Saturday 21 December 2019

God is Not Nice

There was a post on the Junior Ganymede site which I saw via Bruce Charlton's blog recently that was called The Vice of Being Nice. Clever title! As I consider the modern attitude of seeing niceness as a cardinal virtue a big spiritual mistake, I had a look at it. There was a little flow chart illustrating how niceness can distort love and contradict standing up for something which encapsulates the problem very well.

I commented that being nice is putting feelings before facts which sometimes is just kind-heartedness but at others plain wrong or even spiritually disastrous. It all depends on what the facts actually are. I was not meaning, any more than the writer of the post, that niceness was a bad thing. In everyday life, it's clearly, er, a very nice thing. But when it comes down to fundamental reality then pandering to people's feelings under all circumstances can easily mean encouraging the lie. Seeing being nice as primary risks allowing good and evil equal rights which is what I meant by spiritually disastrous. And, when you think about it, the modern obsession with equality boils down to a desire for niceness. It's just not fair if we aren't equal so let's be nice and pretend we are. The trouble is this just results in a major reduction of truth and quality in all areas. It weakens everything including love which is what it is presumably supposed to be upholding. Why? Because it transforms love from something deep and strong and real and true and wise and holy and good to a little parody of itself, something not felt just painted on the outside.

In no spiritual tradition are we enjoined to be nice. To be kind, yes, but not nice. There's a difference. Niceness relates to making a situation frictionless and pleasant on its own terms here and now, regardless of reality. It's actually a materialistic virtue in that it seeks harmony at the everyday worldly level without acknowledgement of higher truths. By definition, it prizes unity and peace while ignoring facts or a reality deeper than that of outer appearance. To reject this frame of mind is precisely what Christ meant when he said he came to bring a sword not peace. A sword divides and separates. It can kill. A sword is not nice but it defends truth. Peace tolerates evil and lies, or can do. Christ did bring peace but it was the peace that passes human understanding which is of a different order altogether.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Do we fear what is nice? Of course not. Nice is always safe but God is not safe. He will tear out your old self and make you something entirely new. Does niceness demand anything? No, it does not but God demands everything and will not let you hold anything back. It's all or nothing with God, and he demands your soul with a fierce authority. That is, he demands it if you wish to give it. He demands nothing unless you want him but, if you do want him, he is ruthless in his requirements.

God is not nice. He is a blazing light that illumines the saint and burns the unrepentant sinner.


Sean Fowler said...

When niceness refuses to acknowledge the existence of, or discriminate between good and evil, then equality between good and evil has finally been achieved. Which i suppose, has to be the foundation for a truly fair society.

William Wildblood said...

Yes, if niceness cannot say that right is right and wrong is wrong it is just spiritually nasty.

edwin said...

Jesus said He would give us peace, but not as the world gives it. So, we have to ask, "What is the difference?" He also said that if we were of the world, the world would love us. But if we are not of the world, as He is not of the world, the world would hate us. It would seem that following Christ invites the emnity of the world. Again, why should this be so? Those who are of the world put self first. They want, above all else, to avoid any personal unpleasantness or discomfort. They commit what the old Catholic moral manuals call the sin of human respect: wanting to get along with others, not because we love them, but because we love ourselves, our own comfort. We go along to get along, to put it in a homely way. But to follow Christ is to love Him and obey His commandment, i.e. that we be willing to lay down our life for our friends, even if it is our friends who kill us for standing by the truth. There is, as you point out, a world of difference between being nice and being kind. Sometimes, being kind means telling someone we care about that he is being a fool or a knave; to try to hold him back from a spiritual abyss he is approaching. We may fail, but we are bound by love and truth to try. The world is not a nice place, and pretending it is or can be only makes it worse.

William Wildblood said...

thanks edwin. Those crucial differences between the way of Jesus and the way of the world are just what I was trying to bring out here.

Adil said...

I was reading that since the second Vatican council the catholic church has made some unfortunate doctrinal alterations with regards to the topic of your post. Traditional catholic baptism used to involve an 'exorcism', where you'd demand the devil to be casted out. This was tied to the idea of the world being the Devil's dominion, where a new born Christian must be actively vigilant toward evil after conversion, through repentance and regular confession. The world was always the enemy of the church, whereas today the approach seems to be that Jesus redeemed the world which has lead to a more open attitude towards it and non-Christians in general. Exorcism is no longer part of baptism, and the harsh attitude toward evil and the devil has generally been toned down. A dangerous complacency and niceness indeed.

RV said...

William, as you may know Bruce Charlton has expressed the view that "Fear is now prohibited". How do you see that view in relation to your meditation on fear and wisdom? How important is fear to theosis?

Moonsphere said...

Niceness is the vehicle by which the demonic forces have supplanted all that was good and righteous within our culture.

The Archbishop of Canterbury is nice.
The Pope is nice.
Our politicians are nice.

Niceness forbids the speaking of truth in these times where almost every value and principle has been inverted.

William Wildblood said...

RV, I would say this boils down to the ambiguity of the word or the fact that there are different nuances of meaning in it. When human beings encounter angels in the Bible the angel will often say words along the lines of "Fear not" implying God does not want us to fearful of him. But fear does not necessarily mean to be frightened or scared as you would be of a tiger in your garden. It means to have a due sense of awe and wonder. With regard to God it means comprehending his holiness and magnitude and the corresponding littleness of your own self. It means to be fully open to the transcendent wonder of the Lord and the insignificance of your own little ego. God does not want us to be frightened of him but we can only begin to approach him as he is when we acknowledge something of the earth-shattering greatness of him.

In the past the High Altar in great cathedrals was removed from the congregation, placed beyond this world as it were, at the far eastern end of the church in the sanctuary, sometimes even behind a screen. This marked its great holiness. But then in more recent times it has often been brought down and placed in the vicinity of the people so they no longer are required to transcend themselves in order to approach it. It was now on their level. This was making it nice and removing it from holy fear meaning great reverence.

Fear in the spiritual sense makes us humble and it also turns love from a purely human emotion of the sort directed towards your neighbour into something much more that has an element of great mystery and fiery glory.

Precisely Moonsphere!

Unknown said...

Thanks so much for this one!!