With Fear of God and Faith Draw Near
For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you and many sleep.
I Cor 11, 30
I am a companion of all them that fear Thee and keep Thy commandments.
Holy Saturday Matins, Stasis 1, 64
In recent times, especially since the 1960s, new forms of pseudo-Christianity or Churchless ‘Christianity’, have grown up. These often appear to be forms of Christianity without the Cross, often ‘charismatic’ in origin. They reflect the consumer society in which they developed, with the specific psychology and sociology of consumerism. What are they like?
The Physical Replaces the Spiritual
Pseudo-Christianity is generally a religion of manipulators and manipulated, with the self-delusion of the guru and personality cult, together with the self-isolation of the sect and the cult. It is a religion of self, self-love and self-flattery, a self-seeking therapy of ‘self-fulfilment’. It is generally a religion of comfort and convenience, which imitates the temples of the consumerist cult, supermarkets with their aisles, in other words, it is a ‘pick and mix’ religion, a ‘best of’ religion, a ‘Diet Christianity’ or ‘Christianity Lite’.
Essentially, it reflects the egoism of modern consumerism, in which men and women are victims (‘shop until you drop’) of the consumerist ‘retail therapy’ of spending on material goods (cars, the home, entertainment, electronics), alcohol, food and the cult of the body (cooking, sport, fitness, sex). Its therapeutic aspect is also reflected in the syncretistic views of this religious consumerism, as it takes elements from Hinduism (yoga and ‘Transcendental Meditation’), from Buddhism (in a Western form made into a popular philosophy for the self-centred and irresponsible with its reincarnation) and of Sufism (the ‘best of’ Islam).
Such elements are fed into the giant self-centred bubble of contemporary popular culture, with its Facebook and Myspace, MP3s, iphone, ipad and ipod (always ‘I’). Pseudo-Christianity is generally based on self-centred psychology and sociology, not on genuine religion. Essentially, pseudo-Christianity is anti-ascetic, without selflessness. There is no Cross, rather an infantile, dumbed-down pap fed by clericalist professionals to the masses. They assume that the masses only require bread and circuses and so provide them with the happy-clappy, ‘interactive’ entertainment drama shows of tele-evangelism.
The Rational Replaces the Spiritual
There is in this pseudo-Christianity little concept of prayer, repentance and the need for self-cleansing. This is because this ‘fell-good’ philosophy cannot have a concept of the Fall of Adam and the universal human inclination towards sin. The lack of the concept of prayer means that the human-being is sewn into the straitjacket of rationalism, the proud prison-house of fallen human logic. All is ‘understood’ by defective reason. There is little concept of acquiring the grace of the Holy Spirit through self-cleansing – the only aim is to ‘understand’. The Holy Trinity, the Incarnation, sin, repentance, spiritual purity – these are words which have little meaning to the victims of rationalism.
Rationalism has little concept of the fear of the Lord, which is ‘the beginning of wisdom’ (Psalm 110, 10), because in it reason has replaced wisdom. Rationalism reads, but does not do. And yet the fear of God is otherwise universal. It can be found in all religions, including the most ‘primitive’, from Islam to Hinduism, from old-fashioned Roman Catholicism to old-fashioned Protestantism. Soldiers and sailors know the fear of God because they have faced death. Mothers know it because they have been through childbirth. Only irrational rationalism does not know the fear of God.
The ‘feel-good’ pseudo-Christianity of modernist rationalism rejects the fear of God because its victims rely on themselves, on their own reasoning power. ‘I am saved’, they say anti-ascetically. Therefore, they have nothing to repent for. Rationalism cannot understand faith, not because faith is irrational, but because it is supra-rational, beyond the limitations of reason. Rationalists do not believe in the presence of the miraculous (hence their denial since the 1960s of the Resurrection, the Virgin-Birth and all other miracles). They believe that there is no greater power than their own tiny reasoning power.
The fear of God is the fear of losing the love of God, of losing God’s presence. It is the fear of depriving ourselves of the protection of God’s grace, which retreats from us as we retreat from it through sin. The loss of God’s love comes only from ourselves. Faith is the knowledge of God’s love, the consciousness that all is possible with God. Awareness of our weakness creates dependency on God, faith. If there is no fear of God and no faith, then we are beset with problems, the solutions to which we can only vainly seek with our human means. Nothing can work out for us without faith and the fear of God, without Whom we can do nothing. With fear of God and faith we draw near, but without fear of God and faith we draw away.