The Barren Harvest of Protestantism
(Unpublished article of 1984)
Liberals have always said amusing things, but never so sidesplitting as they have done since they lost their knowledge of history. Monks were constantly among their targets, but now they attribute to them statements that only priests of magic-ridden pagan religions could have uttered. They consistently attacked the Inquisition, but their transformation of the Roman Law methods by means of which this worked into trials by ordeals more proper to German barbarians is nothing short of ludicrous. They have metamorphosized Augustines into pro-Nazis and proclaimed Hindu mystics to be mankind’s most fervent defenders of individuality. I have even heard environmentalists, justly angered at the rape of nature, condemn Catholicism for being the chief proponent of that scientific utopianism which for centuries was the most cherished child of its enlightened liberal opponents. The only rule operative in this state of confusion seems to be that whatever is currently recognized as being good is, de facto, assigned to non-Catholic sources; that whatever is presently attacked as being bad is written down as a product of the Church.
The four hundredth anniversary of Martin Luther’s birth provided liberal Roman Catholics yet another opportunity to join in this clouded ridicule of their Church and to misunderstand her history. It offered them another chance to betray the human race. How shameful, they cried, encouraged by those who love nothing better than a fight within the Christian ranks, that the Church repelled this great Reformation leader. How mindless of Rome, so brutally and sweepingly to have sealed his ideas with the most solemn marks of her disapproval. How joyful, they exulted, that fresh ecumenical winds had finally knocked down the fortress built to keep Luther out.
1984, the year following this outburst of remorse, may be the time to reflect upon just how ill-founded all such breast-beating really was. The Roman Church definitively repelled Luther and his followers all too slowly. She was often much too gentle and limited in her attack, even in Counter-Reformation days, not grasping how inhuman and universally hideous the consequences of their ideas really were. For a fortress knocked down by Protestantism is not just open to spiritual devastation; it is also one that is vulnerable to rack and ruin in every regard. The defeated defenders of this castle can nurture a bitter satisfaction in the fact that the conquering force ultimately tramples even its own goals underfoot. Indeed, Protestantism’s seed yields a totally barren harvest.
The best outline for demonstrating this thesis is provided by the words of my previous sentence themselves: “Protestantism”, “seed”, and “barren harvest”. An examination of each of these in turn will reveal the true horror of last year’s ecumenical agape. Hopefully, this article will be helpful in teaching Catholics that truly progressive men interested in the real benefit of mankind must forever band together to reject Protestantism and the barren seed that it sows.
It is essential to begin by insisting that I am not anathematizing Protestants as individuals. Men are always difficult quantities with whom to deal. Even Luther, with his vulgarity, obscenity, and pompous boasting, cannot be judged by us, or personally be charged with the developments that I will be cataloguing below. Historians cannot, ultimately, uncover the fullness of human motivation. Men are wont to lie, and, also, to misconstrue their own desires. Human beings are frequently irrational, and, hence, do not apply to their own lives the principles and corollaries of their most beloved theses. The original Protestants operated in a world formed by centuries of Catholic experience, and the power of custom, habit, and pure inertia is very strong, indeed. Like Litvinov, the Jewish Soviet Foreign Minister of the 1930’s, who crossed himself while boarding airplanes “because he was a Russian”, Luther himself contradicted the consequences of his own notions because he was in many ways still a Catholic. Jeremy Bentham is said to have blunted suggestions that utilitarian, democratic rule might give birth to atrocities with the comment: “Englishmen do not act that way”. Luther would have attributed my little shop of Protestant horrors to a vivid papist imagination. “Christians”, he might have said, “simply do not act that way”. He did not see the historical outcome of his concepts’ application, and, hence, could not imagine them (until his last, disgruntled apocalyptic days, that is to say. But this is another story, to be tackled in a future article).
Finally, let us remember that practically no one in our unhappy age knows anything at all. Catholics have generally not got the faintest clue as to the meaning of Catholicism; Protestants are no different. Present-day Protestants are as much unwilling victims of Luther’s ideas as we Catholics are. They cannot be attacked for supporting what they do not even understand. If ecumenism has been devised to appeal to the good faith of believing Protestants, to guide them lovingly back to the True Church, without rancor and accusation, then ecumenism is a good thing. When Christians are confused, then Rome must be loving and kind.
It is equally essential to point out that one must anathematize Protestantism. Protestantism as an idea stands on its own, unable to be manipulated arbitrarily, incapable of divided feelings and sentimental behavior. Protestantism as an idea is either friendly to Catholicism or not. It is not. It was bad in 1517 and it is worse today. When one meditates upon the foundations of Catholicism, he irons out the kinks and the seemingly dangerous aspects of its machinery. When one meditates upon the foundations of Protestantism, its inner logic makes it destroy Christianity and desolate the world. Ecumenism for the purpose of reconciling Protestantism with the Church is ecumenism with the demon. When Christians are obstinate, then Rome must be firm and authoritative.
What, exactly, is the “seed” of Protestantism? It is not the specific practices and preoccupations of given sects, most of which are either by-products of the basic seed of unimportant eccentricities. Rather, the crucial seed of Protestantism is the doctrine of total depravity. Luther’s conviction that human beings are completely corrupted and incapable of pleasing God after Original Sin is the centerpiece of his entire theological edifice. It is only because of his insistence that men can never be purified, either in this world or the next, that the concept of justification by faith alone becomes necessary. If men cannot please God, through good works, the sacraments, and sanctifying grace, then their only hope lies in complete abandonment to His will. It is only due to the total depravity doctrine that Scripture becomes the sole possible teacher of Christians. After all, the Church could be shown to have definitively opposed this doctrine throughout her history, while the Bible, freed from Rome’s interpretation, might (with a bit of irrational force) be construed to support Lutheran concepts.
Anyone interested in the seed doctrine of Protestantism finds that Luther is ultimately not the man to explain it. Luther, in the final analysis, was a radical with many conservative kinks to him. He had, intellectually at leas, a split personality, and does not appear to have been terribly logical. One has the clear impression that he stumbled onto only a few of the consequences of his thought, and these gradually and almost against his will. He seems to have accepted rather than embraced them, if such a distinction can be made. Moreover, his early dependence upon political support for survival quickly limited the development and prestige of Lutheran, or, as it is officially called, Evangelical Christianity.
The real sculptor of the total depravity doctrine is Jean Calvin, founder of Reformed Christianity. Frenchman, lawyer, writer, and zealot, Calvin squeezed from the concept almost everything that a man could eek from it while still believing in Christ. Calvin also saw the dangers of the Lutheran political situation, and determined that Reformed Christianity would, if anything, subject the state to religious controls. His prestige thus rose among independent-minded men, and Reformed Christianity became the form of Protestantism that penetrated Europe. Litvinov, when told in Depression New York that snow plows had been abandoned in favor of shovels in order to provide more men with work, asked why spoons were not used to insure total employment. Protestants, in a sense, asked the same thing. Why ought they to take the Lutheran hors d’oeuvre when they could have the Calvinist entrée? He who would know the doctrine of total depravity must look to Calvin.
The most important thing to realize about the Protestant seed is that it yields a barren harvest. Protestants thought that the concept of the Creation as a mirror of God robbed the Divinity of His uniqueness and majesty. So did the idea that men were the wounded lords of Creation who, with God’s help, might someday be washed as white as snow. The doctrine of total depravity, which humbled the whole of Creation, and men along with it, did so for the purpose of emphasizing the glory of God. It succeeded in accomplishing the opposite. It began by insisting upon a view of the universe so dreary as to make men flee from the harsh God who allowed it as though He were the demon. Instead of magnifying the glory of God, it ended in His rejection. Secondly, the doctrine of total depravity causes those who are formed by it, yet flee from it, to leap back into a rule-less Creation. There exists no way to navigate a course through the Protestant Creation, no path avoiding the bad and leading to the good. All is wicked. True, there are those who take the opportunity to flee from the Protestant God to embrace a universe which they wish to be as perfect as they once thought it to be depraved. Nevertheless, the tendency of secularized Protestantism is to leave men rule-less and ultimately in despair. Ignaz von Döllinger, the nineteenth century German Church historian who later broke with Rome, irritated many followers of the Reform by demonstrating how the doctrines of contemporary Protestant preachers ran totally contrary to the immediate desires of Luther and Calvin. One could go further. The Reformation is in and of itself a principle of contradiction. It destroys man and it destroys God.
This theme may be developed with reference to a body-spirit analogy. Creation, for the sake of my argument, may, somewhat inaccurately be referred to as the “body” of existence, and God as its “spirit”. The doctrine of total depravity has sought to humiliate the body, or Creation, for the glorification of the spirit, or God. It has done this in a four-fold fashion. The results of its efforts has been the abandonment of the spirit, the body’s declaration of independence from God, and Creation’s collapse into rulelessness. It is essential to examine each aspect of this four-fold humiliation in turn.
One might note, to begin with, that the doctrine of total depravity killed the “rhythm” of the body. Christ asked men to use their eyes and their ears to see and to hear. Catholicism did this, and realized that the human body followed certain rhythms. One of these rhythms was that of fasting and feasting. Most civilizations have recognized that men need to fast and to feast in order to answer a two-sided aspect of their character. Needless to say, man’s animal nature does tend to pull him towards a desire to sit down to an eternal banquet, but, when he does so, he pays a psychic price that even natural human wisdom has abundantly catalogued. Pagans understood the value of self-sacrifice. Christ demonstrated that renunciation, built upon His abandonment to the Cross, was the pathway to heaven. Catholicism has, therefore, noted in the fast not merely a kind of biological necessity, but an instrument predisposing man to be receptive to, accept, and merit sanctifying grace. Lent, and other periods of fast and abstinence, are naturally good for man, and supernaturally still more beneficial.
At the same time, however, life with God is not a fast. It is a heavenly banquet. Christians ought to recognize the joy and glory of living in the presence of the Divine Majesty. The feast day, marked at its mid-point by food and drink, song, dance, and general merriment, is necessary as a most-fit means of emphasizing man’s future reward. A feast answers man’s longing for joyous abandonment, and prefigures the abundant love of God for His children. Carnival may be a somewhat raucous beginning to the Lenten season. The Easter merriment, however, is a perfectly suitable conclusion.
Protestantism’s seed doctrine of total depravity attacked this rhythm. It could not see that anything in the human character might give direction to the Christian seeking God. Calvinist Protestantism emphasized the need for a king of permanent fast, not as a means of preparation for sanctifying grace, but because feasting made men believe that the world could provide some pathway to or foretaste of joy. A life of permanent fasting is not, however, a human life. Its dreariness caused men to flee from the Protestant God in horror. When they did, they discovered themselves in a universe which was thought by their ancestors to be depraved, and, thus, had been left ruleless. Imitating Luther himself, who tended towards gluttony, they were logically led to the table d’hôte. They behaved in its presence like performers in La grande bouffe. They had no measure for their indulgence. They engaged in a permanent feast. But the permanent feast obscures man’s understanding even of his natural need to fast. It does so at least until such time as the misery of endless consumption ruins all his happiness. One can ignore the legitimate promptings of the body only at the risk of enormous discontent.
A second way in which the total depravity doctrine works to kill the body, or Creation, is by striking at what may loosely be called its “fuel”. This “fuel” comes in two forms, that of thought and that of love.
Catholicism understood that human reason, like every other aspect of man’s character, was good, though flawed and limited. It could not help but encourage the work of philosophers and theologians, even while recognizing that they would often err. One could compensate for such error, it argued, by submission to the guidance of the Church on matters of faith and morals.
Protestantism, in the total depravity doctrine, disdained reason along with the rest of Creation. It was frightened by the endless wrangling over philosophical issues that seemed to accompany admission of the value of the human mind, and felt it to be dangerous to a secure faith. It gradually recognized that a preoccupation with dogmatic theology was also harmful, in that it underlined the innumerable disagreements over specifics entertained by the legion of Protestant denominations. Protestantism, therefore, degenerated into a mindless form of Christianity. At best, it exhausted itself in pious practices, moralizing, and social work, as though one could long remain in agreement even about their proper character without the active involvement and adhesion of the human mind. At worst, it became an insane religion, whose liturgy encompassed bodily writhings and senseless howling. In either case, the men of thought were shown that they had nothing, really, to tell it.
Those who did think were left with several choices before them. They could pursue their work calmly without reference to religion, being Christians with their left hand and intellectuals with their right. They could themselves reduce thinking to purely utilitarian limits, as though philosophy or theology were primarily practical, in a materialistic sense. Or they could, like those horrified by the permanent fast, flee in horror from the Protestant God. Those that did lose their faith found that they were left with no means whatsoever of rising above the “practical” realm. Faith gone, their reason could not help them. The world of thought for which they abandoned their God was God-forsaken. Again, it was so depraved that it had had no rules given to it. Rules would have meant that reason was itself salvageable. Left on their own, secularized Protestants were like children with too many toys on Christmas morning. They were allowed to play carelessly with their minds. Nothing—not balance, not harmony, nor Aristotelian logic—could really bind them. The intelligent man’s adhesion to Protestantism tended to cause him either to assume that his thought should return some kind of cash benefit, or to visit the way station of pride on the road to complete irrationality and true despair.
The doctrine of total depravity also destroyed the fuel of love. It taught, first of all, that man was forever unlovable. Hence, man’s love could never touch God, who arbitrarily chose who would live with Him forever. God’s Law, according to this doctrine, must be obeyed simply because it was God’s Law. It was not carried out because obeying it could ever please God in and of itself, and thus lead man to salvation, even with Christ’s sacrifice as its backdrop. Moreover, human love was ultimately reducible by it to a purely material phenomenon, which could never take the form of a sacrament. Even the least radical form of true Protestantism understood that marriage could not be anything other than a contract.
Catholic-dominated nations tend to presume that law and love must correspond. Even though such societies may, at times, appear to be burdened down by a superabundance of laws, these proscriptions are disobeyed en masse when the law-love equation is not present. Protestant-influenced nations, in contrast, develop an odd form of legalism that often will not bend to the needs of human beings and to human love. Even though such societies may, at times, appear to be less regulated by law, their reaction to regulations can be rigid and exceptionless.
Two stories may be useful in illustrating my point here. Alice von Hildebrand once told me of traveling on a bus in Italy with her husband. There was a sign in the front of the bus prohibiting smoking. An Italian gentleman sat next to her enjoying a cigar. When Dietrich von Hildebrand pointed to the sign, the man simply shrugged and announced that he paid his taxes. When told, however, that Mrs. Von Hildebrand was physically troubled by smoke, he quickly extinguished his cigar, announcing that that, after all, was a different story.
The second vignette comes from German literature, from a tale entitled Hans und Heinz Kirch. This is set in a northern German town of the nineteenth century. Heinz and his father Hans quarrel on the eve of the young man’s departure on an extended merchant sea voyage. Hans refuses to pay the postage due on his son’s first, long-delayed letter home. The disbelieving postman is accosted by Heinz’s sweetheart, whom everyone knows. She begs to pay for the letter, read it, and return it. The postman sighs, and says that even the postmaster (even the postmaster!!) cannot allow this. The girl, sadly but submissively, files away without further scene. Like the Prussians whom I met who were resigned to leaving train windows shut in 95 degree heat because the regulations insisted upon it, the bending of the law to love is understood by her not to be a truly viable possibility.
The loving man soon joined the thinking man and the man who appreciated the rhythm of his body in fleeing in horror from the God responsible for this sort of outlook. When he did so, however, he found himself in the ruleless universe left by the total depravity doctrine. Love lay outside the divine scope of things, and love had no rules when God was abandoned. Hence, men could logically behave in the manner justified by a Protestant friend of mine after he discovered women. This man had been literally disgusted by the most innocent displays of adolescent flirtation in his early youth. When women became a reality to him, however, things changed drastically. I asked him if he intended to marry. He looked at me as though I were a lunatic, and explained that the only thing that interested him was sex. This, of course, was nothing unusual. His views became interesting when I began to question him about his outlook towards sexual morality as a whole. He said that there was none. “Sex”, he claimed, “ought to be left in the gutter where it belongs”. Those who insist that there is no means of purification in life always tend either toward revulsion to love or ruleless indulgence in lovemaking. Once more, there is no real method of forging a pathway away from the bad and towards the good. Life must be all one or the other.
A third consequence of the doctrine of total depravity involves the stripping away of the body’s adornment. Human beings are constructed in such a way as to pull them down into the mud or raise them up to the heavens if they “dress down” or “dress up”. When beauty surrounds them, they assert the glory of God and the magnificence of their own destiny. When cheapness, tawdriness, and vulgarity surround them, they adjust their understanding of the meaning of existence accordingly.
Catholicism recognizes that the outward forms of Creation are meant to shout sursum corda and raise man’s heart to God. It understands that it can somehow find the best in food, drink, dress, music, art, and architecture to lift man out of the drabness of a day-to-day reality that might otherwise exaggeratedly depress him. This it does in manifold forms. It finds whatever is good in the simple as well as in the grand, the small as well as in the massive, the subdued as well as the explosive, and raises the heart to God in different ways. Counter Reformation, Baroque civilization, guided by the Jesuits and directed by their devotion to the greater glory of God, lay particular stress on the grandeur to be found in the Creation. It did this to answer the Protestant disdain for the universe. Hence, it filled everything from dress to architecture with vibrancy, color, gold, and majestic beauty. Who could not think of the glory of God and of the possibility of Heaven when in a Baroque Church in the Baroque sections of Rome?
Total depravity denied the possibility of this sursum corda. Again, nothing on the wicked earth was seen to be capable of leading men to God. Many Protestants, acting on this principle, tried to steal from men all the finery in food, drink, dress, art, and other realms that sought to embellish Creation. They stripped the environment of everything that could raise the mind to God. The result was not to glorify God by depriving the world of all that could compete with Him, but to cause His abandonment by depriving the world of all that reflected His beauty.
Some men influenced by the doctrine of total depravity understood that they were being swindled. Nevertheless, when they set about trying to redress their grievances, they did so in an unfortunate manner. A friend tells the story of a boy whose teacher takes him for an outing into town. When the boy questions the teacher about an innocent, attractive young girl that he sees, he is told that she, and everything that she represents, is “the devil”. The boys at school ask him of his trip to town when he returns. He explains that the nicest thing that he saw therein was “the devil”. Thus, if he is attracted to her, he must abandon God for the demon.
A similar fate awaited the unhappy victim of the total depravity doctrine. He saw a Creation left to be enjoyed by the servants of the demon. He understood the world of beauty to be their domain. Therefore, when attracted to the cultivation of beauty, he noted no choice but that of joining their ranks. Once he began to adorn the body of existence, he felt that he was inevitably working against God. He had become God-forsaken, and was no longer bound by any rules. All sense of proportion, propriety, objective value, and reason in general were tossed out of the window. The doctrine of total depravity either leaves the body in a vulgar state due to barrenness, or in a vulgar state due to lack of all classicity and because of atomistic insanity. Man loses in either way. He is dragged down to wallow in the mud.
The fourth and final fashion in which the doctrine of total depravity played havoc with the body was by attacking its structure as such. Catholicism taught men that they were part of a community, the Mystical Body of Christ, guided by the Savior through the Church authorities, and made capable of aiding one another in their path to God. Community and authority were shown to be absolutely essential to man’s happiness and end. This Mystical Body was seen to be alive, death in Christ only strengthening a member’s ability to act efficaciously within it. Its Cult of the Saints encouraged daily contact with the Immortals, and ensured a constant recognition of the existence of the supernatural. The world beyond was made a palpable reality in the world here and now. All legitimate communities and authorities were told that they, too, in their own fashion, could aid in the perfection of their individual members. They gave flesh to their goals and the virtues required to achieve them in the same palpable way that the Church gave flesh to the Christian message and the Christian way of life.
The immediate effect of the Protestant teaching was to reveal to men their existence as individual atoms, as slaves of an arbitrary God, as creatures incapable of helping one another to reach Heaven. Christianity thus became a purely personal phenomenon. Communities and authorities like the Church and its Bishops were, after all, no less depraved than man was himself. They could not temper an evil which they helped to encourage. “Atomistic” Christianity became a bookish religion, a phenomenon that lost its vibrancy on the date that the last scriptural passage was written. Protestant Christianity, reduced to this lifeless state, ceased to be a sociological force of great importance. Human beings need to see things in flesh and blood, and if they cannot observe a visible Church, with visible prefigurations of an invisible world, then Christianity is not taken seriously by them. Protestantism could not be seen, and it duly sunk to secondary importance in the western religious scheme of things.
Alas! Secularized Protestants, wounded by the doctrine of total depravity, found themselves applying the same atomistic principles that had been used to destroy the Church to all authorities and communities around them. If the Church were pretentious in its claims to aid and perfect the individual, so were the guilds, the universities, cities, states, nations, and families. All such bodies had to be subjected to individual whim, or even destroyed, in order that the person might face existence alone, as he was meant to do. Since men cannot face existence alone, however, and since they positively require communities and authorities to embody morality and human ends, the results of this general dismantling of the western communal structure has been utterly horrendous. Principles of economic justice, cooperation, learning, neighborliness, patriotism, and parental respect have disappeared along with the institutions that gave them flesh. Men without bodies are not men. Human society without communal bodies is not human society. Atomized, secularized Protestant society is, indeed, the abomination of desolation.
Unfortunately, one need not look too far to discover some of the possible consequences of the doctrine of total depravity. The United States is a major example of a country subject to its influence. Our nation is the only crucial western nation that has not gone through an orthodox Christian stage in its development. Protestantism was its religious guide, and Calvinistic Puritanism particularly powerful in its formation. Hence, many aspects of American life reflect the four-fold killing of the body, flight from a harsh God, and plunging into a ruleless Creation that I have noted above.
Demonstrations of this truth can be found all around us. The United States has witnessed the impressive effort to enforce a permanent form of public fasting in the shape of Blue Laws, Prohibition, and similar phenomena. Revulsion by such actions helped to cause a mass exodus from God among Puritan-influenced men and in the Puritan-influenced system of higher education in our country. Rejection of permanent fasting has left us not with a balanced, Catholic view, but with a glorification of permanent consumption, of permanent feasting. A visit to a shopping mall or to urban areas of popular entertainment lead one to the conclusion that we are living a Mardi Gras with no Lent to follow. When this happens, there can be no real enjoyment, because the body’s true rhythm is still ignored. The false gaiety of much contemporary American life is symbolized by the drink once served to a friend of mine. It was not a wine, whose taste might please both God and man. Rather, it was a country stump juice, tasteless, colorless, and odorless, one sip of which sent him flying to the moon. From total abstinence, we have proceeded to total indulgence, without knowing even a minor interval of innocent pleasure.
Similarly, Protestant disdain for true thought has been instrumental in making our country one of the most “practical-minded” on the globe. Serious speculation is often dismissed here as entertaining at best, and insane at worst. Serious issues are frequently addressed by formulae as shallow and simple as advertising slogans. In contrast, practical matters, like dealing in real estate, are transformed into sciences rewarded by degrees. This has had three consequences for thinking men. Some have become Catholics and rediscovered the spiritual life. Many have fled the country to seek comfort elsewhere. Most have adopted the ruleless atomistic thought of secularized Protestantism, felt guilty as a result, and justified their philosophizing with reference to deep and exotic psychic needs.
Love has also suffered its tortures in our land. It is not at all difficult to understand why pornography and perversity are now respectable features of American life. How could a secularized Puritan culture rediscover the sacramental quality of something which it had so long shunned as depraved? Once God’s Law disappeared as a restraint, this civilization had nothing left to hold it back. Ironically, one can now buy any debased form of literature in New York City twenty-four hours a day, three hundred and sixty five days a year, while a bottle of wine cannot be sold in stores on Sundays. The pleasure which is always bad is always permitted. The pleasure which can always be used in a proper fashion is not.
And what of the adornment of the body? The United States has constantly had a tradition of denigrating the elaborate as effeminate, and has divinized a drab conformism in dress, music, architecture, art, food and drink. Interestingly enough, as a French visitor once pointed out to me, the only time that many Americans do dress up is when they go to work, as though this were the only sacred liturgy of a practical, consuming population. Again, when the harshness of life developed from such a view became intolerable to those who detested the commonplace, the reaction was as bad as the disease. Functionalism was replaced by the ruleless behavior of psychotic atoms. The adoration of formica and plastic gave way to the adulation of formless sculptures, traditionless trends and atonal music.
Finally, where has there not been a clamor in the United States against substantive authority and community? Where have we not seen demands for a democratization of all institutions, and an abolition of their powers of coercion, both physical and moral? The glory of the atomistic individual is sung by our most important poets, justified by our most famous philosophers, and made inevitable by our obsession with economic growth. We have been punished by an inhuman way of life in our arid suburban shopping malls, on our freeways to nowhere, and in the trendy, childless, apartment houses of our cities.
Catholicism can be said to view the universe as an Unfinished Symphony. It calls an orchestra together under the vaulted hall of the heavens, and explains to the musicians that a composer has given them parts of a magnificent piece that he has prepared, in order to test their ability to play it. It notes that the entire symphony will be given to them only after successful performance of the first movement. The musicians work hard, though some do fall by the wayside. They begin to polish their instruments, put on their finest clothing, and walk with confidence and quiet pride as they realize the quality of the music with which they are dealing. They await the day that they will be given the rest of the piece with humility and with joy. They know that they can finish the Unfinished Symphony.
Protestantism never permits this completion of the symphony. It never permits its completion because it never permits its beginning. The musicians who arrive to audition for it are told that there has been a dreadful misunderstanding. They are assured that the music of the spheres can never be played by men. A disappointment overtakes them, they file out of the hall, and the heavens fall silent forever.
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