Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Open Church and Its Enemies

One of my heroes is Karl Popper. Philosopher extraordinaire, some think he is one of the giants of all time, others think he was a bit of a fraud, including one of my philosophy teachers at the University of Canterbury where Popper once taught. One of his great works, in two parts, was The Open Society and Its Enemies. He actually wrote it while living here in Christchurch. His specific philosophical angle was the folly of esteeming Plato, let alone Hegel and Marx as exponents of historicism. Politically he was railing against totalitarianism. Well, who wouldn't in the midst of World War 2, especially when teaching in a backwater, having been driven away from one's native Austria. Constructively, Popper argued for the open society underpinned by liberal democracy. There is no other form of society which removes fear and provides genuine social and economic freedom. Society, whether in large or small form, must be as transparent as possible, and tolerant of dissent. That includes the church. If we are free in Christ then we are free to disagree with one another. Ergo, blogging!

So it is with some alarm that the Church Some Would Have Me Not Criticise From a Distance has embarked on a pathway in which some of its bishops may be disciplined for ... dissenting! But, please, do not take my word for it, read Mark Harris, Allan Haley and commenters at Titus One Nine.

What do you think? The beginning of the end of TEC as a liberal democracy or the end of the beginning of TEC as an expression of the Platonism Karl Popper attacked?

11 comments:

carl jacobs said...

TEC passed the 'Enabling Act' so that the hierarchy could crush the conservative rebellion. Now it is surprised to discover that the enabled hierarchy isn't overly interested in setting aside its power. Too late they seem to say "No, you were only supposed to use that power against the Reactionaries! Not us!" KJS was supposed to be the sword-wielding servant of liberal polity. Now she is using the flat of her sword against her former masters, and they don't much like it. How long before she turns the sword on its edge and mixes progressive blood with conservative blood? And so TECs Roundheads are beginning to gather their Armies. GC2012 is going to be mighty interesting this year.

And yet it will be the next Presiding Bishop of TEC who will have the thankless task of dealing with the consequences. Whoever wins the impending TEC Civil War (and do not doubt that a Civil War is looming), the outcome for TEC will not be altered. Demographic and financial implosion can be heard in the distance like Langoliers coming to consume a church that time has left behind. In their wake will be left only a terrible dark nothingness.

Assuming, of course, the KJS doesn't declare herself "Presiding Bishop for Life" that is. Then she can personally preside over the collapse of her own creation.

carl
Who reminds everyone not to threaten visiting lecturers with pokers.

Bryden Black said...

Oh Carl; that's a delicious PS!

But I wonder how many bloggers have read about and/or heard of the poker incident?!

Just so: David Edmonds & John Eidinow, Wittgenstein's Poker: The story of a ten-minute argument between two great philosophers (Faber, 2001). Enjoy folks!

Shawn said...

Sadly that same civil war may be coming to ACANZP. Make no mistake, as I have said before behind "progressive liberalism" is cultural Marxism, a deeply totalitarian ideology. And the inclusion of "gay rights" makes it even more so. As Western Europe and Canada show, once in positions of power, pro-gay activists do not stop with mere freedom, they insist on forcing all and sundry to agree, and are prepared to use the power of the state to enforce their view. The same has been shown to be true in the Church.

By the way, Popper was wrong. Liberal democracy does not lead to genuine freedom and an open society. It leads to oppression, totalitarianism, and cultural warfare.

The basic problem with secular liberal democracy is the myth that the state can remain nuetral on moral values, and that secular democracy can both fulfill the equal desires of all, and protect the genuine rights of all. It cannot. The inherent contradictions in liberal democracy eventually lead to its demise and replacement with thinly disguised brute force and totalitarianism.

As an antidote to Popper, try Hans-Hermann Hoppe, a fierce critic of Popper. In particular his book 'Democracy: The God That Failed' is a tour de force of uncompromising radical thought.

Here is a taste:

"Democracy has nothing to do with freedom. Democracy is a soft variant of communism, and rarely in the history of ideas has it been taken for anything else."

"As for the moral status of majority rule, it must be pointed out that it allows for A and B to band together to rip off C, C and A in turn joining to rip off B, and then B and C conspiring against A, and so on."

"Egalitarianism, in every form and shape, is incompatible with the idea of private property. Private property implies exclusivity, inequality, and difference. And cultural relativism is incompatible with the fundamental----indeed foundational----fact of families and intergenerational kinship relations. Families and kinship relations imply cultural absolutism."

Democracy - The God That Failed: The Economics and Politics of Monarchy, Democracy, and Natural Orde.

Bryden Black said...

Thanks Shawn for an intro to H-H H. I shall have to try and digest his ideas.

Though for starters I wonder whether it is strictly democracy that has spawned this situation or the secular state when tied to human autonomy post Enlightenment. For I have in mind here William Cavanaugh’s argument in Migrations of the Holy: God, State, and the Political Meaning of the Church (Eermans, 2011) especially, and his work generally which stresses the contemporary state’s serious overreaching.

carl jacobs said...

Bryden Black

My first crew commander was interested in philosophy and so would bring stacks of philosophy books on alert with him. One night I was bored and picked up one of his book by someone named Wittgenstein. I kid you not, I made it through exactly one paragraph of his dense turgid incomprehensible pseudo-jargon masquerading as prose. Popper's demolition of Wittgenstein's entire system with that single phrase is one of the most entertaining moments in Western intellectual history.

I have read the book you recommended. I would recommend it as well.

carl

carl jacobs said...

Shawn

You are recommending the work of a Libertarian anarcho-capitalist? I myself am 95% convinced that a consistent Libertarian cannot be a consistent Christian because a Libertarian must presume certain things about human nature that a Christian must reject. To try to unite the two demands that inconsistent ideas be held simultaneously and yet never allowed to intersect - like matter and anti-matter. How much more must this be true of a self-professed anarcho-capitalist. Certainly my brief perusal of Hoppe's work did nothing to change my mind. How do you reconcile his ideas with the fundamentals of Christian anthropology?

carl

MichaelA said...

The intense level of discussion on liberal blogs in America is interesting. There appears to be a great deal of liberal "dissent" going on, yet also there appears to be no reason why dissent matters - the central hierarchy in TEC can do whatever it pleases and the dissenters will just have to lump it.

The problem for TEC is that it is losing money and parishioners (the two generally go hand-in-hand) every year, at a significant rate. If it wants to keep and enthuse its laity, a heavy-handed response to dissent is not a good idea.

Michael, Sydney

Shawn said...

Carl,

You would need to give me an example of why you believe that they are not compatible, but my own view is that they are, and in fact Conservative Libertarianism is one of the only political philosophies compatible with Christian anthropology.

Also I am not advocating anarcho - capitalism exclusively, but Paleo - Libertarianism generally. My own preference is for a fusion of minarchism and constitutional monarchy.

carl jacobs said...

Shawn

I would begin with Hoppe's evident hostility to the state. Man's natural order is to be under authority. National authorities are given to punish evil and reward good. They are instituted by God. Hoppe advocates a form of radical privatization that presupposes the disappearance of the state. How do you reconcile this?

carl

Shawn said...

Carl,

Hoppe would agree with you that Man's natural order is to be under authority. Hoppe's hostility is not to authority, but to the democratic welfare state. For example Hoppe believes that monarchy is superior to democracy, and that, in his own words:

"In every society, a few individuals acquire the status of an elite through talent. Due to superior achievements of wealth, wisdom, and bravery, these individuals come to possess natural authority, and their opinions and judgments enjoy wide-spread respect. Moreover, because of selective mating, marriage, and the laws of civil and genetic inheritance, positions of natural authority are likely to be passed on within a few noble families. It is to the heads of these families with long-established records of superior achievement, farsightedness, and exemplary personal conduct that men turn to with their conflicts and complaints against each other. These leaders of the natural elite act as judges and peacemakers, often free of charge out of a sense of duty expected of a person of authority or out of concern for civil justice as a privately produced "public good." "

Shawn said...

A clarification: Although in response to the evils of the modern state, Hoppe can be called a libertarian anarcho-capitalist, this label is misleading. Having read 'Democracy: The God That Failed' twice now, it would be more accurate, and more helpful to think of Hoppe as a Traditionalist Conservative in this sense:

"Traditionalist conservatism, also known as "traditional conservatism," "traditionalism," "Burkean conservatism", "classical conservatism" and (in the United Kingdom and Canada), "Toryism", describes a political philosophy emphasizing the need for the principles of natural law and transcendent moral order, tradition, hierarchy and organic unity, agrarianism, classicism and high culture, and the intersecting spheres of loyalty. Some traditionalists have embraced the labels "reactionary" and "counterrevolutionary", defying the stigma that has attached to these terms since the Enlightenment. Having a hierarchical view of society, many traditionalist conservatives, including a few Americans, defend the monarchical political structure as the most natural and beneficial social arrangement."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Traditionalist_conservatism