The Easy Way: Nature vs. Grace

It is my habit to begin a ramble with a rambling sentence, so as to set the tone. Begin.

It is the habit of modish young believers to enter into the consummation of a worldly construction of several centuries as if it were a new idea; their love of fashion betrays them to that most ignominious of philosophical deaths, by which they are left alone in the desert made by the very army they marched with, which now retreats faster than the young believers can follow, in search of some new redoubt or fresh fortress from which they might murder the innocent and annoy the Church.

They launch, into the deserted dark, complex apologies for the construction with arguments which are, unbeknownst to them, unhappily unfashionable; they only discover how outmoded they have become if a traveler should happen by, who, if he laugh at them, might cause the young believer to seek out another, and just as old, worldly construction.

The Roman church has long taught that there are two paths, that of nature, and that of grace. This has also been a theme in the movies of a certain popish filmmaker, popular with modish young believers. One film announced, to the accompaniment of clanging meteors and crashing embryos, that these were the two paths of creation. Nature on one hand, grace on another.

At least I believe that is so. I know we are supposed to have seen that movie, and I want to, but I have only seen the preview and read some reviews. I am sure that when I finally do see the movie I will cry for an hour, which has prevented me for ten years now from watching it. I do not want to cry for an hour.

An example: the philosophical problem of dinosaurs is without grace.

The way of nature allows the modish young believer to escape ridicule for any latent radicality that might remain from the early flames of his or his parents’ conversion. By it we falsely separate the things of God from the things of creation, and so need never embarrass ourselves by laughably defending a literal six-day creation, or Leibniz.

Most of the world’s churches have decided that there are two ways. They let the world take one of them. The one people walk on; the one they live and die on. I am not talking about narrow is the gate. I am not talking about I am the way. I am speaking of the way of nature and the way of grace. There is only one way.

The philosophical problem of dinosaurs is without grace. After all, do you see anyone laughing?

And yet Tyrannosaurus Rex himself, the king of the thunder lizards, is a very hilarious dragon.

Any dragon about whom it is amusing to make basketball jokes is a half-rate but hilarious dragon. If there were two ways, one of nature, the other of grace, then T-Rex’s arms would not be hilarious. Vestigial organs are always more hilarious than they are terrible (i.e. the appendix), and they are not vestiges of nature’s red in tooth purpose. Dinosaur arms and appendices are vestiges of a great hilarity.

The philosophical problem of dinosaurs is without redeeming grace. Grace is a sense of humor; without grace there is nothing funny. Where there is joy-funny, we see the light of grace. Where there is death-funny, what the Americans call McCobb, we see rage.

If dinosaurs unnerve you, you are not funny. That is to say, you do not make the funny.

Funny is grace and grace is joy. Hilarity is everywhere on the spectrum of grace. This is why Hilary is an excellent name for a boy. It is also why Hilary climbed Mount Everest and hammered the Arians. Only in a hilarious world of grace can the famous dictum of St. Hilary’s make sense: quod illud est ibi. (Although we do not know if St. Hilary or St. Mallory said it.)

Some attributes held in common by funny and grace: Grace is surprising. Grace is unexpected/unlooked-for. Graces touches the ridiculous. Grace is immodest. Grace is obscene. Grace is disproportionate.

Grace also means elegance, which means meet and right so to do. Therefore grace is proportionate. It depends on the perspective. Give me a lever long enough and the God who struck Sarah will make you laugh.

This is how that which is gracious makes of the way of nature one way: a way of grace. It depends on the perspective. Pull back far enough.

There is not story in duality. Stasis is not only a period of inactivity; it is also defined as a period of equilibrium. Conspiracy theorists are practical manicheists, because their universe has perfect balance. Good at evil, dark at light, lord of light at force of evil. The devil is in grace versus nature.

Duality is anti-trinitarian. A poet could not bring himself to say that binary stars dance; they simply orbit around their common barycenter. But a poet might say that a solar system or a galaxy dances. Poets, theologians, philosophers, and scientists have all been guilty of using the phrase “music of the spheres”. No one has ever applied it to a binary star.

It takes at least three to dance. You know this from experience if you have seen a man dance with a woman, there are always at least three in the pair.

If there is a way of nature and a way of grace, there is a way of reason and a way of faith, a way of naturalism and a way of liberty, a way of the material and a way of the spiritual. But we have read Saint Paul.

There is not story in duality. Duality is static. The cosmos on its face is neither dual nor static. Christians have in divers times and divers places preferred manicheism to the dance of trinitarianism. There must be creation, fall, redemption; a history. It is all grace. There is one way. The way is a way of grace, even when the dinosaur is eating you or threatening to evolve into a charizard.

We do not always need to describe the way as a way of grace. At times it is a way of pain, or a way of loss, or a way of wickedness, or a way of woe. It may have many names, but some rank higher than others. Even when it is a way of pain, it is a way of grace.

The way of grace is what Christians called the Way, except they didn’t capitalize back then. We remind ourselves that God is personal, and that the Way is the Way of the Cross. It is unabstract. It de-abstracts. Carrying the cross and falling in the mud is spiritual, not because our spirits fly above the dirt and spit and bloody knees, but because we have been made spiritual beings doing spiritual things. We are redeeming this world, just as Jesus redeemed it. The spirit is invading the world, because the Spirit has invaded the world.

Perfection has not yet come. Now we see in a mirror dimly. Then we shall see face to face. But that does not mean we are not spiritual. Me now will be me resurrected. Planet now will be planet perfected. The heavenly city comes. The spiritual will not be separated from the material. Creation will be made right. Creation will be made spiritual, as it ought to be.

And that doesn’t mean ghosts. That means grass sharper than feet.

From here it appears to me that if the world is more real than it seems, and it sure seems like it is, that it would be very heavy and hard to be funny and gracious in. But I know it is not so. I know I will be more real, heavy, and glorious.

The modish young believer is like a planet if we see her course mapped out from below, with her backs and forths. Give me a lever long enough and I can make a wandering star for whom is reserved the darkness forever appear to have a stable orbit. But the truth is that a planet is unstable in all its ways, because that is the perspective it was talking from in Jude. And we know the planets are unstable and dark from independent sources: take the gods and their wars on the titans.

The modish young believer ought to suspect himself if the worldlings like what he is saying. This is my Father’s world, it is one world, full of nature, full of grace, a world of grace. We ought to say so, and piss people off with light, and making light. We must make light of things.