Monday, November 14, 2005

original deconstruction 2

...the sequel.

Herbert Butterfield sums up a lifetime of historical reflection as a Christian in his precise and powerful book Christianity and History. Despite recent reflections (which are also worthwhile), the meditations of H.B. have, I think, yet to be surpassed.

Butterfield describes the "gravitational pull" of what he terms "cupidity," (a.k.a. "falleness"). It is "an historical equivalent to the theological assertion that all men are sinners" (59). Because of this irrepressable tendency, divine judgement often requires no divine effort at all:
"Sometimes God has only to withhold his protection and let events take their course - 'I will hide my face from them, I will see what their end shall be' - and the penalty comes from His formidable non-intervention" (80).
But to get around to deconstruction:
"It seems that nothing could be more exact perhaps for any man that the statement that 'all men are sinners and I the chief of them.' or the the thesis, 'There but for the grace of God go I'... All this seems to be the final effect of the reading of history upon me. And if anybody answers me that of course there must have been great saints whom I slander in all my descriptions of human nature, I accept the correction, but still note the fact that these always seem to me to be the people who are most emphatically in agreement with me on the point that I am making"(64).
This is the classical Christian doctrine of original sin in action, and what else is it than a fundamental deconstruction of humanity from the start? Unpopular as it may be, far more absurd (and dangerous) is the alternative, which as G.K. Chesterton remarked, is "to believe in the Immaculate Conception of everybody."