And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise. – Luke 23: 43
Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when he had found him, he said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God? He answered and said, Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him? And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee. And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him. – John 9: 35-38
Nathaniel Hawthorne has been and still is, if he is read at all, condemned by the modern literary critics for his obsession with one theme – the hardened heart. In such short stories as “Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment,” “The Birthmark,” “Rappaccini’s Daughter,” and “Ethan Brand,” Hawthorne depicts the fatal consequences of a life lived according to the scientific principles of dissection rather than the passions of the human heart. And in the Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne puts an exclamation point on his ‘obsession’ by making Roger Chillingworth, the wronged husband of an adulterous wife, a man who sins mortally by looking into the human heart with the eyes of a scientist, and by so doing, detaches himself from humanity. Hawthorne was not alone in his opposition to what he saw as the scientizing of man. His 19th century counterparts, Scott, Dickens, and Dostoyevsky, also saw the essence of modernity in rationality detached from humanity. And before them was Edmund Burke, who saw, in the new world order of the French Jacobins, a soulless scientific world completely opposed to the religion of Christ, who comes to men through their hearts of flesh. In science-based cultures, hearts of flesh are proscribed, because men with hearts of flesh are opposed to the progression of man from the ‘superstition’ of faith to the world of ‘enlightened’ reason.
Nothing can be conceived more hard than the heart of a thoroughbred metaphysician. It comes nearer to the cold malignity of a wicked spirit than to the frailty and passion of a man. It is like that of the principle of evil himself, incorporeal, pure, unmixed, dephlegmated, defecated evil. It is no easy operation to eradicate humanity from the human breast. What Shakespeare calls the “compunctious visitings of nature” will sometimes knock at their hearts, and protest against their murderous speculations. But they have a means of compounding with their nature. Their humanity is not dissolved. They only give it a long prorogation. They are ready to declare, that they do not think two thousand years too long a period for the good that they pursue. It is remarkable, that they never see any way to their projected good but by the road of some evil. Their imagination is not fatigued with the contemplation of human suffering through the wild waste of centuries added to centuries of misery and desolation. Their humanity is at their horizon—and, like the horizon, it always flies before them. The geometricians and the chemists bring — the one from the dry bones of their diagrams, and the other from the soot of their furnaces — dispositions that make them worse than indifferent about those feelings and habitudes which are the supports of the moral world.
It certainly was not easy for the liberals to “eradicate humanity from the human breast.” Lady Macbeth tried but ultimately failed because she lacked a scientific ideology to sustain her. A modern psychiatrist would have told her that she was just realizing her human potential, by fighting against white male stereotypes about women that said women should be weak and submissive. She would have left the psychiatrist’s couch and gotten a job teaching ‘women’s studies’ at Stanford or Harvard. The point being that we have allowed the scientizers in church and state to replace the Christ-centered European culture of the heart that loves for the scientized culture of the mind that hates all things humane, noble, and beautiful. The liberals have labeled Burke and the European poets ‘obsessive’ while they have institutionalized their own obsessions, their passionate love of the noble savages of color, and their passionate, obsessive hatred of all things white and Christian. It is not obsession itself that is wrong, it is what a man is obsessed with that counts. And I maintain that Burke’s and the great European poets’ obsession with the evils of a science-based culture that views man as a glorified ape without a heart for God, was the right obsession. And if you read through the Gospels and the epistles of St. Paul, you will discover that Christ and St. Paul were also obsessed with the hardened heart.
The man of science, the psychiatrist who scientizes man, and the man of theology, the theologian who scientizes God, are one in spirit. Both see the human heart and all passions emanating from the human heart as evil. The psychiatrist sees only animality in mankind, so he declares animality to be normality and absolves mankind from sin: “I’m okay, you’re okay.” How can there be any sin if we are apes? Can apes sin? The theologian who damns the human in order to praise the divine is looking at man with the same eyes as the psychiatrist. He sees nothing worthy of redemption in the human heart, so he places that worthless entity aside and looks to his own mind, his science-trained mind, to guide the beasts called men toward the light of his vision of heaven, which is really a vision of hell, a scientized, inhuman laboratory of test tubes with the distilled essence of brain cells in them.
The scientific view of existence which says everything is of nature and nothing is of God was promulgated to make man eased with being nothing. In exchange for eternal life, if they repented of their sins, men were told that they need not repent because there was no God before whom a man could repent. But then of course this meant there was and is no loving divine presence in our lives: We can’t weep and be forgiven and share eternity with Him who died for all. Is this brave new world really superior to old Europe?
To harden one’s heart against all things humane and Christian is indeed the “unpardonable sin” that Hawthorne’s Ethan Brand discovers. It is the “unpardonable sin” because the man of the hardened heart does not think he needs pardon. The hard-hearted liberal and the hard-hearted metaphysician feel they are not in need of God’s mercy or forgiveness because, like Shylock, they are not conscious of their own sinfulness: “What judgement shall I dread, doing no wrong?” The thinking man, the theologian, can do no wrong because he has no heart, which is where he thinks wrong resides, and the liberal thinks he can do wrong because there is no wrong, there is no sin as the antique Europeans defined it; there are only sins against liberalism, the ‘racist’ and ‘sexist’ sins.
In direct contrast to the liberals and the theologians is the good thief. He is quite conscious of his sinfulness:
And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. –Luke 23: 39-42
And then our Lord, who is still going about His Father’s business even on the cross in the midst of mortal pain, says to the good thief, “Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.” What a moment! To know that a lifetime of sin and sorrow can be turned into a victory over sin and sorrow through a heart-to-heart connection to the Suffering Servant is worth more than anything that the world of science can offer us.
We know nothing of the good thief’s life apart from the moment he shared with Christ on the cross. Did he ever hear Christ speak before that moment? Perhaps he was there, possibly to pick pockets, when Christ gave His Sermon on the Mount. What we do know is that the good thief was able to recognize, in his heart, the Heart of hearts. He loved much and was forgiven. Christ does not abrogate the rites of confirmation and baptism by telling the good thief that “today shalt thou be with me in paradise.” What He does is point to Himself as the Lord of those rites; they exist to place us before Him in spirit and truth, and the good thief is already there, he has received Christ in spirit and truth.
I love the good thief. The man who feels he is without sin and needs no redeemer will never know what the good thief knew – only Christ can forgive sin and heal the heart laden with sorrow, wrong, and trouble. Outside of His grace, there is no grace. The men and women of modern Europe, the liberals, have spent the “unbought grace” of life handed down to us by the antique Europeans, which they received from Christ the Lord. The liberals will never know what it feels like to be forgiven their sins, because they, in their mind-forged religion of cruelty and impiety, know themselves to be without sin. If we follow in their train we shall never hear the blessed words of forgiveness and hope that the good thief heard.
It’s possible to get a Ph.D. in literature in our modern universities without ever having read a work of literature. All a literature major needs to know is the psychological theories of the literary critics. There is no need, if you want to succeed in academia, to actually read the great works of Western literature. After all, how can we expect Shakespeare, Scott, or Dickens to tell us anything about life that the scientized experts, the psychiatrists, can’t tell us? I would prefer a complete ban, which is now taking place, on all the literature of the West, rather than watch the great works become mere grist in the psychological mills of the experts.
The same process of desoulment that took place in the literary circles of academia also took place in the church. Just as a man can become a Ph.D. in literature without any direct contract with literature so can a man become a Christian in good standing with his local church without having any contact with God. In fact, that is what our churchmen desire. They want the laity to empty their hearts and open up their minds to their clergymen, who will cram God into their heads. That way nothing human gets in the way of the streamlined, scientific faith of the clergy. But what if the clergy’s plan is not God’s plans; what if He really does enter our lives through the human heart? (1)
Throughout the Gospel, Jesus makes the lame to walk, the blind to see, and the dead to rise again. And in the case of every miracle, the Pharisees who govern the Jewish people do not look at Christ’s miracles of compassion and love, instead they focus on Christ’s breaches of the law. They claim He has violated “The Law” by healing on the Sabbath. And they claim He casts out devils because He is in league with the devil. Let us bring the man born blind into the lists once again. If we are reading the Bible as little Arthur in Tom Brown’s School Days read the Bible, with the belief that the men and women of the Bible were real, historical persons, we encounter, in the man born blind, a heroic example of how we must respond to His divine love. After Christ gives the man born blind his sight, the Pharisees try to deny the miracle by claiming it never occurred — it is a fraud. But the parents of the man born blind confirm that their son was indeed born blind. That is all they will say; they do not make any claims about Christ “because they feared the Jews: for the Jews had agreed already, that if any man did confess that he was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue.”
Having failed to discredit Christ’s miracle of compassion through the parents of the man born blind, the Pharisees then go after the man himself. What happens? The man born blind refuses to back down to the Pharisees.
Then said they to him again, What did he to thee? how opened he thine eyes? He answered them, I have told you already, and ye did not hear: wherefore would ye hear it again? will ye also be his disciples? Then they reviled him, and said, Thou art his disciple; but we are Moses’ disciples. We know that God spake unto Moses: as for this fellow, we know not from whence he is. The man answered and said unto them, Why herein is a marvellous thing, that ye know not from whence he is, and yet he hath opened mine eyes. Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth. Since the world began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind. If this man were not of God, he could do nothing. They answered and said unto him, Thou wast altogether born in sins, and dost thou teach us? And they cast him out. – John 9: 26-34
There, in that confrontation between the Pharisees and the man born blind, we see where true faith resides. The man born blind has a heart of flesh; he has the courage to defy the Pharisees because he loves the man who gave him his sight. We must realize what it meant for a Jew to be cast out of the synagogue. The life of the synagogue was everything to the Jew; without that life there was no community and no comfort in this world. But still the man born blind stands tall. “Of course he stands tall,” the modern man retorts, “Christ gave him his sight.” Then why don’t we, the modern Europeans, stand tall? Haven’t we been the recipients of an even greater miracle than the man born blind? The Man of Sorrows has borne our sins; He has given us eternal life through His sacrifice on the cross. Shouldn’t that give us the courage and love to defy the modern Pharisees of Liberaldom?
Our European ancestors did defy the Pharisees of science as the man born blind defied them. But the modern Europeans are only concerned with their place in the liberals’ synagogue. They have forsaken the God-Man who gave them sight and life eternal. If, and that ‘if’ is all in all, we denounce the Pharisees of Liberaldom, the Pharisees of science and theological speculation, we shall know the living God because He shall seek us out when we are cast out of the liberals’ synagogue.
Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when he had found him, he said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God? He answered and said, Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him? And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee. And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him. And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind. And some of the Pharisees which were with him heard these words, and said unto him, Are we blind also? Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth. –John 9: 36-41
The good thief, the man born blind, and the antique Europeans, were one in that which was and is essential: They had human hearts of flesh that responded to the love emanating from His divine heart. We can conquer the scientistic world of Liberaldom if we also, like the good thief, the man born blind, and the antique Europeans respond to His love with our renewed hearts of flesh. +
(1) I know it is not Christmas yet, but I want to give the reader enough time, if he or she so chooses, to read, along with their loved ones (the stories always are best read aloud amongst those we love) one or all five of the greatest Christmas stories ever written.
1.“The Shepherd Who Watched by Night” – Thomas Nelson Page
(I cannot read this story without weeping)
2. The Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
3. The Haunted Man and the Ghost’s Bargain – Charles Dickens
4. Old Christmas – by Washington Irving
5. “What Christmas Is As We Grow Older” – Charles Dickens
This last one is not a story, it is a prose poem dedicated to Him and all the living and the dead who are connected to Him through the love that is always present, but is particularly present at Christmas time.