Thursday, May 22, 2014

Why we should still read early Church writings

De Lubac makes a great observation in The Drama of Atheistic Humanism about the modern inversion of liberty. The ancients felt themselves entrapped by fate or at the mercy of capricious and self-serving gods, "who pinioned human life in the net of their tyrannical wills, weighing upon the soul with all their terrors" (5). They felt the world to be a prison. The Gospel of the resurrection and of union with the Creator was experienced as a liberation from an endless cycle of doom. "No more circle! No more blind hazard! No more Fate!"

Early Christian writers still exult in that sense of new freedom. "What wealth and force our faith is forfeiting by its ignorance of, for instance, the hymns of triumph and the stirring appeals that echo in the Prostrpticus of Clement of Alexandria!"

In our day, however, modern man experiences the escape as an imprisonment. He thinks he, by his own power, can create paradise on earth if only the wrong people can be got rid of. He chooses the closed circle and ignores the obvious evidence that the closed circle leads to destruction, rather than freedom and joy because the world is permeated by the principle of corruption. Exalting the circle leads us to criticize Tolkien for promoting "escape" through fantasy. Yet, all he is doing is reminding us that we need to escape the circle and that Providence makes it possible for us to do so, since we can't do it ourselves. The Invisible Hand may not lead to economic prosperity, but it does lead us to persistent joy.

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