Antichrist rising

Do Muslims worship God? This question has long troubled me and I can never settle it in my head. I am not talking about supernatural and acceptable worship. Clearly, they do not believe in Jesus Christ as the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity so are unable to offer acceptable worship to God. Nor am I talking about the natural virtue of religion. Strictly speaking there are no true moral virtues apart from Charity. I am talking about material acts of religion that would be formal acts of the acquired virtue of religion in a state of pure nature. Do Muslims perform such acts. Do they worship God?

I have come across three basic views on this:

  1. No. Islam is Deist, a form of monotheistic paganism. Unlike the Jews their worship is not even naturally directed at the same entity as the true God adored by the Catholic faithful. They are idolaters.
  2. Yes. Muslims know God through natural reason (see: Romans 1 & Vatican I) they direct their material acts of religion to Him. They ascribe to God incorrect attributes (e.g. having revealed himself to Mohammed) but they know Him as creator and worship Him as such.
  3. Yes and no. The being who revealed himself to Mohammed is not God and acts of worship specified in this way are idolatrous. In the other hand Muslims are men like everyone else able to know the Creator by the light of human reason and when they worship the creator as such their incidental errors about His interventions in history do not transform their acts of worship into acts of idolatry.

There are good argument for all three. In regard to 1. this seems to be the testimony of a good many Muslim converts. They do not believe they worshiped God before they converted to Christianity. The Council of Florence seems to assume Muslims are to be placed in the ‘pagan’ column. Leo XIII and Pius XI in their formulae of Consecration of the Human Race to the Sacred Heart seem to make the same assumption. In defence of 2. this seems to be the doctrine of Lumen Gentium 16 (although what theological note that has is obscure) and the opinion of at least some popes (including even St Gregory VII). Of course 3. seems easiest to defend and in some sense is probably the position of most adherents of 1. and 2. Unfortunately, in a way, it only bumps the problem down the road. For what would be the key factor determining whether one is worshiping the being who revealed himself to Mohammed or the Creator of the universe? This is the central enigma and the answer to it would seem to resolve the entire question. I find it hard to believe that Muslims if they discovered that the two were not one and the same would chose the former. If it were a marriage that would be enough to make the consent valid. I’m pretty sure the Mormons and the Gnostics don’t worship God. I’m not at all sure William Lane Craig does. The Muslims it seems to me ought to get the benefit of the doubt… but I ‘m not sure.



pastorbonus  (more…)


Emeth is a character in The Last Battle the seventh and final volume in C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia. He is a Calormene. That is, he belongs to the human southern desert nation opposed to the heroic Narnian talking beasts of Lewis’s stories and to their human allies in Archenland. Allegory in C.S. Lewis is a lot more prominent than in Tolkien. Tolkien only really employs allegory in Leaf by Niggle and officially disapproved of the form. Certainly, a lot of the Chronicles of Narnia is non-allegorical but it is hard to deny that some elements, and they are key elements, cannot be classified any other way. This is especially true of The Magician’s Nephew, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe and The Last Battle which provide the creation narrative, the salvation narrative and the eschatological climax to the series. (Incidentally, I can never quite escape the suspicion that Prince Caspian is intended as a pro-Anglican parable about the Reformation). The Last Battle describes the Narnian end of the world in ways that clearly imitate classical Christian eschatology. There is a false prophet (a monkey called Shift) and an (oddly invincibly ignorant) Antichrist (a donkey called Puzzle). Key to the narrative is the infiltration and conquest of Narnia by the Calormenes. The Calormenes are pretty transparently based on the Muslims. This is one reason why I doubt very much that either The Horse and His Boy or The Last Battle will ever be adapted for film. The central role of Islamic conquest in Lewis’s view of the end times is very interesting, especially as it must have been far less obvious that this was at all likely when he wrote in the nineteen fifties. The Calormenes worship a god called Tash who is quite obviously Satan. They sneak into Narnia disguised as merchants and seize control of the country under the auspices of the monkey Shift who persuades his dim-witted friend Puzzle to dress up in a lion skin and pose as Aslan (the Lion who in the Chronicles of Narnia symbolises Christ). It seems from this that Lewis believes that the deception of the Antichrist will be a treason from within Western culture by non-believers posing as believers and manipulating the credulity of the mass of the people but that it will be accomplished in alliance with and ultimately to the profit of Islam. This is very interesting especially when one reflects upon the alliance between Liberalism and Mohammedanism in contemporary Western culture.

Emeth is among the Calormene soldiers who enter Narnia in disguise to assist Shift in his overthrow of the legitimate king Tirian and establishment of an indifferentist pseudo-theocracy centred on the government and worship of Tashlan. Emeth is naturally virtuous sincere believer in Tash and is sickened by the duplicity of the methods by which the conquest of Narnia is to be accomplished and sickened by the suggestion that Aslan and Tash are one and the same. In the event, the conspiracy issues in the destruction of the the entire Narnian world, the defintive expulsion of Tash, and the second coming of Aslan. Emeth, however, is saved and finds himself in heaven. Emeth encounters Aslan, is ravished by his beauty, confesses his lifelong worship of Tash and awaits death at the hands of the true God. He is told instead that every sincere and naturally virtuous act he performed for the sake of Tash (who Aslan describes as his ‘opposite’) was in fact done in honour of Aslan and all evil acts done in Aslan’s name are really done for Tash. For this reason Emeth, as an anonymous worshiper of Aslan, is saved.

“Then I fell at his feet and thought, Surely this is the hour of death, for the Lion (who is worthy of all honour) will know that I have served Tash all my days and not him. Nevertheless, it is better to see the Lion and die than to be Tisroc of the world and live and not to have seen him. But the Glorious One bent down his golden head and touched my forehead with his tongue and said, Son, thou art welcome. But I said, Alas Lord, I am no son of thine but the servant of Tash. He answered, Child, all the service thou hast done to Tash, I account as service done to me. Then by reasons of my great desire for wisdom and understanding, I overcame my fear and questioned the Glorious One and said, Lord, is it then true, as the Ape said, that thou and Tash are one? The Lion growled so that the earth shook (but his wrath was not against me) and said, It is false. Not because he and I are one, but because we are opposites, I take to me the services which thou hast done to him. For I and he are of such different kinds that no service which is vile can be done to me, and none which is not vile can be done to him. Therefore if any man swear by Tash and keep his oath for the oath’s sake, it is by me that he has truly sworn, though he know it not, and it is I who reward him. And if any man do a cruelty in my name, then, though he says the name Aslan, it is Tash whom he serves and by Tash his deed is accepted. Dost thou understand, Child? I said, Lord, thou knowest how much I understand. But I said also (for the truth constrained me), Yet I have been seeking Tash all my days. Beloved, said the Glorious One, unless thy desire had been for me thou wouldst not have sought so long and so truly. For all find what they truly seek.”

This seems like pretty pure Pelagianism. In fact, it helpfully illustrates how utterly Pelagian the Implicitist heresy is. A determination to worship God in whatever manner God has appointed is a requirement of natural reason. If natural moral virtue combined with a determination to worship God in whatever manner He has established, combined with error of fact as to what this religion is, can save us then nature and reason alone suffice for the forgiveness of sins and participation in the divine nature. This is not just heresy it is the central claim of Satan in his rebelion against God. Is Lewis then, ironically, preaching the greatest of all deceptions in a work supposed to warn us about the Antichrist?

I think it may be possible to save Lewis from this most serious charge. I do not deny that Lewis’s theology is often sloppy. Without the solemn defintions of Councils and Popes to guard him against rash speculations and unable, as a Protestant, to submit to the consensus of the Fathers, he often strays too far and entangles himself in positions he probably would repudiate if baldly stated. He also has an odd tendency to fall into dualism (displayed here in the reference to Tash as Aslan’s ‘opposite’) and an unhealthy fascination with platonic angelology probably derived from Charles Williams. Nevertheless, it is not clear that there has been any kind of fall in Narnia or that the Calormenes are descended from Adam. It may be that the non-earth descended inhabitants of the Narnian world have a purely natural end and that if they do receive supernatural beatitude it is by a purely gratuitous elevation at the end of time, not because they possessed supernatural grace (or original sin) during their lives. Furthermore, it is not altogether clear that Emeth is even dead when he meets Aslan.

Of course the entire premise of the story is impossible. It is not possible for there to be non-human rational animals. There are no rational animals who are not descended from Adam. There have not been and will not be multiple incarnations. Furthermore, it is hard not to conclude that Lewis did have a rationalist Pelagian understanding of salvation as the story is almost certain to be taken this way by any ordinary reader. The Last Battle was published in 1956 and Lewis is generally seen as a champion of classical conservative western Christianity against liberalism. The problem of Emeth shows how much the Implicitist error already went by default on the eve of the Neo-Modernism revolution.

“People shouldn’t call for demons unless they really mean what they say.”

― C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle

Some original footage of the asteroid (cf. Miss Hilary White, passim)

In his delightful book Enthusiasm, Ronald Knox remarks on the Jansenist belief that the Church is destined to decline continuously from her pristine excellence until the end of the world. He says that this opinion would be as hard to justify from history as it is from theology. Newman in Loss and Gain puts the same Jansenist view in the mouth (if I remember correctly) of Campbell, the Scotch Protestant, but without giving any indication of whether he himself endorses or opposes it.

Chesterton, I think in his book on Chaucer, recounts how he was once asked by a very intelligent agnostic whether he thought that the human race improved as time went on, or degenerated, or stayed about the same, and that the questioner seemed to think that he had covered all the possibilities. In reply he asked the other chap whether he thought that Ebeneezer Brown of 22, The Beeches, Tooting Bec, improved, degenerated or stayed about the same between the ages of 30 and 40 (I quote from memory, and invent the names.) Chesterton says that it then seemed to dawn on his interlocutor that the answer rather depended on Mr Brown and how he chose to behave. In other words, for Chesterton, because man has free will there is no necessity for the human race to go in any direction in particular. This is certainly an invigorating way to answer our question, but I’m not sure the conclusion follows. There is such a thing as having moral certainty about future events that will depend on free will; St Thomas says somewhere that in a town full of irascible people, you can be sure an argument will break out at some point, even though you can’t tell in advance when or between whom. In the same way, one could hold that the human race will go in a certain direction even though each man is free to go where he wants.

Maritain throughout his writing has a theory that both good and evil increase in the human race as time goes by, like the wheat and the cockle growing side-by-side. I suppose this means that the just will on average be more just, and the unjust on average more unjust from one century to the next. I don’t think he really tries to prove this, though he does make the point that if persecutions intensify, those who resist them will need to have a correspondingly greater holiness. On the other hand, even if his theory were true, it could still be the case that an increasingly large number of people became unjust in every age. Also, since the cockle on his account can be within the Church as well as outside, it wouldn’t help to answer the question about how the Church on earth was destined to fare.

Tolkien, in a private letter from 1956, wrote: “I am a Christian and indeed a Roman Catholic, so that I do not expect ‘history’ to be anything but a long defeat.” I like those quotation marks around ‘history’. Presumably they signify that the subject as usually studied is defective, as abstracting from the supernatural truths that alone allow us to understand it. But why ‘a long defeat’ rather than a series of victories and defeats? Presumably he was thinking of history as tending toward the reign of the antichrist, which he must have considered as the final period of history, ended only by the eucatastrophe of the second coming.

St Thomas, speaking about how the articles of faith have grown over the years from Abraham onwards, says this:

The final consummation of grace came about through Christ, and so His time is called ‘the fullness of time’. Consequently, those who were closer to Christ, whether before, like John the Baptist, or after, like the apostles, knew the mysteries of faith more fully. We see the same thing in regard to the condition of a man, who has {bodily} perfection in youth, and a man is the more perfect in proportion as he is close to youth, whether before or after (2a 2ae 1, 7 ad 4).

He is not speaking here about an increase in the articulation of the mysteries of faith, I think, since then it would not be true that knowledge declines after the apostles. After all, we have their writings, and we have the commentaries on them made by the Fathers and doctors which make explicit many things contained only implicitly in Scripture. He must therefore be speaking of the depth of understanding, or intensity of faith. But this comes about, as he explains elsewhere (2a 2ae 6, 1) through the grace given to intellect and will; by charity and the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

But this apparently implies that sanctifying grace is poured out more abundantly insofar as people are closer in time to the Incarnation and Pentecost. If the mysteries of faith are more keenly understood the closer people are to the time of Christ, this must be because charity and the gifts of the Holy Spirit – which are proportioned to one’s degree of sanctifying grace – are given more abundantly, the closer one is to that time. This would be fitting, as emphasising the central place of the Incarnation within history. It would also fit in with some remarks of St Gregory the Great which I have quoted elsewhere in these chronicles:

By the awful course of the secret dispensation, before this Leviathan appears in that accursed man {antichrist} whom he assumes, signs of power are withdrawn from holy Church. For prophecy is hidden, the grace of healings is taken away, the power of longer abstinence is weakened, the words of doctrine are silent, the prodigies of miracles are removed

St Bede, like St Jerome, thought that the overthrow of antichrist would come before the end of the world. But he still thinks that there will be very little true faith left at the end of the world. Commenting on Luke 18:8 (“When the Son of man comes, will He find faith on earth?”), Bede writes:

When the almighty Creator shall appear in the form of the Son of man, so scarce will the elect be that not so much the cries of the faithful as the torpor of the others will hasten the world’s fall.

Were the Janensists, then, correct? Is the Church a kingdom gradually sliding into decay, which will be saved from extinction only by the coming of the Lord? Things are more complicated. For one thing, not only has the Church on earth expanded in numbers from about 120 on Pentecost Sunday to its present membership, but also there have been periods since Pentecost when the proportion of people on earth in a state of grace was surely increasing; for example, from AD 33 to AD 133. This is certainly a victory for the city of God over the city of man. The Church has also progressed in the ever more perfect elaboration of sacred doctrine and the possession of more splendid liturgical rites (whether these are used is another question). Also she has progressed in having an ever greater treasury of merit and satisfaction on which to draw, and more examples of holiness, through the lives of the saints who have passed to their reward. Moreover, as Vatican I taught, her continued existence is in itself a sign of her divine mission, and this sign in the nature of things becomes more striking with the passage of time. All these things are triumphs over the kingdom of darkness.

Nevertheless, it could still be true, as seems to be implied by the words of St Thomas, that the average level of grace of those in the Church is lower in every generation; it could also be true that the percentage of those in the Church living fervent lives is in continual decline. Yet even this could be a tendency rather than an iron law. St Thomas uses the analogy of the human body, which is more perfect the closer it is to youth. Yet while this is true others things being equal, it may be that a particular man exercises more or has a better diet, and so is stronger or has more stamina, at some time earlier or later than at his natural peak of health. So it could be that the exercise demanded by the stress of particular events, for example, universal persecution, will temporarily raise the average level of holiness in the mystical body; or it could be that the intake of many new members to whom God wishes to attach a special blessing (for example the Jews, for the sake of their fathers) will have the same effect. But all the same the underlying trend would be downwards. Yet any given Christian may still achieve heroic sanctity, if he wants. And the proportion of people on earth in a state of grace can increase even if the average level of their sanctity decreases; though other things being equal, for example if there are no new pagan lands to evangelise, this seems less likely than likely.

A happy and fervent new year to all the saints at Laodicea.

This Sunday, in the old rite, part of our Lord’s discourse about the end times will be read or chanted. The first three gospels each tell us that after He had prophesied the destruction of the temple, His disciples came to Him to ask when all would be fulfilled. St Matthew and St Luke simply tell us that “the disciples” asked the questions; St Mark specifies that four disciples asked, namely Peter, James, John – and Andrew. This evangelist was recording the preaching of Peter in Rome, and doubtless St Peter had mentioned the names, so as not to lose the opportunity to honour his own brother, who had first brought him to Christ.

We are familiar with the idea that the first three of these disciples formed an inner ring within the twelve. They were chosen to be there when Jairus’s daughter was raised from the dead, at the Transfiguration and at the Agony. But this is the only occasion when St Andrew is joined to their company: to hear first of the fall of the temple, of the end of the rites of the Old Covenant and of the slaughter of the ancient people of God; and then of that which these things foreshadowed, the great persecution of the Church, the coming of the lawless one, the consummation of all things and the return of Christ in glory. Why was the apostle Andrew chosen to hear these things directly from the mouth of Christ?

Perhaps in part because he is the “first-called”, Πρωτόκλητος, and so had been following the Lord longer than anyone (along with the disciple who was with him when he was called); it was fitting therefore that he should hear of the rewards for those who persevere to the end. Perhaps also because he would become the patron saint of that nation which, more than any other, seems bound up with the Church’s fortunes as she makes her way toward those last days: Russia.

It is now almost a hundred years since Lenin entered holy Russia in his sealed train and since the Queen of Heaven told the three children that that nation would first spread its errors throughout the world and then be made the chosen instrument for their correction. And they have been spread, perhaps beyond the hopes of hell itself. But just as Christ’s words do not pass away, so nor do hers, through whom the Word was made flesh. St Andrew’s nation will be consecrated to her and become a fountain of grace for the last days, perhaps for resistance in that final persecution, or perhaps only when antichrist shall have been overthrown, and the Church enjoys, if this be the plan of heaven, a time of flourishing before the second coming, foreshadowed by the forty days her Spouse once spent on earth between Resurrection and Ascension.

It is not without reason that his feast everywhere is celebrated on the cusp of Advent, on the vigil of December’s kalends. As St John the Baptist from his place on earth prepared all men for the first coming of the Lord, so St Andrew from his place in heaven prepares all men for the second. Nor is his name devoid of mystery, for it means manliness, or courage. When those days come, upon whomsoever they may come, such as have not been known since the foundation of the world, we shall have need of Andrew then.

Quae patefacta sunt quaerere, quae perfecta sunt retractare, et quae definita sunt convellere, quid aliud est quam de adeptis gratias non referre, et ad interdictae arboris cibum improbos appetitus mortiferae cupiditatis extendere (Letter 162, to Emperor Leo I, l)

{To seek what has been discovered, to reconsider what has been completed, and to demolish what has been defined – what else is it but to return no thanks for things gained and to indulge the unholy longings of deadly lust on the food of the forbidden tree?}

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