The dangerous faith

I doubt it has escaped anyone’s attention that with a few exceptions, the atheists, agnostics, and pagans around the world are content to make common cause with very nearly any religion except for one particular faith. As J.B. Bury observed nearly 100 years ago in his epic Cambridge Medieval History, which I cannot recommend more highly, this is not a new development:

Jesus Himself, had His followers allowed, might have had a place between Dionysos and Isis; but Christianity, which according to Porphyry had departed widely from the simple teaching of the mystic of Galilee, was sternly excluded from the Neoplatonist brotherhood of religions. Its idea of a creation in time seemed irreligious to Porphyry; its doctrine of the Incarnation introduced a false conception of the union between God and the world; its teaching about the end of all things he thought both irreverent and irreligious; above all things its claim to be the one religion, its exclusiveness, was hateful to him. He was too noble a man (philosopkus nobilis, says Augustine) not to sympathise with much in Christianity, and seems to have appreciated it more and more in his later writings Still his opinion remained unchanged: “The gods have declared Christ to have been most pious; he has become immortal, and by them his memory is cherished. Whereas the Christians are a polluted set, contaminated and enmeshed in error.” Christianity was the one religion to be fought against and if possible conquered.

What Neoplatonism did theoretically the force of circumstances accomplished on. the practical side. The Oriental creeds had not merely gained multitudes of private worshippers; they had forced their way among the public deities of Rome. Isis, Mithra, Sol Invictus, Dea Syra, the Great Mother, took their places alongside of Jupiter, Venus, Mars, etc., and the Sacra peregrina appeared on the calendar of public festivals. As most of these Oriental cults contained within them the monotheist idea it is possible that they might have fought for preeminence and each aspired to become the official religion of the Empire. But they all recognised Christianity to be a common danger, and M. Cumont has shewn that this feeling united them and made them think and act as one.

From Communists to Muslims to SJWs, various philosophies and religions have been more than happy to attempt to coopt Jesus Christ, because they believe he is dead. What they cannot countenance are the servants of the Living God, the followers of the Risen Christ, who despite our manifold failings, our observable flaws, our complete falling short of the glory of the God we worship, insist on attempting to tread upon the hard and narrow path rather than obediently follow the gentle, easy, thoughtless ways they advocate.

Christianity is the dangerous faith because it is the one faith that is rooted in truth rather than lies. It is the one real connection Man can make to the Divine. Yes, our understandings are imperfect, yes, we see as though through a glass, darkly, yes, our interpretations are various and contradictory, and yet, only in doing so, only through relentlessly pursuing the truth to the best of our ability can we begin to approach Truth.

Those who consider Christians to be self-righteous entirely miss the point, including those who consider themselves to be righteous Christians. To be forgiven is not the same as being sinless. To be repentant is not the same as to be blameless. It is not necessary to put on sackcloth and with Augustine melodramatically label ourselves the worst of all sinners to recognize that we are no better, and in some cases are considerably worse, than the virtuous pagan.

For better or for worse, we are who we are. We have done what we have done and we can never change the past. But what we don’t have to do is remain broken, frightened, sin-enslaved beings. That, through the grace of God, is the one thing we can change.

And that is what the enemies of God, in all their various guises, cannot abide. Because that is the one freedom they can never offer.