Lesson 6- Eusebius And Pragmatism And Marx
In previous programs we have been exploring the basic difference between human beings and animals. Although some evangelicals might be uncomfortable with the idea of there being an animal dimension to our nature, the Church, because it developed in a philosophical environment, from the earliest time recognized that our flesh was related to the animal kingdom. To summarize and emphasize this point, I would like to quote from a document, entitled Against the Pagans and the Roots of Christianity, written by Eusebius, an early historian of the Church who was born in 264 A.D. In these documents, he explains why he and others chose to follow the religious traditions of the Hebrews by becoming Christians rather than the religious traditions of the pagan Greeks, Phoenicians, and Egyptians. Listen to his words and youll get a sense of how the early pagans, Hebrews, and Christians viewed the world and also how relevant his words are to todays world. Eusebius begins by saying.
The Pagan Failure by Eusebius of Caesarea. 264 A.D.
From the first moments of organized life until later ages, all the rest of men (other than the Hebrews) put their trust only in bodily perceptions, and because of this they knew nothing of the soul within them, nor did they believe in the existence of anything more than visible reality. They recognized beauty, right and goodness only in terms of bodily pleasure. This alone was worth striving for since it alone was good, pleasant, sweet, and sufficient to be the greatest of the gods, and they placed no value on life if it lacked a share in the pleasure of the body. They welcomed life, not for the living of it but for the pleasure during it. And they recommended this to their children as being the only good. (god)
The head of the bioethics department at a major university has been nicknamed, Dr. Pleasure, by the press because he has stated that no living thing, human or non human, should be killed as long as it was having pleasure. But the moment its life became painful then it should be killed. The pro-abortion movement, in essence, is talking about the same thing when they talk of the "quality of life" as opposed to the "sanctity of life."
In his book "Ideals of Life" (Wiley, 1954) Miller S. Everett, professor of philosophy at Oklahoma A & M suggests that "when public opinion is ready for it no child should be allowed to live who be certain to suffer social handicap." Need they put it more bluntly. If your life is going to have crosses instead of ongoing pleasure, youd be better off dead.
Eusebius continues: Out of this grew the belief among certain people that the sun, moon, and stars direct the life of the body (astrology). Becoming somewhat frightened by the sight of their light, they called these the first gods and said they were the sole cause of all existence. Others, again, gave the name of gods to the fruits of the earth and also to moisture, dryness, warmth and the remaining elements of the world, since bodies which were nourished and fattened by these could pursue the life of the flesh and the life of pleasure.
Today, the growth of astrology and New Age practices even among Christians is amazing. There once was a psychic on television who invited the viewers to call in to receive guidance for their lives. When the FCC closed her down for making false claims, she had already collected $500 million and had other outstanding accounts totaling $4 billion. Can you believe it? Rational beings, in the 21st Century, made in the "image and likeness of God" going to the stars and planets for guidance. Even on our college campuses there is a growing defection of students from the traditional religions to the New Age Movement and the Wicca religion, which identifies itself with witchcraft, both of which involve a trend towards Nature Worship.
Eusebius continues: Much earlier than these people were others who openly and without concealment made gods of their own passions and deified the pleasure which ruled them- desires, longing, and erotic love - and they said that even the gods themselves were conquered by these (e.g. Ancient Greeks).
Albert Einstein once noted that the Hebrews or Jews were the first people to unite religion with morality. We are so used to connecting religion with morality that we cant imagine that they dont necessarily go together. I will have more to say about this later. Most of the gods of the Ancient World were either amoral, in that they didnt care about morality, or immoral, in that they themselves were involved in all those practices which humans considered immoral. The Greek gods lied, stole, betrayed, fornicated, committed adultery etc. It was Yahweh, the Jewish God, who was moral in His outlook. He was concerned with moral behavior. He detested the oppression of widows and orphans. Through His prophets he called for social justice and insisted that his followers commit themselves to the world as it should be and not to the world as it is.
According to Eusebius: Some gave divine status to certain rulers and lords, the ones who provided them with pleasure. They did so because of the well-being these rulers had established.
I believe that we are all familiar with the fact that some of the Roman emperors declared themselves gods and demanded the worship of their subjects. In facts, both Jews and Christians suffered death in the Coliseum for refusing. However, what about the former Soviet Union and Communist China where the cult of personality has led to the perpetual embalming of Lenins body to be viewed, like a Christian saint, by the faithful and the portraits and statues of Lenin, Marx, and Mao Tse Tsung have become holy icons in Communist countries? Where Catholic schools have pictures of Jesus and crucifixes, these countries have pictures of their secular gods.
And what were the consequences, according to Eusebius, in the ancient world of this deification of Pleasure and those who provided it? He writes:
The whole race of man was thus enslaved, as if by a harsh and very cruel mistress. It was enslaved by the goddess Pleasure, or rather by the most shameful and licentious demon, and it was overwhelmed by miseries of every kind. Its women, as the holy apostle (Paul) said, exchanged the natural function of womanhood for that which was unnatural. The same was true of its men. They abandoned natural intimacy with women and burned with passion for one another. Men performed deeds of shame with men, and they each took in return the reward that was due to their sin.
Thus did the Greeks and barbarians, the wise and the unlearned, incline to earthly and lowly appetites. They bowed down in adoration of pleasure, as though it was a god, and they threw themselves low, like things that crawl. And regarding the theology of the other races there was, to put the matter briefly, the same variety. It developed from the one unholy and abominable principle of pleasure, and like a many-necked Hydra, it branched off into numerous and varied divisions and parts. Because they had plunged into such wrongdoing, evil was heaped upon them, and this continued as long as pleasure was their god and their evil demon, as long as their whole lives were polluted by frenzied lust for women, by corruption among men, by marriage with one's mother and intercourse with one's daughter, and as long as wild and animal nature was under the sway of superabundant wickedness. Such, then, was the condition of the ancient people.
Its hard to imagine that this was written around 1800 years ago when the Church was still fighting to survive because there are so many things that he says that are applicable to our modern day society. If we arent there yet, we are certainly moving in that direction.
Eusebius now turns to describe how the Hebrews differed from other groups in the ancient world. This section is called The Roots of Christianity and it explains why many in the ancient world converted to Christianity whose roots were in Judaism. He writes:
The Roots of Christianity But if you consider the life of the ancients, you will notice the facts that only one people, the children of the Hebrews, pursued a course opposite of these. Among all mankind they were the first and only people who, from the first generations, lifted up their minds in rational speculation. With a pious disposition, they inquired into the nature of the universe (e.g. modus operandi). The primary material elements out of which the whole universe is made, and also the sun, moon, and the stars-these they said were not gods but the works of God. They saw that material beings, insofar as they are destructible and mortal, are by nature not merely irrational but also lacking in the possession of a soul. Furthermore, they understood the impossibility of assuming that a soulless principle had created beings possessed of soul or that the maker of rational creatures was Himself irrational (arational). No house of wood or stone could build itself of its own accord. No clothing could be made without the agency of a weaver, no cities or countries could exist without law and administrative government, nor could a ship sail without a pilot. The tiniest instrument of art could not come to be without the guidance of a good steersman. Being soulless and irrational, the nature of the universal elements is such that it will never tend toward reason and life (evolution) through the action of itself and apart from the most exalted Wisdom of God. Such were the thoughts of the fathers of Hebrew piety, with purified intellect and with the clear insight of the soul, they were led by the greatness and beauty of the universe to worship God, the creator of all things.
When Albert Einstein said that all he ever wanted to do was to know the mind of God, he was speaking in the best Jewish tradition. Science for him was a religious experience because he knew that he was viewing the mind of God in the natural laws that he discovered. In contrast, Professor Hawkins, a leading physicist today, leans towards an accidental universe which, although lacking a rational mind to create it, nevertheless was able to produce beings that had rational minds. The Bible says, "The fool says in his heart there is no god" and, if it is true, then not all fools are high school dropouts.
And how did their belief system affect the Hebrew people? According to Eusebius:
Then they saw that they themselves formed an important part of the universe. They believed that some part of themselves was precious (that this was the "real man", known only by the spirit), and that it was enclosed in the body. And having made this kind of distinction between the outer world of the flesh and the inner world of the spirit, they gave all their attention and zeal to the inner life of man.
From this starting point, they came to the conclusion that the body and the pleasures of the body should be honored no more than other earthly creatures. Instead they were eagerly attentive to the ruling (spiritual) principle within them, since it was related to God, the universe ruler. They were attentive to the rational, intellectual element of the soul, which on account of its divine character and its capacity for knowledge bore a likeness to the God of all.
Perhaps, you might recall that in a previous talk I said that the Jews considered every human being to have two dimensions: the flesh which ate bread and was destined to die, and the spirit, that ate Wisdom and was destined for eternal life. One of their terms for Wisdom was Bread of Life and that is why Jesus said, I am the Bread of Life (or Wisdom). He who comes to Me shall not hunger. He who believes in me shall not thirst and I will raise you up on the last day. Or, Unless you eat my Body and drink my Blood, you shall not have life within you. Or, I have come that you might have life, and have it more fully. Because of this belief, the Jews considered anyone who fed the body and starved the soul was a person whose own foolishness had condemned them. Perhaps, now we can better understand why Justin, a Christian living in the year 105 A.D. could say that all rational men were Christians whether they knew it or not. Of course, the other side of that coin is that men who are not rational are not Christians.
So why, according to these ancient Hebrews, did God make us and how should we live our lives? Eusebius tells us:
Furthermore, they judged that no good existed other than the God who provided all good, and they claimed that knowledge of Him and friendship with Him was the ultimate happiness because He alone was the source of life itself, of soul and body and of all that was related to these. Therefore, they gave themselves, body and soul, completely to Him, so that their whole life would depend on Him. They were satisfied that they should devote themselves only to Him and to none of the things that are seen.
It seems that this is the same answer that we were taught in the Baltimore Catechism when we were children. Why did God make you? went the question and the answer was: God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world and to be happy with Him forever in the next. Its the answer to the ultimate question: What is the purpose of human life? And, as we know, a thing is good or bad according to how well it serves its purpose.
So what does a person act and look like when they start to look at the world from the perspective of the ancient Hebrews? Eusebius concludes his document by saying:
And thus they appeared as men who loved God and who were loved by Him, as true servants and priests of the highest God. They were thought worthy of being called a chosen and royal race, a priestly caste of God and a holy people, and they left to their descendents a seed of that piety which is true Do you not therefore think it reasonable that we (Christians) honor them more than the Greeks, and that we have accepted the histories of pious Hebrews rather than the gods of the Phoenicians and Egyptians and the evil absurdities concerning these gods?
Eusebius has just told us why he and the Christians of his time accepted Christianity and the impact that such a belief system had on their lives. And since we claim to be the descendents of that "seed of piety which is true", his last paragraph is a description of what all believers should be. "If the shoe fits, put it on!" If it doesnt, why not?
But is being a rational being enough? The devil, according to the Bible, was an Angel of Light, which meant that he was one of the smartest of Gods creatures. Yet, he fell from heaven when he rebelled against God. Thus, not only must the mind be right but so also must the heart. It seems that a proud heart will corrupt even a good mind and turn a rational creature into a clever sinner. I volunteered as a teacher for four years in local prisons and I met some of the brightest people there. The only problem was that they used their intelligence to con and abuse other people. When it came to what they wanted the were pure pragmatist who used clever immoral means" to attain their ends.
As I ended my last program, I was beginning to talk about the philosophy of Pragmatism which, as I suggested, is more connected to our rational nature rather than to our animal one. Although animals are pragmatic in solving problems of survival, - for example, chimpanzee will stack box to reach food but they dont seem to be able to create the multitude of intellectual goals that the human mind can. Pragmatism is connected to our ability to set ends for ourselves and to develop strategies to reach those ends. This ability is basically good but, as with most things, can be a source of evil when misused.
If the guiding principle in Pragmatism is whatever works or helps one to reach your goal is good and whatever prevents you from reaching your goal is bad, then how shall we answer the question Is lying good or bad? The obvious answer, pragmatically speaking, is that if lying helps you to reach your goal, it is good; if it prevents you from reaching your goal, then it would be bad." However, we know that lying is basically bad because the purpose of speech is to communicate information and lying communicates misinformation. Therefore, it is a sin because it misses the mark or purpose of speech.
The problem arises because we havent distinguished between the means and the the ends. Means refers to whatever we use to reach a goal, while the end is the goal which we are seeking. It seems reasonable to assume that people generally seek ends or goals which, from their point of view, are good. Therefore, is it acceptable to use an immoral means to seek a good goal? In other words, does a moral end justify an immoral means?
Let me give you a few examples. Suppose a group of demonstrators in a poor, crime ridden area are protesting the fact that a number of little girls have been attacked by a sexual predator and, so far, the police have been unable to catch him. To register their protest, they block a city street and demand that the mayor place a higher priority on the case. Their protest attracts some young men who decide to join the demonstration. However, they are not content with just blocking traffic, instead they start to harass the drivers. They begin to rock the cars, drag one man out, and set it on fire. Police reinforcements arrive and the fire department is called. By this time, criminal elements have joined the crowd and stores are being looted and firebombed. Shots have been fired on both sides and the fire is now out of control since the firefighters are unable to attack the fire because they are being attacked by lawless elements within the mob. A minor war has begun and the mayor is told that this could spread unless the communitys demand for some results in finding the sexual predator are forthcoming. The mayor, wishing to stop the carnage, which is a good end, tells the chief of police to find some derelict, who has no known relatives, and to beat a confession out of him. The police follow orders and that night on television it is announced that the sexual predator has been found and he has confessed. The community is appeased and the rioting begins to stop.
Now the question here is whether the end justifies the means. Obviously, stopping a riot is a good "end" but beating a confession out of an innocent man is bad.
So, may we use bad means to accomplish a good end? The pragmatist says, Yes! The Church says No! Both your ends and your means must be moral.
In case you think that my example is far fetched, let me tell you a true story. A number of years ago in Philadelphia a Hispanic family, living in a predominantly working class white neighborhood was firebombed while they were sleeping. The entire family was burned to death. The next day, the mayor, fearing an uprising by the Hispanic community, informed the police that he would be favorably disposed towards any policemen who would find the perpetrator of this crime. Within a short period, the police announced that they had a nineteen-year-old boy who had confessed to the crime and everybody breathed a little bit easier. That is, except for a lawyer friend of mine who was appointed to defend the accused.
The fifteen-page confession, which the police claimed was dictated, read, and signed by the accused, was problematic. It was obvious that the wording and phrasing was far beyond his ability. When his former teachers were asked if he were capable of dictating, reading, and signing such a document, they said No! Then it was discovered that another person had confessed to the crime but had been turned away by the police. What else could they do? How could they explain a fifteen-page confession from an innocent person without admitting that they had beaten it out of him?
Now their quick solution to the case had possibly prevented a riot in the Hispanic community but the means they used was to force an innocent person to confess.
My lawyer friend not only got his client released but he also had the detectives involved tried in federal court for violating the civil rights of his clients. Later, he also won financial compensation from the state for the time that his client spent in prison. Im sure that if the truth was known that many innocent people have been convicted based on evidence produce by pragmatically minded policemen and prosecutors who believed that the end justifies the means.
Probably the most famous Pragmatist was Karl Marx, the philosophical spokesman for Communism, who claimed that he was a Scientific Pragmatist. Although we have vilified and demonize both Marx and Communism, the truth is that he considered his communist society to be a utopian paradise for the workers who were being oppressed by greedy capitalist businessmen. In his eyes, his end, the formation of a classless society, was morally good and much preferable to Capitalism which exploited the working class. At the time when he was writing, the mid 1800s, child labor combined with long hours and starvation wages, was a reality. At the same time, the business classes were reaping fantastic profits which they often spent on extravagant living. Pope Leo XIII wrote an encyclical on social justice which condemned the injustices of the time. Eventually, the workers formed unions to deal with these problems and a graduated income tax was instituted in this country to drain off excessive wealth so that the government might redistribute it through social welfare programs.
Marx, however, thought that nothing short of the revamping the entire Western culture could solve the problem of social injustice. He wanted to abolish "private property" and replace it with communal ownership and that is why his movement is called Communism. Idealistically, he wanted a society in which "everyone would work according to their ability and receive according to their needs." In other words, a doctor with no children would receive less than a janitor with five children. Now, even the most ardent anti-Communist must admit that this is a very idealistic society which would require very idealistic people to run it. In fact, the only communist that I know are Catholic nuns who live in communities in which everyone works according to their ability and receives according to their needs.
The Churchs major opposition to Communism was not because it opposed anybody working according to their ability and receiving according to their needs since this has also been a Christian ideal. Rather, they opposed forcing this upon people since one of our natural law rights is the right to private property. They also were opposed to Communism because Marx was a militant atheist who believed that religion should either be eliminated or strictly controlled by the state. A third reason was because the Communists were committed to the violent overthrow of existing societies and the philosophy of pragmatism. What this means became clear to me after speaking with an older teacher when I first began teaching.
She told me that she was a young college student during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Being young and idealistic, she joined many demonstrations demanding that the unemployed be given jobs. Often these demonstrations were led by labor organization which, unknown to her and the rest of the students were Communist front organization. She said that a large group of them would mass outside of a factory and begin to demand that the factory owner agree to employ a certain number of workers. The police would show up on mounted horses to control the crowd. Often, they would be in the center of the crowd, surrounded by the student demonstrators. Later she learned that if they succeeded in getting the factory owner to agree to hire a few workers, the Communist among them would go up behind a mounted policeman and jam a lit cigarette into the rear of the horse. The horse would rear up and bolt and demonstrators would be trampled. Some were seriously injured and the crowd, not knowing what the Communist agitator had done, would blame the police. They would drag the policeman off his horse and the riot was on.
What the students didnt know was that the real aim of the communist was not the acquiring of job for unemployed workers but, rather, the creation of a violent revolution that would lead to the overthrow of Capitalist society. As Mao Tse Tsung once said, Revolution comes out of the mouth of a gun. Therefore, any thing that prevented the revolution, such as the appeasement of the crowd by offering jobs, was bad, whereas, anything that helped to create the revolution, such as the trampling of the demonstrators was good. In other words, the end which was the creation of a utopian society justified the means which was the willful harming of your own people in order to start a riot.
Because of their open commitment to the philosophy of pragmatism it was difficult to come to any agreement with the Communist because they had already said that they were willing to use any means necessary, including lying and false agreements, in order to accomplish their ends. This philosophy undermines truth itself and certain could be attributed to the devil, who is, as the Bible says, the Father of All Lies.
Probably the best modern example of a Christian who rejected the philosophy of Pragmatism is Martin Luther King who refused to use violent "means" to accomplish a "good end." In his own writings he argued, as the Church does, that ones means as well as ones end had to be moral. Therefore, anyone wishing to participate in any of his demonstrations had to go through a training period to prepare themselves to accept violence without reacting violently. It is not an easy thing to do and our animal nature rebels at the very thought of it.
A white, female teacher friend of mine went through this training which consisted of the other members screaming, pushing, and cursing in your ear as you sat silently and passive refusing to respond either physically or verbally. That must have been tough enough. However, in her first demonstration, while sitting on the sidewalk outside of a restaurant that refused to serve Black people, a white man came up and urinated on her head. What did she do? She sat there and said nothing.
While Dr. King refused to follow the principles of pragmatism, Malcolm X was quoted as saying "Freedom by any means necessary." Now I don't know if he really meant this because often his words were more violent than his actions. But he obviously influenced the thinking of others.
Once, while praying up at the abortion mill on Comly Ave., I saw a college age Jewish kid with a sweatshirt on the other side of the barrier with Malcolm "X's" picture and under it his quote of Freedom by any means necessary. I asked if he understood and agreed with that statement. Without hesitation, he said, Yes! You understand, I said, that many people in the world believe that they are being denied their freedom by some other group? Yes! he said. And you also understand that the Palestinians believe that they are being denied their freedom by the Israelis? He began to get a little nervous as he answered, Yes. Then you have no problem with the fact that some terrorists planted a bomb on a plane leaving FrankfortGermany and blew a lot of people out of the air at 30,000 feet above Scotland? I think he got my point because he walked away with a confused look on his face. Of course, abortion itself is a primary example of pragmatism at work. Youve got a problem pregnancy? Solve the problem by killing it.
Well, I see that my time is almost up and I dont want to begin my next point because I dont have enough time to develop it. I hope that you are getting something out of my talks but I must warn you that it will not be easy to absorb everything that I am saying especially if you have never been exposed to these concepts before. Therefore, I urge you to consider joining our "10-4 Club" where, for a minimum $10 tax-deductible donation, we will send you four tapes of the talks every month. Later, for those of you who are interested, I am considering sending you the typed transcript of my talk so that you may read them. Next week we will move from philosophy to science to discover why it is that we are rational beings while animals are not. Heres Dom.