Junior Ganymede
We endeavor to give satisfaction

The Courage to Conform

May 24th, 2016 by G.

C.S. Lewis says that courage is the form all virtues take at the testing point. If he means to imply that courage is not a separate virtue, he is mistaken. It is possible to be virtuously courageous in a bad cause, or in the service of some vice. Courage, once experienced, is known to have a quality all its own.

Obedience is the same. It is not just an instrumental virtue. The justifications we give for obedience do not mean that obedience is only a means to an end. As those who have experienced it know, obedience is a virtue in its own right. There is a quality of holiness in it. When Christ said, “Thy will be done,” he was not just selecting a poetic and gracious way of acknowledging that on reflection he had decided to go through with the Passion.

Obedience is a product of hierarchy. Hierarchy is common in the animal world and in society and in business, because it falls out naturally out of certain game theoretic problems of organization and coordination under conditions of competition. The modern mindset, which fundamentally mistrusts and dislikes physical reality, which for all its perversions is fundamentally ascetic, and which abhors competition, mistrusts and dislikes and abhors obedience. At some fundamental level, the distaste for obedience is a desire for a God without body, parts, or passion–for a being and a supernature that is free from the messiness and necessities of the incarnate world.

The message of the restoration is that at some level we cannot and should not desire to leave this reality behind. Family is the archetypal and eternal thing. Obedience and hierarchy are intrinsically part of the structure of family. They are complements, or grace notes, to its love.

We must have the courage to conform.

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Comments (9)
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May 24th, 2016 07:30:24

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Wm Jas
May 24, 2016

“A God without body, parts, or passions” — always struck me as a strange slogan for a religion whose key doctrines include the Incarnation and the Passion.

Bruce Charlton
May 25, 2016

@Wm – it is indeed strange; and revelatory of the fact that philosophy has (often unwittingly) been used as the frame for Christianity.

Or, to put it the other way – Christianity was (in the post-Apostlic era) fitted-into a pre-existing metaphysical mould. Philosophy took priority – presumably because the intellectuals of the early church implicitl;y regarded philosophy as primary, and were unable to concieve of Christianity as prior to, or more fundamental than, a specific metaphysical formulation.

It is interesting that the Reformation divines failed to notice this, despite their protestations of being Scripturally-based and ‘primitive’ – because that formulation originates (I think) from the Westminster Confession


May 25, 2016

Philosophy should be the handmaiden of religion. Instead, too often — and that includes among Mormons who flatter themselves that they are intellectuals — it has become the chaperone.

May 25, 2016

I have sometimes found common ground with other Christians by bringing things back to the Incarnation.

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