Monday, 1 August 2022

On Romantic and Church Christianity

 There has been some to-ing and fro-ing online about the differences between so called Romantic Christianity and traditional Christianity. I haven't followed it all but I think this boils down to whether inner discernment trumps outer authority or vice versa. My first reaction is to say that both are necessary. There probably wouldn't be much inner discernment if we had no tradition, no scripture and no religious teaching to bring it out and help give it form. On the other hand, following authority without bringing that alive through inner discernment leads to dead legalism.

I personally don't regard Romantic Christianity as fundamentally different to traditional Christianity but it follows the way of John more than that of Peter. I fully acknowledge the risk of heresy with a more mystical approach that prioritises inner awareness but I think that is a risk we have to take if we are concerned with theosis as well as salvation. Christ calls us to become like him. This really does demand going beyond outer authority and treading the inner path. That in turn requires a correspondingly greater degree of honesty and humility to avoid going off the spiritual rails but it is somewhat similar to swimming when out of your depth. You have to take your feet off the ground for which read the support of traditional authority. That is still there but if you are really going to be a good swimmer then you have to strike out on your own.

From the real spiritual point of view, where is authority located? In the church or in God? Don't tell me they are the same because they really are not. The church may have authority from God to save souls but it does not begin to contain all that God is and it can, as we have surely seen recently, lose connection to the Holy Spirit. It is that connection that the Romantic Christians wish to establish in their own hearts and minds. Yes, the church is the custodian of sacred truth and it preserves that for all humanity but is it not possible that an excessive adherence to the body of Christ can, at certain times, lead to a loss of connection to his spirit? I believe this is one of those times.

Having said that, I sympathise with both sides in this debate. I see this matter as a question of balance, balance between inner and outer though, probably because I was brought up a Protestant, the outer for me is more scripture than a church. I also believe that this argument is not so important to God. He looks at the heart. If this is correctly oriented to goodness and truth in the form of Jesus Christ then outer differences, even (hold your breath) certain (not all, of course) heresies don't matter.

People who should be natural allies in the face of great contemporary worldly evil can disagree but should not fall out. Religious history is scarred by believers fighting among themselves. Absolutely one must defend truth as one sees it but we should also be able to tell if someone is spiritually at fault or merely intellectually so or even just focusing on a different aspect of truth which inevitably is far greater than any one of us can encompass. Can those who see faithfulness to the church as primary not see that others, equally faithful to God, might need to establish the inner connection we spoke of above and treat that as fundamental? Equally, can the latter not see that heresies and false spiritualities abound, particularly when spiritual seekers go freelance, and that part of the function of tradition is to defend humanity against that? It's all about balance, I tell you.


Bruce Charlton said...

@William - "My first reaction is to say that both are necessary."

Probably so, or if not necessary then at least 'very valuable'; but in type of instances (of which there are more and more - by design of those with most power) when discernment and authority point in different, perhaps *opposite* directions - one or the other (or neither!) must carry the day. That is why the matter is important.

"It's all about balance, I tell you."

That is very seldom the case! Or life would be much easier than it is (we would simply take a 'middle course' on all disputes). Under increasing stress; there always comes a point at which the balance breaks, and tough choices are compelled.

In particular there is asymmetry about this Romantic v Traditional discussion. So far as I know, all the Romantic Christians have said that traditional church membership may be a good thing (when the specific church in its specific manifestation is good), and that many/ most of the best Christians are (or have been until very recently) devout church-goers. It is optimal to be a discerning Christian in a really-Christian church - so that the inner is backed by the outer.

But these times are such as to divide, and compel choices; and one Romantic Christian assertion is that (already and increasingly) most churches (and all of the major ones) are leading Christians out from Christianity - quite deliberately, by top-down strategy.

Sooner or later the real and devout Christians in churches will be confronted by the need to discern the truth and reject the church's teaching and guidance, probably on more than one of the major public issues.

This is what, for me, gives the discussion its bite. I feel that unless 'traditional Christians' are aware that there may, almost certainly will, come a point at which our own personal discernment must 'trump' the church; then we will cease to be on the side of God and will have switched to The Other Side.

This has happened to huge numbers of people (known to me) over recent years, especially since the birdemic, and has affected people who I regarded as the best exemplars of Christian living. Their best life efforts are now on the side of the global, totalitarian, demon-servers.

So, I think we need to go deeper than observations about the value of balance and the value of both intuition and tradition - because they are being driven further apart by the (increasingly un-Christian, anti-Christian) behaviour of so many churches.

Some (small, non-bureaucratic) churches may remain immune, but we cannot be confident of this, and it may be necessary to disaffiliate spiritually from a once-good church - and therefore individual discernment must continually be used.

William Wildblood said...

Bruce, as you may recall from my Meeting the Masters book, I had this debate back in 1979 when I asked one of the Masters if it was wrong to try to ease Michael away from the Catholic Church because I found that spiritually limiting in that the organisation often seemed more important than what it was actually supposed to represent. This is what he said:

"The Catholic Church, like any outward form of religion, is good for souls on a certain level but it is time to lead Michael away from it into a new and higher understanding of life. He told me not to be intolerant but to do this with love and patience."

Clearly, most Catholics would instantly assume this was a demon denying Christ but it was nothing of the sort. It was, in fact, a spiritual being asserting Christ and saying that if you wanted to know him for yourself you had to go beyond outer authorities, even the church. I believed that then and I believe it now.

All I mean by balance is trying to understand the other person's point of view as well as what I say in the post, namely balancing intuition with tradition though that doesn't mean giving them equal rights. What we call intuition can go off into the wilder reaches of spiritual fantasy and it often has with those who go it alone. But, as I also say in the post, we have to learn how to swim and not remain paddling about in the shallows. This demands we awaken inwardly and don't restrict ourselves to or allow ourselves to be restricted by tradition and outer authority.

I, obviously, am on the Romantic Christian side in this debate but I recognise some of the concerns of the traditionalists and they are valid concerns. But if you want to fly you have to leave the nest.

William Wildblood said...

And, yes, it is very likely that if you don't develop a strong inner discernment you risk going down with a potentially sinking ship.

cae said...

William, as with so many of your posts, in this one you epitomize 'the voice of reason'!

In this following sentence alone, you sum up the primary point 'in favor' of "Romantic Christianity":
"Yes, the church is the custodian of sacred truth and it preserves that for all humanity but is it not possible that an excessive adherence to the body of Christ can, at certain times, lead to a loss of connection to his spirit?"

And I think you "balance" the above perfectly with your point about the "inner path" (as Romantic Christianity) requiring "a correspondingly greater degree of honesty and humility" -

- because the reality is, the ego is a master of disguise and can easily cause a person to mistake 'fancy' for 'intuition'...
...and as well, the same demonic forces causing such destruction in our world, work on individuals by swaying the ego toward mistaking 'desired ideology' for discerned/intuited information.

This makes inner "honesty and humility" absolutely crucial regardless one's spiritual path. For whether 'Traditional' or 'Romantic', every Christian must necessarily pray for guidance in determining the truth of inmost thoughts (insight, intuition, etc.)....

....And it strikes me that as well, one way of 'measuring' truth or falsity of thought would be, as Jesus says of judging prophets, in Matthew 7:16 - "you will know them by their fruits".

William Wildblood said...

Cae, you say that 'the reality is, the ego is a master of disguise and can easily cause a person to mistake 'fancy' for 'intuition'...This is indeed the reality and tradition is there to stop that going too far. At the same time, intuition is there to stop tradition becoming calcified and to make it come alive on the individual level. Religion has its collective side but ultimately it is an individual matter as is everything when you come down to it.

William Wildblood said...

Just to say that in a comment above I wrote "if you wanted to know him (Christ) for yourself you had to go beyond outer authorities, even the church". Obviously that doesn't mean Christ is not within the church and doesn't act through the church when and where he can. Nor does it mean that thousands, or more likely millions, of souls have not found Christ through the church. But recent times are different. They just are. The church has less spiritual power and human beings have reached a point in their unfoldment at which they need to know for themselves what previously they had been told. This is in line with God's plan for the spiritual maturation of humanity for God doesn't just repeat himself. He grows and we do too.

cae said...

@William - I appreciate your reply and absolutely agree!
And as well, I also agree with your comment following the reply to mine - especially appreciating the final two sentences...
To me, it just makes sense that God, being a Person, would 'grow' over time, just as human persons do.

Lastly, my apologies - I keep forgetting which blogs automatically include my name and which I need to sign after commenting.

Christopher said...

The life of John the Baptist alongside Christ encapsulates just this argument perfectly. Discernment and Authority indeed.

High Atlantis said...

The Bible already teaches connection with the Most High through the example of Prophets like Moses, who had to establish direct contact amidst great adversity.

Westerners in general have said no to churches for good reason. Churches only held ground with a mere 20 year delay on conformity to corruption.

Now that the churches have folded and the best exemplars of Christian living fold under minor pressure then it is time to listen to Jesus's advice 'by your fruits you shall know them'.

The fruits are quick and public corruption so what does that tell you?

Only a few years ago supposedly we were to think that the fruits were positive because Mormons had some nice shiny family values on the surface. Now Mormon 'Prophets', no doubt having their own intuitive contact as recommended, are so ready for more corruption.

Now that the truth is revealed there is only one direction left to go.