant context.  

It is hard to debate with theonomists.   Part of the reason is they respond to every criticism with “Oh, but you are simply an antinomian/statist/relativist.”  

The following points of criticism do not necessary serve as any one  refutation of theonomy.    Taken together, however, the place a burden of epistemological proof upon theonomists that I deem is impossible for them to bear.

  1. Where were you all this time?   Theonomists like to point out that older, medieval Christian societies were theocratic and would be opposed to the secularism of today’s politics.   Yes, they were theocratic, but they were not theonomic.   And to the degree that the early Western medieval church was Augustinian, they were most certainly not theonomic (Oliver O’Donovan’s reading of Augustinian ethics shows how difficult the Augustine = theonomist case really is).  Further, almost ALL of these societies were explicitly monarchist, a position theonomists vehemently reject.  Obviously, you can’t simultaneously say you affirm (King) Alfred the Great’s social ethic while denying the form of Alfred the Great’s politics (and by implication, social ethic).
  2. Bird’s Nests and God’s Law.  Deuteronomy 22:6 tells you what to do when you come across a bird’s nest.   Is that considered civil case law, moral law, or ceremonial law?   While I admit at times the law can be delineated along such lines, more often than not it cannot.  It is not always clear whether a law is civil, moral, or ceremonial.  Or maybe it’s all three.   If it’s all three, and we obey the moral part, do we not also obey the ceremonial part? But isn’t that heresy on the standard reading of the law (by both sides)?
  3. Moses isn’t the same as John Locke.   Similar to (1);  theonomists have a tendency to read 18th century American (and 17th century British) political concepts back into the law of God.  Ultimately, this means they reject Christian Monarchy, but they reject Christian Monarchy along American revolutionary lines.   They conclude their rejection of monarchy (which would entail a rejection of most of Christian historical ethical reasoning–a point theonomists often fail to grasp) by an appeal to 1 Samuel 8.   Presumably, 1 Samuel 8 is binding on all Christians all the time (though 1 Samuel gives no evidence to that claim).   Notwithstanding, theonomists cannot give us a clear answer to the question:  does Torah teach monarchy or theocratic republicanism?  (Read Deuteronomy 17 and Genesis 49).  Further, is 1 Samuel 8 civil law or moral law?  Is it even law? If it isn’t a law, should we be bound by it?

Torah isn’t the Congressional Register

Of course, by Torah we mean after Christ, apart from works of Torah.   I am saying that seeing the “Law” as Torah and not theonomy provides a better model for understanding Scripture.  A quick perusal of the Pentateuch will show that it was not written with late Western modernity in mind.  In fact, seen in our categories, much of it is quite bizarre.

That’s not to deny its importance.  If anything, the strange ways in which Torah is organized should invite the reader to reflect even deeper about reality and the way that God’s world works.  Let’s consider a few and ask how these can possibly work on the theonomic thesis:

  1. While there are covenantal-sequential patterns and typological motifs (riffing off of the days of creation–Ex. 25-40), many of the laws are apparently haphazardly organized together.  This should alert us to the fact that maybe God didn’t intend for these laws to be understood in a post-common law framework.
  2. Torah is also story.  In Paul’s use of Abraham in Romans Torah is not functioning as a list of dos and don’ts, but as story.  How do you put story into a law code?

Women Breaking up fights

Here is another difficulty with theonomy.   Maybe it’s not with theonomy the idea, but it does invite young theonomists to reflect more deeply on what they are actually saying.  Here is Deuteronomy 25:11

“When men fight with one another and the wife of the one draws near to rescue her husband from the hand of him who is beating him and puts out her hand and seizes him by the private parts, 12then you shall cut off her hand. Your eye shall have no pity.

There are several problems here if we take it at face value and apply it to a modern Western law code:

  1. Just think about it:  how likely is something like this ever going to happen?   I am a school teacher and I break up fights all the time.   It’s not that easy to get between two people in a fight (and I’ve been hit before, though I was so pumped up with adrenaline I didn’t feel it).
  2. If two guys are moving rapidly and throwing punches, how likely is it that a woman is going to go low and grab the private parts of the other guy?
  3. And would you really apply this?  If a bad guy broke into your home and the wife was able to help out by “disabling” him (and for the sake of argument, save your life), are you really going to reward her by cutting off her hand?  Really?

Someone could say, “Well, that applies to the Mosaic covenant when it was important to provide an heir.”  Maybe.  The text doesn’t say anything about that, so it’s just ad hoc and speculation.  There is still the justice of the matter, covenant heir or no.

And then there is the equity of the matter.   Well before that:  is this law moral or civil/judicial?   It’s obviously judicial since there is a penalty attached to it.   So what’s the equity for today for theonomists?  Remember, on the theonomic gloss the “judicial law abides in exhaustive detail.”    The Reformed Confessionalist does not have this problem.   The Confession only says “allows” the equity and no more.  Which is a nice way of saying that this law would never be applied.  The theonomist has to apply the law.

The After-Calvin Source Failure

One of the reasons theonomy failed as a movement, and this reason perhaps dovetails with why theonomy went Federal Vision and also failed to work out a coherent alternative, is that theonomists generally did not read the Protestant Scholastic sources carefully, to the degree they read them at all. 

That raises another problem:  reading these sources required reading these sources on the sources’ terms.  Theonomists usually viewed anyone who disagreed with them as a “natural law adherent,” defining natural law as a mix of Locke, Newton, and Aquinas.  Here is an experiment for you:  pick up a theonomic text and find a fair definition of natural law on Reformed terms.  Bahnsen avoids it in TiCE . Gary North slams it but never really defines (or explains how modern Reformed accepted natural law).   The real villain, I think, is Kuyperianism (though, ironically, Kuyper himself was a pluralist).   The result was the no-neutrality concept was applied to areas which really didn’t make sense in a practical way (yes, we should do math and plumbing to the glory of God, but there really isn’t a Christian praxis to Christian plumbing).

If you read Reformed natural law sources carefully, you will note that
1) they don’t contradict Moses [many advocated using the Mosaic judicials because of the wisdom found therein;
2) they aren’t using the term “nature” to mean butterflies and puppies [which is how I had usually glossed it].

Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, reading the Protestant Scholastic sources on their own terms will also bring the reader face-to-face with their teachings on covenant and justification, areas which modern theonomists are painfully weak. 

The Steroid Effect

One of the dangers in taking steroids while lifting weights is that despite all the gains, the level you reach is likely the highest you will ever reach.   Once you get off steroids, and even the biggest “user” won’t take them perpetually (No one does steroids, or even creatine, during the regular season for risk of dehydration), it is unlikely you will ever reach those levels naturally again.

We see something similar in theological studies.   Deciding which area to major in will determine how deep one’s theological knowledge can get.   Here was my (and many others; and for what it’s worth, throughout this post substitute any Federal Vision term in place of a theonomy term and the point is largely the same) problem in institutional learning:  I immediately jumped on how important apologetics was for the Christian life to the extent that I made apologetical concerns overwhelm theological concerns.  I essentially made theology proper (and soteriology and ecclesiology) subsets of apologetics/ethics, instead of the other way around.

I won’t deny:  I became very good at apologetics and ethics, but I didn’t know anything about theology outside of a basic outline of Berkhof.   Studying Reformed theology among sources, and worse, movements, who are only barely Reformed, limited how deep I could go in Reformed theology.

I’ll say it another way:  when I was taking covenant theology we had to read sections of Gisbertus Voetius and Cocceius in class.  I got frustrated thinking, “These guys are tying in the covenant of works with natural law.  Don’t they know how un-reformed natural law is?”  Problem was, I was wrong.  But if you read the standard theonomic (or FV; by the way, the FV fully adopts the Barthian, and now historically falsified, Calvin vs. Calvinist paradigm) historiography, there is no way to avoid such misreadings.  Even worse, said historiography fully prevents one from learning at the feet of these high Reformed masters.

The Collapse of First Generation Reconstructionism

I’m not going to touch on the infamous “whitewall” sermon.

I suppose the inevitable question, one loaded with irony, is that given Christian Reconstruction’s commitment to postmillennialism, how come the movement fractured immediately and society is not reconstructed?  Before we get into the individual faults of the men and camps, it is important to first note perhaps why they were prone to fracturing.

Many CR leaders knew they wouldn’t be welcomed in the presbyteries.   So they reasoned:  too bad for the presbyteries!  For all the problems and limitations in local presbyteries, they tend to keep individuals from going off the deep end.   We will soon see why.

  1. Rushdoony:  On one hand it’s a good thing that Rushdoony’s errors are so easy to see.   Being egregious errors and out in the open, they are fairly easy to avoid.  His main errors are the dietary laws, ecclesiology, and shallow readings of some Reformed sources.  I won’t bother refuting his interpretation dietary laws.   I suspect his personal experiences drove his ecclesiology.  I don’t know the whole story, though Gary North has documented it here.   Evidently he got angry at the OPC and separated himself from church bodies for the greater part of a decade. A bit more minor issue but one more prevalent is that many young CRs began their study of theology by beginning with Rushdoony.  As a result, many simply parroted his slogans without really understanding all the theology and philosophy behind it.  Their grasp of Reformed theology was very tenuous beyond the basics.   Once they came across sharp Orthodox and Roman Catholic apologists, they were toast.  They didn’t have the strong foundation in Turretin, Hodge, and Owen that older men had.  Had they begun with the latter and had a decent foundation, then they could have approached Rushdoony Finally, people who really follow Rushdoony have a hard time accepting any criticism of the man.
  2. Was the home-church movement an inevitable spin off from Rushdoony?  That he endorsed something like it is clear, but most Reformed people understand he is wrong on that point.  I think one of the dangers of the home church movement is that apart from any presbyterial oversight, there is nothing stopping the members from embodying outrageous positions.
  3. Gary North:  His Y2K debacle lost him his credibility.  Others have pointed out his refusal to condemn the Federal Vision, though truth be told, would it have mattered?  Most people stopped listening to him in 2,000.   Would his condemning FV in 2003 have changed anything?  Another of his problems would be the Tyler connection. Tyler had the bizarre mixture of independent congregationalism and quasi-sacerdotal episcopalianism.  
  4. Was Federal Vision inevitable?  If you read Bahnsen’s Theonomy in Christian Ethics carefully, it doesn’t seem like it.  He is citing standard P&R and evangelical textbooks on hermeneutics and the Sermon on the Mount.   All of this is wildly at odds with the later Federal Visionists. That’s the problem: other theonomists either became Federal Visionists or they ran interference for them.  

Gary North notes that CR split into two camps:  Tyler Ecclesiasticalism and Rushdoony’s Home Church Patriarchalism. Neither seems like a good choice.

The Sword of Imagination (Russell Kirk)

Kirk, Russell.  The Sword of Imagination: Memoirs of a Half-Century of Literary Conflict. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1995.

This is an unusual memoir, as Russell Kirk narrates his intellectual life in the third person.  It is a fascinating account of the intellectual currents that would later merge into post-WWII conservatism (which is to be distinguished from the banal variety today).   True conservatism means the defense of Permanent Things.  Modern day conservatism is simply libertarianism that is too scared to go all the way.

Kirk does a great job describing his studies at St Andrews, Scotland.  No doubt it provided fodder for his ghost stories.  He also shows the big difference between real scholars and American university guns for hire.  

“The St Andrews scholars of that generation were truly learned men who reda, who thought, who were civilization incarnate…Kirk reflected that some of his American professorial colleagues had no books in their homes except free copies of textbooks” (88).

Following Kirk, we should understand our goal for society should be something like a “mannered aristocracy.” In one devastating but undeveloped remark, Kirk notes that “Many Americans labor under the illusion that they exist in a classless society–and are startled if informed that the classless society was the goal of Karl Marx” (110).  Kirk should have drawn the logical conclusion: if you don’t believe in some form of aristocracy and cultured nobility, you are at root an egalitarian.

Kirk gives us a neat overview of the beginning of modern American conservatism overlapping with the Eisenhower generation.  As he was always wont to point out, conservatism is the negation of ideology. It does not negate, however, conservative impulses (143).

“If Communism is the inversion of Christianity, [then] Ayn Rand, reacting against practical communism, negated the negation” (144).

Among his more interesting acquaintances was the Archduke Otto von Hapsburg of the old imperial dynasty. Archduke Otto’s family can best summarize the goal of conservatism and why it should never be identified with small-govt American conservatism.  “When Theodore Roosevelt inquired of Franz Joseph how he saw his imperial place in modern times, the Emperor answered, “To protect my people from the government” (208). That’s monarchy in a nutshell.  We are too much infected with the Whig notion of progress to really understand this. As a general rule, monarchs saw themselves as last-stand efforts to save the people from monied interests (or in our times, technological experts).  No monarch ever dreamed of the power over a people that Anthony Fauci has.

As with many of the older books by Eerdmans, this is bound with chains of iron.  The spine of the book will never crack.  Unfortunately, you might get carpal tunnel syndrome from reading it.  

November 1916: Node 3, the monarchy

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We are continuing Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s “nodal analysis” of the Russian Revolution.

The hero of the story is Vorotyntsev.  He’s home from the front.  Through him we see that the Germans weren’t so much the bad guys.  Russia and Germany had more in common with each other than with England and France. Vorotyntsev knows the Tsar is incapable of correcting society, but it would be far worse to throw one’s lot with the forces of revolution.

We see the true genius in Solzhenitsyn’s writing in that he is capable of giving air-tight cases for and against monarchy.  We will resolve this antimony at the end.

Against the Monarchy

1) Tsar Nicholas allowed himself to get played by entering the war.  The terms of the war were dictated to him by Britain and France (207).

2) Nicholas smarted from his defeat in the Japanese War, where he was perceived as not taking an active enough role.  He decided to assume full command of the military in this war.  That was a big mistake.

Nodal Point: The Russian army was defeated in the West in 1914-1915.  “One of the most destructive consequences of our defeat in the West was the flood tide of refugees.  The waters had risen and no governmental channel could control them” (220).

Another problem was Russia’s size and army: it was too big.  It fought upon old Napoleonic principles.  What was needed was “an army of crack troops” (278). Russia’s supply lines were unwieldy.  She was still doing logistics for moving huge numbers of horses in a railway age.

Of all people a female history professor gives a moving defense of monarchy.  

For the Monarchy

A female professor, Olda Andozerskaya, gives a most unprogressive defense of the monarchy.  It’s romantic, far-fetched, but quite beautiful (and no worse than 2020, or 2016 or 2012 or 2008 or…you get the idea).

1) Monarchy does not mean stagnation.  “A cautious approach to the new, a conservative sentiment, does not mean stagnation.  A farsighted monarch carries out reforms–but only for those whose time is ripe.  He does not go at it mindlessly, as some republican governments do, maneuvering so as not to lose power” (340).

2) An established line of succession saves a country from destructive rebellions. Political strife is reduced. We might respect a republican government because of Romans 13 (JBA), but we don’t actually respect it.  We know they probably lied to get to office and even if they do fulfill their promises, it’s only to pay off a debt.

3) Persuading a monarch is no more difficult than a republican government.  A republican government has to persuade the public, and that public is often at the mercy of ignorance, passion, and vested interest (341).

4) A monarchy doesn’t necessarily make slaves of the people.  A commercial republic is just as likely to de-personalize them.  Why is subordinating myself to a faceless electorate (and the unelected bureaucracy behind them) preferable to a monarch?

5) Solzhenitsyn faces the biggest objection to monarchy: what happens when you get an idiot?  His answer is probably the best in the literature: “”The accident of birth is a vulnerable point, yes.  But there are also lucky accidents.  But a talented man at the head of a monarchy, what republic can compare?  A monarch may be sublime, but a man elected by the majority will almost certainly be a mediocrity” (342).

Solzhenitsyn goes on to list that republican governments have their own Achillees’ heels: ambitious politicians, a morass of red tape hampering reform, etc.   And his interlocutor asks a very uncomfortable question: why should we suppose equality and freedom to be preferable to honor and dignity?  Maybe they are, but we rarely hear arguments to the point.

Anytime a republican points out that monarchies make tyrants possible, the monarchist should reply that a republic is just as likely to descend into anarchy and civil war.

So, who is correct, the monarchist or the revolutionary?  In terms of argument and greatness, the monarchist clearly wins.  Unfortunately for the monarchist (and humanity), Tsar Nicholas is too little, too late.

The King’s Two Bodies (Kantorowicz)

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Ernst Kantorowicz analyzes the development in later medieval political thought by isolating one aspect of it:  the King’s Two Bodies.   By this phrase he means the conjunction of the king’s own natural body with that of the “body politic” (9).   It is not entirely clear exactly what “body politic” denotes, and Kantorowicz’s ambiguity is deliberate:  the phrase shifted in meaning throughout the Middle Ages.   It is Kantorowicz’s further claim that this shift in meaning had theological roots.

Kantorowicz argues, somewhat counter-intuitively, that “The King’s Two Bodies” is a monophysite construction—while purporting to be an analogy between the King and the divine, it actually takes the form of a heretical Christology (14-15; see also p.18).   The charge of monophysitism is somewhat difficult to follow, but Kantorowicz claims it resulted from the indifference (and inability) to properly distinguish the body of the mortal king from the body of his realm (p. 18).    As is evident, the medieval jurists were seeking to imitate their constructions of kingship from Christological truths.   That is nothing new, nor is there anything wrong with it.  The Eastern Romans already were doing that for hundreds of years.   The problem arose when other theological currents changed the way the Church in the West did Christology, and thus changed the way it did politics.

In the early middle ages Western Europe was similar to the Eastern Romans in terms of using Christology to shape kingship.  Both civilizations shared a common faith and used that common faith to understand politics.   They saw the King as imitator of Christ (47).  It should be noted, however, that the Eastern Romans did not use the phrase “King’s Two Bodies” as extensively (at all?) as the West did.  While the phrase wasn’t heretical, per se, it was always attended by many possible dangers.  In either case, both sides saw the King as the representative, not of God the Father, but of Christ.  This reflects the ancient reading of the Old Testament as a revelation of God the Son.   A moment’s meditation on this point will make it obvious:  political theologies are almost always based on the Old Testament simply because it deals with politics more than does the New Testament.  Therefore, one’s reading of the Old Testament will shape the way one does political theology.

The West’s grammar changed, though.   Previously, kingship was done in the context of liturgy.  The King represented Christ’s rule in a mystical way.  He was anointed with oil for the sake of the realm.   He was, in short, an ikon of popular piety.

The watershed mark demonstrating the transition best is the reign of Otto II, and the best way to illustrate this difference is in the ikonography surrounding Otto.  Otto is important for he represents the intersection between the Byzantine East and Frankish West, including the best and worst elements of both.   Kantorowicz contrasts two ikonographic paintings which portray rulers:  the Aachen miniature over against the Reichenau painting of Otto.   The former portrays the Charlemagnic king as the representative of God the Father whereas the Reichenau painting places Otto in the foreground of a Byzantine halo, suggesting he represents Christ (77).

The above is an important point and I suspect the larger part of it is lost upon Kantorowicz.  This ikonography reflects a shift in theology, which probably reflects a shift in the way sacred texts are read.  It was mentioned earlier that the Old Testament was now read, no longer as a revelation of God the Son, but of God the Father.   One could probably take it a step further—it was seen as a revelation of God-in-general.

The Corpus Mysticum

In many ways it is the concept of a “Mystical Body” that contributed to the secularization of Western political thought.   One must avoid, however, overly simplistic reductions regarding the phrase.  The phrase “Mystical Body” originally connoted the interplay between the Eucharist, the body born of the Virgin Mary, and the Church itself.   While the phrase is not Pauline, if left at this stage there is no problem.   As Kantorowicz, drawing upon the work of Henri Cardinal de Lubac, notes, the distinctions between the two bodies hardened into oppositions.   Therefore, the body of Christ per the Church was separated from the body of Christ the Son of God.  While small at first, this opened the door for a secularization of concepts.

The King as Corporation

One suspects that the idea of the “corporation” arrived in the West coterminous with the sharpening of the “King’s Two Bodies.”  Indeed, even if not chronologically accurate, it is logically consistent.  Jurists were puzzled over the problem of whether the king’s other body—his realm—died when he died.  The short answer to this problem was that the king’s other body did not die.  The people were in-corporated into this body and outlived the king.  The canon lawyers coined a phrase for this:  dignitas non moritur—the dignity does not die.

One cannot avoid noticing throughout this work, and if the argument holds then throughout Western history, a progression of concepts regarding political theology.    Like its Byzantine cousin, Western political theology began with liturgical roots (59).  After the Ottonian period, these liturgical roots were translated into secular terms (115).  Therefore, when the King is called a “corpus mysticum,” this cannot be interpreted in early liturgical Christian categories.  Rather, it can only reflect the ongoing secularization.   Because of the hardening of “the King’s two bodies,” jurists had to account for the fact that the second body, the realm, did not die[i], and they could only do this by introducing the idea of the corporation.  Therefore, one can trace the movement of Western political theology along the following line:

Liturgical Kingship à Law-based Kingship à Corporate Kingship à Corporation à The State

Conclusion

This book is a genealogy of political theology.  It traces the rhythm of Western politics through the lens of a highly disputed phrase.   Further, it traces the nuances later attributed to that phrase, and the earth-shattering consequences.  Our only regret is that this was the only book of its kind that Kantorowicz had written.

There are some difficulties with the book, though.   Kantorowicz does not always identify his main point in each chapter, or he might wait until some random moment in the middle of the chapter before he informs the reader of his argument.   Further, there are some portions of the book which do not seem relevant at all (e.g., his extended discussion on medieval English fiscal rights).   On top of all of this is the rather dense style in which he wrote, coupled with the numerous (usually un-translated) sentences and paragraphs in Latin.  One suspects that many of these phrases are indeed central to his main argument, but if one’s grasp of Latin is not on a post-graduate level, the argument will be lost on the reader.

 

Edmund Burke: Lectures French Revolution

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Burke addresses a rather thorny problem: on what grounds can he contend for the English Revolution of 1688 while condemning the French Revolution of 1789? No matter what answer he gives, he will have to own up to the fact that the British did remove a king. Granting that, however, there are some notable differences.

Burke isn’t against all changes, for he notes that “a state without the means of some change is without the means of its conservation” (Burke 21). Burke holds this possibility of change in conjunction with the principle of a hereditary crown. It is a hereditary crown that grounds the ancient liberties as hereditary right (25). In other words, the common good moves through the crown and not through a majority vote. It was the line of the Stuarts that threatened this ancient liberty. Therefore, to restore the ancient liberties, it had to restore the Crown back to its role.

The English maintained, and the French lost, that idea of “cultivating virtue” within proper spheres of hierarchy. France abandoned the idea of moral equality and sought “that monstrous fiction” which only embitters real inequality (37). “France has not sacrificed her virtue to interest; but she has abandoned her interest, that she might prostitute her virtue” (37).

Concerning inequality, we must insist on a natural hierarchy. “But whilst I revere men in the functions which belong to them, and would do, as much as one man can do, to prevent their exclusion from any, I cannot, to flatter them, give the lie to nature” (44). Further, hierarchy helps us grow in virtue. Burke continues: “To be attached to the subdivision, to love the little platoon we belong to in society, is the first principle (the germ as it were) of public affections. It is the first link in the series by which we proceed towards a love to our country and to mankind (47).

On Human Rights

Burke defines a right as “whatever each man can separately do, without trespassing upon others, he has a right to do for himself….He has equal rights but not a share to equal things” (59). This is an important safeguard, for as he warns on the next page: “By having a right to everything, they want everything” (60).

Burke points out that the revolution destroyed not only the ancient institutions, but the principles under girding them.

Burke’s groundwork (Grundrisse? With apologies to Marx) is that man is a religious animal and a stable society must safeguard the religious institutions (or as we would say today, networks). He notes: “We are resolved to keep an established church, an established monarchy, an established aristocracy, and an established democracy, each in the degree that it exists, and in no greater” (91). I’ve seen some Libertarian friends claim Burke as their own. This cannot be so. Burke, though he inconsistently despises metaphysics, believes in an ordered realm of goods. Religious stability is a more preferable good than buying cheap plastic junk from China.

Critique and Analysis

Our hearts thrill at Burke’s prose. There can be no doubt of that. Unfortunately, Burke was not the most powerful thinker of the age and while England was spared the horrors of “democracy,” Burke never really gave a coherent alternative.

Men as disparate from Plato to Lincoln argued from genus, which is an argument made from the nature of the thing. Burke, unfortunately, argued from “the facts surrounding the case.” These facts determined the strongest premise of his argument.

His defense of the English Revolution of 1688 illustrates the problem. By precedent England had a generational defense and practice of property and rights that are upheld by the monarchy. All well and good. In fact, paradoxically, England took up arms to prove they didn’t have the right to overthrow the government. Here is Burke’s problem: “What line do the precedents mark out for us? How may we know that this particular act is in conformity with the body of precedents unless we can abstract the essence of the precedent? And if one extracts the essence of the precedent, does not one have a speculative idea” (Weaver)?

Burke pointed out that participation in political power “does not belong to the rights of man, because men have a right to good government, and there is no necessary connection between good government and government by the many.” If anything, the rights of men point to a natural aristocracy (Strauss 298).

That’s good. Unfortunately, Burke held to the British sensualist view of art, which specifically denied a connection between intellectual beauty (e.g., mathematical proportions) and sensible beauty (312). This explains why he doesn’t like French gardens. They are too geometrical and not “natural.” There is something to be said for the country aesthetics of some British gardens. I think that is true. Unfortunately for Burke, applied to his whole system, the result is an emancipation of sentiment from reason.

Hegel (Charles Taylor)

Related image

Old review.  Reposting.

The Enlightenment Context

These thinkers (Descartes, Bacon, Hobbes) held to an atomistic view of man and society. They rejected the medieval worldview of “final causes” (4). The world was no longer seen as “symbol manifesting the rhythm of the divine” (5).

Modernity’s epistemology is that of a “self-defining subject” (7).

First of all this implies a “control over things” (8). For example, nature/matter is now seen as “dead matter,” able to be manipulated by the elite (Taylor does not draw this out but this is arguably the simplest definition of magic).

With a self-defining subject there comes a new definition of freedom (9).
There came a dis-enchanting, or objectivifying of the world. Modern understandings of meaning and purpose apply exclusively to the thought and actions of the subject” (9).
Most deleteriously, man himself was seen as an object–was objectified.

This hard Enlightenment anthropology will itself break down (almost immediately). Some couldn’t live without a God; these are the mild Deists. Others took the epistemology consistently and became radical materialists.

The German Romantic Counter-attack

Post-Reformation Germany never experienced the same “church versus state” problems that France did. Thus, German’s religious expression to the Enlightenment was formed differently: pietism. Pietism stressed a heart-felt religious experience of the soul’s meeting with Christ (11). There followed a denigration of dogma and confessional status. Like with the Enlightenment itself, the reaction in Germany went along two paths.

Sturm und Drang

The main counter-attack was led by Romantic Johann Herder. Herder dislikes the Enlightenment’s objectification of man, and he proposes an alternative anthropology: expressivism (13). Human life and human activity are seen as expressions.

Taylor frames his book in order of several of Hegel’s main works. He does an excellent job outlining difficult terminology and highlighting key points which will serve as hermeneutical loci later.

Self-Positing Spirit

This introduces Hegel’s “identity of difference and identity.” Starting slowly, following Taylor, here is what I think he means. Hegel is trying to overcome the Kantian duality. Hegel wants to overcome this with his notion of “overcoming oppositions.” Therefore, identity cannot sustain itself on its own, but posits an opposition, but also a particularly intimate one (80). In short, Hegel married modern expression with Aristotle’s self-realizing form (81).

Following this was Hegel’s other point: the subject, and all his functions, however spiritual, were necessarily embodied (82-83).

The Contradiction Arises

Contrary to mindless right-wing bloggers, Hegel did not form the “dialectic” in the following way: we posit a thesis (traditional community), then we negate it (cultural marxism), which allows for the “synthesis” (our pre-planned solution all along). Here is what Hegel actually meant: there is reality, but the very structure of reality already contains a contradiction. The subject then must overcome that contradiction.

Taylor notes, “In order to be at all as a conscious being, the subject must be embodied in life; but in order to realize the perfection of consciousness it must fight and overcome the natural bent of life as a limit. The conditions of its existence are in conflict with the demands of its perfection (86).

Taylor has much more to say but that will suffice for now. Of course, I radically disagree with Hegel’s conclusions. That does not mean Hegel is value-less. On the contrary, one can see key Augustinian and Origenist points in his outlook.

Taylor seems to structure his discussion of Hegel along the following lines: Phenomenology of Geist is a sort of preparatory stage for the Logic. At the end of the last discussion, Hegel said that Spirit (Geist) comes to know himself, and that finite spirits are the vehicles of this self-knowledge. This is partly why Hegel says that Geist must be embodied.

We start off with an inadequate notion of the standard involved; but we also have some basicaly correct notions of what the standard must meet. However, we see the inadequacy of both when we try to realize it. Obviously, Hegel is simply following Plato on this point.

What if we are just arbitrarily positing some standard of knowledge? No big deal, for upon reflection we will find out that said standard is likely faulty and we will have to “re-think it.” When we re-think it we get closer to the truth. Thus, “the test of knowledge is also its standard” (136).

Hegel ends this discussion with the suggestion that consciousness inevitably posits self-conscious, which will be taken up in the next chapter.

I’m skipping the section on “self-consciousness” because I really didn’t understand it, and concerning the elements of Hegel still relevant today, this isn’t one of them.

One thing I do appreciate about Hegel is that his worldview really is unified. His discussions on “ontology” (the study of essence) are directly connected to his politics and views on religion (and to show how “real-life” this really is: when Karl Marx read Hegel he kept a few elements but mainly despised the man and his system. He negated Hegel–pun intended. Following his negation, Lenin, Stalin, and Mao took this negation of Hegel and murdered 200 million people. Philosophy really does matter).

In the Formation of Spirit Taylor notes that Hegel idealized the ancient Greek polis: he saw a complete unity between citizen and society (171). Unfortunately (or inevitably) this had to break down. Spirit cannot become universal if it is confined to the walls of one particular city. This is an important, if somewhat abstract point. I will develop it further in my final reflections on Hegel.

Taylor remarks, somewhat side-tracking the discussion, that sin is necessary for salvation in Hegel’s view (174). Of course, as a Christian this is completely unacceptable, but it also shows my appreciation for Hegel. Hegel can be seen as the consistent high-point of a certain strand of Western thought. We saw the same type of thinking in Origen (for God to be Lord, there must be something for him to be Lord “over”), in a muted but present form in Augustine, and openly championed by some Reformed teachers today.

Essentially, what Hegel is saying is that men feel a basic attitude of alienation–their substance lies outside them and they can only overcome it by overcoming their particularity (179). Unfortunately, that is what Hegel calls a “contradiction.”

This part of Hegel’s Phenomenology is dealing heavily with social life, which I will cover in greater detail in the chapters on politics.

This next section of the book, and presumably the logical outflowing of Hegel’s thought, deals with “manifest religion.” I really don’t want to spend a lot of time on this, partly because it is the most atrocious aspect of Hegel’s thought, and partly because I want to get to the politics. However, Hegel is nothing if not consistent, and it is important to see how one section implies the next (which is exactly how his later Logic is set up). And as always, even when wrong Hegel has some excellent insights on the human dynamic.

Building on Hegel’s premise that God/Geist/Spirit, which is the ultimate reality, must be embodied in history, it follows that one must ask in what manner is it embodied? One of the most fundamental modes, Hegel posits, is in religion (197). Briefly stated, Hegel sees each epoch in human history as manifesting religion, but always in a contradictory way. The Greeks were able to apprehend “the universal,” but they could only do so in a finite and limited way (and thus the infinite/finite contradiction). This contradiction is not a bad thing, though, for it opened up the possibility of the Christian religion (with a detour through the Hebrews). Hegel sees the ultimate religious expression in the Incarnation.

What do we make of this?
Like anything Hegel says, much of the surface-level language is quite good, but once you get beyond that you see the truly bizarre theology. Hegel has a strong emphasis on community and will say that is where the true Christian expression is found. From our perspective, this sounds a lot like saying Christ is found in the church, and that is true. Unfortunately, Hegel was not using that in the same way we are.

At this point in the narrative we are beginning the discussion of Hegel’s two-volume Logic. While this is the hardest of his works to understand (and I certainly don’t understand them beyond a fourth-grade level), it will be easy to discuss them. His main points are clear and tied together.

A Dialectic of Categories

When one is studying reality, Hegel says, one can start anywhere in the system, for each facet is ultimately tied together (226). If we start with “Being” then our method will proceed dialectically. What he means by that is the very structure of reality has a contradiction, and in overcoming that contradiction Being moves forth to something else. Throughout the whole of this discussion, Hegel is starting from Kant and reworking the system along problems he sees in Kant.

To avoid confusion, and to silence the right-wing conspiracy bloggers, Hegel’s idea of contradiction is this: he has a two-pronged argument, the first showing that a given category is indispensable, the second showing that it leads to a characterization of reality which is somehow impossible or incoherent (228).

In developing the above contradiction, Hegel assumes the Plotinian dialectic: a Something can only be defined by referent to another with which it is contrasted (236).

Hegel says a lot more on these topics, but I will not. Throughout Taylor’s analysis he reveals interstesting facets of Hegel’s thought, showing him to be a true heir of Augustine and Plotinus.

Most right-wing bloggers think that Hegel’s view is the Illuminati finding its ultimate expression in world-government. Actually, what Hegel means is that communities become vehicles of the “Spirit.” This can (and has) been taken in numerous ways. I see it as communities organically expressing a common spirit, common values (see Augustine, City of God Book 19.4).

Hegel is trying to overcome the dilemma that social life poses: per man’s subjective life the important thing is freedom of spirit. However, man also lives in community and the norms of the community often bind his freedom of spirit (it is to Hegel’s credit that he recognized this problem generations before Nietszche and the existentialists).

Hegel suggests the form man must attain is a social form (366). It is important to note that what Hegel means by “state” is much different than what Anglo-Americans mean by it. Hegel means the “politically organized community” (387). Let’s explore these few sentences for a moment. Throughout his philosophy Hegel warns against “abstractions,” by which he means taking an entity outside its network of relations. With regard to politics, if abstraction is bad then it necessarily follows that man’s telos is in a community. Man comes into the world already in a network of relations.

Reason and History

Given Hegel’s commitment about the fulfillment of spirit, it follows that communities grow. As seen above, Hegel’s applies to history the problem of self-fulfillment. How does man realize the fulfillment of the Idea?

Jews: realization that God is pure, subjective Spirit. Ends up negating finite reality.

Greek: opposite of Jewish mentality. Harmonizes God with “natural expression.” Ends up with idolatry. Greek polis is pariochial. Each state his its own God. A universal realization of spirit is thus impossible. Men were identified with Greek state. Democracy natural expression. There is a necessary contradiction within the Greek polis: only represents a part of finite reality.

Romans: Origin of the idea as “Person,” bearer of “abstract right” (397).

Christianity: the finite subject and absolute spirit can be reconciled. The task of history is to make this reconciliation public–this is the Church.

Germans: they were to take it to the next stage.

The rest of European history is a working out these processes, a transformation of institutions. It is hear that we see feudalism, etc. At this point we need to correct a mistake about Hegel: Hegel is not saying that world history climaxes with Prussian Germany. There is no sensible way he could have believed that. Germany was weak and defeated when he wrote (it would have been interesting and perhaps more perceptive to say that Russia was the bearer of the World Spirit). Nonetheless, as Hegel notes and as his critics routinely miss, history did take an interesting turn in the 19th century and the force of ideas does not simply stop because the historian wants them to stop.

The Foundations of the Modern State

Monarchy as the Representative Individual: consistent with his earlier points, Hegel notes that there must be some way for the individual to retain his subjective right, yet at the same time freely and fully identify with the community (Staat). This happens by way of monarchy. Beneath the monarchy are Estates, who mediate the King to the people. Nowhere does Hegel mean representation according to our usage today. The King does not “represent” the will of the people, but through his kingly majesty allows the people to identify (399).

Interestingly, Taylor notes that the Reformation ended up desacralizing the political order, eventually seeing it as a “heap of objects” (401). This, of course, is the philosophy of nominalism.

The French Revolution: Political Terror

Hegel defines it as “absolute, unlimited freedom.” Complete freedom means that outcome should be decided by me. Of course, since I am in society it is not decided by me alone. Therefore, complete freedom is decided by the strongest individual. This is the conclusion of indivdiualism ala Locke.

Charles Taylor is embarrassed by Hegel’s rejection of the principles of the French Revolution. I think the reason is that if Hegel is right and one should view the Modern Narrative as a continuation of the French Revolution, then the only moral alternative is to reject said narrative. He notes (if not likes) Hegel’s challenge to modernity: the modern ideology of equality and of total participation leads to a homogenization of society. This shakes men loose from their traditional communities but cannot replace them as a focus of identity” (414).

Translation: all natural societies organically flow from a unified belief system/ethnos (cf. Augustine, City of God, 19.4). Modernity is the negation of this. Without this unified system of belief, men cannot “connect” to one another. Thus, no real community. Thus, no real unity and society is held together by force (ala Hegel on Rome) and terror (ala Hegel on France).

Modernity is nominalism of politics.

Hegel’s conclusion, which Taylor rejects, is a rationalized monarchy. Hegel was a monarchist but he was not a traditionalist, and for that reason he was not a conservative. He agreed with the older conservatives that society must be founded on authority, estates, and a strong monarch; Hegel, however, based these spheres, not on divine right or tradition, but on reason. In this sense Hegel stands firmly in the Enlightenment.

According to Hegel France is utterly lost in terms of a political future. England is better, but she is not far behind in spiritual rot, for England (like America today) is run riot with an excess on particular rights. And in this chaos of individualism, special interest groups backed by powerful elites have taken control (like America today).

Taylor notes that for Hegel,
“The only force which could cure this would be a strong monarchy like those late medieval kings which forced through the barons the rights of the universal. But the English have crucially weakened their monarchy; it is powerless before Parliament which is the cockpit of private interests (454).

I first found this line of reasoning from Fr. Raphael Johnson’s take on Russian history. I guess Johnson got it from Hegel himself since he wrote his Master’s thesis on Hegel.

Taylor continues to the conclusion,
Hence the vehicle by which rational constitution could best be introduced and made real was a powerful modernizing monarchy…Hegel had hopes for the future based on the climate of his times. Germany had been shocked into reform by the Napoleonic conquest. It consisted of societies founded on law in which principles of rational Enlightenment had already gone some way and seemed bound to go further. It had a Protestant political culture and hence could achieve a rational constitution unlike the benighted peoples of Latin Europe, and it was not too far gone in rot like England. It held to the monarchical principle and the monarchs retained some real power unlike England, and yet the societies were law societies (454-455).

This paragraph warrants some reflection:

Although I am a traditionalist, and Hegel is not, I agree that a modernizing monarchy is much preferred than unreflected claims to “Throne and Altar.” Many monarchists today naively think that “restoring a king” will return the land to justice. Ironically, this tends to lead to the same problems that Republican government leads: you have the vision of a few determining the fate of the whole. Rather, a strong monarch who enforces Republican structures in the land, arising from the will of the ethnos (shades of Johann Herder), existing primarily to reign in the excesses of the free market, is one who is both authoritarian yet the people are still free.

I am not sure on Hegel’s optimism for a Protestant Monarchy. I know that Germany saw as much, and even England can claim to be a “monarchy” in some vague watered-down sense (while we are at it, I actually encourage one to read the thoughtful positions by N. T. Wright and Oliver O’Donovan on monarchy). However, most Protestant political forces have been confessedly thoroughly anti-monarchist, and it is no surprise there are few Protestant Monarchies left. Happily, though, there are examples of good, Protestant monarchies.
While I disagree with founding a country on “the principles of Enlightenment,” given that it was the other horn of the dialectic (the other being Augustinian Filioquist politics), I don’t see that Hegel had much of an alternative choice. If Western history represented a dialectical clash after the Schism, then Hegel can’t be faulted for simply living and thinking through his times (as we all do).

Interestingly, Hegel’s vision sounds a lot like Putin’s Russia: a strong leader wary of the excesses of the market and trying to create “intermediate spaces” to shelter the yeoman from predatory capitalism.

Conclusion
In many ways Taylor’s book is essential. One has to know how Hegel is using terminology and Taylor is a reliable guide in that regard. Taylor cannot square himself with Hegel’s politics, though, since Hegel is a rejection (negation?) of modernit

Hegel: Philosophy of Right

Dugin gives a good summary of the general problem here.

Hegel and the Platonic Leap Down

Without endorsing Hegel’s whole project, much of this is very good.

Hegel gives primacy to constitutional monarchy, but wants a government that allows civic participation. Citizens should participate in government as part of a subset of the whole–not as individuals. Hegel calls these subsets “corporations.” I don’t know to what extent corporations in the mid-19th century resemble corporations today. But we can view it another way by calling them “estates,” which is exactly how medieval many participated in the monarchical order.

Hegel wants a constitutional monarchy, to which I have grave misgivings. I understand why, though. At that time in Europe, the old liturgical tradition had largely been eradicated. Institutions tended to reflect raw power. Hegel likely says monarchies as absolute monarchies and wanted to mute that tendency.

Most interesting, he sees the monarch–properly understood–as the concrete embodiment of a culture’s values. It’s also important to point out that Hegel did not mean by “state” what we mean by it, simply the bureaucratic apparatus that takes away liberty. He meant the combined culture and volk.

The Foundations of the Modern State

Monarchy as the Representative Individual: consistent with his earlier points, Hegel notes that there must be some way for the individual to retain his subjective right, yet at the same time freely and fully identify with the community (Staat). This happens by way of monarchy. Beneath the monarchy are Estates, who mediate the King to the people. Nowhere does Hegel mean representation according to our usage today. The King does not “represent” the will of the people, but through his kingly majesty allows the people to identify.

The French Revolution: Political Terror

Hegel defines it as “absolute, unlimited freedom.” Complete freedom means that outcome should be decided by me. Of course, since I am in society it is not decided by me alone. Therefore, complete freedom is decided by the strongest individual. This is the conclusion of indivdiualism ala Hobbes.

I think the reason is that if Hegel is right and one should view the Modern Narrative as a continuation of the French Revolution, then the only moral alternative is to reject said narrative. Hegel’s challenge to modernity: the modern ideology of equality and of total participation leads to a homogenization of society. This shakes men loose from their traditional communities but cannot replace them as a focus of identity” .

Translation: all natural societies organically flow from a unified belief system/ethnos (cf. Augustine, City of God, 19.4). Modernity is the negation of this. Without this unified system of belief, men cannot “connect” to one another. Thus, no real community. Thus, no real unity and society is held together by force (ala Hegel on Rome) and terror (ala Hegel on France).

Hegel’s conclusion is a rationalized monarchy. Hegel was a monarchist but he was not a traditionalist, and for that reason he was not a conservative. He agreed with the older conservatives that society must be founded on authority, estates, and a strong monarch; Hegel, however, based these spheres, not on divine right or tradition, but on reason. In this sense Hegel stands firmly in the Enlightenment.

According to Hegel France is utterly lost in terms of a political future. England is better, but she is not far behind in spiritual rot, for England (like America today) is run riot with an excess on particular rights. And in this chaos of individualism, special interest groups backed by powerful elites have taken control (like America today).

“The only force which could cure this would be a strong monarchy like those late medieval kings which forced through the barons the rights of the universal. But the English have crucially weakened their monarchy; it is powerless before Parliament which is the cockpit of private interests.

Charles Taylor continues to the conclusion,

Hence the vehicle by which rational constitution could best be introduced and made real was a powerful modernizing monarchy…Hegel had hopes for the future based on the climate of his times. Germany had been shocked into reform by the Napoleonic conquest. It consisted of societies founded on law in which principles of rational Enlightenment had already gone some way and seemed bound to go further. It had a Protestant political culture and hence could achieve a rational constitution unlike the benighted peoples of Latin Europe, and it was not too far gone in rot like England. It held to the monarchical principle and the monarchs retained some real power unlike England, and yet the societies were law societies (454-455).

Hegel wanted man to participate in civic life, and I think he was able to avoid the two extremes of absolute monarchy and oligarchic Republicanism. While Hegel wanted man to participate in the civitas, he knew that man as an individual among (often wealthier and more powerful) individuals, could not participate in civic life. For example, if all that matters is “individualism,” then the strongest individual wins–and your claims are marginalized. This is more often a problem in Republics than in monarchies, for a monarch (or a Putin-like figure) can often block and shut down the “rich oligarchs.”

What Hegel opted to do was posit the Guild (he calls it “corporation.” I will not call it that because it connotes and denotes something different today). The Guild (or Guilds), which represents the workers and the individuals, can allow man to face “Big Business” and “Big Capital,” not as a mere individual, but as a group of workers.

This raises the problem of Unions today. Admittedly, I don’t like Unions. 9 times out of 10 they are merely fronts for the Democratic Party, agitators, etc. That is an unfortunate accident of the Guild System; I do not believe it is the essence of the Guild system. (For a perfect analysis of the above sentences, see the Simpsons Episode where Homer is elected “union president” and mistakenly thinks he is an organized crime boss.

 

 

Shakespeare: Henry V

Kenneth Brannaugh’s stellar performance might mislead new readers to this play.  Those who saw his “Band of Brothers” speech might rightly view Henry as the greatest of all Christian kings (and thus the greatest of all possible rulers).   It would be hard to contest it.   (Below I am leaning heavily on Peter Leithart’s analysis)

Shakespeare gives us a subtle caution, though.  In 2.0.14 he calls Henry “the mirror of all Christian kings.”  What do you see when you look in a mirror?  You see your own reflection.  If so, then maybe Henry is a type of Christ.  He was denied his rightful claim in France and so invades enemy territory.  Even better, the story ends in a wedding and reminds readers of the Wedding Feast of the Lamb in Revelation.

But mirrors can work in more than one way.  When you look into a mirror, you see the “opposite” of what is there (your right hand is on the left, etc). Further, mirrors can play tricks on the eyes.   Perhaps Shakespeare is inviting us to see deeper in the picture.

The drama begins with the Archbishop of Canterbury and Ely discussing church politics.  They are worried that they will lose church lands in a coming political sweep.   Long story short, they convince Henry to go to war in France (and presumably gain lands there).  Henry never stops to ask if this is actually just.

The drama then moves (unexpectedly) to a tavern and we are introduced to three idiots from the previous plays:  Pistol, Bardolph, and Nym.  Viewers of the film version will be at a loss here:  what relevance do these men have to Henry (and even worse, the audio on the film version is particularly bad and it is hard to know what is going on)?  These were Henry’s old drinking buddies.   Of particular interest is Shakespeare’s constant juxtaposition of Pistol and Henry.  While Henry is noble and Pistol an oaf, Shakespeare is inviting readers to see both a contrast and a similarity.

But Henry isn’t entirely bad.   He gives orders that French churches are not to be harmed (and hence would seem to follow Just War Theory). He puts off his airs and appears among the men in camp, calling up remembrance of “Our good king ‘Arry.”  His unmasking the three traitors is pure genius.  And of course, his Band of Brothers speech is one of the finest moments in the English language.

Unfortunately, though, dark clouds remain.  The presumed bad guys, the French, are fighting a defensive war against an invader whose claim to the throne is strained at best.   Worse, when Henry lays siege to Harfleur, he threatens to cry havoc and bring fire, sword, and rape to the city if it does not surrender.  Not surprisingly, the city surrenders.  But is he really the mirror of all Christian kings?   His conversation with his future (French) wife is charming, of course, but reading between the lines shows that it is little more than a continuation of Henry’s conquest by other means:  she marries him because (she knows and her father knows) France has lost the war.  Henry is negotiating from a position of power.

The drama may end with a wedding, but it is not the Wedding of the Lamb.  Shakespeare’s readers know, as the contemporaries would likely guess, France will soon be plunged into more war at England’s hands, staving off defeat by a series of desperate miracles (think Joan of Arc).

Postmodernists love to think they are original and fresh.  Early modern artists like Shakespeare had them beaten in both originality and content.  This play is an example of deconstructionism in its best sense:  looking below the surface of events, we see multiple layers of meaning, many of which conceal power plays.

LAGNIAPPE:  Shakespeare gives us an interesting example of how Protestants view the difference between the sign and the thing signified.  Henry is reflecting on ceremony (Act IV).   What is ceremony?  On one hand it points to something noble.  It makes the difference between kings and commoners.  On the other hand, it doesn’t change the man ontologically.  If a sick commoner appears before the king, the king can’t heal him.  Ceremony doesn’t give him that kind of power.  But as we have just seen, it isn’t an empty ceremony either.   The sign (ceremony) and the thing signified (royalty; glory) are held in appropriate tension.  Other traditions, by collapsing sign into thing signified, lose this tension.

History of the Orthodox Church in Russia

Pospielovsky, D.  St Vladimir’s Seminary Press.

Mostly excellent account of the Church’s life in Russian history. It is somewhat marred by dated accounts of Constantine (as a nominalist tyrant) and a tendency to see fascists behind every monarchist.

2961399

He begins in Byzantium. Gives a surface-level history of the Byzantine empire. Almost hostile to Constantine. He makes a number of assertions which not only does he not prove, but he refutes a few pages later. For example:

“That heresy [caesaropapism] is popularly associated with Eastern Christianity” (Pospielovsky 2).

Okay, that’s standard historiography. It’s hard to make that claim after Meyendorff’s Byzantium and the Rise of Russia. Pospielovsky is certainly aware of Meyendorff, as he uses M’s arguments on p.42. But then Pospielovsky (correctly) points out:

“[T]here were moral limitations to their [emperors] arbitrariness…[political monasticism] sets serious moral limits on the monarch” (5, 6).

Fascinating missionary tidbits, noting Nestorian Christianity spread to Japan (17).

Good speculation that had St Vladimir converted to Islam, Europe would have faced a three-pronged Islamic threat (Balkans, Russia, Northern Africa) and would not have survived. Russia’s conversion to Christianity saved Europe (21)

The heroes of this book, rightly, are the Old Ritualists. *Up to one-third of the population of Russia might have joined the Old Ritualists (73).

**With the loss of the Old Ritualists, the church lost its ability to resist absolutism (76).

***These persecutions were probably the causes of the collapse of the monarchy in 1917. As natural conservatives and deep patriots ready to die for their country and religion, Old Ritualists were the natural stuff for the most dedicated support of the Crown. Yet the Crown forced them into opposition, radicalized them, alienated them (77).

Post-Reform

The story of Russian church after the 1730s or so can be summarized by two points: ecclesiastical incompetence of the highest order and heroic, missionary evangelism

Pospielovsky gives a rather skillful handling of the 1880s Russian intelligentsia. Dostoevsky and Solyvyov acted as middlemen to make the Russian faith acceptable to its “cultured despisers.”

Communism

Very good section on the church under Communism, especially during WW2. Posp. feels the pressure of trying to explain how Orthodox churches under Nazi-occupied areas thrived vs. those in Soviet areas. One suspects that this is part of a larger anti-ROCOR narrative within American Orthodoxy.

The Soviets didn’t have an irrational hatred of the church. Nor were they scared of counter-societies, as some Anabaptists claim. It was just simple Marxism. Marx said religion functioned upon a material superstructure. Remove that and religion falls, which it must in a Communist society. The problem became apparent when the Church was gaining and Marxism was losing.

Conclusion:

While it is true that there is an ugly side to Fascism, Pospielovsky almost never defines what he means by that word or to whom it is applied. He also backs far away from any historical claim that secular Judaism had a role in the Revolution. And he is oddly silent about Dostoevsky’s criticisms of the Jews.

Aside from that, it is an excellent surface level account.