Mere Unbelief


“Burning in Unbelief” by Anastasia Parvanova

Thinking about the state of the world–specifically, the West, which has now started another round of conflict in the Middle East, and the Western Church, whose primate seems intent on abandoning the Sacred Tradition of the whole Church–it occurs to me that it is dying from “mere unbelief.”  Readers will no doubt be familiar with C. S. Lewis’ “Mere Christianity,” an idea he picked up from the 17th century Presbyterian minister, Richard Baxter.  This idea that there was some bare minimum of Christian belief that all Christians shared–and not merely the fullness of faith and truth, as revealed to the Church–was all that was necessary for salvation (or at least, that’s the impression I get from people who espouse it, anyway).

I confess I have never thought much of this idea in terms of Christian faith.  It seems too narrow, too constricted.  But as to what is going on today, as a baseline minimum of what it takes to depart from that fullness of faith, it captures quite well what is paralyzing the West and the Western Church today.  “Mere unbelief”–not the productive heresies of a more vigorous age in the life of the Church, but the enervation of a people worn out and self-absorbed, who can no longer be bothered to challenge the Church’s teachings in a dramatic fashion, like Arius insisting that the Son was a creature, or Luther with his howling about sola fide–who no longer possess the necessary energy to create new heresies, but, still needing to pretend that they still believe what they no longer believe, they simply go on asserting that the faith is no longer what it is, and appealing to vague slogans and cliches to justify their unbelief, without ever bothering to try and articulate a coherent alternative.  They simply defect from the Word Himself, and act as if it had no consequence at all.

This is the spiritual counterpart to what Vico called “the barbarism of sense and reflection”–just a muddy puddle of nothingness, a living body without life, a center without a core, that makes no sound but still emits a screeching clamor–a death cry which its own authors do not recognize as such–Heidegger’s “das gerede,” the “noiseless chatter” of a nihilistic society.  It is disturbing, I know.  The fact of this horror challenges the idea that the world is under the providence of God, so distressing is it.

But then again–death is always a prelude to new birth.  It may be that something in us (I mean people of Western European backgrounds; it is different with other ethnic groups), needs to be burnt away, so that this Truth may go on living in those that are left of us.  And it is always good to remember that, however unprecedented may be our sufferings now, they are not wholly new, and that they connect us with our ancestors in the faith, as well as those who suffer across the world for it today.  So if we must die today, or our civilization die tomorrow, or the institutional Church die the next day, let us die in the Faith, connected to the great cloud of witnesses who witness to Him who never dies.

~ by Alypius on April 14, 2018.

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