Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Confucius on our times

What is essential to a well-functioning society?  In a famous passage from The Great Learning traditionally attributed to Confucius (551-479 B.C.), the philosopher says:

The ancients who wished to illustrate illustrious virtue throughout the kingdom, first ordered well their own states.  Wishing to order well their states, they first regulated their families.  Wishing to regulate their families, they first cultivated their persons.  Wishing to cultivate their persons, they first rectified their hearts.  Wishing to rectify their hearts, they first sought to be sincere in their thoughts.  Wishing to be sincere in their thoughts, they first extended to the utmost their knowledge.  Such extension of knowledge lay in the investigation of things.

Things being investigated, knowledge became complete.  Their knowledge being complete, their thoughts were sincere.  Their thoughts being sincere, their hearts were then rectified.  Their hearts being rectified, their persons were cultivated.  Their persons being cultivated, their families were regulated.  Their families being regulated, their states were rightly governed.  Their states being rightly governed, the whole kingdom was made tranquil and happy.

From the Son of Heaven down to the mass of the people, all must consider the cultivation of the person the root of everything besides.  It cannot be, when the root is neglected, that what should spring from it will be well ordered.

End quote.  These words from the great man of the East would be warmly endorsed in the West by ancient thinkers like Plato and Aristotle and medieval thinkers like Thomas Aquinas.  But they run counter to the modern West’s liberalism, including the libertarian brand of liberalism that too often passes for “conservatism.”  The liberal attitude is that the moral character of individuals does not matter for social order so long as the right rules and institutions are in place.  Part of Confucius’s point, and that of any conservatism worthy of the name, is that rules and institutions are ineffectual without individuals willing to subordinate their desires to them.  And individuals who do not seek the good (so as to “rectify their hearts”) and the true (thus pursuing the “investigation of things”) can neither curb bad desires nor cultivate good ones.  The brute force of legal coercion cannot substitute for this missing moral fiber.  As we read in chapter 2 of The Analects:

The Master said: “Lead them by political maneuvers, restrain them with punishments: the people will become cunning and shameless.  Lead them by virtue, restrain them with ritual: they will develop a sense of shame and a sense of participation.” (Simon Leys translation)

And again:

Someone said to Confucius: “Master, why don’t you join the government?”  The Master said: “In the Documents it is said: ‘Only cultivate filial piety and be kind to your brothers, and you will be contributing to the body politic.’  This is also a form of political action; one need not necessarily join the government.”

And in chapter 12:

The Master said: “I could adjudicate lawsuits as well as anyone.  But I would prefer to make lawsuits unnecessary.” (Leys translation)

In such passages, Confucius reminds us that the personal is the political, not in the totalitarian sense that absorbs the personal up into the political and tries to mold attitudes and actions via state coercion, but on the contrary in the humane sense that devolves the political down to the personal level, in the recognition that social order depends more fundamentally on prevailing morals and mores than on legislation.

In Our Oriental Heritage, the first volume of his famous Story of Civilization series, Will Durant glosses the passage quoted above from The Great Learning as follows:

This is the keynote and substance of the Confucian philosophy; one might forget all other words of the Master and his disciples, and yet carry away with these “the essence of the matter,” and a complete guide to life.  The world is at war, says Confucius, because its constituent states are improperly governed; these are improperly governed because no amount of legislation can take the place of the natural social order provided by the family; the family is in disorder, and fails to provide this natural social order, because men forget that they cannot regulate their families if they do not regulate themselves; they fail to regulate themselves because they have not rectified their hearts – i.e., they have not cleansed their own souls of disorderly desires; their hearts are not rectified because their thinking is insincere, doing scant justice to reality and concealing rather than revealing their own natures; their thinking is insincere because they let their wishes discolor the facts and determine their conclusions, instead of seeking to extend their knowledge to the utmost by impartially investigating the nature of things. (p. 668)

If this analysis applied in Confucius’s day 2,500 years ago, and when Durant wrote these words in 1935, it applies a thousandfold today.  Consider what, specifically, Confucius would regard as among the marks of either a well-ordered character or a disordered one.  Chapter 1 of The Analects expresses what is perhaps the best-known of Confucian themes:

Master You said… “To respect parents and elders is the root of humanity” …

Master Zeng said: “When the dead are honored and the memory of remote ancestors is kept alive, a people’s virtue is at its fullest.” (Leys translation)

Chapter 4 admonishes us as follows:

The Master said: “Do not worry if you are without a position; worry lest you do not deserve a position.  Do not worry if you are not famous; worry lest you do not deserve to be famous.” (Leys translation)

Chapter 12 advises:

The Master said: “The practice of humanity comes down to this: tame the self and restore the rites… The practice of humanity comes from the self, not from anyone else.” (Leys translation)

In chapter 16, we read:

Confucius said, “There are three things which the superior man guards against.  In youth, when the physical powers are not yet settled, he guards against lust.  When he is strong and the physical powers are full of vigor, he guards against quarrelsomeness.  When he is old, and the animal powers are decayed, he guards against covetousness…

There are three things of which the superior man stands in awe.  He stands in awe of the ordinances of Heaven.  He stands in awe of great men.  He stands in awe of the words of sages.  The mean man does not know the ordinances of Heaven, and consequently does not stand in awe of them.  He is disrespectful to great men.  He makes sport of the words of sages.”

And in chapter 17, we’re told:

The Master said: “I detest purple replacing vermilion; I detest popular music corrupting classical music; I detest glib tongues overturning kingdoms and clans…

I cannot abide these people who fill their bellies all day long, without ever using their minds!” (Leys translation)

Needless to say, the modern character type is the opposite of that of which Confucius would approve.  Youthful insolence is esteemed and ancestors and tradition are held in contempt. “Irreverent,” “subversive,” “rebel,” and the like are stock terms of approbation.  Power and fame are prized for their own sakes, regardless of merit.  The self is not tamed but indulged, driven by covetousness, lust, and the filling of the belly.  Tastes become ever more vulgar; the very notions of great men and sages, let alone heavenly ordinances, are sneered at; and popular opinion is molded instead by the glib tongues of a relentlessly cynical, mocking, and quarrelsome commentariat.  Longstanding morals and customs have been shredded and social order increasingly depends instead on legislation, regulation, and the threat of litigation.  Confucius, like Plato in his analysis of democratic egalitarianism, might as well have been describing twenty-first century America.

As hearts are ever further from rectification and thoughts from sincerity, people increasingly conform their ideas about the nature of things to their wishes, rather than conforming their wishes to the nature of things.  Among the consequences is the ideologization of language, so that it distorts reality rather than revealing it and becomes a tool for manipulation rather than rational discourse.  Confucius warned of this too, in a famous passage from chapter 13 of The Analects:

Tsze-lu said, “The ruler of Wei has been waiting for you, in order with you to administer the government.  What will you consider the first thing to be done?”  The Master replied, “What is necessary is to rectify names.”  “So! Indeed!” said Tsze-lu. “You are wide of the mark!  Why must there be such rectification?”  The Master said, “How uncultivated you are, Yu!  A superior man, in regard to what he does not know, shows a cautious reserve.  If names be not correct, language is not in accordance with the truth of things.  If language be not in accordance with the truth of things, affairs cannot be carried on to success.”

Unfortunately, we are very far from having a government capable of rectifying names.  Nor could disillusioned citizens trust it to do so if it tried.  One more passage from The Analects, from chapter 12:

Tsze-kung asked about government.  The Master said, “The requisites of government are that there be sufficiency of food, sufficiency of military equipment, and the confidence of the people in their ruler.”  Tsze-kung said, “If it cannot be helped, and one of these must be dispensed with, which of the three should be foregone first?” “The military equipment,” said the Master.  Tsze-kung again asked, “If it cannot be helped, and one of the remaining two must be dispensed with, which of them should be foregone?”  The Master answered, “Part with the food.  From of old, death has been the lot of all men; but if the people have no faith in their rulers, there is no standing for the state.”…

The Duke Ching, of Ch’i, asked Confucius about government.  Confucius replied, “There is government, when the prince is prince, and the minister is minister; when the father is father, and the son is son.”  “Good!” said the duke; “if, indeed, the prince be not prince, the minister not minister, the father not father, and the son not son, although I have my revenue, can I enjoy it?”

End quote.  Ours is indeed an age in which fathers do not act like fathers, and authorities in general do not act like authorities.  They either shirk their duties and flatter the mob, or go to the opposite extreme of exerting power in an arbitrary and despotic way.  But that is, in the long run, inevitable in a liberal polity, where neither citizens nor rulers understand leadership in paternal terms, but rather as merely one more prize to be competed for in the marketplace.  Sovereign individuals get the leaders they deserve – good and hard, as one of our own sages once put it.


  1. Not in vain the fist move of Mao was to obliterate any trace of Confucianism. At any cost (literally).

  2. The Chinese Communist party embraced Confucius and his teachings a while back. Google Confucius and Mao for numerous links.

    1. They tried, because they realised that they have literally no basis for their legitimacy other than keeping the people fat and happy, which can't last forever. Unfortunately for them, they've had to judiciously edit him and have found it awkward to actually do so, because Confucius has a lot to say about unjust and incompetent government and how they aren't legitimate.

    2. 'Confucius' Institutes in the West under the direct auspices of the Party have been a first step in exercising soft power on college and university campuses great and small; having mostly succeeded in establishing and continuing institutional relationships with cognates in China by other temporary names, the facade of continuity has mostly been dropped.

  3. or go to the opposite extreme of exerting power in an arbitrary and despotic way.

    There is already a name for the voluntarist personality type. It's Narcissist. And not all Narcissists are egomaniacs: there are "little-ego narcissists." But what unifies both egomaniac and little-ego Narcissists is having ignorance as a core value, the logical consequence of which is putting the will prior to the intellect.

  4. That is well and good, but i can't help but remember the legalist criticism of Confucius: look, you just will not get enough virtuous people to make things work as you want. Either you get a system that kinda works even with mediocre people or you are screwed.

    Take a look on, say, medieval europe, these guys had a way more virtous culture and the average guy still was not of much value. One just has to look at the biography of some medieval saints to see that even the so-called christendom was not that great at producing virtue, the saints had to fight mediocre persons as much as they had to fight demons. One could argue that it was way better that the modern west in the sense that the medieval world lasted way more that this crappy empire that is already falling apart, but that is mostly it.

    Confucius was a pretty interesting thinker, but original sin would help his system a lot.

    1. "look, you just will not get enough virtuous people to make things work as you want. Either you get a system that kinda works even with mediocre people or you are screwed."

      This kind of thinking always leads to liberalism, Talmid. If you focus on a system that just "works" you'll end up with one that simply manages the status quo without regard to the actual good of the people - which is what liberalism has traditionally done. Confucius' emphasis on virtue is a good thing.

    2. A side note of some historical interest. Laurentius Grimalius Goslicius emphasized the importance of virtue, especially among senators, and this view is taken to be essential to the historical Polish republican tradition which differed from the Venetian view that one could not rely on the virtue of (inter alia) senators and should instead rely on law and political system to ameliorate the effects of vice in a polity. An post mortem of both republics might be interesting as an empirical exercise (though possibly complicated by the tragic history of the former and the not insignificant role landed magnates played in creating conditions that favored tragedy).

    3. This mirrors the thoughts of the founders regarding the nature of the people needed to properly govern under the constitution.

    4. I think you have to emphasize virtue, but at the same time you need laws and social stigma for the minority who don't wouldn't respond to the call to virtue, for the brutes.

    5. @Kyle Yes, exactly. The emphasis on virtue gives stigma its force in the first place. Most men are moved more often by convention than reason, but without reason backing convention, convention is hollow.

    6. Legalists, Confucians, and Daoists always struck me as childish naive, and all in the same way. All were certain there was something you could do that would make your subjects good.

      In reality, the wheat and the tares will grow together until harvest, and the state must deal with both.

    7. @Mister Geocon

      I agree that virtue should be promoted by the State, i'am just saying that what Confucius wanted will not happen no matter what is done, so one still has to make sure there are ways to make things work even with few good people.

      I do not mean at all that the State should try to be "impartial" on values, that would be silly.


      Exactly, that works well.

    8. All were certain there was something you could do that would make your subjects good.

      In reality, the wheat and the tares will grow together until harvest, and the state must deal with both.

      Yes, certainly there will be sin and bad men, no matter what the ruler does. At the same time, with a bad ruler there will be MORE sin and bad men, and with a good ruler there will be less sin and fewer bad men, because he will rule so as to ENCOURAGE virtue and DISCOURAGE evil.

      You cannot legislate that men interiorly love virtue. But you can legislate (some) of the exterior acts of the virtues in the hopes that by being accustomed to the acts, men will internalize the behavior by molding their will toward virtue. It won't happen solely by legislating, it needs also good example (e.g. leadership by good men), good priests making the sacraments of grace available, and good teaching/schools, as well - which Confucius pointed out (except for the sacraments part).

      Legislating for virtue does not "make" virtue, but it lends itself toward virtue when combined with the other factors. Legislating as if virtue were irrelevant in the body politic cannot but tend toward men becoming gradually less virtuous than they had been. An interior embrace of law and the (virtuous) obedience to law AS law is a sine qua non of a LONG TERM stable society, since otherwise people will only obey law (a) to the extent they fear being caught and punished, or (b) when they perceive an ulterior good result for themselves personally - neither of which can produce long-term stability. So, a legislative attitude that even that virtue of obedience to law is irrelevant is inevitably destructive of society and the political order. But there can be no meaningful sense of a virtue of obedience to law that does not also imply the other virtues.

    9. Talmid,

      I'm sure that Confucius would agree with Aristotle that the state, though it should help lead men to virtue, should also take into account where men are in their learning process. If a teacher gives a student a lesson too difficult for them to understand, then the student will come to resent the teacher.

    10. Exactly. But i do see Confucius as being more optimistic that Aristotle on that, he seemed to think that all the students could pass.

    11. I think he was as realistic as Aristotle. He thought an educated and naturally intelligent scion of a good family could become virtuous. But of course, he knew that the vast majority could not. The Analects are replete with aphorisms about bad students, his teaching method was for the intellectually curious, staying away from the rabble, etc.


  5. Beautiful, well done.

  6. I read this blog along with the readings from the Liturgy of the Hours this morning from the feast day of king St. Louis IX. Just thought I would share my thoughts on both.

    http://www.liturgies.net/saints/louis/readings.htm (see the second reading)

    "My dearest son, my first instruction is that you should love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your strength. Without this there is no salvation. Keep yourself, my son, from everything that you know displeases God, that is to say, from every mortal sin. You should permit yourself to be tormented by every kind of martyrdom before you would allow yourself to commit a mortal sin.

    He starts off his testament to his son by advocating that he put the love of God first above all things - and this is the first commandment of the 10 commandments - the Christian Natural Law. Personal morality was central to him. And this seems to align with what Ed is saying in his first paragraph - his moral character was of central importance, over and above any institution or legislation.

    Ed says "And individuals who do not seek the good (so as to “rectify their hearts”) and the true (thus pursuing the “investigation of things”) can neither curb bad desires nor cultivate good ones." - And I think this is an important point to emphasize - morality isn't just bland rules - it is about desiring the good and loving it above all things! Seeking it out, such that even if calamity is to befall you on this earthly life, it would not matter so long as you retain your integrity.

    And this aligns with the next passage in St. Louis's text:

    "If the Lord has permitted you to have some trial, bear it willingly and with gratitude, considering that it has happened for your good and that perhaps you well deserved it. If the Lord bestows upon you any kind of prosperity, thank him humbly and see that you become no worse for it, either through vain pride or anything else, because you ought not to oppose God or offend him in the matter of his gifts."

    And on the political and military sphere St. Louis experienced many ups and downs, especially in the crusades he led, both of which were unmitigated disasters. But he kept his integrity through it all.

    I also think he saw that there had to be a preferential defense of the poor, but that more than this, the population needed a clergy that was living justly and at peace.

    "Be kindhearted to the poor, the unfortunate and the afflicted. Give them as much help and consolation as you can. Thank God for all the benefits he has bestowed upon you, that you may be worthy to receive greater. Be just to your subjects, swaying neither to right nor left, but holding the line of justice. Always side with the poor rather than with the rich, until you are certain of the truth. See that all your subjects live in justice and peace, but especially those who have ecclesiastical rank and who belong to religious orders."

    Here again, society depends on the ruler being just, but also, and especially, the ecclesiastical rank. The priests should be the primary persons where the poor and the uneducated receive moral teachings. Otherwise, as Ed says, "...people increasingly conform their ideas about the nature of things to their wishes, rather than conforming their wishes to the nature of things." And if the clergy has become corrupt and decadent or has lost the respect of the people, then the people will be like sheep without shepherds. The clergy, afterall, are the custodians of the rites, as Confucius called them.

    The reading ends with a father blessing his son with what he sees as best in life:

    "In conclusion, dearest son, I give you every blessing that a loving father can give a son. May the three Persons of the Holy Trinity and all the saints protect you from every evil. And may the Lord give you the grace to do his will so that he may be served and honored through you, that in the next life we may together come to see him, love him and praise him unceasingly. Amen."

    1. Pretty good meditation. Politicians, back them and today, are usually so... politicians, that someone like St. Louis seems like a miracle, that testament is awesome.

      Your points about not seeing morality as just rules and about the necessity of having the people in charge being virtuous(especially the clergy, as we painfully are remembered daily) sure should be remembered, Daniel.

    2. Thanks Talmid.

      It would be interesting to review canonized saints who were kings and queens to see if there are any commonalities among them. I know that before the 1500s, the canonization process was a lot more loose though.

      It does seem to me that sometimes it is the political elites that need reforming, and then the priests, religious, and laity need to hold them to account. Sometimes it is the priests and religious that need reforming, and then it is the politicians and laity that need to hold them to account. And sometimes it is the laity. ANd sometimes it is the whole lot of them.

      Either way, it is often the duty of courageous and virtuous folks to leaven all of society by their example, often to the point of martyrdom.

    3. Daniel,

      Have your read Veritatis Splendor?

    4. Hey T N

      It had been a while since I read it. I decided to give another read after your post. This line struck me as sublime.

      " 18. Those who live "by the flesh" experience God's law as a burden, and indeed as a denial or at least a restriction of their own freedom. On the other hand, those who are impelled by love and "walk by the Spirit" (Gal 5:16), and who desire to serve others, find in God's Law the fundamental and necessary way in which to practise love as something freely chosen and freely lived out. Indeed, they feel an interior urge — a genuine "necessity" and no longer a form of coercion — not to stop at the minimum demands of the Law, but to live them in their "fullness". This is a still uncertain and fragile journey as long as we are on earth, but it is one made possible by grace, which enables us to possess the full freedom of the children of God (cf. Rom 8:21) and thus to live our moral life in a way worthy of our sublime vocation as "sons in the Son". "

      Wow - John Paul II had a way with words.


    5. Daniel,

      I'm not sure now what exactly I had in mind when I asked, but I thought the document touches on, in general, some of the ideas you were expressing (as you have now pointed out).

  7. The unfavourable comparison between the modern West and Confucianism might only be relative; they are both secularist. The fact that the CCP seeks to prove China's superiority by means of its Confucius Institutes is not play acting. Confucius was an agnostic whose prescriptions might make more sense than Black Lives Matter etc., but were exclusively preoccupied with secular goods. Being virtuous brought ample rewards in this life but that was about it.

    St Thomas Aquinas had a somewhat different approach. In his De regimine principum he demonstrates that society's end is not just Aristotle's earthly contentment/eudaimonia, and that its end is outside itself: "As man living virtuously is ordained to an ulterior end... it is necessary that society have the same end as the individual man. Consequently, the ultimate end of society is not to live virtuously but to arrive at the beatific vision after living virtuously". For this reason Aquinas requires that the ruler "procure that the life of his people be good, apt to achieving eternal beatitude...".

    Perhaps he makes the Christian position most clear in this summary: "Given that the priesthood of the gentiles, and all its cult, was for the obtention of temporal goods which are ordered to the common good of society, it was natural that the priests of the gentiles should be subject to kings." Paganism tended to divinise civil society itself, religion was subservient to its ends, and this obssession with civil society was much more extreme in Confucianism.

    It is curious that this idea seems to have been made ideologically explicit in the writings of the late Roger Scruton, who rejected "ends" for civil society. He saw it as an organism or person, whose only concern was self-preservation: "Eventually, I hope, the metaphor of society as person will be seen to correspond to a clear and literal idea… Conservatism presupposes the existence of a social organism. Its politics is concerned with sustaining the life of that organism... for the conservative, power will not be able to mask itself as subordinate to some clear or justifying aim… its justification must be found within itself”.

    1. I have not read enough of Scruton to say how far he takes this "being an end in itself". In the quote you give, it's not nearly as absolute and definitive as the totalitarians of modernity (e.g. the Nazis, the Communists, etc) have made the state the end as such. His comment is at least partially compatible with the much more qualified view of the state as having "an end" within the larger order that includes man's proper end in the Beatific Vision. The latter view clearly does not prescribe the state as the ultimate end in itself, but leaves room for naming it "an end", just a qualified one. As long as we retain that notion of a further end (beyond the state) to which the state is subordinate, it is possible to speak of the state's "end" as "found within itself". Pope Leo XIII indicated as much when he declared that the state and the Church have their own proper ends and their own proper authority within their distinctive spheres.

    2. What a sad thinking is to see the person as having self-preservation as his end...

      And besides calling Confucious a agnostic, dude believed in something, i agree. That bit is very interesting:

      "Paganism tended to divinise civil society itself, religion was subservient to its ends"

      Yea. The funny thing is that perennialists do believe in a transcendental goal to the person but from what i got from they they politically seems to be draw to things like fascism, who usually does not put the religion above the society.

    3. @ Tony. He takes it pretty far in his work, The Meaning of Conservatism, where these quotes come from. He rejects the possibility "that there ought to be a power greater than that of the state, a power that can, if it chooses, put itself beyond the reach of the law" and that "[Society is not] … a means to an end, but an end in itself”. I don't think there is any consideration of the ultimate ends of the individual either, as even personality is undermined:"Individuality too is an artifact, an achievement which depends upon the social life of people… The condition of mankind requires that individuals, while they exist and act as autonomous beings, do so only because they can first identify themselves as something greater". He nowhere deals with the individual as a reality consisting of body and soul existing in its own right. Most of his argument is with liberal individualism and contrived ideological ends, but his own ideology is impossible to reconcile with Christianity as far as I can see.

      I agree with you of course that society has its own immediate ends which are not those of religion (otherwise it would be the Church). Still, as far as those ultimate ends are concerned, the state ought to submit to the judgement of something outside itself. Concerning this point both Confucianism and Scruton seem not only blank, but hostile.

    4. Yes, it does sound like Scruton was a "conservative" who happened to be a Christian (of sorts), rather than a conservative Christian , which is quite a different thing (and for whom the term is virtually redundant).

      I don't know a thing about Confucius, but it sounds like he is open to a "heaven" that is above the state:

      There are three things of which the superior man stands in awe. He stands in awe of the ordinances of Heaven. He stands in awe of great men. He stands in awe of the words of sages. The mean man does not know the ordinances of Heaven, and consequently does not stand in awe of them.

    5. In Confucianism, the principle represented by the term heaven is monisitc, and immanent in nature. The rites, for Confucius, have the same purpose as established religion had for conservatives like Scruton: “… whatever we postulate by way of an ideal, the ideal itself may have little life outside the social life which provided the concepts and perceptions of those who pursue it… custom, tradition and common culture..." "To represent something as desirable is to view it as… conferring social recognition". In Scruton's case, it was a total misunderstanding of what Christianity was, but Confucianism really really a custom-made "religion" for the convinced secularist. Being above the state be one way of conceiving universal nature, but it's not a different order of being really.

  8. "To be wealthy and honored in an unjust society is a disgrace."

    ― Confucius, The Analects

  9. What about the intentional use of vice to control society? So, yeah, liberalism does tend to predispose a society toward vice because of its false anthropology. But a cunning oligarch (or a deranged Marquis, or a psychoanalyst...or a Reichian quack) might turn Augustine's quip about a man having as many masters as he has vices on its head. He might wish to allow these vices to take root, perhaps even encourage them, as a form of psychological warfare and social control. Now, instead of noticing the treachery of the tyrannical class, you're busy watching porn and eating Doritos or whatever. I.e. sexual liberation as political control. If American methods are too subtle, perhaps the broadcasting of porn by the Israelis from captured Palestinian television stations serves as a more vivid example. Mind you, Israel has a ban on pornography. You need to request permission to view it.

    Again, liberalism I think predisposes people toward a wrongheaded way to think of the human good, but it seems to open the door to all manner of tyrannical control that dresses up vice as freedom and then using that vice to manipulate the herd.

    1. Liberal societies (represented by the Democratic party) make it possible for all sorts of disordered people (LGBT, psychopaths, etc...) to live and thrive, which means a multiplicity of being exists in liberal societies. Because being = goodness, that means liberal societies are good, even if they're more harmful to the natural social order and to individual people.

      Meanwhile conservative societies are better ordered for rational social animals, but because ONLY people who are in conformity to the natural law are permitted to live, there is less diversity of being and so conservative societies are less good, even though they have a higher quality of life and are more ethical and wise.

      For instance, Servant of God Dorothy Day, if she lived in a society where natural law was the rule, would have been put to death for having an abortion. But because she was in a liberal society that encouraged disorder, her being was allowed to exist which resulted in great holiness.

      This is why anyone who truly believes in the transcendentals should vote for the Democratic party.

    2. Hey Tryte

      Why would someone having an abortion
      in a society based on 'natural law' necessarily be put to death?

    3. Tryte,

      "Because being = goodness, that means liberal societies are good, even if they're more harmful to the natural social order and to individual people."

      Bahahahaha! Wow! OK.

    4. Bahahahaha! Wow! OK.
      I concururuhuhuhuhuh.

    5. @BalancedTryteOperators,

      BTO, I guess for you, taking care of business is politicking (with the incredibly bad - and funny - logic of a typical political operator).

      How disappointing!

      This isn't a political site. Did you not notice? Truth is more interesting than politics, and seeking after it is more important.

      Don't fantasize!


      Tom Cohoe

    6. @Robert LeChef

      That sure makes sense. It is way easier to manipulate a people who mostly can't bother to fight for anything and who mostly are not loyal to anything. Here on my country the average guy vices sure help the parasites stay doing what they want.

      That probably would be one of the reasons why the average liberal is not a fan of capitalism, oligarchy etc but hardly tries to change the economical order, being keeped mostly docile. His revolutionary energy seems to be wasted on consummism and the more energetic liberals vigor is wasted on causes created more by people in charge that anything.

      Keeping the persons who, by temperament, have more of a chance to oppose the rich not believing in personal virtue is sure smart. The average leftist is angry about a lot of things but that anger is kinda useless. The trur revolutionary, like a Lenin, is usually almost a ascetic.

    7. Tom Cohoe,

      BTO, I guess for you, taking care of business is politicking

      I don't understand what this means. What's "taking care of business" in this context?

      (with the incredibly bad - and funny - logic of a typical political operator).

      The logic is bad, but it does raise the question: how good is a society if certain beings aren't allowed to thrive? A lot of Feser's arguments and blog posts are about how the Democratic party encourages disorder, but maybe some disorder is necessary for the greatest multiplicity of beings.

      This isn't a political site. Did you not notice? Truth is more interesting than politics, and seeking after it is more important.

      I am not a political person and I do seek to enter the state of having justified true belief, where true means corresponding to reality.

    8. Anonymous,

      Why would someone having an abortion in a society based on 'natural law' necessarily be put to death?

      I think the logic goes like this:

      1. All killing of innocent life merits the death penalty
      2. Abortion is the killing of innocent life
      3. Therefore abortion merits the death penalty

      But I am no natural law theorist. So someone can correct me if there is more to it.

    9. @Talmid

      The true revolutionary, like a Lenin, is usually almost a ascetic

      Read about the anarcho-communist revolutionary Mikhail Bakunin. He envisioned himself as being in a "priesthood of truth" and has interesting things to say about theism in God and the State

    10. Tryte, even if you deserve the death penalty that doesn't mean application follows necessarily.

    11. Tryte, and I would disagree that "1. All killing of innocent life merits the death penalty" I would say, for example, that an unintentional killing of an innocent life does not merit the death penalty.


    12. Even Dr. Feser, the guy that straight up writed a book on defence of capital punishment, has said before that Kant idea that every murder merits the death penalty is too much.

      And i do have to read about Bakunin someday, BTO, what i read about him and theism is not pretty, so i never bothered to know him. That and,you know, the communism* thing.

      *the ancaps from the 19th century

    13. @BalancedTryteOperators

      I have been sick and unable to reply for the last few days. But here is the reply that was almost finished before I got sick:

      "The logic is bad, but it does raise the question: how good is a society if certain beings aren't allowed to thrive? A lot of Feser's arguments and blog posts are about how the Democratic party encourages disorder, but maybe some disorder is necessary for the greatest multiplicity of being"

      Do you know the principal that between two opposing vices there is a virtuous mean? Between going too fast on the highway and going too slow there is a speed that is the right speed - the virtuous mean.

      So it is with order and disorder. Either by itself is vicious.

      This can be shown on an axis where a good house is the virtuous mean. Before it exists it is some well formed stacks of dimension lumber. This is the ordered extreme. The stacks of dimension lumber are useless as a home. If you went around forklifting pallets of dimension lumber onto building sites but never building anything that would be a bad vice. You'd soon go broke. So too much order is vicious.

      By building the house you reduce the uniformity. A few neatly stacked types of lumber get scattered through the house in different orientations and cut into different sizes. By increasing the disorder from the ordered extreme, we get a nice house, the virtuous mean.

      Let's keep increasing the disorder. Vandals can wreck a house pretty quickly. Smashing things into something far from the nice house. If they are in a hurry, they could simply throw in a stick of dynamite to move toward the disordered extreme.

      Clearly extreme disorder and extreme order are mutually opposed. You cannot move away from one without moving toward the other. So if you want something that is actually beneficial to humans or human society you need something between them. That's the virtuous mean.

      You went from an argument based on the extreme of disorder to "VOTE DEMOCRAT".
      That's still funny. If I was an honest Democrat, I wouldn't want that kind of argument being made on my behalf.

      BTW, while I was unable to respond, your avatar changed from BalancedTryteOperators to Infinite_Growth. That's not a good way to get people to feel that you are worth talking to.

      Tom Cohoe

  10. If the “Libertarian” is saying that all the individual apples can be bad, but the basket of apples could still be good, then I agree with the criticism of Libertarians in the OP. But if the Libertarian is merely saying that we need to choose our battles carefully, and that not every skirmish can be won, then the OP itself seems to implicitly agree because it expresses admiration for a man who was not a baptized Christian and is, therefore, not someone a Thomist can endorse completely.

    I, like Feser, am happy to affirm truth where it can be found, as shown in the OP, even when found coming from people who have some sometimes-serious faults. Does that make one a “Libertarian”?

    1. TN, I think the thesis is more that the Libertarian isn't merely saying we must choose our battles prudently. The Libertarian is saying we should never have rules against "relatively moderate" personal vices on the books, even if they are (in a given society because it is fairly wholesome) enforceable and not likely to cause obvious social disruptions. The Libertarian says those matters are per se out of bounds for political determinations.

    2. Tony,

      Maybe, but the desire to avoid legislating against "relatively moderate personal vices” is borne of a long and ugly history. Conservative societies, when lacking any counterweight, have and will prosecute minutia with unmitigated ferocity. BTO has that part right.

      Witch hunts, anyone?

    3. Conservative societies, when lacking any counterweight,

      It's true, but (a) conservative societies OFTEN DO have counterweights, and (b) liberal societies also have their witch-hunts: the current cancel culture is a prime example.

      As the late Zippy said repeatedly, there is no such thing as a state that doesn't legislate morality of sorts: to legislate is to legislate what SHALL be allowed and what SHALL NOT be allowed, and that inherently involves a stance (by the state) to view what shall not be allowed as "wrong" - if not wrong inherently, then at least wrong for this situation. No state can long endure if it does not do one of these 3: (i) strive to make its legislated morality internalized; (ii) constantly ramp up punishments (penal-inflation) to discourage disobedience; or (iii) constantly legislate against new ways people avoid prior legislation. The extent to which you reject doing (i) just is the extent to which you must rely on (ii) and (iii).

    4. Tony,

      Any society has no choice but to make rules about what is good and bad. I don’t think any “libertarian” is going to disagree. The question is one of degree and what is enforceable. Everyone will agree there should be laws punishing murder and/or theft, but what about laws punishing adultery? What about laws punishing heresy? Laws punishing missing mass? Laws punishing venial sin? Everyone is going to fall off somewhere along that continuum. The difference between the conservative and the libertarian is just one of degree.

    5. Any society has no choice but to make rules about what is good and bad. I don’t think any “libertarian” is going to disagree.

      Well, technically, there are "anarcho-libertarians" who would not agree...but they are a minority, so let's accept your point.

      The question is one of degree and what is enforceable.

      I think the difficulty is more than a disagreement of degree. I think it tends to be a difference of end-goal. The conservative Christian generally will view proper public laws as supporting BOTH of these: (a) the "common good" conceived as the end of the temporal order as such; AND (b) the life of the virtues insofar as conducive to heaven and the Beatific Vision. Though in different ways: the laws that are "conducive to" the latter NOT THROUGH being conducive to the former are generally made by encouragement rather than by penalty for infraction. Thus, for example, a Catholic State might have official, state-encouraged, Corpus Christi processions, which are then not mandatory.

      The libertarian generally opposes there being ANY laws or public acts like this, viewing even the intent to encourage behavior modeled for the supernatural end is, per se, off limits for the state. Proper laws only EVER address purpose (a) above, and treat (b) as utterly foreign to its nature and meaning. Indeed, they would (generally) oppose ANY official recognition of a religion in any form at all, even the (almost totally pro-forma) versions that prevailed in Europe in the years after WWII. I think that's more than just a difference of degree.

      Everyone will agree there should be laws punishing murder and/or theft, but what about laws punishing adultery?

      Heh. Since adultery materially and formally VIOLATES a legal contract, every state that recognizes marriage as a contract SHOULD enforce it with penalties for violation. Some US states still do, though only in the form of back-handed penalties (i.e. the victim spouse has more rights in divorce). Until 1969, EVERY state penalized adultery at least in this way. Just an observation.

    6. Tony,

      Fair enough. All this probably went further than I intended. I understand your points, but I’m just trying to look behind the curtain, so to speak, at what a libertarian means rather than the explanatory categories.

      By “conservative”, I actually meant a political category that doesn’t necessarily include religious content. I did use venial sin and other theological terms, but just because they came to mind as easy examples of mild “infractions” of social order. Non, or even anti, religious conservatives would not be motivated to move people toward the Beatific Vision per se but would still be more apt to desire greater social regulation if only for, as they see it, well-ordered human relations (which could be said to be a desire for the Beatific Vision without knowing it in an intellectual way).

      Every human being (libertarians included) has an opinion of what societies and their individual members ought to do, but they see themselves as having realistic limits on how far one can go in leading others to that vision. A libertarian may say “live and let live” to some behavior they consider wrong merely because they despair of any practical way to change it and think the damage is not worth worrying about (i.e. lacking in grave matter to put it in theological terms). But this surrender doesn’t mean they don’t have their vision of what a perfect world would look like.

      In any case, I get your points and I’ll chock up my confusion to the complexities of human interactions. Thanks for the discussion.

  11. But how have societies that have adopted Confucianism turned out? Japan and Korea value loyalty to family over all personal values. Thus, if you want to be an artist but your family (usually for economic reasons) doesn't approve then you give up your dream. In Korea they say individuals don't marry, families do. Find the girl of your dreams? Forget about it if your family doesn't approve. Blind loyalty to company and boss leads to long unproductive hours at work and a consequent sense of despair. Suicide rates are high in these countries.

    1. Birthrates in Japan and Korea are also among the lowest on earth.

      There is something deeply dysfunctional about cultures that don't reproduce themselves.

    2. Yea, the emphasis on the duties to the coletive is exagerated on these countries. One could say that it is a vice of excess while the modern individualistic west is something like the contrary vice?

    3. "Thus, if you want to be an artist but your family (usually for economic reasons) doesn't approve then you give up your dream. In Korea they say individuals don't marry, families do. Find the girl of your dreams? Forget about it if your family doesn't approve."

      I can't speak for Japan, but in Korea, this is increasingly untrue. Moreover, it's increasingly untrue in a way that is actually undermining many young lives. The new, westernized generation has embraced western-style emotion-focused relationships and "chasing your dreams," and as a result, have struggled to form stable lives. In other words, what you implicitly describe as a negative attribute of previous generations may actually have been a socially positive one.

      "Blind loyalty to company and boss leads to long unproductive hours at work and a consequent sense of despair."

      This is a fair criticism.

      "Suicide rates are high in these countries."

      Korea's suicide rates were not bad up until the IMF crisis. Moreover, suicide hits the elderly the hardest here, and for economic reasons. In other words, Westernization -- both economically and culturally -- seems to be the real root of Korea's suicide issue, not "Confucianism." This is evinced by the fact that suicide has become an increasing issue in direct proportion to how much Koreans have strayed away from Confucian thought and towards Western values.

      "Birthrates in Japan and Korea are also among the lowest on earth."

      True, but again, this reflects imported Western values, not Confucian ones. Korea's birthrate fell below replenishment about the same time that it started seriously educating women in a western, "career-focused" mode. Before then, large families were common.

      In short, Korea really does have its issues, but those issues are for the most part less based on "Confucianism," and more based on the ABSENCE of "Confucianism." Korea has benefited economically from Westernization, but it has struggled in cultural and human terms.

  12. I sat for 2 hours at the DMV yesterday. While there I was treated to a multitude of ads about local businesses. I had previously talked to that ad firm and knew that they would plug just abut anything EXCEPT Church.
    One voice from the sky (not on TV) says that we will not have peace until we recognize the reality of God.

    1. The reality of a triune God that would not have known what it was to be alone, until in the person of Jesus Christ he became that on the cross.

  13. Response elsewhere: https://notebuyer.livejournal.com/438976.html

  14.  Hi Talmid,

    You wrote: “Take a look on, say, medieval europe, these guys had a way more virtous culture and the average guy still was not of much value. One just has to look at the biography of some medieval saints to see that even the so-called christendom was not that great at producing virtue, the saints had to fight mediocre persons as much as they had to fight demons.”

    What you wrote reminds me of Stanley Hauerwas’ proposal.

    Are you familiar with Stanley Hauerwas? What do you think of his ideas about the task of the church (and its set of social ethics) in relation to the world?
    “I am…challenging the very idea that Christian social ethics is primarily an attempt to make the world more peaceable or just. Put starkly, the first social ethical task of the church is to be the church – the servant community. Such a claim may well sound self-serving until we remember what makes the church the church is its faithful manifestation of the peaceable kingdom in the world. As such the church does not have a social ethic; the church is a social ethic.”
    - Stanley Hauerwas, The Peaceable Kingdom: A Primer in Christian
    Ethics (Notre Dame, UNDP, 1983).

    “[T]he church does not have a social ethic; the church is a social ethic”. The church lives out, and is the embodiment of, an alternative social ethic that can be observed by the world. The church is the witness of Jesus’ teachings base on the narrative of Christological redemption.

    He wrote many books and publications about his approach.

    Part of Hauerwas’ ideas can be roughly described as:


    Every social ethic involves a narrative, whether it is concerned with the formulation of basic principles of social organization and/or with concrete policy alternatives.

    The primary social task of the church is to be the church - that is, a people who have been formed by a story of redemption that provides them with the skills for negotiating the danger of this existence. The church demonstrates to the world the alternative model of social ethics based on that Jesus-centered narrative of redemption.

    Christian social ethics can only be done from the perspective of those who do not seek to control national or world history but who are content to live in a context that is temporarily "out of control." [till the arrival of the eschaton, the “new heavens and the new earth”.

    The church does not exist to provide an ethos for democracy or any other form of social organization, but stands as a political alternative to every other nation, witnessing to the kind of social life possible for those that have been formed by the story of Christ.

    For example:

    (a) Instead of manipulating or pressuring politicians to ban abortion, the church can demonstrate their social ethics by the adoption of unwanted babies (encouraging pregnant women who wanted abortion to give birth and let the church community adopt their unwanted babies).

    (b) The church demonstrates Jesus’ teaching about loving one’s enemies by being the kind of persons that would rather be killed by enemies than to kill those enemies.

    (c) The church demonstrates Jesus’ teaching on “not storing up treasures on earth” but rather to sell possessions to help the poor as demonstrated by the Jerusalem church described in Acts chapter 4 and also in the first 300 years of church history.




    johannes y k hui

    1. Jesus to the Roman Procurator: "you would have no authority over me were it not given you from above."

    2. @reasonable

      Hi! I actually had never heard of Stanley before and i don't really agree much with him. While his attitude is close to what the early church did, the first christians had no choice at the time, they had no real power at first. When they had the option of changing things they did.

      I agree that what the Church exists for is winning souls for Our Lord and our primary means of acting should be to give the example, show in pratice what being a new creature means, of course. But while doing that there is no way to not try to change things somewhat. If one means to help slaves, obviously you are going to disrupt the social order that keeps they on this position. If you try to help pregnant women who are being tempted to abort, them you are going to fight abortion etc. While having any true power, one can't really pretend that the social situation does not exist and live with very contra-cultural values at the same time. That is libertarian nonsense, a very anti-christian position.

      My original post was more on the line than no matter what is done we will not have a society of saints. Even christian europe had a lot, a lot of bad people screwing the saints lifes. This means that Confucius goal was impossible, we need a bit of pragmatism if we want things to work. I'am more of a pessimist than a libertarian.

      Again, don't get me wrong, our goal is not to change politics but changing peoples hearts. But our goal neither is to feed the poor and we do that quite well because this flows from our goal. Catholic social teaching exists and i find it pretty cool, even if it is not our priority.

    3. Hi Talmid,

      I am focusing on these statements of yours: “While his attitude is close to what the early church did, the first christians had no choice at the time, they had no real power at first. When they had the option of changing things they did.”

      The ones who changed things were different persons from the ones who lived in the first two hundred years. So an immediate question is whether the later ones who held power and changed things were being unfaithful to the teachings of Jesus and the practices of the earlier Christians (eg the Jerusalem Christians). In other words: Were the later ones corrupted by power gradually when they became in a position of power?

      Does it mean that Christians should love their enemies and turn the other cheek only when they were powerless, but should stop that when they are in positions of power? (I know you would say no)

      Should Christians rely on the force of persuasion and demonstration when they are powerless, and rely more on power and coercion when they have become powerful?

      For example, the earlier Christians (eg those before AD250) would live out Jesus’ “love your enemy” by not taking up any military roles that involved killing people, and would “not store up treasures on earth” but instead would live out what Jesus said about heavenly treasures (eg “Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.” - Luke 12.33) by selling many possessions to pool resources to help the needy (“For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales and lay them at the apostles’ feet, and they would be distributed to each to the extent that any had need. Now Joseph, a Levite of Cyprian birth, who was also called Barnabas by the apostles (which translated means Son of Encouragement), owned a tract of land. So he sold it, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.” - Acts 4.32-37).

      Their lives manifested what James’ letter reads: “PURE and UNDEFILED religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself UNSTAINED by the world.” (James 1.27). Other documents written around AD100 to 200 also painted a similar picture.

      The question is: Did the later more powerful Christians who used power to change things become unfaithful to the ethos and practices found among the relatively powerless Christians of the first 250 years? Ironically, was the earlier powerless Christians actually showing real divine power THROUGH THEIR WEAKNESS, while the later powerful ones actually lost true divine power THROUGH THEIR WORLDLY POWER & WEALTH?

      Perhaps Christians should not be STAINED BY, or conform to, the worldly authorities in using power/coercion to achieve their agendas, but instead to use persuasion, arguments and DEMONSTRATION for real transformation of hearts instead.


      johannes y k hui

    4. Not all early christians were pacifists, Tertulian mentions that some christians did use violence along with the romans:

      "We are not Indian Brahmins or Gymnosophists, who dwell in woods and exile themselves from ordinary human life. We do not forget the debt of gratitude we owe to God, our Lord and Creator; we reject no creature of His hands, though certainly we exercise restraint upon ourselves, lest of any gift of His we make an immoderate or sinful use. So we sojourn with you in the world, abjuring neither forum, nor shambles, nor bath, nor booth, nor workshop, nor inn, nor weekly market, nor any other places of commerce. We sail with you, and fight with you, and till the ground with you; and in like manner we unite with you in your traffickings—even in the various arts we make public property of our works for your benefit. How it is we seem useless in your ordinary business, living with you and by you as we do, I am not able to understand."

      He clearly says "We sail with you, and fight with you, and till the ground with you". The "fight" part is probably talking about the army. The christians at Tertulian time were not all pacifists them.

      What your analysis is missing is remember than there are acts, like selling all you have or being celibate, than are very good but are not obligatory:https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supererogation

      The catholic church teaches than not all christians need to never use force, sell everything etc and as a member i accept that. While living that way is great and our saints aways offer amazing examples, not everyone is called to this life. Both the higher souls and the more "common" believers are all part of the same team and that is okay.

    5. Hi Talmid,

      I did not say all early Christians were pacifists. But all (or at least the overwhelming majority, if you can find one writer that is an exception before AD250) of the writings of the pre-AD250 Christian teachers/leaders, on the topic of Christians serving in the military, were against Christians taking up roles that involved killing people.

      There were of course Christians who were disobedient to the teachings of their church leaders, just as in the Apostle Paul’s days, there were Christians who went against Paul’s teachings. So the existence of Christian soldiers around AD200 onwards would not count against the point that the predominant/uniform teaching of the earliest Christian leaders were against Christians taking up roles that involved killing people.

      Tertullian’s clear and unambiguous words should take priority over the ambiguous text you quoted. His clear words against Christians taking up roles that involve killing others includes these:

      “Shall it be held lawful to make an occupation of the sword, when the Lord proclaims that he who uses the sword shall perish by the sword? And shall the son of peace take part in the battle when it does not become him even to sue at law? And shall he apply the chain and the prison and the torture and the punishment who is not the avenger even of his own wrongs? … How will a Christian man war, nay, how will he serve even in peace, without a sword, which the Lord has taken away?”

      “How will a Christian man participate in war? It is true that soldiers came to John [the Baptist] and received the instructions for conduct. It is true also that a centurion believed. Nevertheless, the Lord afterward, in disarming Peter, disarmed every solider.”

      The ambiguous passage you quoted should be interpreted to be coherent with Tertullian’s clear passages.

      One historian puts it this way: “While being an uncompromising antimilitarist, Tertullian speaks of Christian soldiers. In his in-group polemics he criticizes them, but in his apologetics for a non-Christian audience, these same soldiers are presented as a proof of Christian loyalty toward Roman society.” So your passage at most serves to be a descriptive passage describing what was happening and does not represent Tertullian’s approval on all the phenomena he described. The point of his passage was that Christians were not hermits but were active participants and contributors in society.

      In addition, “fight with you” may not mean a literal fight or killing. Look at Origen passage where “fight” means prayer and “army” means “army of prayer”:

      Origen: “None fights better for the king than we do. We do not indeed fight under him, although he require it; but we fight on his behalf, forming a special army—an army of piety—by offering our prayers to God.… If all the Romans, according to the supposition of Celsus, embrace the Christian faith, they will, when they pray, overcome their enemies; or rather, they will not war at all, being guarded by that divine power which promised to save five entire cities for the sake of 50 people.”

      The fact remains that for the first 250 years, the Christian teachers and thinkers’ writings showed to be PREDOMINANTLY, if not uniformly, against Christians taking up military or any roles that involve killing people.
      [They were Christian soldiers around AD200 onwards but we need to be careful: We have at least one early Christian text around that time teaching that Christians can take up military roles that DO NOT involve killing. So some of these Christian soldiers might be serving in roles that did not involve killing enemies. Also, there probably existed Christians who did not follow the teachings of the church leaders, just as there were Christians in Paul’s lifetime in the Pauline churches who were disobedient to the Apostle Paul.]


      johannes y k hui

    6. Hi Talmid,

      On your other point:

      Are Jesus’ teaching on wealth meant for all his followers or only for some?

      Jesus’ teaching regarding wealth and selling possessions, were presented by the Gospels to be intended NOT only for some Christians and not other Christians. The Gospel writers presented it as a teaching intended fit all who wants to follow Jesus. For example: “So then, NONE OF YOU can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.” (Luke 14.33)
      (BTW, it is not selling ALL possessions but setting aside what is in excess of basic needs to help the needy and suffering. Setting side them does not mean getting rid of them immediately).

      This was how the early church in Acts understood it as shown by their action of selling possessions and pooling resources to help the needy in Acts 4.32-37.

      Even the other early church leaders/teachers understood it that way:

      “We who once took most pleasure in the means of increasing our wealth and property now bring what we have into a COMMON FUND and share with everyone in need.” – Justin Martyr, c.150 AD

      “They [the Christians] take his [Jesus’] instructions completely on faith, with the result that they despise all worldly goods and hold them in COMMON OWNERSHIP.” - Lucian, in his writing against Christianity, c.170AD]

      “SHARE EVERYTHING with your brother. Do not say, ‘It is PRIVATE PROPERTY.’ If you share what is everlasting, you should be that much more willing to share things which do not last.” – The Didache, c. 100AD

      “That expression, therefore, “I possess, and possess in abundance: why then should I not enjoy?” is suitable neither to the man, nor to society... He [God] has determined that the use [of all things] should be common. And it is monstrous for one to live in luxury, while many are in want.” - Clement of Alexandria, 150-215 AD

      “And ALL THE BELIEVERS [the writer did not present it as “some of the believers”] were together and had ALL THINGS IN COMMON; and they would sell their property and possessions and share them with all, to the extent that anyone had need.” - Acts 2.44-45

      “If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content. But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction.” - Paul in 1 Tim 6.8-9 [a teaching for ALL his audience, not just for some]


      johannes y k hui

    7. The number of early christians who even commented on serving the army is like, 3. Seriously, find to me 5 early christians talking about it. So i don't see why exactly it has to be taken as irrefutable evidence of pacifism, specially when we have clear evidence of christians on the army, like on Marcus Aurelius expeditions. Maybe all who commented were pacifists because they disagreed with the christian soldiers and finded necessary to attack the pratice, while the ones who finded it okay never bothered to defend it, for there were already christians on the army. It is a very small sample to say you have consensus.

      The evidence we have is at most that christians were divided on serving on the army and that the non-pacifists won when the idolatry objection to being a soldier was no more after paganism was not the state religion. If there were several fathers attacking being a soldier and no positive interaction with soldiers in the New Testament them one could give your view a reading, but we find exactly the oposite: only two fathers commenting on it(and a heretic) and several examples on Scripture of Our Lord, St. John the Baptist, St. Peter and St. Paul interacting with soldiers(like centurions) and never attacking their position.

      About Tertulian, thinking that he meant prayer when he talked about fighting is very weird for all the other examples he gave were common pratical actions that the pagans he intended to persuate would understand. If he was trying to show to pagans that christians were helpful on war and all he could show was prayer them he would not have suceded. Besides, you are using Origen, kinda of a latter writer, to argue to that interpretation, so yea...

      One has to remember that Tertulian first quote, the one i used, is from the Apology, were he was very likely not a montanist: https://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0301.htm

      His second quote, the one you used, is from the De Corona, where he was probably already a montanist: https://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0304.htm

      That distinction between Tertulian the christian and Tertulian the heretic should not be ignored like it is on the historian quote you brought up. Being honest, i could not care less about what a heretic says, he being a important christian before is not important.

      About Our Lord teaching on wealth, of course it is for all christians, but what the teaching is? His Church teaches that we should never care about wealth, should never get it by disonest means and should use our excess to help the poor. This fits well with cases were Our Lord interacted with rich believers and did not demand to they to give all the have and become poor. One example of that is His interaction with Zacchaeus on Luke 19. The rich mean case is a exception who shows that SOME are called to poverty, not all.

      Just to be clear, what i'am saying is: it is okay to christians to use violence on certain contexts or being soldiers, policemen etc. It is also not necessary to a christian to sell absolutely all he have and getting poor franciscan style. There are better souls who are called to pacifism and poverty, but not all are. This is what the catholic church, Our Lord Church, teaches and all i'am doing is to defend what is defended for a loooong time.

      Between the Church and a private opinion, one should trust Our Lord words and go with His Church.

  15. The Church does what it can, when it can. Some popes once commanded armies, some once commanded kings. Up until the early 60s, the Catholic Church was quite influential in American politics. All that is no more. But we have God's promise that the "gates of hell shall not prevail" against the Church.

  16. I doubt whether the strange use of foul language in English, and other oddities in comments around the place, really results in somebody coming across convincingly as a Lusophone.