Tuesday, August 10, 2010


Hello everyone!

Thank you Matthew for the invitation and the idea. I apologize to everyone that I've been unable to post or comment up until now. I had high hopes. I also have a lot of much less interesting work than this to do. I've enjoyed reading everything up until this point, and I am resisting the urge to comment on every little thing, as is my desire. I know who some of you are, I'm left to guessing at the others.

This is a sweet map. I can't yet get it to get bigger when you click.
When I think of "Christendom," my first thought is "an historical organization of kingdoms back in times mediaeval." I imagine churches and crusades and Robin Hood and Chaucer and King Arthur and things like that. I include, in my imagination, all of the "cultural" things that go with having a "kingdom." Things like art and music and literature and architecture and stuff like that. Birnoff, this means I'm including your question. It's all on earth, it's all human-ish christendom. And when I think of Heaven and "Christ's kingdom" and the Body of Christ and the Bride of Christ, I... don't use that term. The "Church Triumphant" or "Church Militant" or any of the previously mentioned terms seem to work better to explain what I mean. PieGraph, this means you.

Matthew's original question seemed suggest a restoration of christian regimes as the highest of the politician's ends, for the "large scale enjoyment of Christian life." I'll be running with this understanding of his question, barring further contribution on his part.

Since I happen to know that Matthew loves Aristotle, I think it likely that uses the word "political" in Aristotle's architectonic-political sense, as that art which manages and orders all other arts and human affairs. The politician seeks good for his particular polis, and the most excellent politician seeks the good for the entire human polis. It seems we excellent few are here saddled with the task of hashing out the architectonics behind the best regime, in light of Christianity, for the large scale enjoyment of the christian life." We few, we happy few, we band of bloggers.

Architectonics. That art which orders all other human arts and affairs. Aristotle called it "politics" to the best of my knowledge. Cardinal John Henry Newman called it "Theology" in Idea of a University. Some call it "history," others "philosophy," and others "screw it, let's go get a drink." You don't have to agree with them or anyone else on the matter, but for the sake of argument accept that there is an architectonic art to order all human affairs. And if such an art exists, it seems relevant to gain a good understanding of human nature, so we have some idea what sort of a thing that we're trying to order.

The BLT is also a key component to human happiness.
Individual human beings have physical bodies, a need for physical things like food and shelter. We seem to have a need to interact favorably with other humans, as we are quite social. We have emotions, and possibly no amount of architectonic science can really order them. Also, it has been argued that we are at our best when we are exercising our reason to its fullest extent. We have the unique ability to speak, and it is good for us to be able to do so. It seems evidently good for each individual human that we each have some kind of liberty. ...We also have something called a soul, which, isolated, might not be any of the above (Or it could be all of them. Or something else. Long story short, we have souls.). And if you claim the Judeo/Christian tradition, you might want to consider sin: we are inclined towards evil thoughts and actions by our very nature, and no amount of education or reward will make us less sinful.

Now, how the heck are we going to get something organized that takes care of all of these component parts of a human being, when by nature we actively rebel against good? Which parts are most important, most essential to a good life? As much as I love thinking that I'm capable of it, I doubt any human being is wise enough to order all human life according to nature. For right now, I just wanted to point out that human nature demands more than just a favorable temporal regime to keep it fulfilled.

So I'm going to reject seeking the "restoration of Christendom."

I'm not aware of how there could properly be a "christian" "kingdom." "Christian" is about religion. "Kingdom" is about political associations with other humans. Trying to saddle one temporal organization with all that responsibility is bound to fail.The church looks after one part of human nature, and political organizations among men are meant to look after something else. Regimes properly ought to establish, say, peace and justice and liberty. What the church does, when done properly, is a theological discussion of much importance.

Again, my imagination of "Christendom" has been various kingdoms, regimes, dominions, poleis, countries, nations, or temporal "political" associations organized with intent to wield the force to protect and support christians. This is not a bad thing, in fact I would be happy if it happened again. I dislike persecution and death as much as the next guy.

This is what you look like when you
seek the restoration of Christendom

But seeking to restore Christendom? Man... You've got to be kidding. That's not how it works (Thanks to whoever brought up Russell Kirk's point about the cult and cultus). Society is made out of human beings. Each of those has their own unique will and mind. Collectively, their mores tends to determine the activity of their government, which comes from the people. Ordering the nature of our political associations is a necessary thing, but not the first or highest thing. I'll tip my hand a little: The first thing is the soul. Based on that soul, the rest of the body follows. It seems natural to infer that the mores of a people will spring from their soul. From the mores: the regime, if we must have one. If you're seeking to restore christendom the regime, then you're seeking a byproduct of something much larger and greater than a certain political association of mere regimes. It'd be like trying to put a sword into the hands of someone whose heart no longer pumps real blood. Or give a map to a man who has no head. It won't work.

No, theology isn't politics. No, the bible does not contain some kind of divine manual for how a bill becomes a law, you'll have to watch something else for that. We actually have to organize ourselves politically somehow, and that information might have to come from plain reason. I'm not the political science major. But when it comes to how we understand ourselves, our nature, and our relationship to how God has ordered the cosmos. Why? Who is the ultimate politician, the architectonic genius who alone is capable of understanding all of us? Not just the human polis, but all of creation as well. Who? Every sunday school child can answer this one. God! Can you see why the content of the theology that cares for the soul is quite important? The nature and content of who God is offers an understanding of the world comprehensive, architectonic, and I believe, True.

That said, if what we're suggesting is that we simply convert everyone to orthodox Christianity, I'm there. I'm in. It's not political science or designing a regime to save the world, it's not even us saving the world, a group of people, or anything at all. We're not doing the work (thanks Joy for the somebodyson Davison Hunterson book link. I want to read it). With the faith planted in their souls by the Holy Spirit through Baptism and the Word, and it regularly nurtured by Word and Sacrament, those sinners would also be saints, ONLY because of the saving work of Christ Jesus on the cross, and on no account through an act of their own will. Those saints would love their neighbor as Christ first loved them, as a byproduct of the faith put in them, rather than the express end of their faith. That's a mores I'd like to live with, a mores that would quite naturally establish just government, probably as an afterthought.

"But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you."
-Matthew 6:33