Thoughts on Samuel Huntingdon’s Clash of Civilizations

I should have picked up Huntingdon’s work earlier. It is awesome. He argues (or at least the structure of his thought necessarily suggests such) that the utopian vision of liberal democracy (whether right or left-wing) has failed miserably and that societies will revert back to their original civilizational paradigms.

By that he doesn’t mean that societies will simply turn back the clock. Rather, the civilizations from which nation-states emerged have a stronger pull upon the states that some post-Enlightenment view of “democratic capitalism.” In short, “people and culture” trump artificial ideology.

Huntingdon lists several civilizations:

  • Sinic/Hindu: China, Southeast Asia, and India. I realize that India could legitimately be a separate civilization (and I believe it is), but I’m listing it under China for several reasons: to keep the list from multiplying unnecessarily and because India will probably ally itself with China in the near future.
  • Islamic: Most of the Middle East and all of northern Africa. Malaysia and Indonesia are also Islamic, but they will be subsumed under China in terms of influence. One caveat: I do not believe the Islamic civilization can be delineated the way Huntingdon portrays it.
  • African: Subcontinent; northern Africa is distinct from area below Sudan.
  • Western: originating from Western Christendom (post AD 800-1204), but largely trashing that heritage today. Nevertheless, maintains the skeleton of Charlemagne and Christendom, especially seen in the form of the European Union and NATO.
  • Orthodox/Slavic: Russia is the de facto leader of this civilization, given her wealth, size, and influence. Includes eastern Ukraine, Belarus, most of the Balkans. Interestingly, I would identify much of Western Europe pre 600 AD as “Orthodox.” Inheritor of Byzantium. Religious differences notwithstanding, this civilization is able to make strong ties/alliances with Middle East. Syria is 30% Orthodox anyway. Likely to form some kind of coalition with Middle Eastern countries and China to offset NATO/EU’s march of mutual destruction.
  • Latin America

However, I disagree with Huntingdon on the Middle East. I think the Middle East is in an identity crisis between Fundamentalism and Nationalism. Islamic countries like Syria and Turkey, for all of their problems, lean closer to nationalism than “jihadism.” Likewise, I maintain that Iran is more nationalist than fundamentalist, though it is very much the latter, too.

Post Script:

untingdon is too pro-D.C. and very naive concerning the purity of NATO’s motives, but other than that he is prescient on about every major issue (He wrote this book in 1996). Here is the skeleton of the review, along with some tentative conclusions of my own:

  • Civilizations assume the reality of objective cultures, but they are not identical to culture(s). I can’t remember exactly how SH defines civilization. There is an extended discussion on pp. 40-44. Frankly, I don’t think his definition, if any, is really that important. His book deals more with the empirical identity and clash of civilizations, rather than objectively defining them.
  • Civilizations have core states: states that have at least de facto leadership over smaller states in the civilization. For example, Russia is the core state of the Orthodox civilization (which includes Ukraine, Belarus, and the Balkans, though the latter are compromised by their membership in NATO; likewise, China is the core st ate of the East Asian civilization, excluding Japan).
  • Wars between actual core states of civilizations are quite rare. However, fault line wars are quite common. These are wars/battles/century-long skirmishes between two smaller states of two different civilizations that border each other. The obvious example is the Balkans: Orthodox Serbia fought Muslim Bosnia, both of whom were at war with Catholic Croatia
  • While ideologies (Marxism, democratic capitalism) are nice and make academics and news pundits feel good, civilization/culture has a more primal claim upon people groups/ethnicities/states and in the absence of one ideology (say, Marxism) a nation will more likely identify with prior civilizational loyalties rather than the opposing ideology. For example, an old joke in former Soviet Union: our leaders lied to us about communism, but they told us the truth about capitalism.

Pros of the book:

His analysis is top-notch. We are reading a world-class scholar. Unlike 99% of elites in America, he knows that simply waving the magic wand of democratic capitalism will not make the nations swoon and willing become colonies of New York–and Huntingdon was actually attacked for making this obvious point!

He calls the Islamic threat for what it is. He is notorious for his famous “The borders of Islam are bloody.” I don’t really know how people can objectively respond to this claim. Yeah, it might be mean and bigoted, but look at the major hot spots of the world today–what religion is causing most of the trouble? In 1996 (at the time of the writing) 49 of the world’s 58 current conflicts had Islam involved. If it looks like a duck…

He gives an accurate (though extremely dated) analysis of the Balkan Wars of the 1990s. Of course, a lot of his musings are moot considering NATO’s bombing of civilians in Belgrade in 1999. Still, per his thesis on civilizational clash on fault lines, he does a stellar performance. Catholic Germany supported Croatia, the entire Muslim world–along with Hillary Clinton and Sean Hannity–supported the Muslim Bosniaks, and Russia supported Serbia. (he also documents American double-standards and calls them for what they are: when Muslims massacre a village and kidnap teenage girls it is because they are noble freedom fighters w. When Serbs execute 8,000 men in the 28th Bosnian Muslim infantry, it is because they are evil and genocidal. Even more strange, American conservatives who are almost 100% anti-Islam never challenge this fact and actually support Muslims).

Along similar lines is the Turko-Armenian-Azeri wars of the 1990s. Armenia was an Orthodox state who was beset by Muslim Turkey and Muslim Azeribaijan. During the Cold War the Soviet leadership had Armenians serving in high-rank positions and being trained by elite special forces. When the USSR fell, the Armenian military, keeping the Motorized Rifle divisions of that region, had a fairly impressive, if small, military. Russian intervention in the 1990s kept her smaller sister Armenia from being overrun by Muslims.

And these are just two examples. Huntingdon ends with a fairly interesting scenario on what WW3 will look like and how it will start. A few qualms with the book: he actually thinks NATO is preserving Western civilization and evidently he ignores the fact that his best friend, Zbignew Brzezinski advocates using the War on Terror as a way to surround Russia with missiles and bases. Ironically, Huntingdon had argued that doing so would actually make America lose the next world war, which will be a clash between a Chinese or Islamic (or both) civilization.

Huntingdon didn’t write many more books after this. He had a high standard of writing and actually threw away many top-notch manuscripts because they weren’t good enough. Too bad, for he is definitely worth reading.

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My thoughts on the Russo-Iranian (breaking) relationship

Even secular observers have noted that Russia is not part of the “new European western civilization.”  True, Russia is largely white and Christian, though of a different kind, but it is not the same as “western Civilization.”  Even when Western Europe was Christian, Russia was different.  At the same time, after the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia is not in the same league as the nihilistic West is today (cf Samuel Huntingdon’s The Clash of Civilizations).

From those fairly obvious points, the Eurasian school posits a new geo-political alliance that will counter the EU-NATO alliance.  Russia, China, Iran, Syria, India, etc would form economic ties that would shift the balance of power from Western Europe to Eastern Europe and central Asia.  Among other things this included Russia heavily investing in Iran’s nuclear program and in previously blocking sanctions against Iran.

Recently, however, Russia has appeared to reverse its relationship with Iran.  It has agreed to sanctions against Iran (though not with the same myopia suggested by the United States), refused the sale of S-300 missiles (which would destroy any Israeli plane in Iranian sky), and expressed alarm at Iran’s nuclear program.   So what gives?   I have several following suggestions:

  • As I understand it, the NPT says you can’t build new nuclear weapons.   Russia opposing Iran on this point isn’t that remarkable.  It’s simply upholding international law.  Of course, countries like the USA have never given a damn about international law, but there it is.
  • A strong if mentally-unbalanced Iran on Russia’s southern borders could easily destabilize that area, something Russia does not want to see.  This also explains why Russia, even given the sanctions, still does not want to see a pre-emptive strike on Iran.  That, too, would destabilize the entire region.
  • NATO has surrounded Russia with missile sites and military bases (some suggest that a tangential reason for the “War on Terror” is to surround Russia with American troops; it’s certainly happened that way). Obama’s advisor Zbignew Brereznski and Bush’s adviser Paul Wolfowitz have openly called for the destruction of Russia.  Russia must make all of her decisions with that uncomfortable fact in mind.
  • While I do like the idea of a counter-alliance against NATO-EU, the fact remains that Iran has always been an enemy of European Christians, more particularly Eastern European Christians.

However, some other conclusions on Iran:

  • I follow Stephen Walt’s analysis on Iran:  it really doesn’t make sense for them to acquire nuclear weapons.   The moment they launch one, the West (and Israel, with its illegal arsenal of hundreds of nukes) would immediately bury Tehran in radiation–and Iran knows this.  Iran would be more successful sponsoring groups like Hezbollah than risking it’s existence acquiring nuclear weapons.
  • I don’t buy the propaganda that most of Iran’s populace are secretly wanting to overthrow their regime.  If that isn’t CIA propaganda, nothing is.  Others have already refuted that.
  • That said, I really don’t see a happy way out of this scenario.  It looks like Israel will strike Iran soon.  (Interestingly, while I knew that Georgia and Azeribaijan were Israeli allies, I never counted on Israel using those two countries as bases from which to launch their attack.  I had expected Israel to fly over Iraq, something America would not allow.  This makes perfect sense).

Summary of a debate with a Covenanting Reformed

I really didn’t want this to be a debate, and I don’t relish it. But it needed to be done…I guess. A friend of mine on Facebook–well, I’ve known him for around 5 years and gave him critical feedback of a kind concerning a book he wrote on political theology. On one of his message boards, the usual thread came up asking what the “gospel” is, and the standard answers were given, answers that send Irenaeus, Augustine, Athanasius, Cyril, John of Damascus, et al to hell: e.g., there is no gospel without the solas and imputation of Christ’s righteousness.

I responded that most of the Church never held this view and for obvious reasons: if you say that the Son suffered the eternal punishment from the Father, then one of two things happen:

1) You sever the Son from the Father and thus ruin the Trinity, since obviously the Father can’t be damned to hell. Trinitarian theology teaches that all members of the Trinity mutually indwell each other. If you eternally damn and cut off one member of the Trinity, you lose this mutual indwelling.

or

2) You make a division between the divine and human natures of the Logos. This is classic Nestorianism. Most Reformed theologians opt for this route.

When the argument was first put to D.R., the man in question, he responded that it was an irrational and absurd argument. Well, the great Lutheran historian Jaroslav Pelikan thought it was legitimate. The great Reformed theologian Louis Berkhof thought it was a good question (Berkhof admitted to taking the Nestorian route). So even the best Protestant thinkers admit it is a real and legit question.

He then responded that I base my worldview on philosophy and not the Bible. Seriously, it’s hard to be respectful with this kind of nonsense. Nobody, not even the most crass Mariological Catholic or even Mormon is going to say, “Well yeah, I guess you are right: We don’t like the bible after all.”

I responded, in agreement with EVERY SINGLE PROTESTANT HERMENEUTICS TEXT, that one’s metaphysics and philosophy determines how one reads a text. These guys are theonomists who follow Van Til and Greg Bahnsen. This is “Van Til 101.”

He responded, “Well, Jesus said he was forsaken by the Father.” And then he got sassy with me. Well, yeah Jesus said that. But you can’t read the Bible in a way to contradict what the Church–even the Reformed church at that–has said about Christ. My hermeneutics is not philosophy. It is Christology and Triadology. I let the wisdom of the Church, which is the Body of Christ, determine what I confess about Christ.

It comes down to this: propositions about soteriology cannot contradict propositions about Christology.

Well, in the following responses he just said he was deleting all my posts and warned me of my dangerous error. Well, that’s fine. he also didn’t deal with the pertinent issues.

Review of Fr Seraphim Rose: His Life and Works

This biography read like a “page-turner novel.”  Most novels aren’t this exciting.  It is a combination of St Augustine’s *Confessions* along with a touch of Louis L’Amour.  But most importantly, it is the story of a man’s passionate and desperate search for Christ.  It is the excitement of a philosopher who spends his life for “truth” only to find Truth as a Person.  Fr Seraphim’s life can be summarized along several major segments:  The Search for Truth, The Religion of AntiChrist, Acquiring the Mind of the Fathers, and the Resurrection of Holy Russia.

Truth as a Person
Fr Seraphim, not unlike St Augustine, was philosophically-minded and spent much of his youth vainly looking for “truth.”  He rejected the vapid form of Protestantism held by his nice, neat American suburb community, but soon drifted in and out of nihilism.  After many bouts of anger and depression and binge-alcoholic drinking, he was to discover that Truth is “traditioned” and communities that had continuity with ancient traditions were more valid than more modern expressions of truth (64).

After his conversion to Russian Orthodoxy, Rose began to analyze the modern world.  He followed Nietszche’s trajectory of nihilism as the negation of truth (140ff).  Nihilism in the modern age was to prepare man for the reign of Antichrist and the arrival of the New World Order.   Rose outlined four stages of nihilism:  liberalism, realism, vitalism, and Nihilism

The religion of Antichrist
For Rose, Antichrist was an “ape of Christ.”  He represented the forces of Satan opposing Christ.  He will appear “good” to the world and solve the problems of the world (88).  His religion will be a “demonic pentecost.”  The more fringe elements of society will become more mainstream (cf CS Lewis, That Hideous Strength, 281).  There will be a frightening unity behind the disparate world religions.  He noticed a common theme behind various religious phenomena:   Charismatic Christianity centered on pagan forms of initiation; the ecumenical movement seeks to outdo each other in abandoning all forms of Christianity for the sake of “unity.”  And then UFOs:  There is actually something behind the UFO encounters.  They are clearly something of the paraphysical and occult realm.  The aliens seem to be a strange mingling of physic and psychic matter–just like demons.    The matter in them is of such subtlety it cannot be perceived except by saints.  The message of the UFOs is to prepare for the reign of Antichrist.  St Ignatius Brianchanninov said that the miracles of Antichrist will be in the aerial realm, where Satan has chief dominion.

Acquiring the Mind of the Fathers
The Mind of the Fathers is the Living understanding of Holy Tradition (416ff).  They are the links between ancient texts and today’s reality.  The fathers are the most capable preservers of the Truth because of the sanctity of their lives.  Rose learned that he had to “acquire their mind–”  he had to learn, think, and feel the way they did.  He had to conform his consciousness to that of the Fathers.   Acquiring the mind of the fathers is to acquire the mind of the church, which is the mind of Christ, who is the head of the Church.   How do we acquire their minds (465)?  1.  Constancy:  Rose worked out a spiritual regimen based on wisdom from the Holy Fathers.  Regular reading of the fathersl 2.  Pain of Heart.

The Resurrection of Holy Russia
Fr Seraphim noted that Holy Russia would be resurrected from the ashes of Communism before the end of the world (653).  The return of a Tsarist and pious leader is the half-hour silence in heaven spoken of in the Apocalypse, immediately before the reign of Antichrist.  Rose saw Russia as a “blood-covered martyric land.”  The Tsar-martyr Nicholas II was the restrainer of Antichrist (2 Thess. 2).  The patricidal murder of the Tsar is a sign we are living in pre-Antichrist times (192).  This idea can be connected with the horror of the 20th century, the rise of globalist institutions, global credit, and secular ideologies.

Of particular interest here are the prophecies of St Seraphim of Sarov, who gave four prophecies pertaining to the resurrection of Holy Russia (he spoke in the 19th century), three of which have already happened.

Fr Seraphim’s message to us:
It is later than you think.  We live in an age where secular leaders openly call for world governance based on the bloody ideologies of the 20th century.  While many ages think they are in the last generation, and Fr Seraphim would not want us wasting time predicting “times,” the New Testament does call for us to be awake and alert.  When the leaders of countries call for a one-world government and one-world market, and when we take note of the “demonic pentecost” (spoken above), we can’t pretend we are “just living in normal times.”  Rose had a particularly painful chapter called, “Today in Russia; tomorrow in America.”  He meant that the Communist GULAG would soon come to America.  With Obama’s cabinet and FEMA, can anyone seriously doubt this?

In any case, Hieromonk Damascene did a wonderful job in writing this book.

Review of Fr Seraphim Rose: His Life and Works

This biography read like a “page-turner novel.” Most novels aren’t this exciting. It is a combination of St Augustine’s *Confessions* along with a touch of Louis L’Amour. But most importantly, it is the story of a man’s passionate and desperate search for Christ. It is the excitement of a philosopher who spends his life for “truth” only to find Truth as a Person. Fr Seraphim’s life can be summarized along several major segments: The Search for Truth, The Religion of AntiChrist, Acquiring the Mind of the Fathers, and the Resurrection of Holy Russia.

Truth as a Person
Fr Seraphim, not unlike St Augustine, was philosophically-minded and spent much of his youth vainly looking for “truth.” He rejected the vapid form of Protestantism held by his nice, neat American suburb community, but soon drifted in and out of nihilism. After many bouts of anger and depression and binge-alcoholic drinking, he was to discover that Truth is “traditioned” and communities that had continuity with ancient traditions were more valid than more modern expressions of truth (64).

After his conversion to Russian Orthodoxy, Rose began to analyze the modern world. He followed Nietszche’s trajectory of nihilism as the negation of truth (140ff). Nihilism in the modern age was to prepare man for the reign of Antichrist and the arrival of the New World Order. Rose outlined four stages of nihilism: liberalism, realism, vitalism, and Nihilism

The religion of Antichrist
For Rose, Antichrist was an “ape of Christ.” He represented the forces of Satan opposing Christ. He will appear “good” to the world and solve the problems of the world (88). His religion will be a “demonic pentecost.” The more fringe elements of society will become more mainstream (cf CS Lewis, That Hideous Strength, 281). There will be a frightening unity behind the disparate world religions. He noticed a common theme behind various religious phenomena: Charismatic Christianity centered on pagan forms of initiation; the ecumenical movement seeks to outdo each other in abandoning all forms of Christianity for the sake of “unity.” And then UFOs: There is actually something behind the UFO encounters. They are clearly something of the paraphysical and occult realm. The aliens seem to be a strange mingling of physic and psychic matter–just like demons. The matter in them is of such subtlety it cannot be perceived except by saints. The message of the UFOs is to prepare for the reign of Antichrist. St Ignatius Brianchanninov said that the miracles of Antichrist will be in the aerial realm, where Satan has chief dominion.

Acquiring the Mind of the Fathers
The Mind of the Fathers is the Living understanding of Holy Tradition (416ff). They are the links between ancient texts and today’s reality. The fathers are the most capable preservers of the Truth because of the sanctity of their lives. Rose learned that he had to “acquire their mind–” he had to learn, think, and feel the way they did. He had to conform his consciousness to that of the Fathers. Acquiring the mind of the fathers is to acquire the mind of the church, which is the mind of Christ, who is the head of the Church. How do we acquire their minds (465)? 1. Constancy: Rose worked out a spiritual regimen based on wisdom from the Holy Fathers. Regular reading of the fathersl 2. Pain of Heart.

The Resurrection of Holy Russia
Fr Seraphim noted that Holy Russia would be resurrected from the ashes of Communism before the end of the world (653). The return of a Tsarist and pious leader is the half-hour silence in heaven spoken of in the Apocalypse, immediately before the reign of Antichrist. Rose saw Russia as a “blood-covered martyric land.” The Tsar-martyr Nicholas II was the restrainer of Antichrist (2 Thess. 2). The patricidal murder of the Tsar is a sign we are living in pre-Antichrist times (192). This idea can be connected with the horror of the 20th century, the rise of globalist institutions, global credit, and secular ideologies.

Of particular interest here are the prophecies of St Seraphim of Sarov, who gave four prophecies pertaining to the resurrection of Holy Russia (he spoke in the 19th century), three of which have already happened.

Fr Seraphim’s message to us:
It is later than you think. We live in an age where secular leaders openly call for world governance based on the bloody ideologies of the 20th century. While many ages think they are in the last generation, and Fr Seraphim would not want us wasting time predicting “times,” the New Testament does call for us to be awake and alert. When the leaders of countries call for a one-world government and one-world market, and when we take note of the “demonic pentecost” (spoken above), we can’t pretend we are “just living in normal times.” Rose had a particularly painful chapter called, “Today in Russia; tomorrow in America.” He meant that the Communist GULAG would soon come to America. With Obama’s cabinet and FEMA, can anyone seriously doubt this?

In any case, Hieromonk Damascene did a wonderful job in writing this book.

Review of the Struggle for World Power

Knuppfer’s argument is fairly simple: Soviet communism could not exist from the wealthy business class in the West. But it’s more than that. The capitalist bankers in London and New York had two goals: 1) destroy the Tsar and impose a Soviet style system in America (and presumably, other parts of the West). England had long wanted to destroy Tsarist Russia, for the Tsar was the only thing that kept England’s Empire in check (Betrand Russell elsewhere admits that the only reason Russia expanded her terrorities in the East was to keep an eye on England). That’s not too controversial a thesis. The very existence of the Crimean War proves as much. It is Knuppfer’s second thesis that seems contradictory.

Here’s how conventional wisdom goes: Banks are businesses, and businesses can’t function in Communist societies. Therefore, bankers couldn’t have wanted a Soviet style government. That’s partly true. If the operative assumption is a level playing field for all businesses and banks, then no, communism can’t work. But if the goal is to control the money supply by means of state socialism (e.g., today’s America), then there is no tension between Big Money and Communism if Big Money is at top. In fact, if given the opportunity, yea even given capitalist principles, there is no reason why bankers–provided they are the victor–would not want a state apparatus. It allows a certain wealthy elite to control the money supply (and essentially, all of the government) and eliminate all competition (I hope this sounds very familiar–it is the American Regime today).

Therefore, Knuppfer proceeds to argue that there were two anti-Christian forces in the world that seemed to be opposed to each other: the Liberal Totalitarian West and the Communist Totalitarian East. Both are bad news for the average free man. Interestingly, Soviet Russia can be seen as Frankenstein’s monster. The West created the Soviet monster as a way of destroying monarchy and the old order. The West did not expect the military machine ala Stalin (which destroyed 80% of the Nazi army). All of a sudden, Sovietism has become too much and is now the “bad guy.”

But in calling Sovietism the bad guy, it must be noted that America never actually opposed ideological communism. America only opposed Communism whenever Communist states set up rival economic blocs that challenged NATO hegemony and the dollar. Otherwise, America cheerfully supported Marxist states (Tito in Yugoslavia, Ceacescu in Romania, the Marxists in South Africa, and even at times the Soviet Union).

Fortunately, things have changed since Knuppfer wrote his book. While America has become almost totally Marxist, many Eastern European and Asian countries have thrown off the mantle of Communism and are establishing rival trading and military blocs to challenge the D.C./Brussels/London/Tel Aviv Regime.

Preparatory Notes on Slavophilism as a Philosophy

From V. V. Zenkovsky’s History of Russian Philosophy vol 1:

The Return to the Ecclesiastical Worldview

After the European Enlightenment, with most countries falling away to secularism, while it can be said that the Russian intelligenstia broke from the Church, the Russian tendency towards “theurgy” kept it from fully breaking.  This allowed the Slavophiles a foothold for a counterattack.

Gogol: Prophet of Orthodox Culture (172)

Russia’s path was different from the West, since Orthodox Christianity was so different from Western Christianity.  Hoped for the transfiguration of culture.

General Remarks on Slavophilism

The early Khomyakov had visited St Petersburg with his brother and they thought they had visited an alien city (181).  This convinced Khomyakov to be a fearless proponent of truth.  He later ran away from home to participate in the Greek Wars of Liberation!

“Khomyakov, like the medieval knights standing watch in the temple of the Mother of God, slept armed” (181).

Influences on Khomyakov

The Church Fathers permeated his spirit (184).  For Khomyakov the Church is an organism; for the West it is an organization.

The Basic Point of Departure of Khomyakov’s Philosophy

  1. Ecclesiastical Consciousness as a Point of Departure (187). The Church is the fullness of truth and the source of light.
  2. The Church as Invisible?  True, Khomyakov subordinates the visible church to the invisible, but he does so in ways different from Protestantism. He rejects individualization principles, and he does not forget the importance of the visible church (see his essay “The Church is One”).
  3. The Church is not an Authority.  The Spirit of God acts within the Church; not a Pope over it.