"You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you odd." ~Flannery O'Connor

Friday, August 28, 2009

Moving to NYC!

I got the job I interviewed for last Wednesday in New York, and am very excited about it. Since I don't know yet whether my boss would approve my publicizing the job here, or even my continuing to blog on my own, I shall say no more for the time being. But I want to thank my "vast readership," both here and at What's Wrong with the World, for their encouragement and support. God bless you all!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

An important trip

I'll be offline for a few days as I travel to New York City for an important job interview. Please keep me in your prayers.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Jeffrey Steel is back

According to Fr. Tom Finigan, formerly Fr. Jeffrey Steel of the CofE is returning to blogging, but now "as a Catholic layman." Last June I took theological note of Steel's decision to become a Roman Catholic; he and his family were duly received into the Church on July 18. It will be a pleasure to have him back in the blogosphere.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Bad arguments against the Magisterium: Part II

In Part I of this series, I rebutted the argument that the Catholic Magisterium is "accountable" to nobody and nothing but itself. In this part, I shall rebut the argument that adherence to the Magisterium puts a Christian in no better a position to know the content of the deposit of faith than the major Christian alternatives

There are actually four main versions of that argument. The first runs roughly as follows:
Scripture and/or Tradition are fully public and materially contain the full content of the deposit of faith. The Magisterium claims to "infallibly" hand on and clarify the doctrinal content of those two "sources" of transmission of divine revelation. But whether infallible or not, the Magisterium only does the sort of thing that any Spirit-guided Christian could in principle do, given the publicity and material sufficiency of the sources. Therefore, such a magisterium is in principle dispensable.
The problem with that argument is that the conclusion does not follow from the premises. To get it to follow, one needs at least the following, additional premise:

(i) Some methodology other than binding and (allegedly) infallible interpretation by ecclesiastical authority enables the Spirit-guided Christian, at least in principle, to attain sufficient knowledge of the deposit of faith from Scripture and/or Tradition.

Many people, mostly Protestants, believe (i) either because their personal religious experience leads them to believe they've attained such knowledge without the Church, or because they believe that otherwise there would be no way to assess the orthodoxy of any self-proclaimed magisterium, Catholic or otherwise. But the problem with (i) is that there is no good reason to believe it.

The only good reason to believe (i) would be to hit upon a methodology, ecclesiologically neutral in itself, which objectively suffices to render a particular hermeneutic of Scripture and/or Tradition doctrinally comprehensive and rationally compelling. But if nearly two millennia of exegesis and theology show anything at all, they show that there is no such methodology. Eastern Orthodoxy, for example, has never claimed there is such a methodology; it has always insisted, like Catholicism, that authentic interpretation of the sources can only be conducted in conformity with the mind of "the Church." And Protestants who claim there is such a methodology often disagree about which doctrinal results are thereby secured. That's why there are Protestant "denominations." Rather few of the Protestant participants in that debate can be charged with outright irrationality; with more or less plausibility, they just disagree among themselves as well as with Catholicism and Orthodoxy. Absent appeal to an infallible interpreter, that leaves the question who is right as a matter of opinion rather than of binding doctrine. But that does not suffice for identifying the entire content of the deposit of faith as an object of the assent, precisely, of faith in God the infallible Revealer. All it does is present Scripture (and a fortiori Tradition, of which Scripture is the uniquely normative written record) as raw material for the forming of more or less plausible opinions. Many such opinions are doubtless logically equivalent to doctrines that are of faith; but as opinions, they neither constitute nor express assent by faith.

That points up the fundamental difficulty with the argument in question: there is no ecclesiologically neutral methodology for determining who interprets Scripture correctly, and who thus knows their interpretations to be binding and irreformable for the whole Church's assent of faith as distinct from tentative opinions. Some Christians appeal to a "burning in the bosom" or to their holy people of choice to confirm their interpretations; but such inherently subjective arguments can yield nothing that is rationally compelling and authoritative for the Church as a whole, without an ad hoc and doctrinally front-loaded limitation on who counts as "the Church."

In view of such difficulties, some people argue against the Magisterium's claims in a narrower way. Thus:
The Magisterium enables Christians to know the full content of the deposit of faith as an object for the assent of faith only if the doctrines it presents as binding and irreformable can be demonstrated to belong to the apostolic faith. But the most distinctively Catholic doctrines, including the Magisterium's claims for itself, are precisely those which cannot be thus demonstrated. Therefore, the Magisterium does not help Christians know the full content of the deposit of faith as an object for the assent of faith.
The difficulty with that argument is that it begs the question at the outset. How? If the first sentence is true, then we can assess the Magisterium's claims for itself only if we can reliably know the content of the deposit of faith "given once for all to the holy ones" without recourse to the Magisterium's claims for itself. Hence, the Magisterium as it understands itself is justifiable only if superfluous for knowing the rest of the deposit of faith. But if the Magisterium is superfluous in that way, then its claim to be the sole "authentic" interpreter of the sources is false. An argument that begs the question at the outset need not be taken seriously as an argument.

That's probably why many non-Catholic Christians prefer a more philosophical approach. For purposes of a blog post, a good example is the argument made by a commentator over at Called to Communion:
What good Protestant theologians actually believe is that a sincere believer, aided by the Holy Spirit, who approaches the Scripture with humility in the context of a living community of faith and the Christian Tradition will be able to find great confidence about those truths necessary to salvation and to grow, however slowly and fallibly, closer to the truth on more doubtful matters. This fallibility is inherent to our situation as human beings and is in no way mitigated by your Catholic position since you have fallibly determined that organizational and doctrinal continuity with the Apostles is a guide to doctrinal reliability, and you have fallibly determined that the Church of Rome exhibits such continuity. Finally, you fallibly interpret the Roman Church’s doctrinal proclamations. Adding the infallibility of the Church generally or the Pope specifically will not get you into a significantly better epistemic state than the agreed upon doctrine of the infallibility of Scripture.
In other words: since the assent of faith is up to each individual, and each individual is fallible, then the assent of faith is itself fallible; and if so, then proposing some set of doctrines S with alleged infallibility gives people no more certainty of the truth of S than would holding S as a set of human opinions only.

John Henry Newman's well-known rejection of "private judgement" in religion is often criticized in such a manner. Thus if the assent of faith as an epistemic stance is fallible, given the fallibility of each of the assenters, then ultimately there is no reliable way to distinguish the objective content of the irreformable deposit of faith, as revealed by God, from fallible opinions, held collectively by members of "the Church," about the data handed down to us. If the purpose of the self-styled Magisterium is to afford us a reliable way to make that distinction, then the Magisterium is wasting its own and everybody else's time. For what it's after is something that cannot be had and therefore should not be sought.

Now if the Magisterium were offering its definitive judgments merely as products of academic research, or even of special religious experiences, that criticism would be perfectly justified. And such factors often play a important role in forming magisterial judgments, as well as an even more important role in defending them. Yet no matter how well they serve, they could not themselves be decisive without the Magisterium's claims for itself succumbing to the objection at hand. What's decisive among and for the Magisterium's claims is its claim that it is divinely authorized, to the same degree as the Apostles themselves, to teach doctrine which irreformably binds the whole Church and is, by that same divine authority, protected from teaching what is false when it does so. If that is true, then the inherent fallibility of believers who take the Magisterium at its word does not infect the truth of what they assent to when they make the assent of faith; it infects only their degree of understanding that truth. Assuming Christianity is true, the fact remains that no particular believer, not even the pope, can ever be absolutely certain that their own understanding of a particular doctrine is as free from error as the doctrine itself. Rather, and as a matter of fact, they trust implicitly that the doctrine is true and seek to conform their mind ever more closely with that of the Church, for which the Magisterium speaks, on the doctrine's subject matter. Of course, if the Magisterium's particular claims for itself are true, then "the Church" as a whole will enjoy, or in due course attain, as sound an understanding of the doctrine as the subject matter permits. But that doesn't guarantee that any believer in particular will do so. That is one reason why the Catholic Church tolerates a great deal of what is, objectively speaking, material heresy in her ranks. It is often humanly impossible to tell which errors are being made in good faith, by people who (mistakenly) believe they are conforming their minds to that of the Church, from those which arise from culpable refusal to so conform oneself. Although the content of the deposit of faith is not a journey, most of us know that the life of faith is very much a journey. Accordingly, the position of the believing, intelligent Catholic is rather similar to that which our CtoC commenter attributed to "good Protestant theologians." The only difference is that the Catholic acknowledges a living authority not merely for identifying the deposit of faith—for which inspired Scripture indubitably serves—but for definitively resolving, as they arise, certain questions that the sources either occasion or fail to address explicitly.

Nevertheless, the journey would be not just unavoidable, but irremediably deficient, if the fourth and final common argument against the Magisterium were sound. Thus:
The Magisterium claims to be the sole "authentic" interpreter of Scripture and Tradition, meaning that only its interpretations are divinely authorized for the assent and profession of the whole Church. But all language requires interpretation, especially when it's about such lofty subject matter; so, the Magisterium's interpretations, in the form of dogmas or other definitive teachings, themselves require interpretation by both individual believers equipped to conduct it and the Magisterium itself. But if that is the case, then given the subject matter, there's no reason to believe that magisterial judgments, offered as interpretations of the "sources," are any more perspicuous than what they interpret. That is why heresies are so frequent, even recurring in new forms, despite conciliar and papal definitions; and that's how the interpretation of certain doctrines, such as extra ecclesiam nulla salus, can changes over time. But if magisterial judgments set forth with alleged infallibility leave so much unclarity, then the Magisterium's claims for itself are idle.
Fortunately, that is the easiest argument to rebut. Magisterial judgments rarely answer all important questions about their subject matter, any more than Scripture does; they answer only the questions that are, or were, pressing in their historical context. Hence, such judgments are ordinarily not the last word for understanding what they're about; they are merely interpretive steps deemed necessary for dispelling particular misunderstandings. Ordinarily they do that job well, even though sometimes they do not, and can even raise serious questions of their own—as, I believe, was the case with the filioque, whose que admits of heterodox interpretations as well as an orthodox one. The point is this: even though the Church's collective meditation on the deposit of faith does not exhaust the cognitive content of the subject, and could never come close to doing so, the words in which magisterial judgments are framed are typically clear enough, in the broader context of Tradition and history, to exclude problematic interpretations as they arise. The Magisterium itself is on a faith journey of sorts, and the history of doctrine may be seen as that of an ongoing conversation about which direction the journey should take. But once a certain direction is taken definitively, interpretive clarity is thus gained to some degree.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

There's "good" personal and "bad" personal

Anybody involved with blogs, whether as author, commentator, or reader, knows how common it is for personal static to drown out what's worth hearing. That's what I call the "bad"personal." Since it's long been my policy to avoid indulging in that sort of thing, I am rarely a target of it myself. But there's also a way of getting personal that, while still critical of the person, is also intellectually illuminating. I now find myself the target of such "good personal." I shall explain what that means and how my readers can learn from it.

I've been following Arturo Vasquez's four-part series "The Hollow Victory over Jansenism" (here's the link to Part IV, the most interesting) with considerable interest that is reflected in my combox contributions. I call my readers' attention to the issues involved because they go a long way toward explaining the sad division between Catholic "traditionalists" on the one hand and Catholic "neo-conservatives," among whom I am often numbered, on the other. Thanks largely to the Vatican's ongoing efforts to reconcile the Lefebvrite "Society of St. Pius X" with the Church at large, it has become well-known that trads and neo-cons differ with each other on a range of issues as much as (or, at least, as bitterly as) they both differ with progressives. The most contentious have to do with ecclesiology: ecumenism, religious liberty, limbo, the meaning of the dogma extra ecclesiam nulla salus (EENS), and the relative authority of various magisterial but non-dogmatic doctrines. In the combox to the above-linked post, Arturo refers to me to several recent posts of his on the topics in question. But as he implicitly recognized in one of the posts in question, a given Catholic's stance on the pertinent issues depends on where he stands on a more fundamental theological question: that of how nature and grace relate to each other.

That foundational issue had become a huge bone of contention among Catholic theologians between the two Vatican councils. Though I don't agree by any means with everything in the 20th-century nouvelle theologie that so influenced Vatican II, I do agree with such representative figures as Maurice Blondel and Henri de Lubac on at least one point: there has never been a state of "pure nature." All human reality, from our first parents onward, has been penetrated by and oriented to grace. A state of pure nature is of course hypothetically possible, given divine power and goodness; but that is not in fact the case; and given the actual oikonomia, it never has been or will be the case. That means, among other things, that how humans choose to use their "natural" powers and order "natural" realities always has supernatural implications, either for better or for worse. Accordingly, and for reasons given by Ratzinger and others, every human being will end up, forever, either fully united with or fully alienated from God. If that is so, then (as Fr. Al Kimel and I argued in a series of articles a few years ago), no limbus infantium could be permanent; and the non-existence of pure nature has larger ecclesiological and political implications too.

The essence of the matter is that, on a non-extrinsicist picture of the nature/grace relation, the visible Church herself, not merely the "seven" sacraments, must be seen as "sacramental" in the sense intended by Vatican II in Lumen Gentium. Thus, although the Church is the visible, ordinary means of transmitting to humanity that "grace and truth" of which the crucified-and-risen Christ is the source, the reality of such grace and truth in the world is far wider than its explicit manifestation in the Church. It suffuses all humanity to a degree sufficient for the salvation of each and every human being, and indeed suffuses the cosmos itself. Within the context of such a sacramental vision of reality, the Church's visible reality and witness is necessary for each and for all; for in the divine economy, she is indispensable for bringing about what she signifies. But people of good will who are inculpably ignorant of that very fact can still belong to the Church implicitly. Of course, and for obvious reasons, many trads are at best uncomfortable with such an affirmation. But they can't reject the idea of "imperfect communion" with the Church without rejecting the magisterial interpretation of EENS that has been steadily developing since Pius IX's Singulari Quidem and that became clear with Pius XII's 1949 condemnation of Feeneyism. Only the Feeneyites, and a smattering of other rad-trads, seem willing to go that far.

Accordingly, I believe the general trad dislike of modern ecclesiology to be radically misplaced. Trads understandably lament the "disenchantment of the world" that has accelerated since the 16th century, and which they blame the modern Catholic Church for worsening by a descent into a kind of ultramontanist rationalism; but they disagree with me and the "nuptial-mystery" theologians about how theology can contribute to the world's re-enchantment. And we're not going to resolve the disagreement here or anytime soon. But our disagreement on this score tends to mask a yet more fundamental disagreement about how such disagreements are to be resolved. That is what brings in the "good personal."

I have noticed that, in the combox to Arturo's above-linked post, none of the criticisms directed (explicitly or implicitly) toward me engage any of my actual arguments on the specific points at issue, despite my having developed and publicized such arguments for several years. As I've often seen before, my critics simply disparage my general "development-and-negation" approach by suggesting that I proceed like a "lawyer" who, though he might or might not be using philosophy, is certainly not doing theology. One commenter doesn't even bother with that much professional respect, suggesting instead that I suffer from a hitherto-unheard-of mental handicap: "I think some of these highly apologetics-focused professorial Catholics deserve some sort of neoscholastic asperger diagnosis." I would find all this rather baffling if I had not already come to recognize that the underlying theological difference here is of such a kind that it simply cannot be addressed in terms held in common by all sides. The only terms left are essentially aesthetic and personal.

That's what I mean the "good personal." The good personal is good inasmuch as it signifies that the intellectual gulf is not perceived for what it really is, so that one side can only explain it in essentially personal terms. I shall explain the gulf here by starting with a bit of intellectual autobiography.

Ultimately, I reject Protestantism in all its forms because I don't think any form of Protestantism can supply a consistent and non-arbitrary way to distinguish the content of the deposit of faith itself from theological opinions about the data of divine revelation. Of course there's always Orthodoxy; but after a lengthy flirtation with Orthodoxy in college, motivated by hard personal experience with several aspects of post-Vatican-II American Catholicism, I ultimately stuck with the Catholic Church because her way of applying the needed distinction struck me as clearer and more consistent than Orthodoxy's. But having educated myself about Catholicism's way of applying that distinction, I found by the mid-1980s that I could align myself neither with the progressives nor with the traditionalists.

I could not align myself with the progs because they wanted to jettison a number of important doctrines which, unlike limbo or the desirability of a confessional state, the Church had taught consistently for as far back as we have records. That attitude struck me then, as now, as incompatible with being self-consistently Catholic; and the way progressive Catholicism has developed since Vatican II confirms for me that it is fundamentally incompatible with "the Catholic thing" itself. But I could not align myself with the trads either. I could see neither how certain past teachings they preferred are more inherently plausible than, nor how such teachings were supposedly more authoritative than, those which Vatican II, an ecumenical council, had embraced in the course of reversing or sharply modifying past teachings. The options for trads, it seemed to me, were either (a) to reject the Council's distinctive doctrinal developments as heretical, which is what Archbishop Lefebvre did; or, less radically, (b) to treat those developments are mere opinions of lesser weight than those which they had supplanted. Option (a) seemed plainly schismatic—an impression confirmed by my personal experience with rad-trads. And that alone made it unacceptable to me. But option (b) raised another question: Were the issues in contention really just matters of opinion about which Catholics were free to differ, or did the distinctive teachings of the Council call for at least the "religious assent" of Catholics—to use the Council's own phrase?

Unless and until that question is clearly answered, one cannot know whether option (b) is ultimately acceptable for loyal, self-consistent Catholics or not. And if one cannot know that, then one cannot know whether (b), the less-radical trad option, is theologically tenable or not. That's one of the two major theological reasons why, despite my disgust with the prog "culture of dissent" and the widespread debasing of the liturgy, I was leery of post-Vatican-II Catholic traditionalism. My other reason was this: unless and until the question in question is given a clear answer by the Church, one cannot even explain clearly why the progs are wrong to believe that the Church could radically change her teaching on their pet issues (which mostly come down to sex and power). In the final analysis, it was my consideration of that hard fact which led me to reject post-Vatican-II Catholic traditionalism as well as progressivism. To borrow a phrase from the present pope, which the late Richard John Neuhaus was among the first to take up, I came to see both progressivism and traditionalism as hermeneutics of discontinuity, when what is so desperately needed is a "hermeneutic of continuity."

If a clear answer to the above-posed question is to be had, it must be given by "the Church." But who speaks definitively for the Church on doctrines not formally defined? There is not, because there could not be, a clear consensus fidelium on that issue; for this is simply not the sort of issue on which such a consensus could even be formulated without the intervention of the Magisterium. That's why I came to see the meta-magisterial moves made by Wojtyla and Ratzinger during the 1990s as so important: Ordinatio Sacerdotalis and the CDF responsum thereon; the formal confirmations, in Evangelium Vitae, of certain teachings of the "ordinary and universal magisterium" (OUM); and the further specifications in Ad Tuendam Fidem and Ratzinger’s “Doctrinal Commentary” thereon. By making more explicit the general criteria by which to distinguish definitive from non-definitive teachings of the OUM, they made clearer why the progs are wrong. But by the same token, they also caused me to believe that the distinctive doctrinal developments of Vatican II are weightier than trads typically believe. That the Council defined no dogmas—as a "pastoral" council, it pronounced no anathemas on those who dissented from its distinctive doctrinal developments—did not and could not mean that said developments were mere theological opinions that Catholics could safely reject or ignore. The Council taught that the teaching of the OUM commanded "religious assent" from Catholics even when not presented as definitive tendendam; and that tenet applied both to itself and to the other distinctive teachings of the Council, precisely because the dogmatic constitutions of the Council were clear instances of the teaching of the OUM by any criterion. To deny that the Council's distinctive doctrinal developments command religious assent, as the trads seemed to me committed to doing, placed them in the same position as the progs: holding that only dogmas defined by the extraordinary magisterium require assent from Catholics as a moral obligation. That position is untenable for several reasons, all of which I have expounded at length on this blog.

Most trads would not go so far as to claim that my position, which they often call the "neo-con" position, is actually heterodox. As I said in the combox to Arturo's post, the dispute is really about whose approach, i.e. that of the trads or that of the neo-cons, plays into the hands of the progs. I hold that, if one rejects the above-described meta-magisterial developments, or at least brushes them aside as irrelevant, then the progs win willy-nilly. For that's just what the progs themselves do to create space for their dissent. Trads, in my experience, counter that argument of mine not by addressing the specific ways I apply those developments, but by insisting that the very appeal to such developments is mere legalism, or ultramontanism, or otherwise misplaced rationalism. Or something like that. The irony, of course, is that that is just what many progs accuse trads of.

What's really needed is a way for trads and neo-cons to converge on a hermeneutic of continuity. Given the current gulf, I suspect that will only happen organically, by a slow return to the permanently valid riches of Catholic tradition, rather than by disputation. But that process has begun to accelerate under this pontificate. As it gathers momentum, the gulf signified by the "good personal" will gradually close toward unity.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Transfigured by—consequentialism?

August the 6th is a spiritually important date in two ways. In the Catholic Church, it is the Feast of the Transfiguration (cf. Matthew 17: 1-8), which I celebrated by attending Mass this morning. The Transfiguration was a sign of who Jesus really is and what those who love him are destined, in our own smaller ways, to become; in Eastern Christianity, some people are alleged to have exhibited and/or seen the Uncreated Light that Peter, James, and John saw on Mount Tabor; in the West, some living folks who have undergone "near-death" experiences are certain they have seen it too. In American history, today is the 54th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. That day manifested, concretely, the then-new fact that humanity had developed the capacity to destroy itself by its own artifice. The spiritual stakes of history had been raised; the question is whether the gamble, now unavoidable, will turn out disastrously before the Second Coming. That question is spiritual because it turns, in large part, on that of what sort of morality will prevail.

As a point of departure for framing the moral issue, an article in today's Wall Street Journal does rather nicely. The author, military historian Walter Kozak, notes that most Americans toward the end of World War II favored dropping The Bomb as a means of saving (mostly American) lives; whereas, as time goes by, fewer and fewer Americans find the act justifiable. So as to forestall much pointless wrangling, I shall concede that, in the circumstances, dropping The Bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki saved many more lives than the several hundred thousand civilian casualties in the vicinity of the explosions. Given our war aim of "unconditional surrender," the practical necessity of invading the Japanese home islands as a means of achieving that aim, and the fanatical dedication of the Japanese people to their Emperor, no other calculation was or is credible. But the question remains: was the act morally permissible all the same? The affirmative answer may have been obvious to most Americans, especially combat-weary veterans, at the time. But that doesn't make it so; nor do many thoughtful Americans think it does.

Consequentialists, of course, for whom utilitarian-style calculation just is the model for any and all moral judgment, almost invariably believe Hiroshima was justifiable. For as I've implied, the relevant utility calculation could hardly be more obvious. But the Catholic Church, along with most other major Christian churches, answers in the negative. Thus Vatican II:
Any act of war aimed indiscriminately at the destruction of entire cities or extensive areas along with their population is a crime against God and man himself. It merits unequivocal and unhesitating condemnation.
Such an apodictic statement was made in the context of a moral tradition that is the very antithesis of consequentialism. And it is by no means idiosyncratic. But who is right?

The very term 'consequentialist', now a well-known term of art in moral philosophy, was coined decades ago by the Catholic philosopher Elizabeth Anscombe for the purpose of dispelling the misimpression that utilitarianism is limited to moral philosophers called utilitarians. In modern times, it has in fact become the default moral philosophy of the common man in the West. That's worth noting in this context because, in a well-known post-war pamphlet entitled "Mr. Truman's Degree" (republished online by a libertarian consequentialist criticizing it) Anscombe argued that dropping The Bomb on Hiroshima (as well as the earlier firebombings of Tokyo and Dresden) was immoral. Admitting that the utility calculation in the Japanese case was obvious, she concluded, in effect, "so much the worse for unconditional surrender as a war aim." I believe she was right. If unconditional surrender had not been our aim, and if we had instead made certain assurances to the Japanese people about the Emperor and other matters, then many innocent lives could have been spared by demonstrating The Bomb in open country, establishing a naval blockade, grabbing bits of mainland territory by piecemeal invasion, and negotiating a surrender. The way the Pacific war was actually ended only served to demonstrate a tragic fact in many lives since time immemorial: once people adopt a broadly wrongful course of action, they often maneuver themselves into a position that can only be escaped by committing a still-greater wrong.

That consequentialism has become the default moral philosophy in the West, and in other places too, only entrenches that tragic fact on a large scale. The impending demographic suicide of the West is the result of calculating, absurdly, that maintaining our preferred lifestyles is more valuable than replacing ourselves. That is why the holocaust of abortion doesn't strike most people as the mass human sacrifice it truly is. Severing the link between sex and procreation, in the forms of contraception and artificial reproduction, is taken for granted as a needed condition for "freedom" even as it continues to undermine the family and thus eat away at the basis of civil society. Ironically, if we wish to survive and promote the sort of human flourishing that Western science and political institutions have made possible, we must cease to be consequentialists. If we remain consequentialists, we may go out with a demographic whimper, too few and spiritually exhausted to resist conquest by a religiously backward civilization. Or, even before that happens, we could end civilized life itself by accident with a bang of the sort that ended the greatest war in human history. Either way, we will go out—unless we recover a sense of "the laws of nature and of nature's God" that is increasingly forbidden open expression in our public life. What we need is a new Transfiguration.