The Lost History of Christianity (Jenkins)

I am going to write glowingly of several Christian groups in this review.  It might seem like I am sympathetic to them.  If I am, it is important to note that these groups are formal heretics on the post-Chalcedonian doctrine of Christ.  That should be acknowledged.  Now to the review.  This book was sheer excitement.  I consider myself fairly well-read on Eastern Church history.  I’m not a scholar or an expert, but I know about as much as a layman could possibly know. I learned a lot.  I got excited about what I learned.

Not only is this a fine narrative of church history, it’s also a good text on missiology (if you think that kind of stuff is important).  It also has some geopolitical insights.

[1] This book teaches you how to interpret maps.  We know a lot about Western and Roman Christian history.  It is 3,100 miles from Jerusalem to England. We can assume Christian missionaries got to England at least by the second century.  Let’s turn that 3,100 miles eastward.  We now arrive in either Kyrgyzstan or Nepal. We know that Christians were in China by the 8th century.  Even among the Mongols centuries later Nestorian Christians had a respectable presence.

[2] It’s the current rage among both low-church evangelicals and apostolic traditions like Rome to claim continuity with “the early church,” or even worse, “the first century Christians.”  Romantic delusions aside, the church most closely resembling a Palestinian worship service would have been a Syriac church. They were Semites and spoke a widely-known Semitic language. Patriarch Timothy of Mesopotamia even claimed that his people were closer in habit to Abraham that Rome could be.

[3] Christians east of Syria would have been Nestorians.  Christians south of Syria would have been miaphysites (or monophysites, depending on whether you want to use loaded language).

[4] Patriarch Timothy of Seleucia (800 AD) wielded wider influence over the Christian world than did either Pope or Charlemagne. He was also more widely read. Although under Islamic rule, there were thriving Christian metropolises in Iraq, Iran, and Turkmenistan.  

[5] Is Islam violent?  Yes.  Did Islam’s violence eradicate Christian communities in the Middle East?  Also, yes.  However, most would draw the wrong conclusions from those facts. Initially, most Christian communities did quite well after the invasions. Muslim armies moved so rabidly they didn’t bother to eradicate Christian social structures.  Indeed, that would have been counterproductive.

Early on Islam needed Christian thinkers and architects.  If the Greeks were lost in the West, Syriac Christians were intimately familiar with them.  One could make an argument that it was the Syriac Christians that passed on Aristotle to the Arabs.  Moreover, early Muslim mosques were nearly identical to earlier Christian cathedrals. That’s not an accident.

[6] If a Christian apostasizes to Islam today, it would require a significant culture shift.  If that happened in 9th century Syria, it wouldn’t be noticeable at all.  Jenkins suggests that the Koran actually plagiarized sections of Syriac liturgies.

Moreover, Islam itself isn’t monolithic.  Even Arabic changes. That’s not to mention the bigger differences between Shi’ite and Sunni. Jenkins even notes, quite positively, the influence of Alawites in today’s Syria (showing obviously that this was written long before the Syrian Civil War turned in Assad’s favor; no reputable publisher, Jenkins’ own views notwithstanding, would allow such positive light about Assad to be mentioned today).

The book is a dream. It is a fascinating account of a lost history of Christianity that ironically held sway in large sections from Syria to Japan to India.

Review: Clash of Civilizations

(This is an older review) I should have picked up Huntingdon’s work earlier. It is awesome. He argues (or at least the structure of his thought necessarily suggests such) that the utopian vision of liberal democracy (whether right or left-wing) has failed miserably and that societies will revert back to their original civilizational paradigms.

I am going to list my criticisms earlier, so that will put some at ease.

* I think the Middle East is in an identity crisis between Fundamentalism and Nationalism. Islamic countries like Syria and Turkey, for all of their problems, lean closer to nationalism than “jihadism.” Likewise, I maintain that Iran is more nationalist than fundamentalist, though it is very much the latter, too (cf Primakov’s Russia and the Arabs).

**Further, Huntingdon really doesn’t account for the fact that much of the unrest is due to Atlanticism’s financing terror regimes throughout the middle east.  If we let Syria annihilate Saudi Arabia, many problems would solve themselves.

Samuel Huntingdon’s Clash of Civilizations. It was truly the work of a genius. Huntingdon is too pro-D.C. and very naive concerning the purity of NATO’s motives, but other than that he is prescient on about every major issue (He wrote this book in 1996).

Civilizations assume the reality of objective cultures, but they are not identical to culture(s). I can’t remember exactly how SH defines civilization. There is an extended discussion on pp. 40-44. Frankly, I don’t think his definition, if any, is really that important. His book deals more with the empirical identity and clash of civilizations, rather than objectively defining them.

Civilizations have core states: states that have at least de facto leadership over smaller states in the civilization. For example, Russia is the core state of the Orthodox civilization (which includes Ukraine, Belarus, and the Balkans, though the latter are compromised by their membership in NATO; likewise, China is the core st ate of the East Asian civilization, excluding Japan).

Wars between actual core states of civilizations are quite rare. However, fault line wars are quite common. These are wars/battles/century-long skirmishes between two smaller states of two different civilizations that border each other. The obvious example is the Balkans: Orthodox Serbia fought Muslim Bosnia, both of whom were at war with Catholic Croatia.

While ideologies (Marxism, democratic capitalism) are nice and make academics and news pundits feel good, civilization/culture has a more primal claim upon people groups/ethnicities/states and in the absence of one ideology (say, Marxism) a nation will more likely identify with prior civilizational loyalties rather than the opposing ideology. For example, an old joke in former Soviet Union: our leaders lied to us about communism, but they told us the truth about capitalism.

Pros of the book:

His analysis is top-notch. We are reading a world-class scholar. Unlike 99% of elites in America, he knows that simply waving the magic wand of democratic capitalism will not make the nations swoon and willing become colonies of New York–and Huntingdon was actually attacked for making this obvious point!

He calls the Islamic threat for what it is. He is notorious for his famous “The borders of Islam are bloody.” I don’t really know how people can objectively respond to this claim. Yeah, it might be mean and bigoted, but look at the major hot spots of the world today–what religion is causing most of the trouble? In 1996 (at the time of the writing) 49 of the world’s 58 current conflicts had Islam involved. If it looks like a duck…

He gives an accurate (though extremely dated) analysis of the Balkan Wars of the 1990s. Of course, a lot of his musings are moot considering NATO’s bombing of civilians in Belgrade in 1999. Still, per his thesis on civilizational clash on fault lines, he does a stellar performance. Catholic Germany supported Croatia, the entire Muslim world–along with Hillary Clinton and Sean Hannity–supported the Muslim Bosniaks, and Russia supported Serbia. (he also documents American double-standards and calls them for what they are: when Muslims massacre a village and kidnap teenage girls it is because they are noble freedom fighters w. When Serbs execute 8,000 men in the 28th Bosnian Muslim infantry, it is because they are evil and genocidal. Even more strange, American conservatives who are almost 100% anti-Islam never challenge this fact and actually support Muslims).

Stuff Calvinist International doesn’t want you to know.

Along similar lines is the Turko-Armenian-Azeri wars of the 1990s. Armenia was an Orthodox state who was beset by Muslim Turkey and Muslim Azeribaijan. During the Cold War the Soviet leadership had Armenians serving in high-rank positions and being trained by elite special forces. When the USSR fell, the Armenian military, keeping the Motorized Rifle divisions of that region, had a fairly impressive, if small, military. Russian intervention in the 1990s kept her smaller sister Armenia from being overrun by Muslims.

Huntingdon ends with a fairly interesting scenario on what WW3 will look like and how it will start. A few qualms with the book: he actually thinks NATO is preserving Western civilization and evidently he ignores the fact that his best friend, Zbignew Brzezinski advocates using the War on Terror as a way to surround Russia with missiles and bases. Ironically, Huntingdon had argued that doing so would actually make America lose the next world war, which will be a clash between a Chinese or Islamic (or both) civilization.
Huntingdon didn’t write many more books after this. He had a high standard of writing and actually threw away many top-notch manuscripts because they weren’t good enough. Too bad, for he is definitely worth reading.

Wins and Losses this week

So Gorsuch got in.  That’s good.  That might be the only good thing from a Trump presidency.  The chemical weapons charges in Syria are almost certainly lies.  Why would Assad, having won the war, do the one thing that would bring the West in?  Even more, why would he do it on civilians and not on the goat-humpers he is fighting?

I think in one sense Trump had no choice.  The Deep State forced him to it.  And as long as we don’t put boots on the ground, Assad might not lose.  Or rather, the jihadis won’t win.

Would I vote for Trump again?  Maybe.  He has to earn it.  And he has to have a number of huge wins (e.g., exposing John McCain, arresting thousands of more pedophiles, etc)

An Intro to Neo-Eurasianism

In this work Alexander Dugin analyzes the development of earlier Eurasianism to its current manifestations on the political scene. According to Dugin, “Eurasianism is a type of structuralism with the accent placed on multiplicity and synchronicity of structures” (Dugin loc. Cited 68). This means there are a plurality of human societies, each with its own “mode of growing” that must be respected.

Dugin sees Russia’s role as defending the possibility of each civilization’s unique flourishing. This means Russia creates the political space as opposed to the Atlanticist desire to impose globalization. In terms of method Dugin largely applies Heidegger’s philosophy, though not universally. He draws upon suggestions made by both “Left” (dialectical) and “Right” (traditionalist) thinkers as they both oppose neo-liberalist/globalism (loc. 434).

How would a Neo-Eurasianist Policy Look?

Dugin isn’t blind to the advances that globalism has made. Whether we like it or not, it happened and we can’t go back to 19th century nation-states. Please note this: We are not nationalists in the strict sense of the word. Therefore, he suggests “several global zones (poles). The Eurasian Idea is an alternative or multipolar version of globalization” (loc. 641). Similar to his claims in The Last War of the World-Island, we no longer see a battle between East/West or North/South, but of Center/Periphery with the Atlanticist Civilization (New York/London/Brussels) at the center.

And within these zones there are poles and “Great Spaces,” or democratic empires that are organically constituted. Some examples

(I) Iran-Syria-Armenia
(2) Germano-Nordic/Frankish
(3) Anglo-American
(4) Mediterranean Europe
(5) Eurasian Europe
Etc. (see this article for more discussion on Meridian Zones; http://www.counter-currents.com/2013/11/the-eurasian-idea/)

Dugin argues for regions to have autonomy, not sovereignty and boundaries, not borders. Boundaries arise from an organic wholeness. Borders are used to divide, boundaries to bind. For countries with large amounts of land, major cities should be depopulated and there should be a network of townships. Townships are ecological settlements separated from the cities by clean forests (page 85).

Dugin ends his philosophical analysis with remarkable insights into social atomism. Lockean/empiricism/libertarianism is false because it rests upon a false physics, a false ontology. Atomism is false because we now about sub-atomic structures. Empirical social philosophies are false because within the individual are underlying currents that resist reductionism.

This book isn’t perfect, though. There was a coherent argument throughout, but some chapters seemed like blog articles tacked on.