01 February 2014

Weekend Reading: God and Mammon, Fear and Love

To my way of thinking, the inordinate desire for wealth, in excess and for its own sake, is just a manifestation of the will to power, which underlies most evil.

Fear, in excess or obsession, is often the spur to power, a means to seek to control that which we fear and resent. Perhaps it is part of the character, or the result of uncaring or abusiveness from our past.

There is a substantial difference between fear and respect, the latter of which is a high and proper regard, but intermingled with love and mutuality. We respect our parents, for example, if our relationship with them is proper, but we do not fear them as we would an enemy.

The will to power was the first sin of pride of the fallen angels. As John Milton said, 'Better to reign in hell, than to serve in heaven.'

"Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not love, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal." 1 Cor. xiii

"...Our Lord says, 'If you love Me, keep My commandments;' but they feel that though they are, to a certain point, keeping God's commandments, yet love is not proportionate, does not keep pace, with their obedience; that obedience springs from some source short of love. This they perceive; they feel themselves to be hollow; a fair outside, without a spirit within it.

It is possible to obey, not from love towards God and man, but from a sort of conscientiousness short of love; from some notion of acting up to a law; that is, more from the fear of God than from love of Him. Surely this is what, in one shape or other, we see daily on all sides of us; the case of men, living to the world, yet not without a certain sense of religion, which acts as a restraint on them.

They pursue ends of this world, but not to the full; they are checked, and go a certain way only, because they dare not go further.
This external restraint acts with various degrees of strength on various persons. They all live to this world, and act from the love of it; they all allow their love of the world a certain range; but, at some particular point, which is often quite arbitrary, this man stops, and that man stops.

Each stops at a different point in the course of the world, and thinks every one else profane who goes further, and superstitious who does not go so far,—laughs at the latter, is shocked at the former. And hence those few who are miserable enough to have rid themselves of all scruples, look with great contempt on such of their companions as have any, be those scruples more or less, as being inconsistent and absurd. They scoff at the principle of mere fear, as a capricious and fanciful principle; proceeding on no rule, and having no evidence of its authority, no claim on our respect; as a weakness in our nature, rather than an essential portion of that nature, viewed in its perfection and entireness.

And this being all the notion which their experience gives them of religion, as not knowing really religious men, they think of religion, only as a principle which interferes with our enjoyments unintelligibly and irrationally. Man is made to love. So far is plain. They see that clearly and truly; but religion, as far as they conceive of it, is a system destitute of objects of love; a system of fear. It repels and forbids, and thus seems to destroy the proper function of man, or, in other words, to be unnatural.

And it is true that this sort of fear of God, or rather slavish dread, as it may more truly be called, is unnatural; but then it is not religion, which really consists, not in the mere fear of God, but in His love; or if it be religion, it is but the religion of devils, who believe and tremble; or of idolaters, whom devils have seduced, and whose worship is superstition,—the attempt to appease beings whom they love not; and, in a word, the religion of the children of this world, who would, if possible, serve God and Mammon, and, whereas religion consists of love and fear, give to God their fear, and to Mammon their love."

John Henry Newman, Parochial and Plain Sermons, Vol. 5, No.23