Monday, 30 April 2007

The Problem with Protestantism: an insider's view

I decided to publish this post in light of the blog war looming over chez Greg. As I member of a non-Conformist church, I am allowed to give such a rant. I would warn others, however, that I would disagree vehemently with those who take it much further than I do.

The problem is well stated by the Baptist Union's Declaration of Principle

'1) That our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, God manifest in the flesh, is the sole and absolute authority in all matters pertaining to faith and practice, as revealed in the Scriptures, and that each Church has liberty, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to interpret and administer His laws'

My concerns

My problems with such a principle of religious self-determination run very deep indeed. I shall examine them below:

Relativism
Those of you who frequently read this blog will notice a recurring theme here: relativism is one of my pet hates. Read my other post on Truth if you wish to see quite why. But this principle of 'liberty to interpret His laws' is very much part of the relativist affectation which rots our society from the core. Since we are working for the purposes of this post inside the grounds of the Christian Faith, we must accept relativism to be unacceptable. 'His laws' are very much a question of one truth only. Thus what we say these truths are are very important. There should not be room for dissent. Whilst we cannot force belief, we should at least acknowledge that God's law is absolute. Such a Declaration of principle does not do that.

Modern Issues
The problems are best illustrated when we take examples where the 'churches' differ.
  • The most controversial topics at the moment involve the qualifications required to join the Priesthood. The Church of Rome states that one must be male. The Church of England does not. Are female priests sacramentally valid? Being a conservative, I'd say that they're not. Would others agree?
  • Can a church re-marry a divorcee? The established churches rightly refuse to do so. This is perhaps a more clear cut example. "Whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery". Doesn't really leave much wriggle-room. Yet my church - in interpreting God's Laws themselves - permits this. How?
  • We also seem to deny the Universality of Baptism. For those of you not versed in Church Doctrine, this means that all baptism is valid. Except our church encourages people baptised as infants 'to prayerfully consider [split infinitive] the New Testament teaching about baptism in the hope that they will follow our Lord's example in this matter'. But what the church ignores is that that self-same New Testament teaching states that baptism is a requirement for the forgiveness of sins. Without Baptism, there can be no salvation. that is the teaching. We imply by suggesting re-Baptism (what a concept!) that the first was not valid. If this is so, then according to 'our' beliefs, all Roman catholics, Anglicans, Orthodox Christians, Methodists, Presbyterians and all other infant-baptism supporting denominations are condemned to hell. Excuse me for questioning my church's leadership, but is this not a little ridiculous?

The solution

As I perceive it, the solution requires an absolute authority over the Church. Obviously, we have Christ at the head of the Church to fulfil that role in the greater scheme of things. But who is to say what Christ's rules are? That is the problem we started with. What we need is some lovely biblical evidence of Christ conveying upon a human His authority over the Universal Church - so that that human may officially state Christ's law, being shown the Truth by the Grace of God. Try this one:

"Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hell will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."

These words of Christ to St. Peter are often quoted in defence of Papal Authority. St Peter - who led the Church for years in Rome until his crucifixion - was commissioned by Christ - above all of the other Apostles - to lead His Church. Some areas of it I'd like to highlight:

  • "whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven" - This means that either God will be bound by St. Peter's mistakes, or St. Peter will not make a mistake.
  • "this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven." - This solves the above question: God reveals His law and truth to St. Peter in order that it may be correctly taught to the Church, which rests upon the shoulders of St. Peter.

Thus, the only tiny leap of logic we need to be Papists is to accept that the Bishop of Rome bears the authority of St. Peter. Why do I believe this must be inevitable? Christ's church is eternal: thus Christ would not have instituted authority to last only some 33 years until St. Peter's death. No: it must be more long-lasting than that, or else Christ might have well just given us another long sermon instead. If we need a source of Petrine Authority, who else can we turn to but Rome?

That's the inevitable answer I painfully reached many months ago. It dragged me kicking and screaming - at first - into mainstream Catholic beliefs.

We cannot have relativism. Protestantism is a beautiful idea. But it simply will not work on Earth. We must have the Church led by someone. And someone who cannot err.

Let all follow the Bishop, as Jesus Christ follows His Father.

St Ignatius of Antioch, (107AD)

Sunday, 29 April 2007

Truth: An Intellectual's Apology VIII

First of all, I must give you all my apologies for having not written in quite so long. We've had computer shortages and work overload here, so I've had to take a wholly undesired break from my writing. Fear not, however: I have no intention to become an infrequent poster, so shall continue now much as before. And Gavin: go and read the whole of that post. You've had long enough to get round to it! So I thought I'd return to my apologetics.

Truth

Many of you will have read my previous, rather dry post (Gavin!!!), concerning the quest for one absolute truth. Its underlying supposition is that truth exists. To me, that's fairly incontrovertible. After all, the statement 'truth does not exist' is a contradiction: it cannot possibly be a true statement. On the other hand, the statement 'Today is Sunday' is true. At least at the time of writing. Just like the one 'Tomorrow I have my A-level French Oral exam. Argh!'.

Relativism

You'll be glad to know that this post concerns applied theory, rather than the theory itself. For anyone who might not know, relativism is a philosophy based on the idea that 'truth does not exist'.

The problem with it is that it paralyses us. It comes from the decent idea of respect for each other, and for others' opinions and beliefs. Yet, increasingly, respect means that we are loosing the right to differ. So what does this mean in action?

The best example can be seen from earlier this year: the good old 'Sexual Orientation Regulations'. I shall avoid my temptations to indulge in homoscepticism - the problem is what Cormac Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor (what a name) called the birth of 'a new morality'. In refusing to give Catholics - and other doctrinally pure Christians - the right to exemption from what they perceive to be sinful legislation, the Government has over-ruled our right to religious freedom. Essentially, we now have a situation where by Religion is fine, unless you happen to believe it so strongly that you believe others to be wrong. Essentially, the Catholic Church has been instructed that - in its secular affairs - it must conform to the majority rather than to its own beliefs.

"Stop Press"

Whilst taking a break from writing, I discovered a pleasing article on the BBC website, about the impending re-introduction of the Tridentine Rite. Whilst this is pleasing, the general public's reaction to it is less so. Apart from the anti-RC rants that the page has received, the concern seems to be focusing on one part of the Good Friday liturgy: praying for the Conversion of the Jews.

Here, I am pleased to be able to consult my ancient Saint Andrew Daily Missal - useful once more - to tell you off the offending passages. After having prayed for 'the holy Church of God', 'our most Holy Pope N', 'all bishops, priests, deacons, sub-deacons, acolytes, exorcists, lectors, porters, confessors, virgins, widows, and for all the holy people of God', 'all rulers of States, their assistants and authorities', 'our catechumens', forgiveness from sin 'heretics and schismatics', we reach this:

"Let us pray also for the faithless Jews: that our God and Lord would withdraw the veil from their hearts: that they may also acknowledge our Lord Jesus Christ...
Almighty and eternal God, who drivest not away from Thy mercy even the faithless Jews: hear our prayers, which we offer for the blindness of that people: that acknowledging the light of Thy truth, which is Christ, they may be delivered from darkness."

Following this is prayer for 'the pagans', and for their general salvation.

Now this is perfectly reasonable. according to Christian belief: indeed, it's very good of us to be concerned for the salvation of others: it is what we are all called to strive for daily. So why do people scream and shout? Jewish sources have called it 'anti-Semitism'. Hang on a second, please. Since when was it racist to say that, as Christians, we believe that others should believe in Christ?

Simply, since relativism took hold. As it has in some 'churches'. Except that they call in 'inclusivism' there. (Incidentally, I find it amusingly ironic that the closest approximation to 'inclusivism' of my spell-checker is 'anglicanism'....)

I take solace from the recent words of the Holy Father: 'Truth is not determined by a majority vote'.

Tuesday, 10 April 2007

'I think therefore I am. I think.' (The Twelve Theses)

I thought I'd head off on an interesting tangent for my next post. It's a question, as you may have guessed from the title, of existentialist philosophy. I'd only read if it you're happy to tear it apart. Because I'm hardly in my area of expertise. If you'd like to read an interesting little known work of philosophy, from which some of the better phrased ideas (the quotations) below are drawn, try ST Coleridge's Biographia Literaria, at Chapter XII.

Cogito ergo sum

The venerable Descartes came up with this very famous little bit of philosophy. Whether or not Descartes intended it to be so, his 'I think therefore I am' has been taken by many people to be the defining truth of philosophy, proved beyond all doubt. This irritates me, for the following reason. Enjoy deciphering it:

'The Cartesian Cogito, ergo sum is objectionable, because either the Cogito is used extra Gradum [that is, absolutely] and then it is involved in the sum and is tautological, or it is taken as a particular mode or dignity, and then it is subordinated to the sum as the species to the genus, or rather as a particular modification to the subject modified; and not pre-ordinated as the arguments seem to require. For Cogito is Sum Cogitans. This is clear by the inevidence of the converse. It may be true. I hold it to be true... but it is a derivative, not an immediate truth.'

The Dummy's summary of this is that 'I think, therefore I am' presupposes the existence of 'I', or else the observation necessary to begin 'I think', requires its conclusion to be true.

An alternative

What I'd like to do is establish an alternative to Descartes. It draws heavily on the work of Coleridge, as well as other philosophers, and a little of my own thoughts. Thus I shall present it logically, and with quotation. The format is his; many of the points are his. But I affirm them, and add to them. I won't separate my work from his - there are simply my additions. Do work through it with me.

[Two terms I shall use: a Thesis is a proposition, a scholium a marginal note for explanation. These too are unoriginal, but I like them. I shall therefore adopt them]

PREMISE

I shall assume here, that truth exists. I believe it does. No universal truths are assumed. All that is required is a truth such as 'I had lunch today'. That will suffice. [My lunch was lovely, incidentally]

THESIS I

'Truth is correlative to being. Knowledge without a correspondent reality is no knowledge; if we know, there must be something known by us. To know is in its very essence a verb active.'

THESIS II

All truth is either 'mediate' or 'immediate'. If a = b and b = c, then a = c. A 'mediate' truth is one which is dependent upon another truth or truths, in this case, a = c. The first two statements are 'immediate' truths - at least in this example. They are the basis upon which we work. You may recognise an allegory - from Coleridge - that I have used before:

'Scholium
A chain without a staple, from which all the links derived their stability, or a series without a first, has been not inaptly allegorised, as a string of blind men, each holding the skirt of the man before him, reaching far out of sight, but all moving without the least deviation in one strait line. It would be naturally taken for granted, that there was a guide at the head of the file: what if it were answered, No! Sir, the men are without number, and infinite blindness supplies the place of sight?

Equally inconceivable is a cycle of equal truths without a common and central principle, which prescribes to each its proper sphere in the system of science. That the absurdity does not so immediately strike us, that it does not seem equally unimaginable, is owing to a surreptitious act of the imagination, which, instinctively and without our noticing the same, not only fills at the intervening spaces, and contemplates the cycle as a continuous circle giving to all collectively the unity of their common orbit; but likewise supplies by a sort of subintelligitur the one central power, which renders the movement harmonious and cyclical. '

THESIS III

What we need, therefore, is an absolute truth. We require the guide for the string of blind men; we require a staple for the chain. We need a certainty, which is not itself dependent upon a previous truth. We need a truth self-grounded, seen by its own light. Simply, we need something that is, simply because it is. (For those versed in technical terms, I believe the phrase is 'a priori')

Scholium
This is aptly illustrated by the world of mathematics. Logic - both in philosophy and mathematics is a construct dependent upon axioms such as the mathematical ones set down by Euclid. One of these, for example, is that if a = b and b = c, then a = c.

THESIS IV

There can be only one self-grounded truth. If there were many, they would be inter-dependant. If there were two, for example, they would refer to each other. Thus one would require the other - in order that its equality is proven. Thus it is not self-established, as Thesis III demands.

THESIS V

Such a truth as this cannot be any tangible object or 'thing'. Each 'thing' is what it is as a consequence of the existence of some other thing. I limit this to 'tangible' objects - corporeal things, as it were, and most abstract nouns also - because that's all we know of definitively.

Scholium I
Tangible things cannot be definite because they require a cause: life requires a 'parent', as it were. Inanimate objects require something - a force or person or phenomenon - to create them as they are.

Valid objections have been raised about the use of the word 'create' here. It is used in the sense of creating them as the exist at the moment. A mountain is known to be a mountain because of its shape and general identity. Such an identity is what we require, since we are talking of a truth self-grounded.

Thus the self-evident truth cannot be an object because such an object would require firstly the particles to form it as we know it; secondly, they would require some other factor to form such particles into their present shape.

Why can this truth not simply be the whole universe? All the atoms in existence? Such a hypothesis falls below the second requirement. It does not explain how they have come to exist in such a fashion as they do now.

Scholium II
Each thing perceived presupposes a perceiver. Everything observer requires something to make an observation. Thus the principal truth cannot be found in a subject - contra-distinguished from an object - because a subject needs an object by definition.

THESIS VI


Such a truth - one which 'is because it is' seems ultimately to be the cause of our self-consciousness. Our high-level sentience - that of philosophy and art and science, above that of animals - must be linked logically to this truth. I shall henceforth express the truth as SUM - I am - since it exists only in itself.


Why do I affirm this to be the cause of our self-consciousness? In one's examination of oneself the subject and object are merged into one. This could be called a 'self-duplication', since one fulfills two categories simultaneously.


THESIS VII


If I thus know myself only through myself, can one require any other mediate truth? Existence as an immediate truth must - if it can be thus taken at all - require the 'existence' to be the existence of an intangible self-consciousness. My corporeal existence, under Thesis V, cannot fulfill the required characteristics of the truth we search for.


However, our 'spirit' - if I may use that term to describe what I have mentioned above - is involved in the corporeal existence. We cannot work on the assumption that 'spirits' exist without their bodies. To do so would require the existence of an unproved 'spirit plane' - be it heaven or another plane of existence, or any other such idea. Thus the human 'spirit' is involved in our corporal nature.


Therefore, even our self-consciousness implies by necessity an act, or will, to cause it. Thus our quest for the absolute truth is to begin again.


THESIS VIII


What is in its origin objective is thus necessarily finite. Therefore, since the spirit is not originally an object, it is not itself finite. Our spirit is, being involved in the bodily existence, which is objective.

I would observe, however, that the concept of spirit is not necessarily limited to our own 'spirit'.


THESIS IX


Given that the truth cannot be corporeal, and must merge subject and object, a spirit entity is what we must look for. Our principium commune essendi et cognoscendi [common principle of being and knowing] must be a will, a primary act of self-duplication, which is the immediate truth of transcendental philosophy.


THESIS X


Thus it has been shown that the truth required in philosophy is one of self-consciousness alone. This is what Descartes comes close to - perhaps he truly means this, but others have corrupted his work: I know not. We are not investigating an absolute principium essendi [Principle of being]; for then many valid objections might be raised against our theory; but an absolute principium cognoscendi [Principle of knowledge]. The two are linked: by discovering the principle of knowledge we allow ourselves to progress to the greater questions. Unless we know how we know, we cannot know anything.


THESIS XI


We require, therefore, a self-consciousness which exists by definition.

'Scholium

If a man be asked how he knows that he is, he can only answer, SUM QUIA SUM [I am because I am]. But if (the absoluteness of this logical certainty having been admitted) he be again asked, how he, the individual person, came to be, then in relation to the ground of his existence, not to the ground of his knowledge of that existence, he might reply, SUM QUIA DEUS EST [I am because God is], or still more philosophically, SUM QUIA IN DEO SUM [I am because I am in God].


But if we elevate our conception to the absolute self, the great eternal I AM, then the principle of being, and of knowledge, of idea, and of reality; the ground of existence, and the ground of the knowledge of existence, are absolutely identical, SUM QUIA SUM;* I am, because I affirm myself to be; I affirm myself to be, because I am.'

*It is most worthy of notice that in the first revelation of Himself; not confined to individuals; indeed in the very first revelation of his absolute being GOD at the same time reveals Himself, and also the fundamental truth of knowledge and philosophy, and that the two are one and the same.

THESIS XII - also CONCLUSION


In this way, philosophy passes into religion. I consider this to be a useful argument for the necessity both of truth and of God. We begin with the 'I KNOW MYSELF', in order to end with the absolute 'I AM'. We proceed from the self, in order to lose and to find all self in GOD.

Sunday, 8 April 2007

Easter

Easter is such a wonderful festival; I thought I'd share with you just a little of what I've done throughout it. In order of the days of the Triduum, of course.

Maundy Thursday

I was playing at my church for the evening service - footwashing and Communion et al. It was a very moving service indeed, but not much of interest occurred.

Good Friday

This was a much more interesting day. After my own church's happy-clappy service in the morning, Gavin and I trotted off to Ss. Peter and Paul, Hockley, an Anglo-Papalist church, for the Veneration of the Cross.

This was a very good service. You can read all about it on Gavin's blog, here. I;d like to highlight a few little bits, though. Firstly, it filled me with a great sense of guilt - as good Friday should - of one's own part in the Crucifixion of Jesus. This was particularly well emphasised by the Passion reading, in which the people took the parts of the jews and the crowd, shouting Crucify. Most moving indeed.

The prayers were exceedingly meaningful. We prayed for 'Our Pope' - which I liked - the Queen, the Universal Church, the children, the parishoners, almost everybody. The length of prayer really allowed one to become fully involved in it. It was good.

The Veneration itself was, perhaps, the most striking aspect. The solemn tragedy - yet tragic in sure and certain hope of the Resurrection - was immensely moving. Especially given the fact that we'd just be shown our own guilt. It really brought home the truth of Christ as your sacrifice; your atonement; your Lamb. I leave you with the Reproaches:

O my people, what have I done to you?
How have I hurt you? Answer me.
O my people, what have I done to you?
How have I hurt you? Answer me.
I led you out of Egypt,
From slavery I set you free.
I brought you into a land of promise:
You have prepared a cross for me.

I led you as a shepherd,
I brought you dryshod through the sea;
I fed you manna in the desert
You have prepared a cross for me.

I fought for you in battles,
I won you strength and victory;
Gave you a royal crown and sceptre:
You have prepared a cross for me.

I planted you, my vineyard,
And cared for you most tenderly;
Looked for abundant fruit and found none:
Only the cross you made for me.

Then listen to my pleading
And do not turn away from me.
You are my people: will you reject me?
For you I suffer bitterly.
Easter Day
This is perhaps the best day in the whole of the Christian calendar. I don't wish to go into the detail of the Resurrection now, of course. You all know enough of that, and there are better people to lead us all deeper into it.

A few minor points I'd like to highlight though. The first is that I heard twice today - with great amusement, Chaper 20 of the Gospel according to St. John, in which he tells of the Ressurection. He describes that both he and Simon Peter ran to the tomb, but thrice he describes how 'the disciple who jesus loved' had 'got there first'. thrice written in Holy scripture for all eternity: 'haha, Peter: I beat you in the race'. A nice human touch. It's the human touches which make the Gospels so convincing.

Reading Urbi et Orbi - the Holy Father's Easter message to the world - is always a highspot. This year HH did himself proud. As they always do. I strongly advise you read it here: if only for its political importance.

I think that later in the week - Tuesday, God willing - I shall write again. Tomorrow I'm off to Cambridge. I know full well what I wish to write about: look forward to it.

Christós anésti! Christ is Risen! Alleluia!

Wednesday, 4 April 2007

The Case for Abortion, and Other Reflections

It seems to me that there is much in favour of permitting abortions. Consider all of the practical benefits. To ban outright such a useful method of protecting mothers, father, families and children should not be condemned because of the idea - entirely without proof - that life begins at conception.

Imagine this scene. A young girl - just old enough to marry - gets herself pregnant in a rural village. She's engaged to an upstanding son of a pillar of the local community. To both, a lifetime of scandal awaits. Particularly because the father of the child is unknown: it's not the son of the fiancé, certainly. There is very strong evidence in the case for abortion here. The woman is very poor, and will become a pariah because of the village's strong moral views. Thus the child is destined to poverty - and probably an early death. Why inflict upon him that suffering?

There's also evidence of the young girl being a little out of her mind. She's got a crack-pot idea that the baby was conceived by a spirit. This clearly points the way to a need for psychiatric treatment. Thus the case for a termination is even stronger.

The question is this: the child is doomed, it seems, to poverty, shame, and an early death. For this 'benefit', the life of the mother is condemned. Why not simply abort the pregnancy quietly, so everyone can continue to live as before? The child, surely, cannot do any good from such a disadvantaged position.

This is a key example of the Pro-abortion argument. But from this situation, the Son of God was born. Jesus Christ - the Saviour of Mankind - would have been killed in the womb. That would have caused a few problems, methinks. Our 'humane' society would condemn itself.

This argument - which I have re-phrased - is the original idea of a chap called Malcolm Muggeridge. I thought I'd share it with you. This led me to ponder more seriously quite how amazing the Holy Family were in their domestic arrangements. The Virgin Mary - in the situation described above - listened to the Archangel, and responded with the words 'I am the Lord's servant. May it be to me as you have said'. In those words she perceives both the eternal blessing she has received - as later developed in the Magnificat - and the shame and suffering she will inevitably endure in bringing the eternal Word into this world.

Similarly, St. Joseph is shown to be a great husband and father, also. He must have doubted the veracity of his dream and its message many times over the nine months before the birth of the Child. If he did not, that is a superb testament to his character. If he did, he did nothing of it. That too shows his outstanding characteristics.

It seems to me that the Mystery of the Incarnation needs to be looked at in much more depth than the Shepherds and the Magi.

O

Advice Required

I have been considering how I should use this 'blog', and what sort of articles and posts I should write. You may have noticed, recently, that there has been an increase in the number of posts of religious import. That is something I previously tried to avoid. So I'd like your opinions, if I may ask for them. Since I won't stop writing about either subject, would you like me to divide my blog?

How would this work? I observe that the website allows one to have multiple blogs for the same user. Simply enough, I would use 'Per Me' to discuss secular affairs: Law, politics, school, day-to-day life, &c. I would establish another one for the other purposes.

What would these other purposes be? Well, Mr McCamley's 'blog war' on religion is in a temporary lull. Partly because I am hesistant to launch an all-out analysis on this blog. So that would find its home on the other page. Similarly, issues of philosophy, angnosticism et al would be elsewhere.

So: what would you all like? I do not wish to bore you, so that is not a rhetorical question. Would you like me to leave the second set of issues alone entirely? I hope not; they will be interesting. Would you prefer it all together? Would you look at the other site?

Whilst you ponder, have a read of my recent post about the Kosovan issue. That sort of post would stay here. Please do respond.

P

Meddling

Kosovo

24th March 1999:

'NATO carried out its threat to bomb Serbia, attacking a sovereign European country for the first time in the alliance's history.'

Many of us will by now have forgotten NATO's bombing campaign against Serbia in 1999. It was launched to stop the ethnic violence inflicted upon the Albanian majority in Kosovo. Since the war, Kosovo has been administered by the UN. Now, however, the question of its autonomy and independence has been raised once more.

The History of Kosovo.

If you will bear with me, I shall give you a brief overview of the history of this question. If you know it all already, do skip this section.

The Balkans have always been a region fraught with conflict. The Byzantine and Ottoman Empires have clashed with the Slavonic racial groups: Serbia and Russia being the main protagonists. The Austro-Hungarian Empire also had a large interest in the region. Such conflicts provided many of the causes of the First World War.

The present issue has been important throughout this last century. The BBC website describes its history:

"Path to autonomy

Serbs and ethnic Albanians vied for control in the region throughout the 20th century. In the 1960s the suppression of Albanian national identity in Kosovo gave way to a more tolerant line from Belgrade. Ethnic Albanians gained a foothold in the Kosovan, and Yugoslav, administrations.

But resentment over Kosovan influence within the Yugoslav federation was harnessed by the future leader, Slobodan Milosevic. On becoming president in 1989 he proceeded to strip Kosovo of its autonomy.

A passive resistance movement in the 1990s failed to secure independence or to restore autonomy, although ethnic Albanian leaders declared unilateral independence in 1991.

In the mid-1990s an ethnic Albanian guerrilla movement, the Kosovo Liberation Army, stepped up its attacks on Serb targets. The attacks precipitated a major, and brutal, Yugoslav military crackdown.

War

Slobodan Milosevic's rejection of an internationally-brokered deal to end the crisis, and the persecution of Kosovo Albanians, led to the start of NATO air strikes against targets in Kosovo and Serbia in March 1999.

Meanwhile, a campaign of ethnic cleansing against Kosovo Albanians was initiated by Serbian forces. Hundreds of thousands of refugees fled to Albania, Macedonia and Montenegro. Thousands of people died in the conflict.

Serbian forces were driven out in the summer of 1999 and the UN took over the administration of the province. "

Since 1999

Since 1999, the UN has administered the region. This year, however, they have made a huge development. In March, the UN envoy stated that independence was 'the only viable option' for the territory in a report to the Security Council:

"Independence is the only viable option for a politically stable and economically viable Kosovo... I propose the exercise of Kosovo's independence... be supervised and supported for an initial period by international civilian and military presences."

Thus the UN moved towards granting Kosovo its independence. Today, they are debating the plans.

Today's Debate

The USA and the EU have given support to the envoy's plans for independence, after talks between Serbs and Kosovo Albanians failed to reach an agreement in March. Today marks the start of days of formal debate (and informal discussion) of the issue amongst the Security Council members. To me, however, it raises grave issues. I must confess that my own personal opinion falls on the side of the Kosovan Serbs. Despite the fact that they are in the minority, their views are of great importance.

The Serbs are part of the Russian Orthodox tradition. This includes those Serbs who live in that part of Serbia called Kosovo. I wonder how we would feel if the UN tried to grant Wales its independence?

More critically though, such a decision would represent what the Serbian President calls 'the most dangerous precedent in the history of the UN'. he refers to the debate as an attempt to 'snatch' Kosovo. One must be careful of his political language, but he nonetheless has a very cogent argument. He claims that such a move would violate the Charter of the UN. If this is true, it would invalidate any possible justification. Certainly, it seems to me that the UN has no authority to change the sovereignty of two million people.

But what shocks me most is the fact that its not in the news. That's why I posted it here.

P

Sunday, 1 April 2007

An Intellectual's Apology VII: 'Love'

Love is an immensely complex issue. The title of this post is thus very broad indeed. But Mr Watson, over chez lui, has raised several interesting issues of adolescent relationships that I'd like to add to. Mr McCamley, on the other hand, has accused me of denouncing all teenage relationships. He wonders whether I consider 30 the correct time for a courtship. I beg your leave now to answer such questions. Perhaps somewhat long-windedly. And do excuse me if it's a rant, or blindingly obvious.

Definitions

Love, in our society today, has many different meanings. I'm going to use the ancient Greek terms in this post, in order to be precisely clear about what I mean by 'love'. Many of you will know the four Greek 'loves' - they've certainly been used many times before. But they're useful, since the term in English is so vague. If you don't know the Greek, I'll summarise it for you briefly below:

  • Eros: This is most commonly used to refer to sexual and romantic love. 'Passionate love, with sensual desire and longing', according to Wiki'. But it can just be a deeper, more passionate form of Philia. In this article, assume it means the former, unless I specify otherwise.
  • Philia: a 'virtuous dispassionate love', often of loyalty, friendship, family, and also of activity and objects. [Hence Philip - 'lover of horses', from Philippos in the Greek]
  • Storge: 'affection' in modern Greek; used in ancient Greek as purely familial love.
  • Agape: this is the noblest form of love. Unconditional love, often also 'sacrificial'. That's not its only meaning, but it's the one I'll use.
In our society

In our society, I observe that 'love' is taken almost entirely to mean Eros. Or, worse still, it's taken to mean 'lust'. I will not make that generalisation. Eros is romantic love, not sexual lust. (The reason I'm being so precise with my definitions is that English is so euphemistic and vague, and that what I want to do is to observe some of the differences.) That, I find is a real shame. Love is such a beautiful thing that its relegation to physical pleasure is truly tragic. One area where this is particularly true is modern adolescence.

Adolescence

Before I start this comment, I would add that what I say applies to me as much as anyone else. I'll speak in general terms. Some of what I write will not be applicable to my intellectual audience. But some will be. And all is worth contemplating.

We expect too much from our teenage relationships. We expect them to work. We dream of happiness, of acceptance, of mutual eros. Perhaps that is because we're all longing for acceptance in general. I don't think that's just the youth. But perhaps many adults have found it or learned to do without it.

Teenage relationships are - in the vast majority of cases - doomed to failure. That is not to say they are not worthwhile. But they are therefore to be taken carefully. One must accept that the likelihood of a painful break-up is there. And one must be able to ignore that, and love despite it. As CS Lewis put it, one of the delights of love is that one can see through its illusions without being disillusioned.

One of the things I find most annoying is those who have no realism. I know that others would call it pessimism, or fatalism. But some relationships - based on true mutual affection - must end, because the people are simply not 'meant to be'. I realise that that sounds very romanticised. So I'll explain it. Some people have such different outlooks on life that it is exceedingly difficult for them to understand each other. I can think of examples - who I will not name. Such emotional maturity to love in those situations is almost always way beyond the maturity of any adolescent. Thus the relationships cannot work. Not that they are therefore worthless, of course.

The other thing which drives me crazy is people's relentless perfectionism; those who believe that a relationship is not acceptable when it is not perfect. This is ludicrous: nothing is perfect, because we are imperfect ourselves. Especially as immature teenagers. More CS Lewis:

Being in love is a good thing, but it is not the best thing. There are many things below it, but there are also things above it. You cannot make it the basis of a whole life. It is a noble feeling, but it is still a feeling... Knowledge can last, principles can last, habits can last; but feelings come and go... But, of course, ceasing to be "in love" need not mean ceasing to love. Love in this second sense — love as distinct from "being in love" — is not merely a feeling. It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by (in Christian marriage) the grace which both partners ask, and receive, from God... "Being in love" first moved them to promise fidelity: this quieter love enables them to keep the promise. It is on this love that the engine of marriage is run: being in love was the explosion that started it.

The Real love.

This leads me on the next point of my witterings. What is love actually? Well, as a Christian, I would suggest the 'God is Love'. But I'll not deal with that directly here. So what is Love, in its purest form? It must be a very strong emotion. It must indeed be so strong as to be beyond an emotion, one could argue. Certainly it must be strong enough to be a tangible factor in financial, professional and familial operations. Such strength is beyond simple 'feeling'.

What is the point of this with regards to our questions of adolescence, which have been so artfully raised? I would use these observations to show how difficult it is to get a working relationship around. Because such depth of 'love' is not possible in immature adolescents.

To conclude in a few words, I would like to answer directly Paul's question. I believe I've emphasised enough that I don't condemn all relationships at all. Just the belief that they'll always work.

And what's the best way of making them work? No prizes for giving the citation of this, but consider such an answer:

'Learning to love each other as a couple is a wonderful journey, yet it requires a demanding “apprenticeship”. The period of engagement, very necessary in order to form a couple, is a time of expectation and preparation that needs to be lived in purity of gesture and words. It allows you to mature in love, in concern and in attention for each other; it helps you to practise self-control and to develop your respect for each other. These are the characteristics of true love that does not place emphasis on seeking its own satisfaction or its own welfare. '

Not an easy suggestion.

P

Today

I think I might just beat Gavin and Greg to writing a religious post today. Today is Palm Sunday. Our church forgot about this, apparently, but that's neither here nor there. It is also the 22nd World Youth Day, according to the Church.

To mark this, the Pope has issued a 'message' for World Youth Day. Many of you will consider that it would be very boring indeed. But it's not. It really is worth reading. I found it very powerful indeed.

Those of you who wouldn't usually read religious articles, do have a read of this. It's specifically written for us, the youth of today. And it deals with 'Love', which is something all adolescents seem to be obsessed by. So Paul, Tom, Fergus and all you other non-Christian readers, have a look. It's not too long, and worth a few minutes:

MESSAGE OF THE HOLY FATHER BENEDICT XVI TO THE YOUTH OF THE WORLD ON THE OCCASION OF THE 22nd WORLD YOUTH DAY, 2007

It has been many weeks since anything has moved me as much as that message did.

P