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Tuesday, September 06, 2005

You try saying that in a history department in Britain...

'At this point we have to make clear that no philosophy of history can be genuine if the general philosophy it presupposes, and of which it is a part, does not recognize the existence of human free will (together with the other properties of the human person) and the existence of God: the consequence of these two truths being that human history implies a double kind of contingency, on the one hand with respect to the transcendent freedom of God, and on the other hand with respect to human free will as well as to natural accidents and vicissitudes.
'If we do not believe in the existence of human free will, we cannot understand how man can exert, as I mentioned above, a decisive influence on the mode or specific orientation of an historical change which is necessary in itself, or with regard to the accumulated needs it answers; and we cannot realize, either, that the historical necessity in question refers to a kind of general pattern which is, as a rule, undetermined and, so to speak, neutral with respect to what matters most to the hearts of men: whereas the mode, specific orientation or specific inspiration which depends on human freedom has to do with what has, for good or ill, the most direct impact on human persons and human societies.
'And if we do not believe in the existence of God, we shall not, of course, see history as governed by Him from above, and as continually modeled and remodeled by His eternal purposes, making up for the evil through which human free will spoils human history, and turning losses into greater gains. But then, if we do not look at history as at a tale told by an idiot, and if we try to work out a philosophy of history, we shall, in our effort to make history rational, transfer to it the very rationality which no longer belongs to to transcendent divine purposes; in other words, we shall transform these formerly divine purposes either into history's own inner purposes and dialectical requirements, or into "scientific" laws which shape its development with sheer necessity. It was the misfortune of the philosophy of history to have been advertised in the modern world by philosophers who were either the greatest falsifier in divinity, or utter atheists. Only a spurious philosophy of history could be elicited by them.'

'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....' .

Jacques Maritain, On the Philosophy of History (New York, 1957), pp.34-5, 148-149