Sunday, December 8, 2013

Prometheus and Christ

Prometheus, who stole fire from the gods

We do not follow Christ to become better than everyone else.

This is hard even for Christians to imagine, because all other pop religions of today exist exactly for that reason - and even many variations of "Christianity" exist for that reason.  The following heresies, for example, are about the exultation of you over them ...

  • The Prosperity Gospel - be Christian and be richer than others
  • Westianism - discover the key to the spirituality of sex, lust with a purity your neighbors miss out on
  • Puritanism - Christianity is a club that you can join to beat others over the head with - something you're allowed to do since your disdain for any sort of fun makes you other-than-human

When I was a young man, I had a girlfriend who was the closest thing to a "Hitler Youth" you can be without admiring Hitler.  She was emphatic about her devotion to Ayn Rand, Nietzsche, and the weird quasi-Existentialism of Annie Dillard.  She and I were spiritually gifted, you see.  We were far above the rest of humanity, right up there with the handful of seers the world had known, and therefore we could harbor a certain pride and we could cherish a sneering contempt for the rest of you, including (in her case) her bourgeois suburban parents who were paying for her college education, where she was learning this crap.

I was busy reading Carl Jung, and so I swallowed it all.  He was all about "Promethean" spirituality, which in any form is always a religion of selfishness.

And so today when Ben Mann posts this on Facebook, it caught my attention.

There's been a lot of talk about Pope Francis' mention of "self-absorbed Promethean neopelagianism" and what exactly that means. I would bet good money that the Pope is referring *directly* to this passage from Thomas Merton's The New Man:
"From the moment religious thought takes, as its starting point, the view that man has to achieve his salvation by stealing fire from heaven, it tends toward naturalism. Even the doctrinal systems which lean most heavily in favor of grace (like, for instance, Jansenism) are basically naturalistic because of their Promethean character.
"Theology becomes Promethean whenever it assumes that man's supreme perfection is something God wants to prevent him from attaining. But this assumption is invariably accompanied by the secret conviction that this spiritual perfection is _of and for ourselves_. In other words, wherever we find a theology that is Promethean in character, that is to say that conceives salvation as a stealing of fire from heaven, we also find an implicit naturalism that sees our salvation and perfection in something other than God Himself.
"For instance, it is very common to find, even under the formulas of impeccable orthodoxy, a raffishly Promethean spirituality which is avid not so much for God as for 'spiritual perfection.' The language of prayer in such cases may be the language of the most consummate humility. Grace becomes everything. Nature is worse than nothing: it is an abhorrent nothing. And yet such a spirituality may be completely self-centered."

No comments: