Posted on: February 4th, 2008 _Catholicism_ (VII): Doctrines of Evasion & the Role of Time

After a long break from de Lubac, I am picking him up again, turning now to “Part Two” of Catholicism. If Part One was about how the Christian Faith is inherently and irreducibly social or corporate, then Part Two is about how it is, in a rigorously analogous way, historical, or intermingled with the created, temporal order. “… in close connection with the social character of dogma there is another character, equally essential, and that is the historic.” (141)

The point is the radically historical nature of Christianity. “For what, outside Christianity, do we witness whenever a religious movement arises above the domain of sense and effectively transcends the limit of nationality? In every case, though appearances may differ considerably, the basis is the same: an individualist doctrine of escape.”

The examples of individualist religious escape strategies abound: ancient Greek philosophy in which, for example, Plato regards the soul as “in itself a principle superior to the world”; neoplatonism in which Plotinus recommends the “flight of the alone to the Alone” and in which Porphery advocates “the withdrawal of the soul”; the religious philosophies of India; and Buddhism whose “only God is escape.” (137 – 138)

For the Christian faith, however, “the course of history is indeed a reality…. It possesses a certain density and fecundity.” Aniquity’s meaningless cycles of rebirth “have now been exploded,” de Lubac quotes Augustine as writing (de Civitate Dei lib. 12, c. 20, n. 4). This is “the triumphant cry of the Christian to whom God the creator and savior has been revealed” (142). The divine Will and plan of God brings the human race to maturity.

All history and historical development is being providentially guided, by God’s two hands of Word and Spirit, to its predestined end: new heavens and new earth (143 – 144).

This affects the Christian call to flee the world. For, like the ancient and Eastern doctrines of evasion, such a call it does indeed make, but now with “a quite different meaning and with another emphasis:” whatever is real about earthly and temporal things is a “summons to look beyond them. Time is vanity only for one who, using it unnaturally, desires to establish himself in it.” (144) Herein lies the secret of all true Christian asceticism.

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