Thursday, February 1, 2007

Dr. Alfred Kinsey, "Scientism" and those stupid Puritans!

I recently caught a brief documentary piece on the famous (and infamous) sex researcher Dr. Alfred Kinsey and his research. For whatever reason, some find his research shocking and controversial, even to this day. I'm not really one of them.

This is not to say that I have problems with some of his methodology. With regard to certain data (ex. his information on childhood sexuality), there is some reason to be concerned, but only because of the size of the sampling - contrary to some wild accusations, Dr.Kinsey did not "pay" to have children sexually molested to see what would happen, etc. The information in those cases is simply unreliable because it came from few sources (a lot of it from one source actually - a man who could charitably be described as a sexual deviant, and who kept meticulous journals of his sexual experiences with man, woman, child, beast, and "other".) It can also be rightly pointed out that the man got far too close to his work, up to and including he and his wife participating directly in some of the "observational films" he created for study.

But I'd submit that his own indiscretions in data collecting (particularly his personal involvement) really do more to taint his conclusions than the quality of the data itself.

And that's always been the problem with the "Kinsey Reports", and so much of the field of "sexology" which Dr.Kinsey helped pioneer - the conclusions. It's also a part of the problem you find now days in the physical sciences in general, the whole plague of what many call "Scientism." At it's heart, Scientism is a failure to recognize that physical science is but one form of "science," and typically has been regarded as the lowest form.
Why? Because for it to work properly, it must operate in a subsidiary way under
the guidance of philosophical and theological sciences in order to come to "provisionally correct" conclusions. And that is all the physical sciences can
claim to offer, being the lowest form of science - provisional conclusions, because physical sciences are slaves to observational data, which being limited by our circumscription, is always growing, and hence, changing. An example of this would be the provisional conclusion, that our Lord used a mechanism of adaptation in the creation of the first man, and that this is a part of His providence in our own age as well.

Sadly, most "modern scientists" (and invariably such a phrase will only be applied
to physical scientists) are sorrowfully lacking in any kind of adequate philosophical and religious training, as are are the bulk of so called "educated persons" in these days.

So what are men ruled by when lack in the powers of the will and intellect? Passions. Base, passion. Period. While those energies of the soul
are not of themselves evil (they are human, and created by our good God just
like the rest of us), when they rule us, there is a grave disorder. It is a spiritual case of "putting the cart in front of the horse." And this is why some of the worst hell spawn garbage comes out of the mouths of (so called) "educated persons." Think of what we have lost! Historically, to be "educated" meant to be of refined character and manners, and as such best able to understand the more "noble sciences" and hence, lesser sciences. This is why at the heart of any claim to be an "educated man" in times past, was a solid liberal arts education and religious formation (seminary schools, good catechesis, etc.)

Now, it seems to mean being a glorified mechanic, just that one deals with really complicated and high liability 'stuff' And it shows, when you read some of the unsubstantiated, shockingly ignorant, and woefully contradictory nonsense that is passed off as "good science."

This holds true for the work of Dr.Kinsey, and what has been made of it by both himself and his admirers. And to a degree, it's true of most of the critics of "sexology", the self styled "family values" types. That people in general are sexually freakier than one might imagine (or that they're not the only one) would come as absolutely no surprise to any parish Priest who has been hearing confessions for only a couple of months. Knowing Priests, and friends of Priests, I've been told (without even remotely endangering the seal of confession, of course) of case examples of things they've actually encountered with penitents...well, let's just say it's astoundingly weird stuff, even for a perv like me.

About the only thing slighly valid in the "sexological consensus" conclusion, is the acknowledgement that you're not the only messed up person out there. That can be consolling I suppose; at least one is not abandoned to think they're the only one who struggles. But as I said before, this wasn't exactly a secret either...

At least not a secret from what I'd call "High Church" Christian society (namely, the civilizations of the Christians of the East and the West, both before and after the "big schisms" that have split them into different communions). I suspect that there is a lot in the current zeitgeist that we can thank Protestantism for, with it's tendency (particularly in Calvinism) toward judaic messianism; the confused idea that government can bring utopia, that the kingdom of God cannot only be made to appear in this world, but that it can be confounded with it. Only Calvinistic America could create the prohibitionist justice system. While many associate "prohibitionism" solely with the ban on alcohol, in actuality it covered a whole slew of "vices", ranging from prostitution, through to recreational drugs, right on to gambling. That's right folks - before these killjoys came along, all of those things were basically legal in the good ole' U.S. of A., somewhere somehow. If there were laws with regard to these vices, they more often than not pertained to "zoning issues."

Interestingly enough, that "lawless" situation was a carry over from Christian Europe. Classical Christian civilization in it's myriad of variants, is surprisingly "loose" up until the "Reformation." Even St.Augustine argued (arguing against the puritanical impulse of some Christians in his own day) that it would be contrary to the public good to attempt to criminalize prostitution! He even argued, I think quite correctly, that prostitution is in fact the "lesser evil" when it comes to giving space to sins against purity (avoids "unnatural sins", adultery with another's spouse, or the ravishing of decent women, etc.)

More than "legislating morally", what the puritanical zeitgeist has done is create a false image of normality. Good common folk, like the kind who don't read theological/religious blogs, still on some level believe governments only act as lawmakers when the matter is somewhat important. So, if a government has laws on basically anything "fun but quite likely morally corrosive," it can create the impression that, like outright murder, only a select type of transgressor would be guilty of those things. This of course had to lead to a lot of confliction in people, as more and more the artifcats of sin had to be pushed completely underground.

So, when some cat comes around with observational data that "the majority of people" are in some way pretty friggin' kinky, it wasn't a long jump to say that because it is normative, it is "natural", and as such, "good." Unsurprisingly, authority in general (especially governmental, but also as an often justified spill over, religious too) was hurt in this "realization." It's not a coincidence that 1960's political radicalism and revolutionary ideologies went along "hand-in-hand" with the "sexual liberation" movement. And just perhaps, not all that coincidental that Dr.Kinsey's work had just preceeded both...

The above combined with man's endless appetite for anything which will justify his sins, resulted not simply in a conclusion but an assertion - that there is no original sin, that our current state is not "contra-natural" and a result from the misuse of the energy of the will, etc. Of course, none of that follows from recognizing that most people to some degree and for some duration, behave very very badly. If anything, such observations of "human sexuality" can serve as strong evidence of everything the Church has had to say about original sin and the tragedy which lies at the dawn of mankind. It would also show that the path indeed is quite narrow, and that the Icon of the "Divine Ascent" is right on the money. So watching the mass of mankind behaving poorly when they think no one is watching offers us no revelation as to how we should choose to behave, what we should hold as our standard. Indeed, one could say it's a problem faced by modern psychology as well - absolutely no reasonable standard of what constitutes "normal."

Of course, the wisest of men will tell you that these two are our examples of normality. And in a subsidiary, perhaps less clear way, these folks as well.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

What is sin? Redemption? Hell?

I was thinking last night of how it is one offends God. I thought on it, because it is pretty standard Christian belief that it is impossible to injure God - our existance and anything we do can neither add or diminish the "divine 'fullness.'"

The answer as far as I can tell, is that while we may speak in a way that seems to indicate injury to God, the reality is that offences against the Divine Majesty are self injury - the most direct injury being to the particular offender, but in a broader sense (in so far as individual men are parts of the larger "whole" which is creation, both corporeal and incorporeal - "the kosmos").

As such, it would seem that the only exacting way we can speak of "divine justice", is in terms of the damage sins do to the integrity of the creation as God made it (and the injury done to it in terms of the creation being able to fulfill it's "vocation.") In that sense, sins certainly do have a "judicial" dimension, and as such the remedy is going to have a judicial dimension. Denying this would seem to be a negation of a great deal of the Bible's witness on the topic of sin and redemption.

With that said, the danger (and I sense this more in popular western piety than anywhere else) is when one fails to see that this "judicial dimension" is in any way seperated from the therepeutic understanding of sin and it's remedy. They are not simply related topics, but are one and the same thing perceived from a slightly different vantage point. After all, does not the "fifth evangelist" (as some have called the Prophet Isaiah) prophecy quite plainly that...

"...he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed." (Isaiah 53:5)

(If you follow the link I've provided for Isaiah 53:5 and read the Strong's notes on the meaning and etymology of the Hebrew of this verse, this point becomes even clearer.)

While I have some sympathy for those Orthodox apologists who desire to keep clear of the excesses found in the various western confessions (either dogmatically or at least practically), I've begun to become concerned about a tendency that I've heard called either "stavroclasm" ("cross-breaking") or perhaps even more cleverly put, "neo-Marcionism". While I think those charges are sometimes thrown around too easily, I have run across things which seem to fit that description being sold as "pure Orthodox theology" (as opposed to that other kind of Orthodox theology we've supposedly been getting in recent centuries.

Of course, like with every stereo-type and exageration, there is some truth to the ideas underlying the often touted "western captivity" of Orthodox theology. But I stress it is only some. To say otherwise, is to in effect take a bad lesson from the Protestant interpretive paradigm - namely, the idea that for centuries "pure Christianity" did not exist, but thanks to our wise neo-patristic theologians we're going to get back on track real soon. Be wary of "nicer than God" Christianity - it's hardly a step away from being "Christianity without the Cross".

As one can say "truth is one", perhaps it can at least be said that "all errors are similar". It seems to me that this species of error has a lot in common with old fashioned Marcionism, in that both seem to be more committed to Hellenism than the Gospel - they love Athens more than Jerusalem, as Tertullian would have opined. Connected to this, of course, is the whole idea of "Hell". While I've heard some modern Orthodox commentators insist that the "emptiness of hell" is a real possibility, I don't know if that can be fairly said to line up to the witness of the Scriptures. The following verses would seem to not make much sense were some kind of "universal restoration"...

"Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. " - (St.Matthew 7:14)

"And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea. And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: [w]here their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: [w]here their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. For every one shall be salted with fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt. Salt is good: but if the salt have lost his saltness, wherewith will ye season it? Have salt in yourselves, and have peace one with another." (St.Mark 9:42-50)

"Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, [n]or thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God." (1st Corinthians 6:9-10)

"Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling." (Philippians 2:12)

"And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever." (Apocalypse 20:10)

"And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire." (Apocalypse 20:14-15)

"And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death." (Apocalypse 21:6-8))

(also see the entry on this topic at

Many more passages than the above could be cited, but I think these are fairly clear on their own. I find the words of our Lord recorded in St.Mark chapter 9 to be especially clear - don't die in sin, do anything but die in sin, otherwise you're going to be permanently miserable. Indeed, how can we speak of a "last judgement", if there is nothing "final" about it?

The idea that we are somehow "entitled" to an eternity to make up our minds has neither the Holy Writ nor reason to recommend it. That there were so many who took apokatastasis seriously in the early centuries of the Church, says more about the heavy influence that Hellenism had upon some Christian thinkers (like Origen, and St.Gregory of Nyssa, who was following Origen on this point), not to mention that there was not yet a consensus on certain Biblical books (like the Apocalypse of St.John) throughout all of Christendom. It is not at all surprising that once the Church found itself on more stable footing, everyone pretty much agreed "universal restoration" wasn't a position that was reconcilable to the totality of the Christian confession.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

From the "Better late than never" file...

Happy Nativity All!

Thy Nativity, O Christ our God, has shown to the world the light of wisdom, for by it, those who worshipped the stars were taught by a star to adore thee,
The sun of righteousness,
And to know thee, the orient from on high O Lord, glory to thee!

Monday, December 25, 2006

Happy Christmas (NS)!

For all of those celebrating Christmas today, I wish you a happy one. :-)

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Why believe?

I've often pondered the question of "why believe?", either in "some kind of higher power" (ecumenical, AA style) or more specifically in the Person of Jesus Christ and the Gospel (and more specifically, the "Orthodox Christian version" of it.)

What I've noticed is that the further you get away from the root problem, the "easier" it is to discern the matter. This is because first principles are always far more difficult to arrive at and justify than their consequences. The latter more obviously avail themselves to rational examination and critique.

One little bit of cheating many secular-modernists are prone to (and which needs to be called out) is that they tend not to be honest when attempting to demolish the foundations of either "basic theism" or "religiosity" or more specifically, the foundations of Christianity. What they either fail to appreciate (due to a lack of introspection on their own part) or simply are not being candid about, is the fact that the difficulties Christianity has faced in the market place of ideas since the "Enlightenment" do not simply affect religious belief in any form, but having beliefs of any kind whatsoever, or making any claims to genuine knowledge. Epistemological problems touch all areas of knowledge, not simply the supposedly "special case" of religious belief.

Friedrich Nietzsche, by no means a friend of the Gospel (at least not intentionally), hit the nail on the head when he mocked the new priesthood of "scientism" for not having subjected itself and it's own mythos and ethics to the same epistemological scrutiny by which they had dismissed (like Nietzsche himself) religious belief. Nietzsche got something right here - namely, that the problems highlighted by modernity/post-modernity potentially put all knowledge into doubt, not simply that which involves prophesy and prayer.

In my own case, I realize that my attraction to Christianity ultimately centres upon the Person of our Lord Jesus Christ. In all honesty, had I lived a couple of centuries B.C. and had been say, a Hellene in Greek controlled Judea, I wouldn't have found much appealing about the religion of the Jews. Had I been so inclined, I may have found things in their sacred books which were food for thought...but I would have felt little inclination to abandon what Hellenism offered in the way of moral/spiritual inspiration for what Moses and his spiritual descendents committed to papyrus.

But the Lord Jesus Christ... Who He is, what He taught, etc... it all kind of constitutes a kind of "keystone" which on an intuitive level (though I could also explain it rationally as well) brings harmony and sense to the loose ends of both Judaism, and what the greatest minds of the world in ancient times had to say (whether they be the Pythagoreans, the devotees of Confuscius, the early students of the Buddha, or the pandits whose ideas and sayings became the foundation for the Upanishads and other Vedic literature.) This intuition does not simply apply to the past, but to the present as well - just as all things begin in Him, all things here and now find their rest in the Saviour.

As for the more "basic" belief in God (which do not be deceived, was not unique to the Jews when our Lord made His supreme Advent into human history), that for me comes down to a very basic question - is this universe (both seen and unseen) purposeful, or is it not? Is there utility in the things about us, or is that simply a projection of our own? I believe it is not a projection at all, but that the universe is purposeful, which requires that it be a work, and that implies some kind of author. While this of itself doesn't tell me anything about just what those purposes are, and the exact relationship between the kosmos and it's author is (for example, it doensn't exclude say, pantheism or monism), it still says a lot without saying much.

But why do I think this way? Is it just like I flipped a coin - "heads, purpose; tails, nihilism"? No, rather I so "choose" because I think the second, nihilistic option (to view the observation of "kosmic purpose" as an anthropomorphic imposition) implies an absurdity - that it is possible for a man to observe and interpret his world in any way but as a man.

Obviously, I think being mentally chaste is important, and we should avoid projection as far as is possible. You see this kind of projection when men examine both that which is loftier than them, or that which is more primitive. So at one extreme, you'll have people taking certain economic ways of speaking about God with cartoonish literalness (ex. "God really is an old man with a white beard sitting on a big throne, Who at times is subject to passions of either joy or anger, even repentence"), and at the other people attributing to animals all to human motives (ex. the human tendency to read human motives and depth of understanding into the animal kingdom.) But at the end of the day, speaking and thinking as a human being are my only options, and this is no different for the selective nihilists (ex. secular humanists) out there.

The other related problem to the nihilistic outlook, is that it is a thorougly unlivable and unnatural "way" for man. Man must go out of his way to be truly "agnostic" (and not simply selectively, as atheistic cheaters do); it's not something which at all comes naturally to him. Perhaps some of the purest attempts at this came from the likes of Diogenes and other "Cynic" philosophers - but even these attemps were deeply flawed, primarily because they were inescapably inconsistent. This inconsistency was impossible to avoid, I submit, precisely because their foundational agnosticism is itself as impossible to human nature as is seeing U.V. spectrum light or the consequent "colours" that must cause for a creature which can see them (like many insects and even certain mammals.)

I love William Shatner...

...for all of the wrong reasons. :-)

Shatner goes bonkers.

Friday, November 17, 2006


I think I'm going to try and see this on the weekend. The cruel rubbernecker in me simply can't resist. I always thought the Borat skits on Da' Ali G Show were the funniest, so I'm expecting good things. If I do see it, I'll give a little review of it here.

Btw., chances are I'll also being Casino Royale (new James Bond flick) as well (the wife really wants to see it.) If it's any good, I'll let you know.