Jacques Maritain Center : Philosophy of History

Chapter 4

GOD AND THE MYSTERY OF THE WORLD

God and history

1. There is no more fundamental problem for the philosophy of history than that of the relationship between divine freedom and human freedom in the shaping of history. As I have elsewhere discussed this problem at some length,{1} I shall give now only the briefest possible summary of my views on this question.

The first point to be emphasized is that God is absolutely innocent. He is in absolutely no way the cause of moral evil. Moral evil originates in man's free non-consideration of the rule, in man's free nihilation. Hence man is the first cause (negative cause, of course) of evil. Evil is the only thing (because it is not a thing) that can be done without God.{2} And the permission for such nihilation is included in the fact that God gives a breakable motion or activation{3} toward good -- that is to say, a motion or activation which can be broken if man freely slips away from it. Furthermore, there is a permissive decree of God (involving the intention of some greater good) for the execution of the evil act. Now, as regards the divine plan, we must hold that this plan is established, of course, from all eternity. But we must be aware that eternity is not a kind of divine time which precedes time. It is a limitless instant which indivisibly embraces the whole succession of time. All the moments of that succession are physically present in it. Thus "to foresee" is an improper phrase to use when speaking of God. We employ it because we project into His eternity the anteriority (in relation to future events) of the knowledge which we would have if we knew them before they happened. They are known to Him "already," which is to say, always. He sees them as actually taking place at a given temporal instant which is present to His eternity. All things and all events in nature are known to Him at their first coming forth and in the eternal morning of His vision, because they are willed by Him, beyond all time, in the eternal instant with which their whole succession coexists.

But when we deal with the world of freedom, and not only with the world of nature, when we deal with free existents, creatures endowed with freedom of choice, we must go still farther. We must say that in a certain fashion those creatures have their part in the very establishment of the eternal plan -- not, indeed, by virtue of their power to act (here all they have they hold of God) but by virtue of their power to nihilate, to make the thing that is nothing, where they themselves, as I said above, are first causes. Free existents have their part in the establishment of God's plan, because in establishing that plan He takes account of their initiatives of nihilating.

In other words, God's eternal plan must not be conceived anthropomorphically as a kind of scenario written in advance. Suppose that the eternal plan were a scenario made in advance, i.e., before -- not from above, in eternity, but in a time before time. Suppose that in this scenario it were written that Brutus should assassinate Caesar.{4} Then, when Brutus enters the stage of the world, either the Director will leave him truly free to have or not have the first initiative of sin, in which case Brutus might not murder Caesar and might thus frustrate the eternal plan -- which is nonsense; or the Director will have arranged things in one way or another so that Brutus really does assassinate Caesar, and yet still commits the murder freely. But then how is one to get around the fact that it would be God Who had the first initiative of the sin, and Who, if only by giving him a free hand, made the creature fall?

The true conception is that the divine plan is immutable once fixed from all eternity. But it is only fixed from all eternity with account taken of the free default of man, which God sees in His eternal present. Man enters thus into the eternal plan. Not in order to modify it! To say this would be an absurdity. He enters into its very composition and its eternal fixation by his power of saying: No. In the line of evil, it is the creature who is the first cause. Thus we may interpret in two ways the Gospel saying, "Without Me you can do nothing." It may be interpreted as relating to the line of good, and then it means: without God we can do nothing, i.e., without God we cannot do the slightest act in which there is being or goodness. Or it may be interpreted as relating to the line of evil, and then it means: without God we can do nothingness, i.e., without God we can make the thing which is nothing, we can introduce into action and being the nothingness which wounds them and which constitutes evil. The first initiative always comes from God in the case of good, and then the initiative of created liberty itself arises from the divine initiative. But because of the power of refusal, which naturally forms part of all created liberty, the first initiative always comes from the creature in the case of evil.

Thus we can form some idea of the drama of history, or rather the drama of the superior, the sacred regions of history. Whatever is the part of the visible material which conditions it in the world of nature, history is made up above all of the crossing and intermingling, of the pursuit and conflict of uncreated liberty and created liberty. It is, as it were, invented at each moment of time by the accorded or disaccorded initiatives of these two freedoms -- one in time, the other outside of time and knowing, from the heights of eternity, to which all moments of time are indivisibly present, the whole succession in a single glance. And the glory of the divine liberty is to create an even more beautiful work the more it allows the other liberty to unmake it, because from the abundance of destructions it alone can draw a superabundance of being. But we, who are lodged in the tapestry, see only the obscure entanglement of the threads which are knotted in our heart.

Such are, in brief summary, my views on the problem of the relationship between the defectible freedom of man and the eternal freedom of God -- the problem that is, in my opinion, the absolutely primary problem for the philosopher of history.

The world and its natural ends

2. What is the world? In a most general sense, it is the ensemble of created things, or of all that which is not God. Then, in a more restricted sense, it is our material and visible universe. And then it is our human and moral universe, the cosmos of man, culture, and history, as they develop on earth, with all the mutual relations and tensions involved. The world, thus, constitutively belongs to the order of nature; and it is from the mere point of view of nature that we shall consider it first. Let me observe, in addition, that this human sense of the word cosmos, mundus, the world, is most appropriate: for in the material universe man, as an intelligent and free agent ("in the likeness of God") is par excellence the existent which is not God.

diagram number 2 (page 124)

Now I would propose a very simple diagram (Diagram Number 2). The circle indicates the world, and the Growth in goodshadow indicates that good and evil are intermingled in the world. The point indicates the natural end or ends of the world. The dotted line above represents the growth in good, and the one below the growth in evil -- both of these growths being characteristic of the movement of history.

What can we say concerning the natural end of the world? In my opinion, we may say that this natural end is threefold. A first aspect of the natural end of world history is mastery over nature and the conquest of autonomy for mankind. We read in Genesis, 1: 28: "And God blessed them, saying: Increase and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it, and rule over the fishes of the sea, and the fowls of the air, and all living creatures that move upon the earth." These words point to mastery over nature: subdue the earth. And we should never forget that there is such a natural end for the history of the world. It is something temporal and terrestrial, and it is a real end or aim of the world, and one even mentioned in the Bible. The philosopher may express the same thing in other words, if he reflects on the nature of man as a rational agent immersed in animality. He may say that this end is man's conquest of autonomy, his conquest of freedom in the sense of autonomy -- liberation from bondage and coercion exercised by physical nature on this being who has an element of spirit in him, as well as liberation from enslavement by other men.

A second aspect is the development of the multifarious immanent or spiritual, self-perfecting activities of such a being, especially knowledge -- all the various degrees of knowledge -- and creative activity in art, and, as concerns moral activity, that progress in the knowledge of natural law which we mentioned in the previous chapter.

Finally, a third aspect of this natural end of the world may be brought out -- I mean, the manifestation of all the potentialities of human nature. This, too, would follow from the fact that man is not a pure spirit but a spirit united to matter. It is normal for a spirit to manifest itself. And because man has so many hidden potentialities, it is normal that he reveal progressively this inner universe which is man himself. Here I would like to apply another word of the Gospel: `There is nothing hidden which shall not be made manifest."{5} And one may think, it seems to me, that the very shamelessness of contemporary literature, with its impure incentives and its ridiculous enslavement to fashion, has for all that a kind of eschatological meaning. It is a yielding to this urge to manifest what is in man. And, of course, it is when it veers to masochist forms that such an urge is the easier to release.

I have spoken of the threefold end of the world. The world advances toward it. But let us not forget that, as I have previously observed, there is a progress both in the direction of good and at the same time in the direction of evil. All this concerns the natural order, the world considered in the mere perspective of nature.

Christ's mystical body

3. But, as a matter of fact, we know that man has been called to another order and another life -- to the supernatural order. And here we have another universe, the Church in the full and fully realistic theological sense of this word, which is synonymous with the Mystical Body of Christ, and, as Charles Journet puts it, with "the Kingdom of God in the state of pilgrimage and crucifixion" -- a universe distinct from the world and in interrelation with it. The question of the various senses in which a man can belong to the Church has been thoroughly examined by Msgr. Journet in his work on the Church.{6} For our present purposes, and from our present point of view, it is enough to observe, in a quite simplified manner, that all men belong, in one sense or another, to the Church, or might be called, in one sense or another, the redeemed of the Church (redeemed in hope). There are, first of all, the visible members of the Church, those who belong to her by faith, by Baptism, and by adherence to the authority of the Vicar of Christ; if they are not, by reason of mortal sin, blocked members, love and suffering, in Christ's grace, make them actively participant, by virtue of their sacramental corporation in Christ, in His very work of redemption. There are, secondly, the invisible participants in the Church -- those who do not have integral explicit faith but who are of good faith and good will, and who have initial faith,{7} inner grace and charity. And there are, finally, the potential participants in the Church -- those who have neither faith, even initial, nor charity, nor the baptismal character, but who can receive grace and thereby share in the life of the Church.{8}

Therefore the universe of the Church, of the mystical body of Christ or the Kingdom of God, has at least potentially the same extension as the world. But it is a supernatural universe, living on grace and charity, and headed by Christ. Its end is the supernatural end, God and participation in the very life of God. And evil has no part in it; the Devil has no part in it. This is an essential point, which I shall try to elucidate later.{9} This universe of the Church is without stain, without rust: sine macula, sine ruga. I have indicated this in Diagram Number 3. The circle representing the Kingdom of God has no shadow, because this universe is spotless. The Kingdom of God is a holy universe; whereas the world, in which evil and the devil do have their part and dominion, is a kind of unholy universe.

diagram number 3 (page 129)

The dotted line in the figure representing the Kingdom of God indicates the supernatural good of charity. Here we have a kind of good of which mankind is capable by virtue of divine grace, and which is incomparably greater, in the line of perfection, than is, in the line of destruction, any kind of evil of which man is capable, because charity is a participation in the very love through which God loves Himself, and us, eternally.

Now, as indicated in the lower figure, the world, as the entire order of nature, is in actual fact in vital connection with the universe of the Kingdom of God. Hence it appears that in actual fact it is ordained, not only to its own natural ends, but also, through the Church, to an absolutely supreme end which is supernatural and which is the very end of the Kingdom of God. Moreover, it is superelevated in its own order.{10} The natural end of the world -- in its threefold character, as expressed above -- is superelevated by its connection with the supernatural end and with the supernatural virtues. And I would insist that, given the actual condition of the world -- that is, the fact that the world is not in a state of pure nature but is vitally and organically related to the Kingdom of God -- the actual natural end of the world is this natural end superelevated.

But I would also insist again that the natural end of the world, though it is not the absolutely supreme end, is, nevertheless, a real end; it is not a mere means. This is a point which is, in my opinion, quite important for the philosopher of history, or of culture in general. In other words, temporal things are not mere means with respect to the attainment of the supernatural end. Of course, they are ordained to it, but not as mere means ordained to an end. I would say that they are intermediate or infravalent ends -- they are possessed of an intrinsic merit and goodness in themselves, and they are therefore worthy of attainment in themselves, though they are also means with respect to the supernatural end. I am but applying here what St. Thomas says about civil life, to wit, that the common good of civil life is an ultimate end -- not the absolute ultimate end, but an ultimate end in a given order.{11} Similarly, the natural end of the world -- in its threefold character -- is a relatively ultimate end, an ultimate end in the order of nature, whereas only the supernatural end is the absolutely ultimate end. It seems to me that there is a serious drawback to disregarding this value as end -- inferior, infravalent, but still end -- of the natural end or ends of the world.{12}

The mystery of the world

4. I have also indicated in the diagram that, given this superelevation of the world and this relation of the world with the universe of grace, the growth in natural good, as well as, conversely, the growth in evil, are greater now than in the possible case of a world existing in the state of pure nature. At this point we are confronted with what can indeed be called the mystery of the world: not only the mystery involved in the creation itself of nature, but the deeper mystery involved in the commerce between nature and grace, with, on the one hand, the obscure ways (that is, too luminous for our eyes), both exacting and merciful, in which grace penetrates and perfects and transforms nature, and, on the other hand, the tenebrous recesses in which the treacherous and obstinate struggles of nature against grace take place. Natural good and supernatural good are intermingled, and Christ is interested in both. Natural evil and supernatural evil are also intermingled, and the fallen angel is interested in both. He is the Prince of this world.{13} The world, however, cannot escape the government of God, the supreme ruler. And Christ and the devil contend with one another for the world,{14} and the world is being snatched by Christ from the devil -- not without losses.

In order to sharpen in our minds the sense of this mystery of the world, it is enough to read in the New Testament the passages in which the world is mentioned, and to put them together. Such reading is all the more instructive as it is, at first, puzzling. For in the passages in question the world is spoken of in quite opposite, and seemingly contradictory ways.

Let us quote the most significant of these statements. There are, first, those which can be grouped under the heading: the World as the Antagonist; which means, in the first place, and in a most general sense, the Other, the one who is not God (and who has his own ways of life, and who takes part, as was stated above, in the very establishment of the eternal plan). How important does this one appear! Christ was sent to it: "As thou hast sent me into the world, I also have sent them into the world."{15} "Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith: Sacrifice and oblation thou wouldest not: but a body thou hast fitted to me. . . . Then said I: Behold I come . . ."{16} And to this one who is not God, God and Christ must be made known: "And the world may know that thou hast sent me and hast loved them, as thou hast also loved me."{17} "But that the world may know that I love the Father: and as the Father hath given me commandments, so do I."{18}

Under the same heading are to be listed, in the second place, those passages in which the world appears as the Antagonist in the strict sense of this word -- this time as an enemy and a persecutor, as the one who refuses the gift of God, nay more, who hates it. ". . . And the world knew him not."{19) "The world cannot hate you: but me it hateth."{20} "If the world hate you, know ye that it hath hated me before you. If you had been of the world, the world would love its own: but because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you."{21} ". . . And the world hath hated them: because they are not of the world, as I also am not of the world. I pray not that thou shouldst take them out of the world, but that thou shouldst keep them from evil. They are not of the world, as I also am not of the world."{22} The Church, like Christ, is from God, not from the world. And we must choose between being a friend of the world and a friend of God: "Adulterers, know you not that the friendship of this world is the enemy of God?"{23} "Love not the world, nor the things which are in the world. If any man love the world, the charity of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, is the concupiscence of the flesh and the concupiscence of the eyes and the pride of life, which is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world passeth away and the concupiscence thereof."{24} "By whom the world is crucified to me, and I to the world."{25} The world is in the power of evil: ". . . the whole world is seated in wickedness."{26} "Woe to the world because of scandals".{27} ". . . The prince of this world is already judged."{28} And the world will be condemned: ". . . that we be not condemned with this world."{29} Christ has vanquished the world: ". . . In the world you shall have distress. But have confidence. I have overcome the world."{30}

And then there are those passages which may be grouped under the heading: the World as redeemed and reconciled (that is to say, with respect to the merits of Christ, as redeemed by His blood once and for all, and, with respect to the application of these merits, as in the process of being redeemed, throughout history, by the agony of Christ in His mystical body): "For God so loved the world, as to give His only begotten son."{31} That very world, which according to St. Paul will be condemned,{32} God has decided to save through His son: "For God sent not His Son into the world, to judge the world: but that the world may be saved by him."{33} ". . . for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world."{34} ". . . Behold the Lamb of God. Behold Him who taketh away the sin of the world."{35} That very world, for which He does not pray, He takes away its sin; He who never knew sin, accepted to be made sin," and to die, in order to deliver it from its sin.

5. Coming back to our considerations, and our diagram, let us observe that the world cannot be neutral with respect to the Kingdom of God. Either it aspires to it and is quickened by it, or it fights it. In other words, the relation of the world with the universe of grace is either a relation of union and inclusion, or a relation of separation and conflict. And here we have the explanation of the two series of contrasting assertions in the New Testament. If the relation of the world with the Kingdom of God is a relation of separation and conflict, as indicated in the diagram of the lower cone by the falling arrow, then, and to that extent, we have the world as Antagonist and Enemy to the Kingdom, the world which lies in evil, the world for which Christ does not pray, the world which "cannot receive the spirit of truth";{37} and then come all the statements grouped under the first heading. If the relation of the world with the Kingdom of God is a relation of union and inclusion, as indicated by the ascending arrow, then, and to that extent, we have the world as assumed by and in the Kingdom, the world which God loved to the point of giving His only son as a sacrifice, the world whose sin is taken away by the Lamb of God, and for whose salvation the love and sufferings of the Church apply here and now, as long as history lasts, the blood of the Redeemer. And then come all the statements grouped under the second heading.

The apparent antinomy between these two series of statements is thus solved. For the two kinds of relation which I just spoke of, between the world and the Kingdom, take place at the same time. To the extent to which the world separates itself from the Kingdom of God, and goes its own way toward the Prince of this world, we have the first series of statements, the pejorative remarks about the world, finally condemned. To the extent to which the world is permeated with the vital influences of the Kingdom, and embraced and enveloped by it, and carried along by it, we have the statements dealing with the salvation of the world. It is being saved for eternal life, but not as separately taken; it is being saved for eternal life, as taken with the Kingdom and in the Kingdom. And when it will be revealed in its final state of supernatural salvation, this will be beyond time and beyond history -- and beyond the present world, beyond hic mundus: on the new earth and under the new heavens which will be but one with the Kingdom of God in triumph and glory.

The history of the Church, which is, as Pascal said, the history of the truth, leads as such toward the final revelation of the Kingdom of God -- which is something beyond history -- and has no other end than that Kingdom completely revealed. But the history of the world is divided between two opposing absolutely ultimate ends -- it leads, at one and the same time, toward the kingdom of perdition and toward the Kingdom of God, as termini which are beyond its own natural ends.

And with respect to the relatively ultimate end, the natural end of the world, the same kind of consideration is necessary: this natural end is, as we have seen, threefold -- mastery over nature; conquest of autonomy; and the manifestation of all the potentialities of human nature. But there is an opposite end (in the sense of final result) -- the waste and refuse consisting in the accumulation of evil in the course of history. Here we have -- in this philosophical perspective -- a kind of inferno, of which the world and the history of the world can be freed only if this world ceases to be, only if there is a completely new beginning, a new heaven and a new earth, a transfigured world. Thus we have a kind of philosophical approach to, or preparation for, the theological notion of the transfiguration of the world.

In any case, the absolutely ultimate end, the final end of history is beyond history. For Christian eschatology, there will be a discontinuity between history, which is in time, and the final state of mankind, which will take place in a world transfigured.

I would now propose a further remark on the element of ambivalence that is always to be found in the growth of human history. If we consider historical events, especially big historical events -- say, for instance, the Crusades, or the Thirty Years' War, at the time of Richelieu and Father Joseph (Aldous Huxley's mystical theology is questionable but his views on the "Grey Eminence" are of considerable interest for us){38} -- it seems to me that we have to make a distinction between a judgment of moral value, relating to the men responsible for such events, and another judgment relating to the historical and cultural value of the events in question. As to the judgment of moral value, given the examples I have chosen, I would say that the initiative toward the Crusades, both as to the main goal and the secondary political aims, had a highly ethical value (symbolized by the small arrow to the left of the lower figure); whereas the policy of Richelieu and the "Grey Eminence" was Machiavellian and unethical (see small arrow to the right). But if it is a question of the historical or cultural value -- not with respect to the men who were responsible for these events, but with respect to the objective significance and impact of the historical actions they brought about -- then here we are confronted with the ambivalence of history. No human event is absolutely pure, no human event is absolutely evil -- I mean, in the perspective of the cultural and historical value. I would say that the Crusades had for Western civilization salutary effects (symbolized by circle A), but that they were also spoiled by cruelty and a great many impurities, and they had also some harmful implications for Western human history (see corresponding circle below); whereas the Thirty Years' War had historical effects that were surely in the direction of misfortune for Western civilization (see circle B), but at the same time it did produce some really beneficial effects (see corresponding circle above).

The good of the soul and the good of the world

6. I would like to submit further considerations, which deal with human actions -- on the one hand, insofar as they have to do with the eternal destiny of man and the inner recesses of his heart, and, on the other hand, insofar as they have to do with the temporal destinies of the world and the impact of man on the history of the world.

With respect to the inner moral life of men, or to the value of their actions and intentions in relation to the absolute ultimate end, in other words, with respect to the hearts of men,{39} I would say first, that the heart of man is either in grace and charity, and directed toward God supremely loved; or it is without grace and charity, and its actions are directed toward a false ultimate end, for instance, self-love. And, secondly, I would but pursue a thesis of Charles Journet{40} when he makes clear how it is that the Church is immaculate, without stain or rust,{41} whereas she is composed of sinners. He holds fast to the thesis that this statement about the immaculate, spotless purity of the Church refers to the Church not only in the future, not only to the glorious Church, but also to the Church in the present life, to the Church here below. He says that the division in question takes place in the heart of each one of us (hence, in my diagram, the figure representing the hearts of men). In the first case, when a man acts in grace and charity, he lives on, he draws life from, the life of the Church -- which is a life of grace and charity. It is so because every man who has grace and charity vitally belongs to the Church, either in a visible or in an invisible way. Consequently, the actions in question are not only his, they also manifest in him the very life of the whole a part of which he is. And of course they do not bring any stain to the Church, because they are good, and belong to the Church precisely insofar as they are vivified by the grace of Christ, irrespective of all the minor impurities they may convey. I have indicated all this on the diagram -- when an action emanates from the heart of man in grace and charity, it tends toward the supernatural end, and it belongs to the Kingdom of God itself, to the Church herself.

But in the second case, even if the men in question are visible members of the Church, they withdraw from her life, they slip away from the life of the Church. And the evil actions that they commit are no stain on the Church, on the Kingdom of God, because they are not hers. I have indicated on the diagram that such actions tend toward evil and the Prince of this world.

Thus it is that the divide between the streams which flow from the Church, and those which do not, is to be found in the inner recesses of the hearts of men.

If we consider now no longer the hearts of men, but the external actions they introduce into being, I would suggest that there is a threefold division of these actions (symbolized in my diagram by the circle surrounding the heart). There are actions (section 1) which come from grace and charity, and which directly improve the good of the world. And there are actions (section 2) which come from a heart separated from grace and charity, and which directly increase the amount of evil in the world. These first two categories of actions present no difficulty here. But my point is that there are also actions (section 3) which are good (in the natural order, that is) and which are committed by sinners; they are of no value for eternal life, but they are of value for the world. As indicated in my diagram, such actions can cooperate in one way or another in the increase of good in the world.

St. Thomas holds that a man whose actions are not quickened by grace and charity may have natural virtues in an imperfect state, and be able to do some particular good things, like planting vineyards or building a house.{42} But these particular good things play, it seems to me, a tremendously large part in the history of the world. Take, for instance, the realm of art (and we know how mankind needs art and poetry). How many artists gave masterpieces to the world while being committed to a sinful life! I recall Shelley's saying the sins of the poet are washed away by Time the redeemer. This is not true of the soul of the poet, but it is true of his work, because with the growth of time the work is purified, so to speak, and we can admire it without being wounded by it.

We may make a similar observation with respect to the political achievements of men. Many social and political achievements, which were, as we know, ambivalent, but the main value of which was in the direction of the natural good and the progress of the world, were brought about by men who were committed to a sinful life.

It seems to me that we are confronted here with aspects of reality in which the philosophy of history from its own point of view is especially interested. It is more interested in them than is the theology of history because for the theologian, who is mainly concerned with the supernatural end and the Kingdom of God, the category of actions in question must be recognized, of course, but it is not of so deep and great concern as it is for the philosopher.

7. A further point must be made. The relation of the world to the Kingdom of God may be, we have said, either a relation of union and inclusion, or a relation of separation and conflict. Such a distinction deals with things which belong to the realm of morality -- first, qua individual morality, which essentially relates to the inner life of conscience and expresses itself in the actions of the individual; second, qua social morality, which relates to the structures of civilization, and to laws and institutions, and expresses itself in social behavior. At this point it is relevant to observe that since the structures of the social order and of civilization have essentially to do with the external relations between men, they, consequently, are fit to receive any formative influence from the Kingdom of God only to the extent to which the presence of the latter among men is also made externally apparent. This happened more or less in the Gentile world before Christ, but in a merely inchoate way and through some enigmatic prophetic signs (a symbol of which were the "Sibyls" for Christian antiquity and the Middle Ages).{43} So that it may be said that, as long as the message of the Kingdom of God was not publicly revealed and explicidy manifested, externally expressed in our human language, the structures of the social order and of civilization could not receive, save in an exceptional and sporadic manner, the formative influence of the Kingdom; consequently, it was not in and through social morality and the social structures of civilization, but only in and through the conscience and morality of individuals, so far as they invisibly belonged to the Church, and through their personal action on the cultural environment, that any vital connection with, and quickening by, the Kingdom of God could, as a rule, exist for the world. Thus we understand that before the promulgation of the Gospel any human civilization (except that of the Hebrew people) fell within the category of heathendom, whose social morality was not inspired by, but rather divided from, the Kingdom. As regards social morality, and the external structures of civilization, the world -- even the Indian world with its thirst for deliverance and contemplation, and the Greek world with its rational wisdom, and the Roman world with its sense of the law and of right -- was seated in the shadow of death. After the promulgation of the Gospel a Christendom was possible." A Christendom is a "Christian world." Yet any "world" of Christian denomination, any "Christian world" is not a Christendom; in other terms, the notion of a Christian world includes that of Christendom but is much larger.

Here we have to bring out the notion of "Christian world" in all its generality, and to lay stress on its true significance. This notion is essentially distinct from the notion of Christianity or the notion of the Church. The Christian world is part of this world, it consists -- in the various periods of human history -- either of those areas of civilization or of those strata in temporal society which are of Christian denomination. But while the areas or strata in question are of Christian denomination, this does not mean that they behave according to Christian standards and inspiration. And the deficiencies of the Christian world, or worlds, are both inevitable and disastrous in the course of human history. Let us only think of those kinds of Christian worlds which were, for instance, the court of Louis XIV in France, or the Prussian Christian State at the time of Friedrich Wilhelm II, or the French upper classes at the time of le trône et l'autel, or the English upper classes at the time of the sweating system.

Hence it is that our distinction between the world as vitally activated by the Kingdom of God and the world as separating itself from the Kingdom is true not only with respect to hic mundus in general, but with respect to the Christian world (or worlds) in particular. These Christian worlds are both vitally inspired by the Kingdom of God in a certain regard and to a certain extent, and, in another regard and to another extent, divided from it by sin. And as far as they are divided from the Kingdom they will bestow their favors upon Christ's disciples in a somewhat strange manner. In the Pagan world of old the Christian was persecuted by being killed, stoned, crucified, thrown to the beasts. In the Christian world the Christian -- I mean the man or woman who really lives according to Christian standards and according to the inspiration of the Spirit of God (whose gifts we receive with divine grace, and which are, St. Thomas teaches, necessary for salvation) -- is persecuted in another way, less violent but no less real: is there, even, nicer persecution than fraternal persecution? Joan of Arc was burned alive. St. John of the Cross was cast into gaol, St. Theresa of Lisieux was gently and inexorably pushed into the embrace of death. It is in an analogical manner indeed that the statements of the Gospel on the world -- insofar as shut up in itself -- are to be understood of the Pagan world and of the Christian world. In any case, let us never forget the basic fact that, according to the Gospel, the world will never be fully reconciled with Christ within the course of human history. St. Paul says: "And all who want to live piously in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution."{45} This is a universal statement, valid for any period of time. And we find another terrible statement in St. Mark: "And you shall be hated by all men for my name's sake."{46} It's certainly not a very optimistic statement with respect to the world.

The Christian, because he is not of the world, will always be a foreigner in the world -- I mean, in the world as separating itself from the Kingdom of God and shutting itself up in itself; he is incomprehensible to the world and inspires it with uneasiness and distrust. The world cannot make sense of the theological virtues. Theological faith, the world sees as a challenge, an insult, and a threat; it is by reason of their faith that it dislikes Christians, it is through their faith that they vanquish it; faith is enough to divide them from the world. Theological hope, the world does not see at all; it is simply blind to it. Theological charity, the world sees the wrong way; it misapprehends it, is mistaken about it. It confuses it with any kind of quixotic devotion to whatever human cause it may profit by. And thus does the world tolerate charity, even admire it -- insofar as it is not charity, but something else. (And so is charity the secret weapon of Christianity.)

In the last analysis, it is exceedingly hard for the world to acknowledge the fact that the Christian may simply be; it cannot make room for the existence of the Christian, except by virtue of some misunderstanding. If we really were what we are, and if the world knew us as we are, how pleased it would be to recognize it as its sacred obligation to mow us down, in self-defense. . . .

And yet, let us never forget, on the other hand, that the world, treacherous as it may be, is (insofar as it is open to, and assumed by, the Kingdom of God) redeemed and quickened by the blood of Christ, and that it badly needs to have Christians -- who are not of it -- live and work and love and suffer in it, in order for it to advance toward its ends.

This great need of the world is true, first, with respect to the natural ends of the world -- modern history appears in this regard as revealing more and more, at each step, how necessary the temporal mission of the Christian is. Here we have an outstanding instance of the historical law of progressive prise de conscience.

And this great need of the world is still truer (it's a very datum of Christian revelation) with respect to the final supernatural end of the world, and to the metahistoric fulfillment of mankind's salvation. For there is, as I remarked previously, a continued work of redemption accomplished in the Mystical Body and to which all men of good will indirectly contribute in the order of dispositive causality, but which in the very order of instrumental efficient causality is brought about by the active members of Christ, i.e., the baptized who live in grace -- in short, by the application of the merits of Christ all along the course of time. Thus it is that the persecuted and the saints, who are saved by Christ, save as instrumental causes, and by virtue of the blood of Christ, the persecutors and the evildoers. Poor persecutors and poor sinners, poor prodigal sons who are struggling in the experience of evil and the unholy business of the world, will thus be saved, except those who have killed within themselves any divine seed of good will and who prefer Hell to God. With the exception of these men who refuse to be redeemed, that very world which hates Christ and His disciples will be finally reconciled to Christ, but after the end of history. Here we have an application of that law mentioned by St. Paul, of which we spoke in the previous chapter -- God has imprisoned all things under sin in order to have mercy on all.

Thy Kingdom come

8. In one sense, the Kingdom of God has already come -- in the form of the Church, or the Mystical body of Christ, which is, as we have seen, the Kingdom in the state of pilgrimage and crucifixion. In another sense, the Kingdom of God is to come, namely, as to its fulfillment in the Jerusalem of glory -- the Church triumphant -- and in the world of the resurrection. It is in relation to this second sense that we have to consider the problem of the Kingdom of God on earth, or of the realization of the Gospel on earth. To my mind, there are three kinds of error in this matter. There is the anthropocratic illusion, according to which man himself and man alone -- that is to say, either the power of science and human reason, or the self-movement of human history -- is in charge of bringing about the Kingdom of God here below. There is the satanocratic illusion, according to which the world is completely abandoned to the Devil, with no kind of veritable progress and of realization of the Gospel, imperfect as it may be, to be hoped for in our social-temporal and political order -- a view that is not without some impact in the Protestant world,{47} and also in the Greek Orthodox world. And there is the theocratic illusion, which would make the world -- hic mundus, our historical world, and the social-temporal and political City -- into the Kingdom of God.

This problem is a most important one, not only theoretically but practically. To bring things closer to our imagination, allow me to recall that it was forcefully posed a few years ago by the Austrian playwright Hochwäaut;lder, in a play produced in Paris with considerable success,{48} entitled Sur La terre comme au ciel.{49} The author, though not a Christian himself, found the matter for a veritable, I think, Christian tragedy in the social achievements of the Spanish Jesuits in Paraguay, and in the final catastrophe of this great venture. The Jesuits were able to start a kind of perfect socio-political establishment, where the Indian workers were justly treated in every respect. It was a paternalistic society, but a really Christian paternalistic society. Everybody was happy, and many conversions took place. At the moment when the play opens (this is but a scanty summary), the Provincial of the Jesuits, who is not only a religious superior but also a temporal administrator (he is the head of this Jesuit settlement), is quite pleased with the results, and he thanks God for them. But then a high official of the Spanish court, sent by the King, arrives and tells the Provincial that these things must cease because they are greatly disturbing the Spanish colonists around -- the Jesuits had established a kind of State within a State, and the other State, the Spanish colony, was lacking in manpower (everybody was going to the Jesuit establishment), and was being torn by much social unrest and a great deal of resentment. However, the high official is finally taken prisoner by the Jesuit Provincial.

But then a representative of the Jesuit General arrives from Rome, and orders the Provincial to abandon the whole undertaking. And despite great resistance on the part of the people, the Provincial realizes that he must obey -- and not only because of blind obedience, but also (as he indicates in a quite interesting discussion with the representative of the General) because he now sees that there was something wrong with the whole endeavor. The Jesuits were primarily interested in a job which was not their primary job; instead of dedicating their energies primarily and above all to their priestly mission, to the preaching of the Gospel and the expansion of the realm of grace, they were, in actual existence (even if in their intention the spiritual goal came first) dedicated to realizing a temporal task, trying to achieve the Kingdom of God on earth in a temporal way. Indeed when the Provincial asked the Indians why they had come to the Jesuits, and why they had become converted, they replied that it was not because of the love of God, but rather because they wanted a happy and just life on earth. And so the play ends with the heart-rending ruin -- which was historically true -- of the Jesuit establishment, and with this ruin fully accepted by the Jesuit Provincial, who is wounded while stopping a riot and pays for the whole venture with his own life.

Now the author was not interested, of course, in giving us any answer. And also, we may remark, he exaggerates the opposition. On the one hand, the representative of the Jesuit General seems to affirm in the discussion that we must be fully resigned to injustice here below. Though more implicit than explicit, his is the satanocratic conception -- the world is abandoned to evil and injustice. On the other hand, the Jesuit Provincial tries to establish a Kingdom of God here below, and even (at least before the end of the play) allows, however involuntarily, this temporal achievement to take precedence over the preaching of the supratemporal Kingdom. His is the theocratic conception. At any rate, the play aroused much discussion, largely because it offers no solution. Some people were horrified by it, and some others quite pleased.

But what is the truth of the matter? In my opinion, it is that we must seek with all our power a genuine (I mean actual and vital, not only decorative), imperfect as it may be, realization in this world of the requirements of the Gospel. The fact of so many millions of men starving and living in despair, in a life unworthy of man, is an insult to Christ and to brotherly love. As a result, the temporal mission of the Christian is to strive to eradicate such evils, and to build up a Christian-inspired social and political order, where justice and brotherhood are better and better served. Yet this job is primarily the job of the Christian laity, working in the very midst of the world and civilization; it is not primarily the job of the Christian priesthood (and it is especially not their job to found, as the Jesuits did in Paraguay, a temporal establishment divided from the temporal community as a whole). Furthermore, there is a hierarchy of ends, and the Word of God comes first; it is imperative progressively to transform terrestrial life according to the requirements of natural law and of the Gospel; nevertheless, the absolutely ultimate goal is not to transform terrestrial life, but to have souls enter eternal life and finally the vision of God; and the "horizontal" effort itself, directed to transforming the world, essentially needs, in the depths of human history, the "vertical" effort directed to expanding the realm of grace in souls; for both efforts are, in the long run, necessary to one another; but the most necessary is the vertical one. Thus, there will always be a clash between a Christian and an atheist with respect to the work to be achieved here on earth because in doing this work the atheist pursues his absolutely ultimate end, the Christian pursues his ultimate end in a certain order only (finis ultimus secundum quid), dependent as it is on an absolutely ultimate end which is supratemporal. The realization of the Gospel in temporal life that Christians must hope for and strive for will always be, in one way or another, deficient and thwarted; this world will never be fully reconciled with Christ within history. We will never have the Kingdom of God within temporal history. This is all the more reason why we should strive toward it. But we know that it will never come about before the end of history. There can be no rest for the Christian as long as justice and love do not hold sway over the lives of men. And since their requirements will never be completely fulfilled within history, the Christian will therefore never have rest within history -- and that's perfectly proper to his condition. . . .

9. Thy Kingdom come: when Christians say every day to God these words of the Lord's prayer, what are they requesting, and willing, with respect to the Kingdom in the state of fulfillment? They want, they will the Kingdom of God to come together with the resurrection of the dead, beyond history. And they want, they will -- on earth, in this world, within history -- the unceasing march toward the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom in its full completion will only come after the end of time; but the actual march toward the Kingdom, at each step of history, is a thing which can be, and should be, carried into effect on earth, in this world, within history. And for this march toward the Kingdom Christians must not only pray, they also must indefatigably work and strive.

In such a perspective the notion of Christendom takes on its full meaning and full dimensions. The notion of Christendom is clearly distinct from the notion of Christianity, and from that of the Church. Christendom means a Christian-inspired civilization -- not a simply decorative Christian world, but a really and vitally Christian-inspired civilization. Christendom pertains to the temporal realm, it pertains to the world, to the world as superelevated in its own natural order by the Christian leaven. If there is, as I believe, a temporal mission for the Christian, how would it be possible for the terrestrial hope by which such a mission is quickened not to have as its most comprehensive aim the ideal of building either a better or a new Christian civilization? The will, and dream, of a Christendom to be established or to be improved is the will and dream of Christians laboring in the world. There was a real and genuine (though imperfect, and spoiled with many stains) Christendom in the Middle Ages. At each new age in human history (as is, to my mind, our own age with respect to the Middle Ages and the Baroque Age), it is normal that Christians hope for a new Christendom, and depict for themselves, in order to guide their effort, a concrete historical ideal appropriate to the particular climate of the age in question.

In any Christendom, old or new, evil and the devil will, no doubt, have their part; as I have just said, Christendom belongs to the realm of the world. Yet, because it is a Christian world in a particularly genuine and eminent sense, in other words, because it is a world actually and vitally Christian-inspired in its very structures and institutions, the part of God and the part of the good is decisively prevalent in it and stirs it forward, as long as it does not start to fall into decadence. During the centuries in which a Christendom develops and grows, the world advances more rapidly toward its natural ends (superelevated in their own order, as we have seen) and toward the meta-historical Kingdom of God. Its march toward the Kingdom is accelerated.

A Christendom, in which the march of mankind toward the Kingdom of God is thus accelerated, implies in actual fact a certain realization of the Gospel good tidings on earth. Nevertheless the fact remains that in it, because it is part of the world, "all those who want to live piously in Christ Jesus" will continue to "suffer persecution." This is in no way surprising. It is but a particular application of a general law of temporal history. The main advances in human history -- insofar as they are not merely technical, but morally directed toward the common good of mankind and a state of affairs more fitted to the dignity of man -- are acquired at the price not only of blood and sweat, but of much love and self-sacrifice also. Yet, once the change in question has been obtained through the effort of a few men and the agony of the spirit in them, it becomes either institutionalized or integrated in the collective consciousness -- in any case absorbed in the very fabric of this world, which is thus carried to a higher level of human civilization but which still remains the world where both God and the devil have their parts. It is the same with Christendom. It lives on the unceasing gift of themselves that the best of its members make to the common good; but every triumph of such human devotion and spiritual energy, while it raises the history of the world to a higher level, at the same time is absorbed and integrated in the temporal fabric of the world, whose institutions and agencies, laws and common consciousness, social life and general behavior are made more consonant with the requirements of the Gospel, but which still remains the world where saints will never be short of persecution.

But let us turn now toward another aspect of the question, and, once again, toward the relation between the world and the Kingdom of God no longer considered& in the state of fulfillment, but in the state of pilgrimage and crucifixion, the Kingdom of God as already come among us, in other words the Church or the mystical body of Christ. Obviously, nowhere in human history do the promptings of the Kingdom play a greater part than in the periods when a Christian-inspired civilization, a Christendom develops. Furthermore, it is normal that the mystical body of Christ should act on the world with the full energy of the divine life whose communication to human souls is maintained in a state of unscathed integrity by the undiminished teaching of revealed truth, the plenitude of the sacraments and the ties of undamaged discipline. Yet it may happen that, under given historical circumstances, the temporal structures of civilization find themselves more open to the influence of the mystical body in certain areas where its divine energy is, by reason of religious division, in a more or less impoverished state, but where its impact on temporal society meets with lesser obstacles caused either by too long inertia, in a number of Christians, with respect to their temporal mission, or by a hardening against religion in a number of unbelievers.{50} As a result, it is possible that, at a given time, the area in the world in which a Christian-inspired civilization has a chance of finding an appropriate soil for future development may happen to be an area where the promptings of the mystical body of Christ on temporal life pass, for a large part, through men of good will who belong to it invisibly,{51} and where its visible forces do not play the major part in the common inspiration. Such is, in my opinion, the case with this country at the present epoch. The Catholic Church plays a growing part in American life, and I think that American Catholics are called to a particularly important historic role, if they fully understand their mission, especially their intellectual mission, in cooperating in the forward movement of the national community as a whole. Yet the fact remains that in its historical roots, and in the cast of mind of its Founding Fathers, as well as in the moral structure of its secular consciousness, America is more of a Protestant than a Catholic country. The religious tradition of America appears more and more as a threefold religious tradition: Protestant, Catholic and Jew.{52} And, as a matter of fact, America is today the area in the world in which, despite powerful opposite forces and currents, the notion of a Christian-inspired civilization is more part of the national heritage than in any other spot on earth. If there is any hope for the sprouting of a new Christendom in the modern world, it is in America that the historical and ethico-social ground which could become a soil for such a sprouting may be found{53} -- assuming, as we do, that the opposing trends toward secularism no. 1 (national life cut off from religion) or secularism no. 2 (religion made subservient to national progress), toward anti-liberal conformism or toward utopian technocratism, are overcome.

My last remark has to do with the fact that in the Christian perspective -- precisely because the Kingdom of God as fully accomplished will come after the end of history -- the march of the world toward the Kingdom, and its progress toward its natural ends (together with the simultaneous progress toward evil) will unceasingly be in the making and unceasingly go on as long as history lasts. Here appears a basic difference between the Christian philosophy of history and the Hegelian, Marxian or Comtian philosophies of history. Be they dialectical or positivist, these philosophies of pure immanentist or atheist evolution are inevitably bound to a patent self-contradiction. On the one hand, they insist that Becoming is the only reality, and the process of change continues without end; and, on the other hand, they offer themselves as the definitive and final revelation, at the end of time, of the meaning of all history. The Christian philosophy of history is not liable to such inconsistencies. The end is beyond time, and never therefore can the movement of history come to a definitive and final state, or a definitive and final self-revelation, within time. Never can a Christian philosopher of history install himself, as Hegel, Marx and Comte did, at the end of time.

And never can Christians rest within time. As long as the world exists, the Christian must always search for new progress and new improvement, for more justice and brotherhood on earth, and for a deeper and more complete realization of the Gospel here below. For him there can never be enough. It is always imperative to do more. Just as Christians must unceasingly strive, each in his own individual life, for the eternal salvation of his soul and of the world, so they must, in the succession of centuries, unceasingly strive to foster and fulfil, better and better, in this world, men's terrestrial hope in the Gospel.

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