Friday, June 7, 2013

Christ and Nihil

"No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon." - Matt. 6:24

"Know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God." - James 4:4

"I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou were cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee out of my mouth." - Rev. 3:15-16

When it comes to God and his Kingdom, there is no halfway allegiance. There is allegiance and defiance; fidelity and apostasy; communion and exile. The verses above are just a small sampling of a consistent theme that runs throughout the New Testament: the Incarnation of the Word of God inaugurates the Kingdom of God on Earth, and this Kingdom stands victorious over and against the kingdom of the "god of this world" (2 Cor. 4:4), i.e. Satan.

Because God alone -- and participation in His life, the life of the Holy Trinity -- constitutes true being, rejection of this life in favor of kingdom of this world that is passing away, constitutes a turning inward to the Self and self-will, and therefore toward nothingness and non-being. Toward the nihil.

In his short text Nihilism -- which was to be but one chapter in his unfinished magnum opus THE KINGDOM OF GOD AND THE KINGDOM OF MAN -- Fr. Seraphim Rose seizes on this fundamental truth and uses it as a matrix for analyzing the condition of the modern world. If rejection of Christ is ultimately a single phenomena, then that phenomena lies behind, underneath, and within every species of unbelief and idolatry. There should be a discernible continuity that unites all who stand opposed to God, whether they know it or not and despite any apparent differences.

If this is true, then the same force that gives life to Liberalism, Humanism, Scientism, Realism, New-Age spiritualisms, and compromised and worldly Christianities is the same force that gave us Nazism and Bolshevism. The differences between these various phenomena must be a quantitative rather than qualitative one; a difference of degree rather than of kind. And Fr. Serpahim traces the contours of this modern dialectic with acute precision.

While Fr. Seraphim keenly analyzes the specific instances of the various manifestations of nihilism in the modern world -- in areas of philosophy, politics, religion, and art -- the basic argument is echoed with characteristic verve and brilliance by David Bentley Hart in his magnificent essay Christ and Nothing, which concludes this way:
But we Christians — while not ignoring how appalling such a condition is — should yet rejoice that modernity offers no religious comforts to those who would seek them. In this time of waiting, in this age marked only by the absence of faith in Christ, it is well that the modern soul should lack repose, piety, peace, or nobility, and should find the world outside the Church barren of spiritual rapture or mystery, and should discover no beautiful or terrible or merciful gods upon which to cast itself. With Christ came judgment into the world, a light of discrimination from which there is neither retreat nor sanctuary. And this means that, as a quite concrete historical condition, the only choice that remains for the children of post-Christian culture is not whom to serve, but whether to serve Him whom Christ has revealed or to serve nothing — the nothing. No third way lies open for us now, because — as all of us now know, whether we acknowledge it consciously or not — all things have been made subject to Him, all the thrones and dominions of the high places have been put beneath His feet, until the very end of the world, and — simply said — there is no other god.
Let us then cast ourselves upon the only God Who Is, Christ our true God, and pray that He would have mercy upon us.

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