Sound Familiar?

TS at Broken Alabaster, has an interesting quote from Tracey Rowland’s Ratzinger’s Faith. According to Rowland, Ratzinger “speaks of the twin pathologies of bourgeois pelagianism and the pelagianism of the pious. He describes the mentality of the bourgeois pelagian as follows.” And so, (to quote Ratzinger) for the bourgeois pelagian,”If God really does exist and if He does in fact bother about people He cannot be so fearfully demanding as He is described by the faith of the Church. Moreover, I am no worse than others; I do my duty, and the minor human weaknesses cannot really be as dangerous as all that.”

Rowland continues that “This attitude is a modern version of ‘acedia’ – a kind of anxious vertigo that overcomes people when they consider the heights to which their divine pedigree has called them. In Nietzchean terms it is the mentality of the herd, the attitude of someone who just cannot be bothered to be great. It is the bourgeois because it is calculating and pragmatic and comfortable with what is common and ordinary, rather than aristocratic and erotic.”

As for the “pious pelagians,” what of them? They “want security, not hope. By means of a tough and rigorous system of religious practices, by means of prayers and actions, they want to create for themselves a right to blessedness. What they lack is the humility essential to any love – the humility to be able to receive what we are given over and above what we have deserved and achieved. The denial of hope in favor of security that we are faced with here rests on the inability to bear the tension of waiting for what is to come and to abandon onself to God’s goodness.”

Thinking about these words, I realize that I encounter this as well in the Orthodox Church. Many of those born and raised in the Orthodox Church suffer from what is described here as “bourgeois pelagianism,” while many of those who join the Church later in life suffer because they are “pious pelagians.”

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

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