Thursday, January 09, 2003

Here's a post guaranteed to boost my readership (Or "why people have comments boxes")...
For those of you who are interested in spiralling ever deeper into the vortex of a discussion on Voegelin, Kevin Miller responds to my question about Voegelin and de Lubac as follows:
Okay: What was behind Voegelin’s ultimately explicit quarrel with Christianity?

I’m drawing here from the Rhodes essay on “Voegelin and Christian Faith” that I cite in the “footnote” to my post.

Even in Voegelin’s early thought, there were these three important elements:
  • Something like a Whiteheadian process theology, and a related conviction that the language of myth, religion, and philosophy must always be understood as symbolic.
  • A strong renunciation of apocalyptic – including, e.g., a rejection of Isaiah as “the first metastatic ideologue.”
  • Rejection of the Catholic notion of the Magisterium and doctrine/dogma as too propositional and reifying (see 1), so that these things could not serve as the basis for distinguishing genuine Christianity from Christian Gnosticism (the latter of which, he argued, tends to stem from the sort of apocalyptic discussed in 2).

In light of all these things, he ended up dissociating himself from Christian/Christocentric readings of history.

Rhodes thinks that Voegelin does make several valid points against some particular defenses of Christianity. He also posits some difficulties with Voegelin:
  • Voegelin’s process theology itself fails to describe experience.
  • Similarly, we experience revelation, etc., as more than “a process of the ground in human minds.”
  • Voegelin’s readings of apocalyptic are arbitrary and anachronistic.
  • There could be a divine institutionalization of spiritual authority.

Now, my thoughts on the implications of this for de Lubac (your final point in your post): Voegelin didn’t become a Gnostic, i.e., he didn’t reject his earlier rejection of millenarianism and/or JPII’s parallel rejection of “secular religion.” His concern was more to the effect that, pace a de Lubac or a JPII, Christianity, with what he saw as its literalistic, apocalyptic, and authoritarian elements, leads inexorably into the Gnosticism that a de Lubac or a JPII would join him in wanting to continue to reject. So the problem wasn’t that a Lubacian line of thought led him astray, i.e., into Gnosticism. The problem was that he thought that a Christian line of thought would lead anyone thus astray, and he didn’t want to go there. And if I’m reading your comment correctly, he did, then, reject (de Lubac’s or) JPII’s understanding that Christianity itself contains the resources (i.e., the distinction between “political society” and “Kingdom of God”) for avoiding Gnosticism. Was that your point?
Yes, that was my point.

Also, Kevin says:
Wahhabism probably is a kind of Gnosticism. It may not yet be a “secular religion.” And IF it doesn’t engage in human rights violations as massive as those propounded by a Hitler or a Stalin, that may be why.
To which I responded, "Gosh. What did you think 9/11 was?" To which he responded:
Valid point. But, 1. Note the “IF.” 2. 3,000 (or however many) people is too many, but it’s still not as many as Hitler or Stalin killed. MAYBE this is more than just a difference in numbers – i.e., there may be other differences in practice as well (e.g., the Wahhabis MAY care more about basic morality as they [mis]understand it than about total subservience to the social entity). And MAYBE there’s an ideological difference underlying this, more or less along the following lines: Hitler and Stalin probably thought, roughly, that their “citizens” (if we can dignify them by such a term) were their property. The Wahhabis probably think, roughly, that their people are Allah’s property, and that they are Allah’s (special?) servants. Hitler and Stalin probably thought of themselves as no one’s servants.
To which I responded, "Okay, but their certainty that they know the poliltical will of Allah makes them equivalent to God." To which he responded, "Fair enough."

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