The Sagehood of the Plebs
[A term paper I wrote for my course Philosophy as a Way of Life at Davenant Hall. This version does not include citations: for those get the PDF here.]
"By me kings reign, and princes decree justice."1 So declares Lady Wisdom as portrayed by the wisest natural king who ever lived. "[He] has made us kings and priests to His God and Father."2 So declared Saint John regarding Jesus Christ. Similarly, "Until philosophers are kings... cities will never have rest from their evils---nor the human race, as I believe." A long and common complaint men have made against men is that the masses are fools. Most lack either the capacity or the desire to inquire seriously into the great matters which determine the worth of all human acts and endeavors. What hope have we, then, except the force of wiser superiors to control the herd?
This bleak prospect is not the only possibility. While the natural man may not see it, and while reason alone may not disclose it, nature, or rather nature's God, has prepared a higher destiny for the human race. When God revealed Himself in clear writing, He made plain the truth of the matter. Though the masses may perhaps be fools, such is not man's end. Every man, being man in God's image, is made to become what seems rightly called a "philosopher-king." Wisdom and dominion God has wrought for each human being to step into that they might disclose and glorify Him.
So has the Christian religion declared. The call goes out to all men, inviting them to their divinely crafted end. Alas, the guardians and teachers of the faith have not always perceived the radical vision of a nation of kings and priests. By error on this point, millions of Christians have been taught nothing of this design. Yet this vision is among those great treasures which, though they seemed nearly to fade from the world, the Reformation recovered. By restoring confidence in God's favour by faith in Christ and abolishing the undue superiority of the clergy, the Protestant Reformers once again unleashed the full potential of the free development of wisdom and the universal power of dominion. To put it otherwise, God made men to be philosopher-kings, His revealed religion alone provides the means to form all men toward this great end, and the principles of the Reformation especially revealed and refreshed both the end and the means.
To fully grasp how Christianity establishes―and the Reformers retrieved―the royal end of man and the means which effect it, we shall need to proceed in three steps. First, it will be necessary to clarify precisely what this vision is and whence it derives in Scripture. Following this, we must consider the special means by which Christianity alone of all philosophies is able to effect the sagehood of the plebs. Finally, we can take special account of how Protestantism in particular strengthens and secures the entire project. Let us, then, proceed immediately to the first subject.
What is the chief end of man? To this question the Westminster Shorter Catechism famously answered, "Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever." How, though, does man glorify God? The greatest hypothesis must involve dominion and wisdom, for reasons which will soon be explored. The famous statement in Plato about philosopher-kings deserves here slightly more attention, so it follows at greater length:
Until philosophers are kings, or the kings and princes of this world have the spirit and power of philosophy, and political greatness and wisdom meet in one, and those commoner natures who pursue either to the exclusion of the other are compelled to stand aside, cities will never have rest from their evils,---nor the human race, as I believe,---and then only will this our State have a possibility of life and behold the light of day.
Socrates claims, seemingly justly, that until philosophers―that is, lovers of wisdom―are kings or kings are philosophers, there can be no peace. The reason is intuitive: with power but no wisdom, there can be only injustice and tyranny. With wisdom but no power, there can be no common order and regulation to bring all into harmony. If there is to be justice and harmony, both understanding and dominion will be required to perceive the end and the means and to actually effect them.
Yet from this one statement of Socrates it may seem that it suffices to have kings in a more literal sense. A good and just society, and thus one that glorifies God, may be maintained if sufficiently wise men hold the reins of political power. This is probably true so far as it goes, but as men gradually discovered, in the long term rulers cannot exceed the quality of the people. The moral bond between men and their sovereign is too strong, and the sovereign only rules at the consent of his subjects.
As the consciousness of the political significance of all the people grew, so grew a spirit of democracy and equality that, for whatever its merits, has also eroded much of the previous weight of tradition and authority. So in addition to the significance of ordinary men's moral quality implicit in the bond between sovereign and people, so this new spirit has placed on the shoulders of every man a greater burden in his need for wisdom and agency to cultivate a truly good society. This heightens all the stakes, and C. S. Lewis has put the problem in the most compelling light. This must be quoted at somewhat unfortunate length:
[P]lain men are being forced to bear burdens which plain men were never expected to bear before. We must get the truth for ourselves or go without it...Could it be intended that the whole mass of the people should now move forward and occupy for themselves those heights which were once reserved only for the sages? Is the distinction between wise and simple to disappear because all are now expected to become wise?
Here it seems Lewis has discovered the truth: the need for wisdom and dominion is not limited to wise political sovereigns. For true sanity, for man's true end, all men must become, in a sense, philosopher-kings. The chief end of man is to glorify God by, at least in part, wisely exercising dominion on His behalf, imaging his Maker, the All-Wise Majesty.
This may, of course, sound a bit like wild speculation. Does God's own revelation of His purposes confirm this? The question is critical but can be answered quite affirmatively. In the beginning, God made man after His image and in the same breath gave him dominion, as though rule and governance were the chief meaning of this image-bearing: "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness, and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the livestock, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth."3 In the Psalms, the King David exclaims about men and the son of men how wonderful it is that God has "given him dominion over the works of Your hands" and put "all things under his feet."4 Every man and woman, then, is wrought in the image of God and as such designed to exercise dominion on His behalf.
Dominion on its own, however, does not suffice. It is not enough that men be kings but, as we have said, they must be philosopher-kings. The Scriptures also declare this by the wonderful book of Proverbs. Written as the wisdom of king to be passed to his royal son, the entire book calls and demands that the heir adopt wisdom. Lady Wisdom claims it is by her that kings reign,5 the heart of the king is portrayed as deep and unfathomable,6, and the book tells of the glorious dance between God's concealing and the king's finding out7. The biblical king as an ideal is one who has power and dominion, but makes discriminating judgments. He seeks out the ways of the world, gathers insight, and renders just verdicts from the wisdom he has accumulated.
Indeed, Solomon as the author of Proverbs is himself nearly the archetypal philosopher-king. Yet he was only a type of the one "greater than Solomon,"8 Jesus Christ, who is wise beyond measure and the king above all kings. Those who are baptized into Him as united to Him by His Spirit, given His mind, and made in Him kings and priests. Furthermore, all are invited to Him. So in Christ is the great proof that all men are called to take up wisdom, take up dominion, and become such men as can by power and prudence represent the glory of God in their words and deeds.
This is the brilliance of Christianity, a vision so daring few others have ever attempted it. Every man must and can become a man of wisdom and dominion, and Christ offers in His Church by His Word and Sacrament a way there. So Hadot notes of Augustine's opinion:
For Augustine, [the difference between Christianty and Platonism] consists in the fact that Platonism was not able to convert the masses and turn them away from earthly things, in order to orient them toward spiritual things; whereas, since the coming of Christ, people of all conditions have adopted the Christian way of life, so that a true transformation of humanity is under way.
The vision is grand indeed: every man a sage, and in another respect every man a king. The question does raise itself, however: by what means is this vision obtained? If Augustine is right that Christianity alone has been able to bring the philosophical way to common men, what are its particular virtues which make this possible?
The Happy Alliance of Athens and Jerusalem
The philosopher-king is not an idle speculator. As Hadot and numerous others have strongly emphasized, philosophy is a way of life. Likewise, a true king is not merely a comfortable lord living off the drudgery of his subjects, but a lively worker of judgment and rule who brings order and security to his domain. If it is true that these two personalities come together for all men in Christianity, there must be some special means by which the faith of Christ is able to produce both. It seems upon evaluation that there are a few particularly identifiable mechanisms within the faith of the Church conducive to this end. First of note: Christianity alone unites ritual and reason, the whole course of life (including the public, the formal, and the pious) with the whole field of truth. Likewise, the teachings of Christ and the whole Scriptures render plain to all men what only the greatest ethicists might otherwise discover. Finally, only Christian doctrine and practice of God and how He deals with men provides the common man with the rigorous and holistic accountability he needs to fashion godly wisdom and dominion.9
Water and Blood
If all men are meant to be philosophers, not all men have what might be called the "philosophical temperament." Many are not interested in levels of abstraction greater than whatever is required to go about their daily business and perhaps to give advice and opinions from time to time. Others may perhaps have the interest but not the intellectual ability to pursue it well. Under some conceptions of philosophy, this would seem to render the practice impossible. Such persons, however, may be perfectly suited for "kingship," very ready and able to exercise whatever abilities they do have effectually to bring order of whatever kind they do understand into the world.
The imbalance between ordinary men and "philosophers" in the more narrow and intellectual sense calls to mind what C. S. Lewis said about "Thick" and "Clear" religions. The Thick are those which appeal to the basic stuff of life, consisting in rituals and locality, building upon common needs and affections which drive the behaviour and customs of people and society in general. Thick religions provide holy times, actions, places, songs, and meals.10 Clear religions, by contrast, focus on the universal, the rational, the more explicitly philosophical, and the like. These appeal especially to the intellect and satisfy rational or refined aesthetic desires. Rather than locality and externals, they extend their vision to that which affects all men at all times and places in the most spiritual11 dimensions.
According to Lewis, "if there is a true religion it must be both Thick and Clear: for the true God must have made both the child and the man, both the savage and the citizen, both the head and the belly." By his account only Christianity and Hinduism of all religions truly incorporate both, but Hinduism does so faultily by leaving the two more or less in separate rooms.. Christianity alone provides a true integration of ritual and reason, of life and thought.
In this area clearly the ancient philosophies have been surpassed. As many have noted, the highest Greek philosophers constructed systems mostly independent of religion and public culture. The stories told of the gods were often treated as allegories at best or lies at worst. While most of these philosophers believed public religion should be preserved, they connected this only by the thinnest of threads to their own views about the divine. As Hadot noted of the Epicureans as one particular example, "If Epicurus recommended participation in civic festivals and even in prayer, this was to allow the Epicurean philosopher to contemplate the gods as conceived by the Epicurean theory of nature."
In Christianity, however, reason and ritual receive a harmonious union. The doctrines are indeed rigorously rationally defined,12 and the ethics are infinitely applicable from simple and clear principles. The room for contemplation is vast, as a great ocean, with the highest philosophical concept of God as ipsum esse subsistens having a happy home there. Yet all of this is integrated with a full way of life richly applicable to men of all intellects and dispositions. Christians eat and drink the Lord's Body and Blood in the most solemn of rituals. Bodies are dunked in or sprinkled with water, and rites and ceremonies exist for all of life from birth to matrimony to illness to death.13 There are holidays, songs, heroes, and stories to satisfy every need and temperament, the best of which are all carefully calibrated in harmony with the highest dogmas and moral principles. The simple Christian way of life is a yoke easy for the everyman, yet it embodies the rationality to which the wisest philosophers always aspired.
The Ethical Revelation
It will not suffice to explain the Thick and Clear union of Christianity which can make any man into a sage without addressing the special gift which the Word of God offers to the world of ethics. A conscientious and examined life is perhaps the great idea of all true philosophy, but it is one to which men in general are rarely given by nature. While some of those who are naturally among the most scrupulous, the most neurotic, or the most intellectually active will reflect easily on their way of life and try to judge it according to some kind of standard, this is much less the case for many men on the street who simply want to live a decent life that fits with the expectations of custom and satisfies their ordinary desires.
Of course, every man has a conscience, and for this reason nearly all men seek to live a moral life of some sort, at the very least one they can loosely justify to themselves so that they will appear no worse than an antihero to themselves. Most will go further than this in seeking, if not with much vigour at least some sincerity, to be able to comfort themselves with the assurance that they are plausibly some kind of "good person." However, this is generally insufficient to produce truly good men. Here as always the learned and judicious Hooker has made the point quite exactly, so he will (with apologies) need to be quoted at some length:
The first principles of the Law of Nature are easy; indeed, it would be difficult to find men ignorant of them. However, when it comes to particular applications of this law, so far has our natural understanding been darkened that at times whole nations have been unable to recognize even gross iniquity as sin. Again, we are inclined to flatter ourselves and to learn as little about our defects as possible, and the less we know about them the less we desire to get rid of them...Finally, there are many laws necessary to direct our lives which, although they could in principle be discovered, few men with natural capacity have ever found them out---indeed, some have never been discovered. St. Augustine notes that few are wise and clever enough, few free enough from all distractions, few sufficiently instructed in the higher points of learning, to have discovered even the immortality of the soul...Therefore we should yield eternal thanks to our Creator, the Father of all mercy, for delivering His law to the world, a law in which so many things are made plain, clear, and obvious, which otherwise would have lain hidden, to the ruin of many thousands of souls that now by God's grace are saved.
Hooker has here led to the solution: the revelations of God which founded Christianity are full of the most advanced wisdom man has ever known, but broken down to be plain, clear, and obvious. That which even the philosophers struggled to discover by the exercise of reason, God has freely unveiled in the Scriptures.
Possible examples of this could be multiplied. In a harsh world subject to so much uncertainty, the most natural reflex is to fret over the future for dear life. Yet as the Stoics and others discovered imperfectly and only by reflection the great benefits of remaining instead calm, focusing on present benefits and duties, and accepting whatsoever comes to pass as it happens, Christ in sublime simplicity said, "Therefore do not fear. You are more valuable than many sparrows."14
In sexual ethics perhaps one of the most extreme cases of this comes into focus. Sexual desire is one of the most potent of all, and sexual conduct among the hardest (both practically and theoretically) to rightly order. Even among the greatest philosophers there were so many strange or appalling conceptions.15 Christian teaching cuts through all this jungle with the clear and simple call to fortify sex entirely by the walls of marriage, to build marriage as a permanent union of the two sexes in love and respect, and to guard all with great chastity. While in hindsight16 this simple ethic seems obviously to correspond to nature, wherever God's Word is absent, so also is this critical protection for human good. Now, without any subtleties, without the slightest conscious conception of natural law or the statistical evidence for which sexual behaviours are most healthy, a man can tap on his Bible and say, "Marriage is to be honored among everyone, and the bed undefiled. But God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterers."17
The Conscience and the Judge
Finally, one of the most important contributions of Christianity to the development of a truly philosophical way of life is the insistence upon an ultimate accountability. A difficulty for ordinary men is apparent: unless they are particularly conscientious, they are not likely to give sufficient weight to the highest things unless these are constantly placed before their mind and the stakes impressed upon them a hundred ways over. Even if all men learned the basics of the philosophical life in elementary school and onward, what would impel to reckon with it seriously outside the classroom? It takes a distinctive drive and idiosyncratic level of self-vigilance for the knowledge of philosophical truth alone to produce a philosophical life.
Of course, in the best times of the philosophers, the schools did much of this work for the students by adding social accountability. This is true in a certain sense in the modern world as much as it was in the ancient. For example, C. S. Lewis had long known of an ethic attached to his idealism, but it was only the challenge of his peers who prompted him to turn it into practical activity. When Barfield remarked to him that philosophy was, according to Plato, a way rather than a subject, he began in earnest his first truly philosophical introspection and activity: "Enough had been thought, and said, and felt, and imagined. It was about time that something should be done."
Here especially Christianity has proved most efficacious over and against almost every other religion or system in the world. For Christianity alone provides robust moral accountability both in the inward and the outward forums, erecting guardrails both of the ethical and of the social variety. By doctrine and practice the faith of Christ everywhere provokes men with regular challenge to be mindful of their duties and of the grand scheme of the universe.
The inward accountability receives perfection in Christian theology proper and eschatology. Unlike the old pagan religions in their popular forms, Christianity affirms God to be utterly high and holy, morally spotless, absolutely a se, seeing and judging all things, even the thoughts and intentions of the heart. This pure and exalted monotheism provides a constraint on the conscience not available to any who saw their gods as mutable, morally dubious, passible, or susceptible to error or deception. Such gods one can hope to evade, to placate by morally irrelevant means, or to counter by another god who prefers different rules. Likewise, apart from Christianity even more philosophical conceptions of God lacked some of that ultimate, conscience-binding character. Conceived apart from the Incarnation and the reckless anthropomorphism of the revealed Scriptures, God appears too uncertainly as the active and seeing Judge of all the earth. It is too easy, upon reading of God in purely philosophical terms, to imagine Him indistinguishable from nature itself, and nature, while powerful and the rule for human conduct, cannot but be felt as more an inanimate, free-floating ruler than as teacher with the ruler in hand to swat the knuckles.
Likewise the eschatological claims of Christianity compel the conscience more than those of almost anything which preceded it. Christianity affirms vigorously a final reckoning, a when God will judge the living and the dead. "For nothing is secret that will not be revealed, nor anything hidden that will not be known and revealed."18 This contrasts infinitely with almost every pagan conception, which were oft cyclical or infinite (in the older, more nihilistic sense). Even the philosophers fell prey to the same trap, never reckoning that there would be a final reckoning. The Stoics, for example, imagined the cosmos "repeats itself, eternally identical," a notion which, so far from stimulating the conscience, suggests ultimate futility:
What has been is the same as what will be, and what has been done is the same as what will be done; there is nothing new under the sun.19
The doctrine of the final judgment, by contrast, is a constant provocation to ethical vigilance. This is why so many Christians have always prayed, "Keep in our minds a lively remembrance of that great day, in which we must give a strict account of our thoughts, words, and actions." Moreover, lest this final horizon seem insufficient, Christians have also always held to a hearty doctrine of regular providence, in which the fates of peoples and empires rise and fall by divine judgment. If the end of the world seems too far away to quicken the conscience, then the end of the Temple or of the Roman Empire or of Christendom or of America commend themselves to the Christian mind in whatever age as an impending judgment for which the righteous must be prepared and in which the wicked will face trouble.
All of these stimulants to the conscience, however, are rendered far more efficacious in the Christian faith by virtue of the outward mechanisms which reinforce and reiterate them. This is perhaps the most impressive and important difference by which Christ forms a true family of philosophers: the formation of the Church. By building His Church and calling her together around Himself weekly, with Word and Sacrament to remind and impress, Christ turns His people into those who "spur one another to love and to good works."20 The staggering accomplishment of the Church, which can perhaps only be attributed to Christ's universal dominion and divine power, is as if the schools of the philosophers had been able to compel all men into membership. Many a man who would never have the time or desire to forsake an ordinary life to devote his future to a residence among philosophy students has spent nearly every Sunday of every week in the fellowship, admonitions, and rituals of the people of God. This constantly reminds him of his duties and provides all sorts of motivations, from the most base to the most noble, to set his affection "on things above, and not on earthly things,"21 to love his neighbour, and to reflect on his eternal fate. By this combination of inward and outward accountability, then, Christianity establishes of all religions and philosophies the most powerful provocations to a pious and conscientious life, accessible even to the lowest and meanest of men.
Nonetheless, as we noted far above, though Christianity is full of these potent resources for the advancement of the philosophical life to all men of all ranks, it has not always produced it, and one of the obstacles has been some particular errors and practices of the late medieval Roman Church. It remains, then, to briefly examine the weaknesses of Rome on this point and the ways in which the Reformation revitalized the sagehood of all believers.
The Sagehood of All Believers
"Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, when He said Poenitentiam agite, willed that the whole life of believers should be repentance." This famous statement by which Martin Luther began his 95 Theses radically demands a philosophical life. It is the healthy opposite to what Socrates famously repudiated when he said, "The unexamined life is not worth living." Here from what might rightly be regarded the first great Protestant declaration, from a man considered not at all friendly to philosophy, the essence of the philosophical life comes into full view: a life rigorously interrogated by transcendent truth.
The Two Kingdoms
That Luther's first thesis was necessary at all gets at the first point of difference where Catholicism had stifled universal philosophy and Protestantism restored it. The systems of merits, indulgences, and the like, with whatever subtleties they may have been defended by the theologians, ultimately fed the unexamined life. The number of men who thought that by doing the right deeds of penance, by checking the right ritual boxes, or by giving the right amount of alms they could be absolved of any true and serious need to personally reckon with virtue and truth was certainly great. As Melanchthon complained about the monks, "[they] falsely boast that in the observance of a monastic life the commandments are fulfilled, and more is done than what is commanded."
This points at one of the most important moves the Reformation made in reclaiming philosophy for all men. It was necessary to divide the two kingdoms and remind men of their personal stance coram Deo as separate from their standing with the institutional structures of the Church. We noted above how Christianity of all religions provides the unique mix of inward and outward spurs of accountability to ensure that every man can be sufficiently motivated to attend to ethics and truth. In late medieval Romanism, though, this double pressure was collapsed into the single pressure of the Church. The forum of conscience become one with the social forum, with the result that men were no longer so well compelled to consider their inward life of conscience and were instead compelled only to satisfy the outward demands of the clergy, which can be fulfilled without virtue or even any thought at all.
This intersects with the great Reformation doctrine of sola fide. By sharply distinguishing between the inward forum of conscience and the outward forum before men (which includes the Church), Luther recovered the balance of internal and external forms of accountability which prompt healthy and philosophical living. As Littlejohn explained pertaining to the spiritual kingdom, for Luther "it is by faith alone that we participate in this kingdom, so we must not be deceived into identifying it with external works or rituals." Such a distinction restores the personal seriousness of conscience against a system where men with sufficient use of rites and ceremonies could practically free them from living conscientiously. If faith alone effects a right standing coram Deo, we must truly know ourselves as sinners, confess the "Amen" to all God's judgments and threats, and cling to His promises in Christ for dear life. Protestantism maintains this demand at the front in a way which Rome had once forgotten, restoring to the everyman a solid basis for self-judgment and moral vigilance.
Such restored personal accountability, independent to some degree from the institutions of the Church, also restores to each man higher royal dignity. Each man regains the freedom of a little king to make judgments in his own domain, to search out what God has concealed in His own life. If the clergy cannot impose observances upon his conscience, he is free and accountable to reign over his own life (and his own house) with familiar discretion. Without such a freedom, as times past saw too clearly, men can so quickly be reduced from kings to slaves, not of God but of bishops and priests.
The Doctrine of Vocation and the Philosopher-Shoemaker
Closely related to the previous point, the Reformation famously articulated a doctrine of vocation connected to the priesthood of all believers that undermined the superior spiritual status long attributed to the clergy of the Church. This, too, was essential for the restoration of the sagehood of all believers.
We have formerly considered the catholic reach of the Church as one of the greatest strengths by which Christianity was able to bring philosophy to the masses. Over time, however, this began to work in a rather different direction. As the clergy (and those of other sacred callings) were exalted, so the access to philosophical aid and the incentive to use it fell among laymen. If one knows he cannot be as spiritual as the clergy, why try to aspire to anything beyond the common lot? If shoes must be mended and wheat needs to be gathered, are not the majority of men by necessity excluded from the heights of ethics and truth? Will they not have to content themselves with a lesser standard for lesser men? As McGrath notes:
[M]onastic spirituality never regarded everyday work in the world as anything of value. Those who chose to live and work in the world were, at best, "regarded with indulgent charity." Those who committed themselves---either by choice or through lack of serious alternatives---to living and working in the everyday world were regarded as inferior, devoid of any "calling." The Latin term vocation was understood to mean a call to the monastic life that involved leaving the world behind.
The distinction between commands and counsels only exacerbated (and presumably developed in symbiosis with) this problem. The notion of the evangelical counsels as a superior ethic which provided additional merit to those with the moral quality to observe them again left the ordinary mass of men in an inferior state, forced by all the necessities of life to abandon any serious hope of the highest kinds of perfection. For example, Melanchthon complained, "[The monks] called a community of property the polity of the Gospel; they said that not to hold property, not to vindicate one's self at law, not to have wife and child, were evangelical counsels." By such standards most men have no hope of full virtue and no motivation to attempt it.
In both of these matters the Reformation liberated philosophy for the people by demolishing the wall of separation between clergy and laymen, between commands and counsels. This again pertains to the two kingdoms, but the answer is simple enough without a full examination of that intersection. Suffice it to say that the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers was by nature also the sagehood of all believers, and the Protestant doctrine of vocation returned all the dignity and philosophical promise to the shoemaker. This works by restoring to the layman the true responsibility and calling of virtue and truth: to make all believers priests is not to degrade priesthood but to elevate the duties and privileges of the laymen, and to eliminate the partition between commands and counsels is to show that the ethical heart of the "counsels" was always present in the commands. To cite Luther once more:
The prince should think: Christ has served me and made everything to follow him; therefore, I should also serve my neighbor, protect him and everything that belongs to him. That is why God has given me this office, and I have it that I might serve him...The same is true for shoemaker, tailor, scribe, or reader. If he is a Christian tailor, he will say: I make these clothes because God has bidden me do so, so that I can earn a living, so that I can help and serve my neighbor.
This view returns directly to the neglected theme of kingship as well. Luther paints a vivid picture of a world where every man is called to examine his life, to examine his place, and to examine his powers. Every man of every rank bears an office of the highest dignity where he is tasked to be the servant of all, protecting and serving his neighbours by the exercise of his personal dominion. This ever-fresh ideal is precisely that of Genesis 1-2, in which God makes man in His image and tasks Him to guard, serve, take dominion, multiply, and everything else.
In these short pages there has hardly been time to explore with due justice the great calling of the image of God. Though not an exact match to what most of the philosophers meant by it at the time, man as God's royal representative is the truer philosopher-king, whether he indeed is a king in the political sense or not. Every man is called to wisdom, to the examination of the life and the works of God, and to the application of this wisdom to a realm of dominion, however great or small, to which God has entrusted him.
We have seen that Christianity has in itself the highest resources for this lofty vision for men, resources both for the vision's construction and implementation. By its union of water and blood, its supreme ethical revelation, and its uniquely holistic resources for embedding ethical and doctrinal accountability into the life of every man, Christianity has been able to make the plebs into sages with more success than any other religion or philosophy in history. Some errors developed in the medieval Church hindered the progress of this mass transformation, but we also found how the Reformation was able to restore and emphasize the truths which correct the course, not least by its doctrine of the two kingdoms and by its reunion of the ethics and status of clergy and laymen.
Alas, there is much work to be done. Today it seems that, far from the sagehood of the plebs, the common man is beset with all manner of distractions and whatever philosophical examinations he may tend toward are violently extinguished by innumerable foes (quite often marketing teams). Yet this also comes at a time of declining Christianity, so perhaps the power to make philosophers out of grocers waxes and wanes with the faith. There can be no doubt that this is a troublesome situation arising from many mistakes, but perhaps Lewis is still right. Perhaps these are the growing pains of a great divine experiment and there may indeed be a rich advance in the sagehood of the plebs before all God's plans are said and done. "Is the distinction between wise and simple to disappear because all are now expected to become wise?" May it be and amen.
Proverbs 8:15 Modern English Version.
Missing from this brief list is the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit and union with Christ. However, these are absent not because they are of no value but because they are the energy and vitality underlying each of these identifiable means. The life of Christ which transfigures men into philosopher-kings is communicated by the Holy Spirit uniquely through means such as these.
In their more degraded form, they will also generally provide sacred fornication, drunkenness, or brutality. Either way these all pertain chiefly to the common passions and habits of common men.
In the sense of ethical, rational, and otherwise intangible.
In what other religion would so much, for example, hang upon a single iota?
Even, I ought to note, in the least liturgical of churches, though the forms are quite different.
For example, the approbation of homosexuality (even of a pedophilic variety) or advocacy for the communal use of women.
And by the consistent evidence of many patterns and statistics today.