What Is the Post Man?

The pagans, by which I refer to pre-Christian Western man, may have been unwilling to accept that strange doctrine of the Son of Man, but they willingly accepted that they were sons of men. They may not have known how to be Christian, but they knew how to be human. The post-Christian, having left Christ, is in the busy process of altogether leaving Man. With respect to those delivering our daily mail, one might say we are moving increasingly to the Age of the Post-Man.

As [C.S.] Lewis says, “Christians and Pagans had much more in common with each other than either has with a post-Christian. The gap between those who worship different gods is not so wide as that between those who worship and those who do not…” Indeed, and I would sum it so: The Pagans may have had false Gods, but they had real men. The post-Christian attempts to be God, and loses man in the process.

From a fine article on Bad Catholic

+++

It must be the week for thinking about man. It strikes me with deep interest that the conclusions of looking at our present world are so similar. It’s not just me…

29 Responses to “What Is the Post Man?”

  1. PJ Says:

    Can you believe that Marc’s but 18 or 19? Only rarely does his youth show through. He’s a formidable apologist and an artful wordsmith. I follow his career with interest.

  2. Orthodox Collective Says:

    […] ☆ ☆ 3) What Is the Post Man?https://fatherstephen.wordpress.com/2012/06/01/what-is-the-post-man/By fatherstephen on Friday, Jun […]

  3. Laura Says:

    Fr. Behr said that the subject of great debate of the early church was Christology, and the subject we debate today is Anthropology. It does feel deeply relevant to all of the most difficult questions we face today culturally, but also to the basic question of belief. Thank you for these posts and for helping along this conversation!

  4. Lewis Says:

    “The self-made man worships his creator.” Anonymous

  5. Michael Bauman Says:

    After spending some time at the Bad Catholic site, it is amazing how few people (me included) actually read what is written and attempt to hear what is said. We have a script in our heads and are playing a part in our own play that may (or may not) have any relation to what is actually going on. The more contentious the topic, the less we tend to listen.

    In communion those distractions, vanities and ideologies are washed away in the blood of the Lamb (or should be). In order to be human, we must first recognize that we are not God, or gods, or even autonomous individuals living an atomized existence.

  6. Merry Bauman Says:

    I am greatly concerned about this very issue with my children and grandchildren. It seems even the ones who continue to go to church don’t really believe and trust in God. None of them are Orthodox, and frankly they have expressed that they think I have “joined a cult and been brainwashed” – by marrying a man who was Orthodox and then joining the church myself. The closer I am to Christ it seems the further I seem away from them. That causes a great deal of prayer on my part. My teenage grandson recently announced to me that he is “Agnostic”. His meaning was that he believes in God but does not go to a church. I am seeing more and more of that in people I know. They have grown so fed up with the churches they had gone to, and the inconsistancies that were presented that they simply gave up and quit. Being Orthodox has been a great blessing to me, and has shown me the wisdom of sticking with the original faith and the richness and depth that I have found only there. I think too many people these days are trying to find a “belief” that fits their idea of God and what He should be – instead of accepting the amazing gift of who He really is to us.
    With all the new “faiths”, and changes in the others taking place, there will always be something out there that fits what you want to believe. Sadly, they are leading many astray from the true Christ, the true Faith, and the true God. I know that was predicted in the Bible, but it is very sad to see happening around me.
    God blessed me with a wonderful husband who is very good at being the “Spiritual head of the family”, and we say prayers every morning – even if he is late leaving for work. When God brought us together, Michael kept telling me that I was Orthodox I just didn’t know it – from my beliefs. He was right. I only wish I knew how to get my children and grandchildren to see how important faith and God are in their lives, and know that the love and strength that come from knowing the Holy Trinity will go on in their lives.

  7. Henry Says:

    Some thoughts from an aging pragmatic American Protestant, I wrote down a number of years ago in a letter. I apologize in advance if any find it too long.

    If change occurs too rapidly for a culture to assimilate, the religion of that culture will no longer provide a viable cultural framework and will no longer answer the questions asked of it. The people of that culture will then react in one of three ways:

    1 A snap back to fundamentalism– In a sort of psychological state of denial people will reject the evidence surrounding them and will retreat into a ferocious defense of their faith. They will view themselves as God’s elect and will curse everything happening outside their circle of belief. This is happening across the Islamic World. Many of these people were ripped from the Sixteenth Century into the Twentieth Century in less than fifty years by Israel and Oil. It was too much to assimilate and so they retreat to the Middle Ages and declare Holy War on the rest of the World. Clearly, American Fundamentalists, extreme and moderate, fit this model. Jerry Falwell blames the attack on the World Trade Towers and the Pentagon on abortionists, lesbians, and the ACLU. The Bible Answer Man uses the logic of the Eighteenth Century enlightenment and Northern European Reform Protestantism to dispel the discoveries and theories of the present. I find this curious, as the very rational faith of that time led us step by logical step to the present.

    2 Experimentation with new faiths– When the old Gods fail, people seek new Gods. This has happened throughout history, most often when a military disaster imposes new Gods on the defeated culture. As Islam swept across North Africa, the Middle East and South West Asia, Christianity and other belief systems disappeared. In the last two centuries indigenous, animistic tribal belief systems were shattered by European and American steel. As the soul of the Empire decayed, the myths and legends that gave meaning to the Roman Citizen lost their power to speak. Romans then experimented with every foreign religion they could find. Christianity triumphed in the Empire as the West collapsed under the weight of barbarian hordes. Today, Americans of my age, shocked as we were by Vietnam, the Civil Rights struggle, and the amazingly rapid conquests of a science that considers current Christian worldviews as irrelevant as the Ptolemaic Christian worldview that brought Galileo before the inquisition, look to every religion under the sun to make some sense of our lives and to answer the questions that matter.

    3 Reforming old faiths into believable new systems– Sometimes men make a serious effort to reconcile their faith to the new realities of the World in which they live. Today, educated Muslims living in America must and do postulate a different faith than that practiced in their homelands to survive. Throughout the long history of Christianity men have found ways to reconcile the Faith to the worldview and economic realities of their culture. The Protestant Reformation with its emphasis on individual conscience and belief spoke to the rising middle class of the time who were growing quite tired of parasitic nobility and the priests with their money bags. Luther and others kicked Christianity into the then present world of Northern Europe. The Wesley brothers found a way to speak to the dispossessed and impoverished victims of the Industrial Revolution. Today, men I respect greatly, such as Larry Crabb wrestle with the world as it is, changing their notions of faith and practice to meet the demands of a different time and place.

    It has been suggested that there is a fourth way, unbelief. After a great deal of thought I disagree. A society can not be based on unbelief. Man is wired in such a way as to presume and search for meaning in the universe we inhabit and we intuitively understand the nature of good and evil. Even individuals who profess unbelief can not inhabit that realm in their own life. The great Swedish director, Ingmar Bergman, in movies such as “The Virgin Spring” portrays a world of senseless horror, murder, and violence. The unhappy survivors trying to understand what has happened are ridiculed as impotent and foolish. Yet Bergman once produced a beautiful version of Mozart’s opera the magic flute. The camera returns again and again to a little girl in the audience. Bergman tenderly explores this child face and eyes as she discovers a magical new world of story, song, and music. The child is his daughter. He can not live what he pretends to believe.

  8. PJ Says:

    “The closer I am to Christ it seems the further I seem away from them.”

    Be of good cheer, Merry.

    “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.”

  9. PJ Says:

    “Throughout the long history of Christianity men have found ways to reconcile the Faith to the worldview and economic realities of their culture. ”

    Too often, this process is called heresy. I’m wary of the likes of Larry Crabb. You have a distinctly Whiggish view of history.

  10. dinoship Says:

    “The closer I am to Christ it seems the further I seem away from them.”

    Oh how often we struggle with this! I have often discussed this matter in the Holy Mountain.

    In one sense yes, very much so; but in another quite the opposite…
    There is a fabulous saying from the desert Fathers:
    “a monk is one who is separated from all yet conjoined to all”

    This is exactly how all believers must combine the apparently “uncombinable”.
    We do in fact need to kill any self driven love of others, no matter how natural and spontaneous and painful it is,

    this looks like this:
    Me ————> Other

    while rekindling it anew without ‘self-motif’, “only because God loves them”, “only because He wants me to love them”

    this looks like this:
    ->God->
    / \
    / \
    Me—/ \—>Other

    Now, I’ll post this and pray it works🙂

  11. dinoship Says:

    It didn’t work! The drawing, I’ll attempt another way…

  12. dinoship Says:

    ………….—->God—>………….
    …………/………………..\…………
    ………../…………………..\……….
    ………./……………………..\……..
    ……../…………………………\……
    ……/…………………………….\….
    Me/………………………………\Other

  13. dinoship Says:

    🙂
    The second commandment through the first and because of the first.
    When drawn like this it looks like slightly like a mini version of the tower of Babel, yet it is its polar opposite type of love

  14. Margaret Says:

    Merry, I have a similar experience with my teenage daughter. While I agree with PJ’s response, getting further away from her was not the idea when we came into the Orthodox church. She came in with us at age 12 as a matter of form (no comments, just went) and seems to have been drifting further and further away. She says she is agnostic. We ask her to attend church services with us as long as she is living with us. She is soon to leave for college. I pray the Akathist to the Mother of God, Nurturer of Children often, and our church meets and prays this once a month with all who show up. This is a great help and other women have encouraged me in this prayer and in heartfelt prayer to the Theotokos for intercession for our children. God is with our family, as He is with you and your family, keep praying and know that He is truly the Lover of Mankind!

  15. dinoship Says:

    Margaret,
    your words echo the great Elder Porphyrios’ words very closely concerning this matter…

  16. fatherstephen Says:

    Henry,
    Your account is a version of Protestantism and its continuing encounter with culture. Snap backs, experimentations and reforms are simply ways of speaking about how Protestantism continually adapts to the culture – ultimately shaped by forces outside itself (perhaps even outside of God, if I’m being combative). There is certainly a Protestant belief that this adaptation can be made without sacrificing the central and important core. I doubt that seriously.

    The last liturgy in Constantinople before it fell to the Turks (its anniversary was last week) is the same as the liturgy today. Perhaps Orthodoxy’s notion of the timelessness of the faith (regardless of the language into which it is translated) and its practices is wrong. But if the faith is going to actually be a “touchstone,” or even if it is in “true,” then its timeless character would seem to be important. The constant reshaping of the carton and its content is at least problematic – or so it seems to me.

  17. Andrew Says:

    Happy Pentecost, Father!

  18. Henry Says:

    Ah yes my friend, for better or worse I am a Protestant living in what I view as a largely post modern America. I continue to pray that I can find a way to speak Jesus in a meaningful way into my world.

    P.J. You gave me a good laugh. Whiggish view of history? Indeed, Sir, you would think me a Tory?

  19. PJ Says:

    A Whig is the opposite of a Tory. Whigs are progressives who see history as a story of unrelenting progress. The Tory spurns this as fantastical and self-congratulatory. Your very words betray this sense of self-congratulations: “Speak Jesus in a meaningful way into my world”? Really? Are Jesus’ original words insufficient? Do they rot and wither with each passing year? Are they archaic? Outdated? In poor fashion? No. The message of the Gospel is timeless, for it issues from the lips of the Logos, who is the very heart of history. History revolves around the Resurrection. Multitudes scoffed at Christ when He walked the earth, and multitudes scorn Him now. It will be this way until every knee bows before Him.

  20. fatherstephen Says:

    Henry,
    I remember celebrating like a bunch of Whigs at your apartment in 1976 after the election. It’s among the embarrassing moments of my youthful folly – but we meant well.

  21. fatherstephen Says:

    Gee PJ,
    Lighten up. I work on speaking Jesus’ words in a meaningful way as well. The alternative is to speak them in a meaningless way. Henry, PJ might mean well – he’s a Roman Catholic.

  22. Merry Bauman Says:

    Thank you for the kind words, sharing your own lives and experiences with me – you touched me very deeply and I appreciate so much what you said. It does help. I will continue to pray for my children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, and trust them to God and His plan for each of them.

  23. EPG Says:

    Back to the original thought in the post. There is a book called “The Outermost House,” about a winter spent in a cabin on the beach on Cape Cod. The author, whose name escapes me, writes something like this somewhere in the middle of the — To be less than a man is to be a beast; to attempt to be more than a man is to be a monster.

    I am not sure why that came to mind in response to reading this post, except that perhaps the pagan and the Christian, knowing what it meant to be human, had something in common that a post-Christian, for whom everything is an arbitrary construct, might not have.

    Correct me if I am wrong, Father, but it seems that the Church’s response to our broken humanity is to call us to fulfill our humanity, with Christ as the model for that fulfillment. We are not called to transcend, modify or supplant our humanity.

  24. Andrew Says:

    Don’t forget EPG, if I may, that Fr. Stephen’s pre-Christian man takes us back to the first days of creation where the pre-eternal Christ was and indeed still is, present. The cabin could have been anywhere.

  25. fatherstephen Says:

    EPG,
    In the writings of St. Maximus the Confessor, the great teacher of Orthodox anthropology, the fulfillment of our humanity is precisely the path of our humanity. Man is not created “perfect” or “complete” but innocent. Indeed, like St. Irenaeus before him, Adam and Eve are adolescents. We fall from the path of our fulfillment (which is union with Christ). In Christ our humanity is fulfilled and in union with Him we can all become fully what we were created to become. Met. Kallistos Ware has written and spoken beautifully on this.

  26. Henry Says:

    1976. That didn’t work out so well. Why is it so hard to have one’s head and heart in a good place at the same time.

  27. Margaret Says:

    I find Fr. Meletios Webber’s book Bread, Water, Wine and Oil to contain excellent discussion on why one’s head and one’s heart have difficulty being in a good place at the same time. God bless us all!

  28. Philip Jude Says:

    Oh, alright, I apologize for being a cranky Tory.

  29. Andrew Says:

    Well, almost anywhere.🙂

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