Achieving Synthesis Between Religious Studies and Sociology with Sergius Bulgakov

Aristotle’s cosmology is nothing but a sophiology, but a sophiology that is deprived of its trinitarian-theological foundation. This sophiology is a doctrine of divinity without God and apart from God, of divinity in place of God, in the capacity of God. We have said the same thing about Platonism as a theory of self-existent ideas, of Divine Sophia in herself. The entire difficulty and, in a certain sense, the impotence and indefensibility in this form of Plato’s theory of ideas consist in the separateness of the Divine Sophia from the creaturely Sophia as well as in the ungroundedness of the world of ideas.[1] Sergius Bulgakov

A doctrine of divinity without God or self-existent ideas absent divinity. Doesn’t this more or less cover the range of possibility within human thought and religion, absent Trinitarian reality? There is a separation focused, either on the transcendent or the creaturely. There is either Plato or Aristotle, Mircea Eliade or Peter Berger. Religion is either beyond study or it reduces to sociology. The dialectic may favor the transcendent or the immanent, the practical or the philosophical, the creaturely or divine, but there is an absolute separation, in which the divide is the constituting factor in the opposites. All that can be said never attains the essence of things, and one can focus on one or the other (the sayable or the essence). Sergius Bulgakov’s critique of Aristotelianism and Platonism might be stretched to roughly serve alternative approaches to religion. Bulgakov foresees modern religious studies and sociology, as founded by Mircea Eliade and Peter Berger (respectively), in that religion reduces to the absolutely transcendent and ineffable or it is fully explained by the sociological.

Eliade creates a unified category for study, not through any positive statement about the substance or content of religion, but by deeming all religion, in its essence, as that which is noumenal or sui generis. Eliade held that religious experience is distinct from historical pressures and influences and that religious experiences are their own cause and belong to their own unique category. Religion shares the Kantian characteristic of being beyond definition, yet all “religion” somehow pertains to what is most real. As I have described it (here), for religion to be an object of study, Eliade’s paradigm must be the case. If there is no unique essence to religion, then psychology, history, or sociology can explain religion.  The problem with Eliade’s paradigm is that a sui generis experience cannot be studied. By definition it is beyond study as it is distinct, it transcends historical, social, and psychological, causality and arises as its own cause.  Religious studies reduces to studying religion as the reaction and interpretation of an essence which is not itself open to examination.  This theoretical stance predetermines that the religious perspective is essentially free of social, economic, and political interference.  Religion arises from a reality which falls outside of historical factors and cultural values.  Even the psychological phenomena of religion are an after-effect of a reality that does not make itself directly available.

Here the problem is that of Platonism, in that there is no actual object to study, nothing in which to ground the study, as the essence of religion is completely removed from its manifestations. The articulation and striving of religious practices can only point toward its object, and there is no ground but only endless gesturing. In the words of Bulgakov, “The entire difficulty and, in a certain sense, the impotence and indefensibility in this form of Plato’s theory of ideas consist in the separateness of the Divine Sophia from the creaturely Sophia as well as in the ungroundedness of the world of ideas.”[2] It is impossible to bring the creaturely and divine into relationship or union, and thus there is a vague encompassing of every possibility, or every form of religion. “This world is not unified; it is not even subsumable in a higher unifying principle. The world therefore turns out to be only a speculative projection of pagan polytheism.”[3] While Bulgakov means this as a criticism, for Eliade, this is his point of departure for studying religion.

On the other hand, Peter Berger poses the Aristotelian possibility, of finding the transcendent fully explained in the immanent, but as Bulgakov notes, Aristotle is simply filling in the other half of an inevitable dialectic divide. Plato gives us the “fleshless abstractions” and Aristotle puts flesh on these ideas but only by saturating them and reducing them to the concrete and impersonal. Just as Eliade leaves us with pure abstraction devoid of empirical reality, just so, as with Aristotle, Berger reduces religion to an empirical “sacred canopy,” providing a groundless ground for sociology. That is the sacred canopy is fully explained by its empirical necessity in holding society together. Berger, the good Presbyterian, is not refuting religion, but as with Eliade, there can only be a “rumor of angels.”

In Bulgakov’s explanation, “What Aristotle did was transpose ideas from the domain of the Divine Sophia to the domain of the creaturely Sophia. He proclaimed the being of the latter without the former, as if in separation from it. He thus reduced ideas to the empirical, taken only in the category of universality (which would also require special explanation).”[4] Neither Berger nor Eliade are able to distinguish God from the world. For Berger, “God” or the sacred is constituted by the world, and for Eliade only the world is available for observation. What they both lack is the Personal God.

Just as Aristotle transposes Plato into the empirical, so too Berger transposes Eliade, but both (Berger and Eliade) reduce religion to a set of practices (and in both, the practice is removed from the divine), reproducing the divide between the abstract and concrete. Religious studies and the sociology of religion build upon and generate the difference between Plato and Aristotle, but this difference is not so much a problem, as the engine, of dualism. The divide between heaven and earth, theory and practice, creator and creation, body and soul, religious studies and sociology of religion, perform the same trick of turning the problem into the solution. To bridge the gap, close the divide, or overcome the dualism, would undermine the foundation generating the predominant form of understanding.

The thesis and antithesis of the divide condition the answer on either side of the divide but, contrary to what Aristotle or Berger or the host of pragmatists and materialists might imagine, they cannot replace or explain away the transcendent (without themselves appealing to it in the process). On the other hand, it is also true that ideas exist only in things or in the world, though the world does not exhaust or explain or displace ideas (mind or theory). “Plato and Aristotle are both right, and both wrong, in their one-sidedness of thesis and antithesis. They each postulate a synthesis, which is not contained in their theories but which must be found beyond and above them.”[5]

The Greek unmoved mover, Eliade’s sui generis, and Berger’s sacred canopy, all fit Bulgakov’s description in which God “can be likened to the line of the horizon where the earth and sky meet and appear to join.”[6] In each case, God disappears and is replaced by the world, and the divide between heaven and earth is foundational, for both religious studies and Christian theology.

Eliade needs Berger, the transcendentalists need the pragmatists, the study of religion and the sociology of religion need each other. “The creaturely Sophia is the manifestation and reflection of the heavenly Sophia. Nevertheless, sophiology, as the doctrine of the supramundane principle of the world, must incorporate these great sophianic insights of ancient thought.”[7] However, none of these systems has the means of synthesizing with or accounting for its opposite. The question of synthesis, as it applies to the study of religion, is not only an issue of bringing sociological insights to bear on the study of religion, but it pertains to Christian theology.

As I have stated it (see the above link), the sui generis reading of religion is not unrelated to sui generis notions of Christianity: that the Church somehow exists apart from a particular society and culture and that culture has its own innate essence apart from Christ.  This disembodied, transcendent notion of Christianity reveals itself in an incapacity to imagine a real-world kingdom on earth.  In this form of thought the Church cannot itself be a holistic, immanent reality, constituting its own culture.  The body of Christ is spiritualized, too otherworldly, and culture is too much the essence of this world’s reality to have the two realms intersect.

There is a singular synthesis of creator and creation, of the immanent and transcendent, of God and human. Jesus Christ, the God/man synthesizes what cannot otherwise achieve synthesis. This is not an end point, but the beginning presumption, not just in apprehending Christianity, but in understanding religion. Plato and Aristotle, or Eliade and Berger, do not have the resource for appropriating the other (none of the dualisms do), but the Christian synthesis brings together and utilizes the opposed pairs. “The dialectic of Platonism and Aristotelianism in the theory of ideas is synthesized in the Christian revelation of the divine-creaturely, or divine-human, character of being, of the sophianicity of creation.”[9] Faith and practice, doctrine and action, heaven and earth, Creator and creation, and sociology of religion and religious studies have a Subject.

The end result is something on the order of James McClendon’s practical theory of Christianity and religion, in which religion is not believed, apart from practice.  It is is embodied and practiced so that it is a conviction that shows itself in a form of life.  In this “practical understanding” doctrine or belief discloses its meaning only within the practices and convictions of the culture that embraces it. This provides both a theology, and as our upcoming class on religion demonstrates, it provides an alternative ground for understand the world’s religions.

(Register now for the class in World Religions and Cultures starting the week of January 22nd: Go to to register.)

[1] Sergius Bulgakov, The Bride of the Lamb (p. 11). Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.. Kindle Edition. Thanks to Matt Welch for his constant inspiration, which stands behind this blog.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Bulgakov, 12.

[5] Bulgakov, 12.

[6] Bulgakov, 14.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Bulgakov, 14.

[9] Ibid.

The Virgin Birth as Refutation of Plato’s Parable of the Cave

Plato’s parable of the cave depicts the opposite movement to that which is occurring in the Virgin Birth. If one thinks of the cave as a womb, the entire struggle is to escape the cave/womb or set aside the material world and to achieve the singular source of light, the sun. Those imprisoned in the cave live in a world of shadows in which the only light is from a fire behind them, but the prisoner turned philosopher journeys toward the sun, representative of transcendent philosophical truth. As he journeys away from the cave/womb, or away from material reality, the philosopher draws closer to transcendent truth. With the birth of Christ, the equivalent of the singular light or the sole source of truth comes to inhabit the womb.

This not only challenges Greek thought, but as Mircea Eliade points out, since Plato sums up the pervasive religious and philosophical worldview, it challenges a predominant form of thought. There is an obvious impossibility posed in a virgin giving birth but this impossibility is a sign of the even more profound impossibility of God becoming human. This is on the order of the cave housing the sun, or the motherly and earthly encompassing and housing ultimate reality; an impossibility for the Greeks. Jesus born of a virgin is the bringing together of the human and divine in a way that was/is inconceivable for most of humanity.

Plato’s parable of the cave captures the fact that for most people in most of history ascent to the absolute (whether absolute truth, the place of God, etc.) is to shed the finite, material and relative. In the incarnation, signaled by the Virgin Birth all horizontal and vertical wires are crossed. It is more supernatural than the pagan portrayal of the coupling of the gods, as it is by sheer power and does not call upon the natural sex act. Justin Martyr (165 CE), refuting comparisons between the virgin birth and mythological couplings of the gods, writes of the Spirit which “when it came upon the virgin and overshadowed her, caused her to conceive, not by intercourse, but by power.”[1] Ambrose of Milan (c. 339-97 CE) writes, “That a virgin should give birth is sign of no human, but of divine mystery.”[2] Pagans could easily conceive of sex among the gods, but the virgin birth by-passes the sex act. However, it is also more natural and integrated with the human condition, in that Jesus will suffer, die, and experience the human predicament in its fullness, which is even more scandalous to the pagan mind. The Greek and pagan, but maybe just the human idea of God is inverted in the Virgin Birth, as the fully human and the fully divine are intermixed in the motherhood of Mary, her conception through God, and she gives birth to one who is fully God and fully human.

The point of Christianity, beginning with the Virgin Birth, is subversion of the pagan world, but by the same token Greek and pagan thought would continue to attack and attempt to subvert this basic Christian conception of the world. The Gnostics, Marcion (c. 85-c. 160 CE) and Valentinus (c. 100-c. 175 CE), argued that the created order was evil and that the soul had to escape the body in order to achieve enlightenment, so Christ could not have become a human body without loss of divinity. Likewise, Docetists, who shared a Gnostic world view claimed, “If he suffered he was not God; if he was God he did not suffer.”[3]

Christian apologists of the second century, such as Ignatius, Irenaeus, and Tertullian, appeal to the Virgin Birth to defend the incarnation against Gnostic and Docetic opponents, appealing primarily to Mary’s human motherhood as evidence of Christ’s humanity. In the words of Ignatius; “Be deaf, then, to any talk that ignores Jesus Christ, of David’s lineage, of Mary; who was really born, ate, and drank; was really persecuted under Pontius Pilate; was really crucified and died.” Tertullian goes to great lengths to emphasize the fleshiness of the birth of Christ, precisely to combat the heresy of Marcion:

Come now, beginning from the nativity itself, declaim against the uncleanness of the generative elements within the womb, the filthy concretion of fluid and blood, of the growth of the flesh for nine months long out of that very mire. Describe the womb as it enlarges from day to day, -heavy, troublesome, restless even in sleep, changeful in its feelings of dislike and desire. Inveigh now likewise against the shame itself of a woman in travail, which, however, ought rather to be honoured in consideration of that peril, or to be held sacred in respect of [the mystery of] nature. Of course you are horrified also at the infant, which is shed into life with the embarrassments which accompany it from the womb. … This reverend course of nature, you, O Marcion, [are pleased to] spit upon; and yet, in what way were you born? You detest a human being at his birth; then after what fashion do you love anybody? … Well, then, loving man [Christ] loved his nativity also, and his flesh as well…. Our birth He reforms from death by a second birth from heaven.[4]

For Tertullian, as Christina Beattie puts it, “The human flesh which unites Christ with Mary is as intrinsic to his identity as the divinity which unites him with God, for without her there can be no true salvation of the flesh.”[5]

In the fifth century the problem is reversed, as Nestorians referred to Mary as Christokos, to emphasize Mary was only the mother of the humanity of Christ and not his divinity. To correct this division between the humanity and deity of Christ, the Council of Ephesus (CE 431), affirmed by Chalcedon (CE 451), dubbed Mary, Theotokos (God-bearer), to affirm the divine and human unity of Christ. The definition of Chalcedon describes Christ as “truly God and truly man … as regards his Godhead, begotten of the Father before the ages, but yet as regards his manhood begotten, for us men and for our salvation, of Mary the Virgin, the God-bearer (Theotokos).”[6]

As I have described it here, it may be that the focus on and eventual veneration of Mary, did not translate into a full embrace of the feminine, motherhood, or the earthly. As Luce Irigaray has described it, the veneration of Mary made of her “a likeness” or a simulacrum of the reality so that the feminine was put into the service of making “reproduction-production of doubles, copies, fakes, while any hint of their material elements, of the womb, is turned into scenery to make the show more realistic.”[7]

Though the denigration of womanhood and the earthly can be traced to such early key figures as Augustine, it is precisely in Augustine that the Virgin Birth commanded a startling sort of orthodoxy. In one of Augustine’s Christmas Day Sermons based on Psalm 85:11 he describes the Virgin Birth as a joyous merger of heaven and earth:

Truth, which is in the bosom of the Father (Jn 1: 18), has sprung from the earth, in order also to be in the bosom of his mother. Truth, by which the world is held together, has sprung from the earth, in order to be carried in a woman’s arms. Truth, on which the bliss of the angels is incorruptibly nourished, has sprung from the earth, in order to be suckled at breasts of flesh. Truth, which heaven is not big enough to hold, has sprung from the earth, in order to be placed in a manger.[8]

Augustine imagines Christ saying:

To show you that it’s not any creature of God that is bad, but that it’s crooked pleasures that distort them, in the beginning when I made man, I made them male and female. I don’t reject and condemn any creature that I have made. Here I am, born a man, born of a woman. So I don’t reject any creature I have made, but I reject and condemn sins, which I didn’t make. Let each sex take note of its proper honor, and each confess its iniquity, and each hope for salvation.[9]

Beattie concludes that, despite his patriarchal tendencies and the tendency to denigrate the body, “Augustine thus affirms the goodness of the body, including the female body.”

So Mary’s motherhood of Christ repudiates both those who would denigrate the body or those who would question the deity of the human Jesus. It demands a recognition of the goodness of creation, even the messy side of creation in childbirth. Any fear of contamination is not due to the flesh but due to sin. As Augustine says in another work attributed to him, Christ defends Mary’s motherhood against a Manichaean by saying “She whom you despise, 0 Manichaean, is My Mother; but she was formed by My hand. If I could have been defiled in making her, I could have been defiled in being born of her.”[10]

In Plato’s cave we encounter the symptomatic problem in human religion, philosophy, and thought, in that it would fly toward the sun to gain access to God but in Christ this world is turned upside down as the son has come to earth. In the human economy there is a forgetting of life and a death-dealing grab for truth beyond the stars, but the guiding star of Christmas night points us to a humble manger, most likely located in a cave outside of Bethlehem, where God is With Us.

[1] Justin Martyr, “First Apology” n. 33 in The First and Second Apologies, trans. with notes Leslie William Barnard in ACW 56 (1997), 46. I am following Christina Jane Beattie, God’s mother, Eve’s advocate: a gynocentric refiguration of Marian symbolism in engagement with Luce Irigaray (PhD University of Bristol, 1998). Quotes are from her dissertation at

[2] Ambrose, Expos. Ev sec. Luc., Lib. ii. 2,3 in Livius, The Blessed Virgin, 131.

[3] Henry Bettenson, Documents of the Christian Church (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1979 [1963]), 35.

[4] Tertullian, “On the Flesh of Christ” in The Writings of Tertullian, Vol. 2, trans. Peter Holmes, in ANCL 15 (1870), 170-71.

[5] Beattie, 102.

[6] In Bettenson, Documents, 51.

[7] Luce Irigaray, Speculum of the Other Woman (SP), trans. Gillian C. Gill. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1985 (1974) 340.

[8] Augustine, “Sermon 185” n. I in Sermons 111/6 (184-229Z) on the Liturgical Seasons, trans. and notes Edmund Hill OP, ed. John E. Rotelle OSA, WSA III, 5 (1993), 21.

[9] Quoted from Beattie, 102.

[10] Tract. contr. quinque haeres., cap. v., Int. Opp. Augustini. Append., Tom. 8 in Livius, The Blessed Virgin, 70 (translation modified).

Catholic or Fascist Christianity: The State of the Christian Union

I have long presumed that Peter Berger’s three step description of culture gets at (in part) the reality of the manner in which culture is at once a human creation which acts upon us. According to Berger, it is through externalization that society is a human product – humans make it, build it, constitute it. It is through objectivation that society becomes a reality sui generis – culture and its products take on the appearance of being independent of humans.  Then due to internalization of culture and its products man is himself a product of society. The role of religion in this process is to falsify human consciousness so that the projecting and reification involved in objectivation are mystified – made non-human. The fact that the socio-cultural world is shaped by human activity is obscured by the religion. The sui generis nature of religion, set forth by Mircea Eliade – the father of modern religious studies, cuts religion off from the realities of culture and even the realities of any particular religion. For Eliade, the historical and social conditions play into the interpretation of the religious phenomenon but they cannot ultimately explain it: “All these dreams, myths, and nostalgias…cannot be exhausted by a psychological explanation; there is always a kernel that remains refractory to explanation. . . that, we shall never tire of repeating, is not solely ‘historical.’”  Given the Berger choice that religion is a human creation and the Eliade choice that religion transcends the human, one might think Eliade is on the side of Christianity. Eliade provides a universal experience in which to ground religion and Berger seems to reduce all religion to the relativity of culture.

The problem is that Eliade’s is a cheap universality which ultimately has nothing to say (all articulation falls short) about the transcendent (it is absolutely transcendent). The transcendent object of religion does not intersect with the realities of economics, politics, or culture and at the same time it is presumed the religious perspective is essentially free of social, economic, and political interference. This, of course, is simply not true of any religion of which I am aware. Hinduism, Buddhism, Shintoism, biblical idolatry, and most especially Christianity, are interconnected with economics, politics, and culture. In Japan, the rise of fascism depends directly upon State Shinto, Buddhist nationalism, and Christian accommodation to deification of Hirohito. All of these religions might be said to have maintained their universality – their transcendent orientation – but at the expense of being of no earthly value or influence.  The sui generis reading of religion is not unrelated to the sui generis notion of Christianity – that the Church somehow exists apart from society and culture and that culture has its own innate essence by which we are shaped and to which we are subject.

The advantage of Berger’s theory, as opposed to the sui generis notion of religion, is that religion as key to world construction ties religion into every aspect of human society. In Berger’s notion human being cannot be understood as somehow resting within itself, in some closed sphere of interiority, and then setting out to express itself in the surrounding world. Objectivation seems to accurately portray the function of money and idols (intrinsically worthless and yet the most valued object). These man-made entities confront its producers as a fact external to and other than themselves. Internalization re-appropriates this same reality, transforming it from structures of the objective world into structures of the subjective consciousness.

 Berger, as a practicing Christian, has his own problems. In religion as a social construct there is no clear place for sociology and Christian theology to meet – there is no place from which to critique the society or to stand outside of it. On the other hand, if one understands that it is precisely a Berger like world which Christ disrupts– persons are constituted in culture – then salvation must take on an integration with all things human. The resolution to this problem posed by Richard Niebuhr, is to recognize that culture is the shaping force of humankind and Christ, then, is incarnate so as to reshape culture. Niebuhr offers a series of possibilities as to how this might be accomplished: Christ against culture, of culture, above culture, in paradox with culture and transforming culture.  The problem is that culture is the essence around which Christ is made to work. What we recognize from Berger is that Niebuhr has also reified culture and presumed Christ is forced to work with this given. Rodney Clapp sums up a more sufficient answer which allows for the primacy of culture without succumbing to Berger’s relativism or Niebuhr’s essentializing of culture: Christ and the Church constitute a culture. “The original Christians, in short, were about creating and sustaining a unique culture – a way of life that would shape character in the image of their God. And they were determined to be a culture, a quite public and political culture, even if it killed them and their children.” Here Berger’s integration of the human and the cultural are accounted for without succumbing to an essentializing of culture while also allowing for a universal through culture. At the same time, the universal is not absolutely transcendent but takes on its properly biblical slant. The incarnation is an interruption of history which re-founds what it means to be human through one who is human and divine. Yet this interruption is itself historical, cultural, and social.  

Where catholic or universal is understood to be concerned not only with all people but with every aspect of life – social, political, sexual, familial, gastronomical, etc., I presume this is not only the true form of the Christian faith but the only form resistant to the manufactured reality, described by Berger, of contemporary culture. The double-sided meaning of universal, all people and all encompassing (concerned with every aspect of life), are interdependent in that universal identity manifests itself in practices inherently (political, cultural, etc.) resistant to the human “sacred canopy” always characterized by its cultural production (local and exclusive).  The politics of Jesus, the culture of Christ, the family of God, or even Christian eating habits (eating with sinners, a communion open to all), are the particular manifestation of universality and are what constitute the Church a force of opposition to the alienating and divisive reified socio-political principalities and powers.

Where the opposition has failed and the dictates of the culture, with its essentializing ethos, nationalism, regimented conformity,exclusivism, and ethnocentrism, succeed then the distinctives of Christian universality are, by definition, absent. And while no particular church (Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Protestant) can exclusively claim universality (an oxymoron?) the supreme test of whether the faith is, indeed, catholic is whether it succumbs to cultural tyranny – or the reification of culture known in our day as fascism.

 Fascism is the primary and most damaging form this cultural reification has taken in the 20th and, I would claim (along with Noam Chomsky and others) in the beginnings of the 21st century. Fascism presumes there is an essence to the national ethos (the blood and soil of Germany, the unique spirit (ki) of Japan, American exceptionalism) such that individuals, as in Berger’s picture, bear within themselves this essence (e.g. Japanese citizens are depicted as the egos circulating around the super-ego Emperor which together constitute the wholeness of a person).  There may be many markers of the passage from nationalism to fascism – the rise of a cult of personality, the violent suppression of opposition, the demonization of certain ideas, the continual gearing up for war – but one of the clearest markers in Germany and Japan was the manner in which Christianity was co opted by the state. Pictures of Hirohito adorned every official church in Japan and Christians were made to bow to this god man to inaugurate the service. Japanese theologians even attempted to incorporate Hirohito into the Godhead (God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, and God Hirohito). German Christians were those who accepted the Aryan clause, which excluded Jews from holding public office, inclusive of state church offices and German Christian theology expunged the Bible of its Jewishness. In both Germany and Japan, this Christian fascism is one step beyond the Constantinian fusion of state and church (arguably most complete only with the reformation). Where the Roman emperor fused church and state by acknowledging Christianity, fascist Christianity presumes to overtly absorb Christianity into state ideology (which is not to deny this was implicit with Constantine).

Though there are moments in history where “fascist Christianity” accurately describes the church, in retrospect it would seem that genocide, all-out war, emperor/dictator worship, racism, and anti-Semitism, may not accord (to say less than the least) with the basic tenets of the teaching of Jesus. Fascist theologians, fascist Christians, fascist churches, are a historical reality (not just a pejorative description), which more than simple fascism (or any of the isms of the 20th century – communism, socialism, Marxism, nationalism) may best describe the contemporary anti-Christ (the imitation or displacement of Christ). In other words, the fascist reification of a particular culture and the violence this entails – equated with Christianity – is the most obvious enemy of Christ.

 Is it something like fascist Christianity, a Christianity absorbed by nationalist chauvinism, that threatens the Church universal in the United States?  American exceptionalism premised on America as a Christian Nation may have succeeded, some place and some time (as with the varieties of Constantinian Christianity), in escaping the complete co opting of the church by state purposes. But one wonders if there is not an evident incongruity in Trump Doctrine, summed up by a senior White House official with direct access to the president, as “We are America, bitch.” As Jeffrey Goldberg, who originally reported this in The Atlantic has put it, “the gangster fronting, the casual misogyny, the insupportable confidence” amounts to “a middle finger directed at a cold and unfair world.” The exclusivism, isolationism, mistreatment of aliens, chauvinistic hostility, and sympathy for authoritarian strongmen, captured in this posturing may be good for America (though I doubt it) but can it be equated with the teaching of Christ? Could it be that “we are Christian America, bitch” or that we are holding up a Christian middle finger to the world? This is no more unlikely than “Christian fascism” but what it clearly is not is catholic Christianity.[1]

[1] Jeffrey Goldberg, “A Senior White House Official Defines the Trump Doctrine: ‘We’re America, Bitch’ The president believes that the United States owes nothing to anyone—especially its allies,” The Atlantic, June 11, 2018.

Breaking Free of Failed “Religion” Through a Practical Salvation

Religion as a projection of man (philosophy, psychology), as a sui generis essence (religious studies), or as a sacred canopy (sociology) all partake of a singular mistake.  It is the same mistake found in the various Christian approaches to non-Christian religion (pluralism, inclusivism, and exclusivism).  The problem with “religion” is with the category itself.  There is the mistaken assumption that religion can be separated out from culture and practice and studied or theologized about as an entity or essence unto itself.  The Bible does not make this mistake in that it does not address religion per se (more on this later).  This raises the question as to whether Christianity is religion? Or should Christianity distinguish itself from religion? Continue reading “Breaking Free of Failed “Religion” Through a Practical Salvation”