The Dead End of “Think-Tank” Christianity
If indeed the “smoke of Satan” be identical with the uber-heresy of modernism, then truly it has entered the Church, as a pope once prophesied, and it has clouded all our vision. For at the heart of modernism is a manifold skepticism about spiritual matters. We are familiar with its appearance in atheists but less so in ourselves. It is the proverbial beam in the eye. A certain species of this modernism is found among the Catholic intelligentsia. They are faithful and devout. And they know their faith better than most. But they stay far away from whatever is less intellectually “respectable.” Charismatic renewal is not popular with this set. Nor is prophecy—nor apparitions of any kind—nor any form of private revelation. Nor anything involving maracas and tambourines.
I know them quite well. Many of my closest friends are proud card-carrying members of the club. The two books I penned were intended largely for them. But for all their virtue and intellect, they nevertheless carry with them an Achilles heel. It’s a certain contempt for the spiritual. “Contempt” is not really the right word. “Embarrassment” is more accurate.
In a world suffering from a pandemic of modernism, it’s tough to speak about miracles or guardian angels or whatnot. It poses a real threat to one’s reputation to dwell on such things. For the club, acceptable discussion topics include such things as economics, politics, and news. Policy—anything that could have a policy or be associated with policy is safe ground.
But here is the danger of this spiritual embarrassment for my chums and me. Send any one of us in a time machine back to the Biblical episode when David did his happy dance around the ark of the covenant, and we would have laughed our heads off—right along with David’s wife Michal, who was consequently punished by God for her imprudence. And if God punished David’s wife for her embarrassment, what then should become of us? Jesus answered this question for us:
Allow me to trace what I see as three major pitfalls to an overly intellectual approach to Christianity by raising three questions:
- What about Jonah?
- What about Gamaliel?
- What about Conversion?
What About Jonah?
One manifestation of this embarrassment about the spiritual concerns private revelation. Private revelation concerns those mystical apparitions, prophecies, and other revelations that took place after the death of the last Apostles and authors of Sacred Scripture. Famous examples of private revelation include the many Marian apparitions such as Fatima and Lourdes. Even if approved by the Church as worthy of belief, it is not necessary to believe such private revelations as coming from God. On the other side of the coin is public revelation. The canon of Sacred Scripture constitutes the domain of public and Divine revelation, and, as true followers of Christ, we are bound to accept it and adhere to its teachings. Thus, in the Catholic Church, there are two kinds of officially approved revelation, one private, the other public. We are bound by our faith to accept the latter, but not the former. Nevertheless, the hallmark of any species of revelation is that it has some form of official approval from the necessary authorities.
The Miracle of the Sun
However, in the realm of private revelation there is a species that is not approved. I’m here referring, not to alleged revelations that have been condemned. One could argue that condemned revelations are no revelation at all. Instead, I mean to describe alleged private revelations that have received no formal judgment at all. All private revelations start out in this category. Intellectuals are divided on the issue of private revelation. Some accept only those that are officially approved. Hardliners pay no attention even to approved private revelations.
What is interesting about those who accept only the approved variety is that many of them are some of the most ardent devotees of such Marian apparitions as Fatima: In 1917, three young Portuguese visionaries announced publicly that the Virgin Mary promised that a miracle would take place during the apparition of October 13th. About 100,000 people showed up to the site and were not disappointed. All reported seeing the sun “dance” and do other amazing acrobatics in the sky.
The point I have made to my intellectual friends who only accept approved apparitions and decidedly ignore the unapproved, is that, if they had been alive at the time, they would have missed the miracle of the sun that so consumes them. For, at the time of the apparition, Fatima was not approved.
If we turn to the Bible we will note that none of Jesus’ miracles were approved. Lots of them were actually condemned by the Jewish authorities. Moses and Elijah were not preapproved either. In fact, it is an intriguing character trait of authentic revelation that they are rarely approved by the authorities in power at the time. Jonah provides a powerful counterexample to the notion that it is safe to disregard all “private revelation.”
So why does God send so many unapproved miracles and apparitions if the only acceptable response to them is to ignore them? Clearly, God does NOT want us to ignore them. And the prophets are a prime example. If all the academics, canon lawyers, pundits, and all the intelligentsia in Nineveh had gotten together to tell everyone to ignore Jonah, because, you know, he’s not approved, NINEVEH WOULD HAVE BEEN DESTROYED.
Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not recommending that we follow every mystic and visionary claiming to have a revelation from God. There’s a lot of fraud out there. But neither should we be so quick to ignore or condemn them all.
What About Gamaliel’s Warning. Are We Fighting God?
Then there’s the danger that the rabbi Gamaliel warned about in the Acts of the Apostles. One needs to be careful about all this fighting amongst ourselves. As Gamaliel stated, if one of our brothers is truly from God, then to oppose such a brother is to oppose God himself. Intransigent opposition to all private revelations means that, eventually, you’re going to come up against the genuine article—a real prophet or visionary. The Bible shows us that the outlook is bad for one who opposes a true servant of God. Just look at the priests that opposed Elijah. Or the pharaoh that opposed Moses.
Thus, the only conclusion one can come to is that such opposition is not born of an authentic Christian disposition, but of something else. It is typically the common disposition of those that are embarrassed by the spiritual and supernatural in a culture that is mocking and contemptuous of these things.
What About Conversion?
When you read the lives of the saints and of the ancient Christians you notice how distinctive their lives were. This is no longer the case. The life of a Christian is hardly distinguishable from that of an atheist. The secular consumer culture is what is dominant and what defines most people today. It’s all about the World Series and the Super Bowl (Who’s doing the halftime show?). Or the Grammys. The Oscars. Everyone’s trying to keep up with the Kardashians.
It is a cultural ethos that places a premium on entertainment and pleasure. Conversion and penance are passé. This is less about embarrassment than it is about poor formation as Christians, even among the best educated. We have absorbed by cultural osmosis the modernist assumption that I’m Okay, You’re Okay. Sin is not a dominant preoccupation any longer.
A New Year’s Resolution at New Walden
Our distracted and truncated spiritual lives (how many of us even have a spiritual life any longer?) have taken a toll whether we can see this clearly or not. From the looks of social media posts on such venues as “Catholic Twitter” one finds an alarming increase in the number of posts of despair—Christians struggling with depression, anxiety—Christians crying out for help. One famous example involves the traditionalist founder of OnePeterFive, Steve Skojec. He recently reported struggling with “antipathy towards God.” That’s not a good sign. But it’s an important sign that things need to change and that the answers we seek from religion will not be found among the tribalist partisan camps.
A survey of the spiritual landscape among the faithful has inspired a new year resolution for NewWalden. It is positively hazardous to neglect the “less respectable” dimensions of our Catholic faith. So here at NewWalden, we are going to become “less respectable.” We are going to take the spiritually messy and embarrassing parts of the faith more seriously. And one practical way that this will happen is with a brand new podcast debuting in a few days. It’s called The Watchman. And the first episode concerns a startling but overlooked fact in the realm of the supernatural: Back in 2016, the “end of the world”—or the “Apocalypse”—was predicted on three separate occasions. One of those predictions came from Medjugorje, the world-famous site of ongoing Marian apparitions. And what is amazing about these predictions is that so much of what they predicted actually came true:
- A giant earthquake in Quito, Ecuador
- Devastating fires in the Amazon and Australia.
- The worship of Pachamama at St. Peter’s Basilica
- The outbreak of the Covid pandemic
- AND … the outcome of the 2016 World Series
These 2016 prophecies continue to accurately predict the events taking place right now around the world, but especially the great cataclysmic events taking place inside the Catholic Church.
How do I know so much about these prophecies? Because I was one the prophets. (And I can prove it.) Back in 2016, however, I didn’t understand the meaning of the message that I had been given. Now I do. Now I understand that the Lord revealed to me many things concerning ancient Biblical prophecies that are being fulfilled right now, in our time:
- the revelation of the antichrist
- the meaning of 666
- How to resist the “mark of the beast.”
This is not clickbait. For the past few years I have taken an intellectual and rational approach to Christianity. But recent events have convinced me that this is not enough. God makes prophets for a reason.
Don’t miss this series.
Coming to NewWalden