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5. Christianity and History

Christianity is, historically speaking, the religion founded by Jesus who was called the Christ.

I dare not speak about the man Jesus. I do not feel equal to that task. But I owe it to you to make my personal position clear. I am a Christian, or I should rather say: I try to be a Christian. This is not a traditionalist’s position. I have even found much of the Christian tradition, both in thought and in life, difficult to understand, and some of it impossible to follow. But, if this is a possible English phrase, I have been hit by the word of Christ. In a way this word has made life impossible to me; the life I might have lived without it has been destroyed by it. In a way it has made life possible to me; I am not certain whether I would have found a possible way of life without it at all. His word means his teaching. But since this teaching refers to life, his word should be understood to include the reports we have about his life, his death, and that mysterious event of which his disciples spoke as his resurrection.

But these lectures are not intended to contain personal confession but critical thought. I had to make my own position clear for what you may call a methodical reason. Let me use science as an example. Science rests on experience. If you discuss a scientific theory it is not necessary that you should have made the relevant experiments yourself. But you must know what scientific experience is, and you ought to make it quite clear to what particular experiments you are referring. Religion equally rests on experience. Experience, in religion as well as in science, is always particular experience. It will be difficult to understand any religion if you do not have the experience of living within a particular religion. In religions like Judaism and Christianity the relevant experience cannot be had without a personal decision. The act of the decision, if it really happens, is itself an integrating part of the experience. Hence, if you want to speak clearly about religion you will have to indicate what decision you have taken.

A decision chooses one way and rejects the other ways. Hence in opening an experience it cuts me off from other experiences. Making a decision cuts me off from some fields of religious truth, for the other religions contain their truth, too; avoiding a decision, however, will cut me off from the whole field of that truth which cannot be had by just looking at it. I do not say that this necessarily means a final cut-off. There is, I believe, an internal structure in the realm of truth, and, having gone through the experience of decision, we may understand in the end even that truth whose experience we rejected. But this process may well last a few thousand years.

The Christian Church originated as the community of those who, as I have tried to express it, were hit by the word of Christ and who tried to live a life according to what they understood to be his will. The language in which they expressed the experience in so living had to be a language they knew. This was to a large extent a language which we would call mythical today. Here is the problem in our interpretation of Christianity. We want to express our experience in a language that comes naturally to us. Are we to abandon myth for the sake of what we take to be rational sincerity and to run the risk of thereby losing the very experience that was expressed in the mythical language? Or are we to retain the mythical language? Can we use it, knowing it is mythical? Are we so sure that we know what is myth and what is not myth? Do we even know sufficiently well what we mean by myth? I have not so far given any rational definition of myth in these lectures.

We shall come back to these questions at the end of this series lectures. Now I shall try to describe Christianity as it has understood itself, and for this purpose I shall use the concepts introduced in the earlier lectures.

Christianity originated within the Jewish religion. This religion I have tried to describe by the three concepts of faith, of law, and of judgment. These three concepts are retained in Christianity but with a new interpretation. I think it is not wrong to say that faith, law and judgment have been transformed into he Pauline triad of faith, charity, and hope.

Faith is still faith in the God of the Jews whom Jesus taught his disciples to call our father. But it is now at the same time faith in a man, in Jesus himself. This was not less paradoxical then than it is today. It is the paradox which is expressed in the Gospel of St. John by saying: The word was made flesh (1.14). The word (logos) in the language here used is the power of God by which the world has been created. Flesh means man, living in this world. If I wanted to interpret the verse precisely I should have to speak of the Gnostic meaning of the two concepts word and flesh; there they are opposites exaggerating Plato’s distinction of reason and matter into a strict dualism, and the paradox of the verse becomes even more stringent then. But even without such an interpretation, staying within the Jewish religion, we can see that the verse identifies God’s creative power with a creature that has lived once in history. Thus it draws even creation itself into that battle between God and man which is history. The appearance of one man in history who did not fight against God but who really fulfilled his will is understood as a second creation. The meaning of this second creation is seen in the transformation of law into charity, and of judgment into hope.

The Jewish law meant charity. When Jesus says: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind … and thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself”1, he is quoting from the Old Testament.2 He rightly says: “On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”3 Still the fourth gospel quotes him as saying: “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.”4 To explain this apparent contradiction I do not want to revert to the differences between Matthew and John, indisputable though they are. I think the words “as I have loved you” say what is new. Christians have at all times understood Jesus to have been the man who by his life has shown the actual possibility of perfect love; and this they mean by saying that the word of God has been made flesh. The Sermon on the Mount does not speak in the grammatical form of the imperative as does Moses’ law; it does not say “Thou shalt not …”, it speaks in the indicative: “Blessed are those who …” This is why the life of Christ is an integrating part of his word. I can evade a law, saying that I am not able to fulfil it. Can I evade the example of a life?

Judgment and hope have been close together even in the Jewish prophets. Historically the early prophets who spoke when the Jewish kingdom still existed spoke of the impending judgment; they had to destroy a false hope. The prophets at the time of the exile spoke of the impending hope, open to those who accepted the present judgment. This hope the Jews interpreted by expecting the Messiah who would restore the kingdom of David. The Christians said that this hope was now fulfilled, that Jesus was the Messiah; this is what the name Christ means. This is the same paradox as before. It is true it crushes the hopes of the Jews, for the visible kingdom of David has not been restored. Jesus himself has reinterpreted the idea of the coming kingdom: “The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.”5 The words “within you” are probably a mistranslation, but a profound one, the original meaning being: “it is among you”. In any case: it is here, you have no longer to wait for it.

But if this were all that was to be said about the expectation, I should have spoken of fulfilment, not of hope. We have to learn that the words hope, judgment and fulfilment are ambiguous in the New Testament. John speaks clearly of the judgment as fulfilled in Christ: “He that believeth on him is not condemned; but he that believeth not is condemned already … And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light …”6 Equally clearly Matthew speaks of the coming judgment and the second coming of Christ.

This ambiguity seems to be inevitable. Christ has opened a way for every human person. To go or to miss it is that division between light and darkness, life and death, which is judgment. But if human persons are changed, history cannot stay unchanged. The fulfilment offered to the single person is the hope opened to mankind, the hope of history. This hope again means separation. “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”7 This is no longer the separation of one nation from all other nations. The separating line now goes through all nations and through all families. While the separation of the Jews from the other nations—whatever may have been the historical facts—was understood to have been effected at once, by the covenant of Sinai, this final separation is a process. In the parable of the tares among the wheat the servants ask whether they should gather up the tares but are forbidden by the householder “lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.”8 And Jesus, explaining the parable himself, says, according to the gospel: “the harvest is the end of the world”. History will come to an end.

With this expectation Christianity has entered history. Again and again Christians thought the last judgment to be close at hand. It never arrived, but history was steadily and incessantly transformed by those who waited for nothing but for its end.

As the first step of this transformation we may consider how the shattered hopes of the disciples, who had expected that Jesus would bring the judgment in his lifetime, were revived in a changed way by the report of his resurrection and by the profusion of the Holy Ghost seven weeks later. Whatever may have happened then, what they had wrongly expected to come immediately and from outside, they now knew as an overwhelming reality within themselves. From a broken sect they were transformed into a growing church.

They still expected the end to come soon, even during the life of many of them. This hope slowly withered away. Instead they conquered the Roman Empire from within in the span of three centuries. This success brought Christians into a dilemma of which the earliest church had had no idea and which, judging from the extant sources, does not seem to have been foreseen by Jesus himself. This dilemma has a conceptual as well as a practical side. We will be concerned mainly with the conceptual side. But since it can be made clear more easily in the practical field I shall first treat it there.

Consider any practical participation in what we call today political responsibility. Serving as a soldier in the Roman army may be a good example. The first Christians would certainly have considered this to be impossible for them. It is true that Jesus himself had shown great liberality toward the publicans who served the same state, and had accepted military obedience without any hesitation as an example for faith in his discourse with the Roman centurion. Still, killing, which belongs to the office of the soldier, must have seemed scarcely compatible with Christian love, or to put it more positively, with the Sermon on the Mount. Early Christians were not pacifists in a modern sense; they did not think of eliminating war by inducing everybody to live a peaceful life. But this was because they saw history as a battle between God and Satan that would come to an end soon, not by the efforts of man but by the power of God. The single Christian had to save his and his friends’ souls, not to save the world. According to the predictions of the New Testament, especially of the Revelation of St. John, they even expected that the last act of human history would be the coming of Antichrist, a human ruler who would mock Christ by establishing an outward peace which would be the absolute dominion of evil. In this way they were aware of the ambivalence of the concept of peace, and for a long time the Roman Empire could be regarded by them as the impending fulfilment of this prediction, as what Babylon had been to the Jews. But if for a long time no Christian became a soldier it began to happen that soldiers became Christians. What should they do? Especially in the troubled 3rd century, when the Roman Empire began to decline, it could be argued that the soldier was defending peace and order and a chance to lead a godly life against the barbarians. Was not his service an act of brotherly love too? Indeed, when the choice was no longer between the Empire of Rome of this day and the Kingdom of Heaven which might begin tomorrow, but between the civilized Empire of Rome and the intruding Teutonic tribes and Parthian non-believers, the aspects began to change. How much more so after the Emperor had become a Christian.

Thus from the earliest centuries there is the tension between conservative and radical Christianity. There can be little doubt that the radical view is the earlier one. To it any attempt to help to preserve the existing order of things was a compromise with the pagan gods who now were considered demons of evil—an understanding, by the way, which seems at least more profound than that of a rationalism which denies their existence. On the other hand the conservative Christian would feel that by non-cooperation he might just have saved his conscience in too easy a way. A truly sovereign attitude like that expressed in the Epistles of St. Paul was probably able at all times to find positive solutions to the concrete questions of the day, which were neither narrowly conservative nor narrowly radical. But whoever has had to face decisions of this kind himself in our days knows how far we are from knowing these answers easily or in advance.

The result of Christian history under these auspices could not be anything but ambivalent. Wheat and tares were growing together. Let us first consider the wheat. We may doubt how much better the late Roman and the Byzantine Empires may have been than earlier empires by being Christian. But at least when in St. Benedict and in Pope Gregory the Great the most radical tradition of Christian life, monasticism, merged with the best Roman tradition of firm and wise government, the foundations for a new age were laid in the midst of the breakdown of antiquity. From those days the church had the responsibility for feeding the poor. In order to be equal to this task it had to cultivate rotten and virgin lands. It had to pacify barbaric rulers. Bishops became preservers of stable government. Monks carried the tradition of ancient culture through the dark ages. What we call Europe is the making of Christianity.

But a price had to be paid for this achievement. Did bishops ruling a land convert the state or pervert Christianity? Were not pride, riches, and violence the attributes of Christian rulers as they had been of pagan lords? This is human, after all; and their faults were often tempered by the understanding of every Christian that love of the neighbour was the real criterion by which human behaviour was to be measured, and that the king was not divine but under God. But was not this acceptance of a tempered human nature just an act of treason against the superhuman hope opened by Christ to the human race? Was it really true and tested, that violence could not be avoided and that the church had to be rich; could pride be a good thing under any circumstances? The expectation of the last judgment was kept alive by comparing the teaching of the gospel with the world within which Europeans actually lived.

Let us leave the political scene for a while and turn to the development of concepts, of Christian thought.

In earliest times, when the second coming of Christ was expected from day to day, no consistent self-interpretation of Christianity may have been needed. The gospel told itself from mouth to mouth, from heart to heart. But even this is an abstraction. The gospel was told in a language which had been there before the gospel, and there is no language that would not carry with it an implicit philosophy. Our first written document, the New Testament, is full of interpretation. Probably the need of explicit interpretation, indicating the new awareness of this problem, was the reason why the New Testament was written. Matthew is a Jewish interpretation, John not far from a gnostic one, and in the Acts and in Paul’s Epistles we see how a Hellenistic interpretation was arising. As Christianity was discussed and accepted by people belonging to the educated upper class of the Empire, interpretation in terms coined by Greek philosophy became its destiny. The most important school of philosophy in later antiquity was Neo-Platonism, which perhaps may be called a re-interpretation of Platonism in a religious mood and with concepts influenced by Hellenistic, mainly Stoic thought. Thus Christian philosophy or theology—the two were not yet separated—was of a Neo-Platonic character during its first thousand years. Is this fact not also subject to the parable of the wheat and the tares? Yet: how are we to distinguish wheat and tares?

In those times the Timaeus came to be considered Plato’s most important work. Plato would certainly not have thought it to be so himself. He wrote many books about questions which in his view admitted of a certain answer or which were important for leading a life worthy of human beings: on the theory of the forms, on ethics, on political order. A cosmogony he wrote just once in his life-time and he called it no more than a likely story; he had to show that at least he was able to do better in this field, explaining the world by reason, than the Atomists had done explaining it by blind chance. But now the theological setting of this myth came to be considered as some premonition of the truth revealed in the holy scriptures of the Christians, while the science to which his epistemology refers was no longer understood and his model of a city-state governed by philosophers was as far from reality, being a city-state, as it was from the eschatological hopes, being of this world. In the early middle ages Plato was transformed into some kind of a Greek Moses; and Moses, in an equally unhistorical manner, was thought to have been the author of Genesis.

I want at least to mention the views about creation, held by the, probably, greatest Christian thinker of that first millennium, St. Augustine, as he expounds them in the three last books of his Confessions and elsewhere. It is characteristic of the interpretative character of this Christian philosophy that even a thinker as original and as impetuous as St. Augustine offers his views about this subject in an interpretation of a given text which here is the first chapter of Genesis. This interpretation of course lacks all the considerations about the real history of the text which are so characteristic of Biblical scholarship since the nineteenth century and of which I have made use in my third lecture. To St. Augustine the text of Genesis I is the word of God, dictated to Moses. Much of the interpretation is allegorical, much of it is devoted to his own profound philosophical thought, e.g. to his completely fresh and original analysis of the concept of time. As an example of the allegorical interpretation I should mention that the Firmament of Heaven is understood to indicate the firm authority of Scripture and the lights in Heaven to indicate the saints. To our understanding this is very far from the clear and simple meaning of the original text; in a philosophy, however, in which every created thing somehow symbolizes God’s creative will as, to use Platonic language, the copy symbolizes the archetype, allegory must seem a natural way of interpretation.

Some of the speculative statements made by St. Augustine are that God created the world out of nothing and that he did not create the world in time but that he created time with the world. The assertion of a creation out of nothing is the final stage of the development of thought which I described in the lecture on the Old Testament, asserting God’s omnipotence. A pre-existent material of the world would seem not to have been the work of God, hence somehow not subject to him. Here a clear stand is taken against Plato and for the rational consequences of the Bible. The origin of evil, in St. Augustine’s philosophy, is not in pre-existent matter but in the free decision of created souls. How this combines with his views on predestination is a question that would lead us too far from our present topic.

The other statement, that God did not make the world in time, is one of St. Augustine’s own profound speculations. If the world has had a beginning, contrary to the prevailing view of Greek philosophy, what did God do before the creation? Why did he create the world in the moment in which he actually did rather than in any other moment? Such were the questions by which a philosophically trained pagan might try to expose the naive mythology of the Christian belief in creation. St. Augustine considers worth quoting, although he rejects it, the malicious answer: “He made hells for those who pry into mysteries.” In fact, there is no answer to the question; we must understand that the question itself is wrongly put. God’s own existence is not in time, his existence is absolute presence, not admitting of concepts like past and future. In this connection St. Augustine analyses flowing time as human beings know it, more thoroughly and in a far more modern-looking way than any ancient philosopher. But this analysis is used to show that this concept of time does not apply to God. God is not in time but he made time when he made the world. Even the expressions “he made” and “when he made” give the human aspect of creation, the aspect in flowing time, and hence not God’s aspect.

We have still to consider the transformation of Plato’s theory of forms in this Christian philosophy. The Form of the Good was the highest element in the hierarchy of Plato’s thought. Sensual things are not truly being. The forms are truly being. The form of forms is even beyond being, as he explicitly says. This is the origin of the later concept of transcendence. The forms are the archetypes according to which the demiourgos makes the sensible world; he has not made the forms, he only sees them as they are and ever have been. Now the God of the Christians is on the highest level. A person now takes the place of the impersonal Form of the Good, and the divine artisan is re-interpreted as being identical with him. What, then, are the forms? They are God’s creative ideas according to which he made the world. The realm of ideas is God’s infinite intellect. This is the beginning of the transformation which ended in the modern subjective use of the word “idea”. Plato’s idea is sheer or, as we would say “objective”, existence. St. Augustine’s idea is God’s thought. Man, made in God’s image, can think God’s thoughts once more, though in a finite manner. Thus the idea is rightly understood to be in the mind of human persons too. In modern times this last use of the word idea is the only thing that is left. In Locke’s view the idea still somehow represents things as they are. But when this is no longer confirmed by God’s ideas, even the relation of ideas to things becomes doubtful, and in the end even the meaning of the view that there is to be such a relation. This question is to be treated in the second series of lectures.

Let us turn to the beginning of the second millennium of Christian thought. In the 13th century the philosophy of Aristotle was received by Christian thinkers, being delivered to them by the Arabs and the Jews. The theology and philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas is the most famous attempt to harmonize Aristotle with Christianity. With respect to the ideas on creation not much seems to have been changed thereby. Still, St. Thomas had to state explicitly that the creation of the world in time—as we say—is a revealed truth, not a truth that can be proved by the natural light of reason. In fact if reason is embodied in the philosophy of Aristotle this is clear, since Aristotle states that the world is everlasting.

What is interesting to us in these statements is not so much their contents as the distinctions by which they are expressed. The natural light of reason is distinguished from revelation, philosophy is distinguished from theology. These distinctions which come so naturally to a person brought up in the occidental tradition of thought are not at all obvious. They are in fact a self-explanation of a culture which had to interpret the truth belonging to one tradition of thought by the conceptual means belonging to another tradition. If we look at the actual use of the words we shall find reason to mean Greek philosophy and revelation to mean the Bible. Philosophy is what is acceptable of Greek thought to Christians; theology is an interpretation of Biblical thought. The distinction of reason and revelation is present already in the Fathers, i.e. in those Christian thinkers who still belong to the ancient civilization. The distinction of theology and philosophy has developed in the rising culture of medieval Europe; it is particularly apt to reconcile Aristotle with Christianity.

What does the advent of Aristotelianism mean? Look at Raphael’s School of Athens. Plato’s lifted forefinger points to Heaven, Aristotle’s outspread hand leads our view towards the earth. This is not a precise description of the true nature of the two great Greeks, but it gives an accurate picture of what the middle ages thought of them. Aristotelianism means reason instead of ecstasy, it means a positive, though relative valuation of the senses instead of their rejection. The advent of Aristotelianism announces that an age of science is to come. This historical fact has been completely distorted by the anti-Aristotelian self-interpretation of the next great step towards science which was taken in the 17th century. As I said before, the tradition of Christian thought has been interpretative. This was partly due to the prominence of a Sacred Book, partly to the fact that for centuries the newly-formed European nations, rather like schoolboys, had to learn a great deal from ancient cultural traditions. Thus even the daring attempt towards their own ways of thought which goes on through the high middle ages had to assert itself by establishing new authorities rather than by rejecting all authority.

The last question I am going to ask in this lecture is: what is the meaning or the origin of this new interest taken in reality? In so speaking I already use modern language. More correctly I should say: the new interpretation of the meaning of reality? To Christian Neo-Platonism God had been the one great reality. St. Augustine is concerned about God and the soul, nothing else matters. Nothing else? he asks himself. Nothing else, is the answer. The importance attached to a thing and the reality ascribed to it go close together. To the moderate conceptual realism of St. Thomas the form of a thing, that is its participation in the universal, is its true reality, yet it is concrete only in consisting of form and matter. To later nominalism only the individual thing has real existence. This has become the modern concept of reality. For the final part of this lecture I shall use this concept of reality in a terminological manner: Modern man is concerned about reality; modern language honours a man by calling him a realist.

The average modern self-interpretation is that this concept of reality has been wrought from religious prejudice. This makes modern times appear like a new civilization, different from the other-worldly civilization of the middle ages. Since giving up the Christian tradition is not acceptable to everybody, Christianity is then re-interpreted as some moral code of a very high standard; this is a form in which it seems to refer to reality in the modern sense. Certainly this understanding reveals important aspects of Christianity; still I think it is a misinterpretation of the inner dynamics of the Christian faith. In the field of theoretical thought I shall treat of this question in the following lectures. I want to make clear its practical background in the final remarks of this lecture.

Let us return once more to the ambivalence of Christian history. As I said, history was steadily and incessantly transformed by those who waited for nothing but for its end. Let us follow this transformation through the middle ages and the beginnings of modern times. Bishops had become preservers of stable government. This was a great success of the Christian attack on unbridled nature. But taking part in government they were in a situation similar to that of feudal barons; for a long time they had to come from aristocratic families themselves. They served the king against disorder; they were even invested by the king or the emperor. But they did not belong to the Church? The Pope as the head of the Church, it was felt, ought to have invested them. And is noble birth a necessary attribute of him who is to love his brethren as the carpenter’s son had done? Thus what was acceptable to one century seemed inadmissible to the next one. Christianity means a steady movement of aggression against the prevailing state of affairs.

The middle ages can be understood as being a sequence of Christian reform movements like that of Cluny and that of the Franciscans. The Pope won his century-long fight against the Emperor. But the Emperor-like Pope then succumbed to what was probably an alliance of spirituality in the Christian sense and reality in the modern sense. The medieval church had tried to establish an order that was spiritual in its origin and of this world in its effect. When nearly established it was no longer convincing spiritually to those who tried to be radical Christians; at the same time it seemed insupportable to the smaller rulers of this world. The Pope had already overcome the Emperor because of a similar alliance; the feeling of many good Christians that the Pope had higher spiritual legitimacy than the Emperor to establish a Christian order in this world was mingled with the wishes of feudal barons in Germany and of modern-minded city-states in Italy to establish their own power. When the French king carried the Pope to Avignon the universal aspirations of the Pope had become as dubious as those of the Emperor had been a hundred years earlier.

I shall try to describe this threefold battle by means of three abstract concepts: nature, Christianity, and reality. I do not use these concepts now in their full and ordinary meaning; I use them to describe forces active in history in words they themselves used. In the time of which I speak the feudal baron may represent nature most clearly, the Franciscan friar may stand for Christianity, and the merchant citizen of a city, say an early Medici of Florence, may stand for reality. I am not certain whether I would be able to define these concepts very clearly although I feel those who know history will have an intuition of their meaning.

“Nature” is intended to indicate those established patterns of life and those forces in the human mind which were there before Christianity came to them. The word “nature” is taken from the Christian vocabulary; it means natural man who needs salvation. Nature would express itself largely in the language of myth. I think this concept applies well to the early feudal society of the European nations, while its application to the old civilization of pre-Christian antiquity would be unsatisfactory.

Christianity I have tried to explain in this lecture. It understood itself as representing a supernatural power; in fact it attacked the ways of life of nature. In order that charity should act in a person the powers which naturally dominate the soul must be overcome; they must, in fact, be slain like the early gods of the myths. Nobody likes to love his neighbour, not as we think he ought to be but as he really is. This is what the fourth gospel indicates by the words “except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit”.9 God delivers us from the hands of the gods.

Reality, or more clearly secularized reality, is a word by which I try to describe the world which is delivered from the gods without belonging to the God of charity. It is the world of the autonomy of man. The hypothesis about our history which I want to bring forth here is that reality in this sense has only been made possible by Christianity. I first expressed this view when I said in the third lecture: God himself has deprived the world of its divinity. In order to give a considered judgment about this hypothesis we will have to go through the next four lectures; I shall return to the question in the last lecture of this series. Now I can only try to point to the developments in history in which similar acts appear first in a Christian and then in a secular form. I shall limit these brief remarks to three phenomena: obedience, government, and revolution.

The strictest form of obedience known to most people of our days is in military discipline. The strictest form of obedience which probably has ever existed in history was in monastic orders. St. Ignatius Loyola invented the much quoted dictum that the monk should be submitted to his superior like a corpse which makes no movement of his own. What does that mean to a Christian? The superior is to be considered the representative of God to whom really all obedience is due; the eradication of one’s own subjective will is the death of the corn of wheat. I think the military orders of knights brought this concept of obedience to the military field where in feudal times discipline was far from being strict. The Spanish and Prussian soldiers came from countries whose medieval history had been largely a history of knightly orders. How far monastic and military obedience really have led towards inner freedom, is one of the many questions pointing to the ambivalence of our history. We leave it here unanswered, but we must return to it in the end.

Orderly government was promoted by bishops, as I said before. Modern political history is partly the history of an increasing power of the state. What the state subdues is precisely that magnificently unbridled nature which was so strongly represented in the feudal baron. By the 16th century in England, and the 17th century in French history the king had taken over the promotion of this development; the divine right of kings then was the modern idea versus feudalism. Equality of law and functioning of the state are a heritage left to democracy by absolutism. Later the abstract concepts of state and government take over the rôle of the king. The modern democratic state is even more powerful in executing its intentions than absolute monarchy was, and precisely for this reason the legal impediments against misuse of power are so important today.

But if government may in this sense be radical when in process of being established, it tends to become conservative after its establishment. What I called conservative Christianity may now be described as Christianity compromising with nature. Then Christian radicalism, if understood politically, tends towards revolution. Cromwell’s Puritans considered the divine right of kings un-Christian, and so did the French Revolution, using the classical Christian concepts of liberty, equality, fraternity in a secular sense. This transformation of Christian radicalism into the radicalism of reality I should like to describe by the concept of secularization, using this term in a pregnant sense.

Now I leave political history for the space of four lectures.

  • 1.

    Matt. 22. 37–9.

  • 2.

    Deut. 6.5 and 19. 19.

  • 3.

    Matt. 22. 40.

  • 4.

    John 13. 34.

  • 5.

    Luke 17 20–1.

  • 6.

    John 3. 18–19.

  • 7.

    Matt. 10. 34–5.

  • 8.

    Matt. 13. 29–30.

  • 9.

    John 12. 24.

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