Dawning of the Pelagian Age

Senator Josh Hawley

The other day, in trying to sort out the various types of conservatives, here, we mentioned Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri, as one of the rising stars of conservatism, in the Post Liberal group. I’m not the only one who noticed his article in Christianity Today So did Gene Veith over at Cranach, my favorite Lutheran blog. Here’s some of what he said.

That we are unused to hearing this level of analysis from an election official is itself telling, but Sen. Hawley, the youngest member of the Senate at 39, is being hailed as a rising star of the conservative movement and the Republican party for his ability to bring together conservatism and populism, as in the way he is leading the charge to apply anti-trust law to Google, FaceBook, Apple, and Amazon.

At any rate, consider what he says:

Pelagius held that the individual possessed a powerful capacity for achievement. In fact, Pelagius believed individuals could achieve their own salvation. It was just a matter of them living up to the perfection of which they were inherently capable. As Pelagius himself put it, “Since perfection is possible for man, it is obligatory.” The key was will and effort. If individuals worked hard enough and deployed their talents wisely enough, they could indeed be perfect.

This idea famously drew the ire of Augustine of Hippo, better known as Saint Augustine, who responded that we humans are not achievement machines. We are fragile. We are fallible. We suffer weakness and need. And we all stand in need of God’s grace.

But Pelagius was not satisfied. He took his stand on an idea of human freedom. He responded that God gave individuals free choice. And he insisted that this free choice was more powerful than any limitation Augustine identified. . . .Pelagius said that individuals could use their free choice to adopt their own purposes, to fix their own destinies—to create themselves, if you like. That’s why a disciple of Pelagius named Julian of Eclanum said freedom of choice is that by which man is “emancipated from God.”. . . .

Perhaps the most eloquent contemporary statement of Pelagian freedom appears in an opinion from the United States Supreme Court, in a passage written by former Justice Anthony Kennedy. In 1992, in a case called Casey v. Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania, he wrote this: “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.”

It’s the Pelagian vision. Liberty is the right to choose your own meaning, define your own values, emancipate yourself from God by creating your own self. Indeed, this notion of freedom says you can emancipate yourself not just from God but from society, family, and tradition.

The Pelagian view says the individual is most free when he is most alone, able to choose his own way without interference. Family and tradition, neighborhood and church—these things get in the way of uninhibited free choice. And this Pelagian idea of freedom is one our cultural leaders have embraced for decades now.

But here’s the paradox. For all the big talk about individual freedom, Pelagian philosophy has made American society more hierarchical, and it has made it more elitist.

This is no accident. Pelagius himself was most popular with the old senatorial families of Rome—the wealthy, the well-connected. The aristocrats. They were his patrons. And why? He validated their privilege and their power.

Because if freedom means choice among options, then the people with the most choices are the most free. And that means the rich. And if salvation is about achievement, then those with the most accolades are righteous, and that means the elite and the strong. A Pelagian society is one that celebrates the wealthy, prioritizes the powerful, rewards the privileged. And for too long now, that has described modern America.

[Keep reading. . .]

Sen. Hawley goes on to explore the political and economic implications of Pelagianism.  Let’s think some more about the moral and cultural issues.

A question presents itself:  If we reject Pelagianism, doesn’t that mean we reject freedom?  Not at all!  Freedom is a good thing.  It is a moral necessity, since there can be no virtue if a person is forced to do the right thing.  An action must be taken freely if it is to have moral significance.  The will is a crucial faculty of the mind and the personality.

But for all of their importance, freedom and the will are not determinative.  They do not save us.  They do not determine what we should do.  They do not determine what is real.

But this is exactly what we are seeing in the Age of Pelagius.

As I have often pointed out, postmodernist ethics are built around the will.  Advocates of abortion call themselves “pro-choice.”  Whatever the woman chooses in regards to her pregnancy and her child is right for her.  If she is forced to have a child she does not want (another “will” term), that would be evil (which is why those who seem to be moral relativists can still demonize pro-lifers).  What determines the rightness or wrongness of an action is the presence of a willful choice.  This applies also in other issues, such as euthanasia (“if the patient chooses to die, who are we to say ‘no’?”).

Indeed, Keep Reading, including the comments

Sometimes with an article like this, I feel like I’m cheating, giving you someone else’s views rather than my own. That could be true, but it is not, because I completely agree with Dr. Veith (as I usually do, and do here) and he is a better writer than I am, so why hurt the message by trying to rephrase it. It’s the classical case for reblogging, of course, which I, like most of us, occasionally do. I dislike reblogging though because it is not particularly fair to the article you are reblogging because the snippet used is usually not enough to make sense of the author’s point

What Senator Hawley says (or what I say comparatively quietly) doesn’t do much of anything about solving the problem, of course, except that to solve a problem, first you need to figure out the basics of what the problem is. This moves along that course.

The other thing about this is that it is analysis by an elected official of a type not seen in the US in at least 150 years, since the heirs of the Founders, the generation of Clay, Calhoun, and Webster, culminating in Lincoln. It’s been sorely missed.

About NEO
Lineman, Electrician, Industrial Control technician, Staking Engineer, Inspector, Quality Assurance Manager, Chief Operations Officer

18 Responses to Dawning of the Pelagian Age

  1. Pingback: And Now, in Illinois | All Along the Watchtower

  2. Scoop says:

    I am not sure if you are aware of the 40 statements that were recently sent to the Pope and signed by 2 Cardinals and 3 Bishops of the faith. Question 15 is relevant to your post today.

    “No circumstance, no purpose, no law whatsoever can ever make licit an act which is intrinsically illicit, since it is contrary to the Law of God, which is written in every human heart, knowable by reason itself, and proclaimed by the Church” (John Paul II, Encyclical Evangelium, vitae, 62). There are moral principles and moral truths contained in Divine revelation and in the natural law which include negative prohibitions that absolutely forbid certain kinds of action, inasmuch as these kinds of action are always gravely unlawful on account of their object. Hence, the opinion is wrong that says that a good intention or a good consequence is or can ever be sufficient to justify the commission of such kinds of action (see Coucil of Trent, sess. 6 de iustificatione, c. 15; John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation, Reconciliatio et Paenitentia, 17; Encyclical Veritatis Splendor, 80),

    Liked by 2 people

  3. the unit says:

    Free will. Age of Asparagus for me. Low in fat, no politician, enough fiber for me. Well, with a little corn. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Nicholas says:

    A few thoughts from me.

    A) Pelagianism is an abomination: it robs God of His glory and plants despair in the hearts of those who habitually fail.

    B) The cultural and moral crookedness of our times cannot be fixed by political means. All we can do at the political level is create conditions that favour (certain kinds of) spreading the Gospel. The progress of the Gospel ultimately comes down to the work of the Spirit.

    C) I’m curious as to this set of 40 statements – is it meant to challenge heresy that has been promulgated by Francis?

    Liked by 1 person

    • NEO says:

      A and B I agree with. What all three of us are doing is speaking of the results. Sort of a warning, but politics ain’t gonna fix it.

      C I have no idea, it could be, but we’ll have to leave it for Scoop to answer.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Nicholas says:

    I note also that the wave of deplatforming non-leftist YouTubers is continuing apace:

    Liked by 2 people

    • NEO says:

      Picking up steam like a downhill train. We’re probably gonna have to do something if a competitor doesn’t show up soon. Gonna be a mess though.

      Liked by 1 person

    • the unit says:

      Black Pigeon down. Well then, time for old white mustachioced-culturalism to reappear (notice lower right quad). 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

      • NEO says:

        Hey, I resemble that remark! 🙂

        A side note, the jury finished up on Oberlin today. $11 million in damages + $33 million in punitive damages + legal fees (I’d guess $220 K + on that). Ohio guidelines say punitive should be not more than 2 time actual, so the judge can reduce, but it seems he doesn’t have to. That just might leave a mark. 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

        • the unit says:

          And yeah, some guy wrote an article calling the decision award “illegal”. He says after his name on the Forbes article…”I am a professor and publish on constitutional and educational issues.”
          Mark my words, I’m not a professor and comment from time to time on a lot of the going on bs. 🙂
          Yep, seems to have left quite a mark already.

          Liked by 1 person

        • NEO says:

          Indeed. Get Woke and Go Broke! 🙂

          Like

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.