Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Heresy of Our Day - Bad can Do Good

The combox on my post The Worship of Catholic Celebrities is Nothing New has become more interesting than the original post, in my opinion.

We cover quite a bit there, from funny checklists to indignation to definitions of immanentizing to Freud and Jung.  If Del Rayva shows back up (he claims Christopher West was the best man at his wedding), things will get even more fun.

On the topic of Freud and Jung, about which I've written before - with some authority (I hope) having read everything Carl Jung ever wrote at least once and having been a huge fan of his in my atheist days - I had this to say ...

Freud sees that some of our best acts have base motives; Jung says that even our worst acts have noble motives. Of the two errors, the latter is by far the more insidious. And the latter is, overall, what Christopher West seems to be peddling.

Now this was a brief comment and suffers from a kind of shorthand.  Do some of our best acts have base motives?  Of course.  Freud was right.  Anyone who knows human nature and who's honest with himself knows that.  Do some of our worst acts have noble motives?  Naturally.  Jung was right.  This is one reason why intentions (but I meant well!) are often beside the point in life.

But the Jungian stepchildren - and many of us Christians are the illegitimate heirs of Jung, Gnosticism and New Age nonsense, simply by breathing in the intellectual air around us - the Jungians will claim that the intent justifies the act.  This is wrong.  For while, subjectively speaking, a good intention may somewhat excuse an actor from full culpability for his act, good intentions do not (necessarily) result in good acts.  In the same way that the end does not justify the means, so the motive does not justify the act - objectively speaking.

To think that it does is a simple error not only in basic moral theology but in common sense.

I think this error is endemic.

It explains what a reader pointed out to me privately - many of the Westians are also the same folk who were defending Lying and Consequentialism, trashing the Catechism in the process.  Now I am NOT saying that all defenders of Lying are defenders of Christopher West and Matt McGuiness  - but I know at least Del Rayva is and I know of at least three others - all three prominent and famous defenders of both Christopher West and Lying When It Suits You.

So what we see here is a common thread.  And that thread, for both defenders of Lying and West (and torture for that matter) operates from the mistaken notion that since there is always in us an ultimate spiritual urge, that urge validates anything we do with it.  (See my posts on Spiritualizing Pornography and Bad Things Can be Done by Good People and others.)


Now this gets complicated in that all of our motives are mixed.  Even our love for God can be mixed with selfishness and cowardice.  Another reader wrote to me not long ago worried that his contrition for his sins was based more on fear of hell than love of God.  I replied that the Church teaches that such mixed motives ("imperfect contrition" in this case) is better than nothing and will do in the absence of pure motives ("perfect contrition" in this case).  We never do any good thing out of totally pure motives; nor do we do any bad thing out of totally corrupt motives.  We are odd mixtures of good and evil, and this is why SALVATION IS NOT DEPENDENT UPON US.

Salvation comes from without.  It is the Blood of Christ, and the grace His sacrifice earns for us, that saves us.  We are active in our salvation in so far as we participate in this grace - but the grace is what (originally and in order of priority) saves us; that is what will bring us to the New Jerusalem (we hope and pray), where

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. (Rev. 21:4)

That's where West's "mature purity" will be found (though have no doubt that sodomy, and the Westian excuses for sodomy, won't be found); that's where we will be washed totally and perfectly clean by the Blood of the Lamb.  That's where our Eros will be perfectly spiritual, expressing true Charity and reflecting the love of God in the Holy Trinity.  That's where what we desire and what we do will be good and pure and holy, and satisfying - with motive, means and end totally in harmony and showing perfect integrity of character (see Jesus and his life).

But we're not there yet.  The Kingdom is not totally immanent, only parts of it, such as the Holy Spirit, the down payment and earnest money for our heavenly reward.  This is why we still pray, "Come, Lord Jesus".

That's why here and now, we must have some common sense.

It is worse to spiritualize bad motives (Jung, West, et al.) than to materialize good acts (Freud).  For it is better for us to acknowledge the sins of the flesh and how they humble us than to turn "sins of the flesh" into "sins of the spirit" by pretending as if a man who wants to look at pornography is thereby wanting to look on the face of God.

So fellow Porn Addicts, listen up.

Your hunger for God will not make your lust anything other than lust; and it won't make the porn you use anything other than evil.  Even the natural end you seek - happiness, release and satisfaction - which are good things in and of themselves - will not justify either your inordinate desire or your use of evil means to achieve such ends.

And fellow sinners, the same applies to everyone of us.  Just substitute (above) your sin of choice for "lust" and your act of choice for "porn" and you've got a handy formula that will keep you sane and aware of your sins, if not holy.

And come, Lord Jesus!


Anonymous said...

It’s our culture. We think we have to always couch our statements with “You certainly have free will” and “If you don’t believe me, try it yourself”. JP2’s point of freedom being the right to do what you ought, for God, not what you want is the point that is missed. The error is in making the argument a two-option one: We could sin and learn the Truth or not sin and live the Truth sooner. And it is even insufficient to add - without the baggage and without having offended Christ in the process and without having to atone for that offense and without the harm you caused others in your Truth-seeking process.

The point should be stressed that ‘to Jesus through sin’ is a route that is (and ought be) taken only deeply regrettably (‘repentively’) by us as a result of our failure to think ahead, a failure to Love God as He desires and commands, rather than a plan of action for the fearless Truth seeker. (Besides, how do we know for sure we’ll come back from such a fearless trek?)

If God placed you half way up the mountain at this point in your life, do you reach the Truth, the summit, by descending to the Valley first? One would be hard pressed to make the argument that former addicts or former abused spouses or former adulterers know Truth, love and its beauty any more than never-tried, never-struck, and not-wanting-to-try folks. Making the argument that they know the Cross, know God’s healing, might very well be made, but then the Cross comes in many forms to each of us, and God’s healing can come with each of our Crosses.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for keeping this issue, my personal demon in the spotlight. It strengthens me and reminds me of Augustine's Confessions.