This Dark Age

A manual for life in the modern world.

By Daniel Schwindt

This Dark Age is now available in paperback on Amazon. The print version is MUCH cleaner than this online version, which is largely unedited and has fallen by the wayside as the project has grown. If you’ve appreciated my writing, please consider leaving a review on the relevant paperback volumes. The print edition also includes new sections (Military History, War Psychology, Dogmatic Theology).

Volume 1 | Volume 2 | Volume 3| Volume 4 | Volume 5 | Volume 6

Orthodoxy and heterodoxy

“I am becoming orthodox because I have come, rightly or wrongly, after stretching my brain till it bursts, to the old belief that heresy is worse even than sin. An error is more menacing than a crime, for an error begets crimes…”

~ G.K. Chesterton[1]

Perhaps the reason religion has come to be so despised is because it has been reduced to two things: behavioral standards and emotional comforts. That is to say, it has been reduced to moralism and sentimentality, or at least the sort of religion with which our American churches and religious political activities acquaints us seems to fit this bill. So used to this are we that it is difficult to imagine what else religion could or ought to provide besides judgments about sinful behavior and the comfort that comes from “being saved.” But there was once something more, and this missing piece is what is signified by the term “orthodoxy.” Orthodoxy is the body of religious truth, be that Scripture or Tradition. It is a supra-moral standard, in the sense that morality can be drawn from it but is not its essence; it is also beyond sentimentality because its purpose has nothing to do with emotional comfort or acceptability.

A civilization loses orthodoxy when it begins to say “I’m spiritual but not religious,” or, what’s worse, “Christianity is not a religion, it’s a relationship!” Neither of these statements is capable of comprehending Chesterton’s realization: that there is an evil worse even than sin. This evil is embodied in the concept of heresy, which is as foreign to modern society as orthodoxy. This makes perfect sense because the two imply each other and make no sense in isolation. Departure from orthodoxy is heresy, and the absence of heresy is adherence to orthodoxy. Both of these refer to the truth of the doctrine held by the believers. It concerns knowledge in its purest form.  The loss of orthodoxy and heresy together, therefore, also implies the loss of a society’s concern for knowledge of this order. Such a civilization has descended along the path indicated in the famous Taoist passage:

When the Way is lost, there comes goodness, when goodness is lost, there comes morality.[2]

When Protestantism rejected the concept of orthodoxy, which was necessary for its insistence on private interpretation, it predestined itself to descend into the “vague mist of platitudes” that C.S. Lewis warned against. Now it is no wonder the people loathe its presence in their midst. They see it for what it is: a set of shallow conventions adopted to get a set of superficial emotional comforts. In the ages of orthodoxy these had always been secondary products, derivations from the truth that was the only truly inviolable thing. Disconnected, they become ends in themselves, pleasant to easily satisfied minds, but slowly losing their appeal to the many.

[1] G.K. Chesterton, “The Diabolist,” Tremendous Trifles.

[2] Tao Te Ching, ch. 38.

Share This