Sunday, 23 March 2008
Notes on The Heresies - Hilaire Belloc: The Modern Era
...We know, of course, that the Catholic Church cannot be destroyed.
But what we do not know is the extent of the area over which it will
survive; its power of revival or the power of the enemy to push it further
and further back on to its last defences until it may seem as though
anti-Christ had come and the final issue was about to be decided. Of such
moment is the struggle immediately before the world.
To many who have no sympathy with Catholicism, who inherit the old
Protestant animosity to the Church (although doctrinal Protestantism is
now dead) and who think that any attack on the Church must somehow or
other be a good thing, the struggle already appears as a coming or present
attack on what they call "Christianity."
You will find people saying on every side that the Bolshevist
movement (for instance) is "definitely anti-Christian"-_"opposed to every
form of Christianity"_and must be "resisted by all Christians irrespective
of the particular Church to which each may belong," and so on.
Speech and writing of this kind are futile because they mean
nothing definite. There is no such thing as a religion called
"Christianity"_there never has been such a religion.
There is and always has been the Church, and various heresies
proceeding from a rejection of some of the Church's doctrines by men who
still desire to retain the rest of her teaching and morals. But there
never has been and never can be or will be a general Christian religion
professed by men who all accept some central important doctrines, while
agreeing to differ about others. There has always been, from the
beginning, and will always be, the Church, and sundry heresies either
doomed to decay, or, like Mohammedanism, to grow into a separate religion.
Of a common Christianity there has never been and never can be a
definition, for it has never existed.
There is no essential doctrine such that if we can agree upon it
we can differ about the rest: as for instance, to accept immortality but
deny the Trinity. A man will call himself a Christian though he denies the
unity of the Christian Church; he will call himself a Christian though he
denies the presence of Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament; he will
cheerfully call himself a Christian though he denies the Incarnation.
No; the quarrel is between the Church and the anti-Church_the
Church of God and anti-God_the Church of Christ and anti-Christ.
The truth is becoming every day so much more obvious that within a
few years it will be universally admitted. I do not entitle the modern
attack "anti-Christ"_though in my heart I believe that to be the true term
for it: No, I do not give it that name because it would seem for the
moment exaggerated. But the name doesn't matter. Whether we call it "The
Modern Attack" or "anti-Christ" it is all one; there is a clear issue now
joined between the retention of Catholic morals, tradition, and authority
on the one side, and the active effort to destroy them on the other.
modern attack will not tolerate us. It will attempt to destroy us. Nor
can we tolerate it. We must attempt to destroy it as being the fully
equipped and ardent enemy of the Truth by which men live. The duel is to