LH-V. The Emergence of Post-Modern Thinking

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by Msgr. Eugene Kevane
©2003 The Miriam Press. All Rights Reserved

V. The Emergence of Post-Modern Thinking

The fact that a different kind of thinking has been growing gradually in the 20th Century, bearing witness to the dated character of Modernity and its view of history, can be documented richly, for it is actually the function of a many-sided scientific progress. It is the fall-out from the contemporary knowledge explosion. Only the chief areas can be outlined here, with an almost random indication of works which introduce the inquiring mind into this new intellectual situation.

The End of the Modern Age

The concept Post-Modern seems to have dawned first, fittingly enough, in the mind of a philosopher experiencing the anguish of World War I. The philosopher was Nicholas Berdyaev.

“The academical division of history into three parts, ancient, medieval and modern,” he writes, “will soon become obsolete and will be banished from the textbooks. Contemporary history is being wound up. An unknown era is upon us, and it must be given a name. The old measures of history are no longer serviceable, as we realized with a sudden shock when the World War broke out…. The rhythm of history is changing: it is becoming catastrophic…. We are entering…this new era joylessly and without much hope. We can no longer believe in the theories of progress which deceived the minds of the nineteenth century and made the near future seem always to be better, more beautiful, and more desirable than what had gone before…. What is the explanation of this crisis of European civilization?… Modern history, now coming to an end, was conceived at the time of the Renaissance. We are witnessing the end of the Renaissance.”1

Forty years later the concept “Post-Modern” was no longer philosophically new. The Jewish thinker, Will Herberg, discusses Berdyaev and Maritain among others as “heralds of the post-modern mind, trailblazers in the great if not always definable movement of thought that is striving to go beyond the confident positivism, naturalism, and scientism that are the hallmarks of modernity”; and he speaks of “the metaphysical hunger that cannot be stilled with the dry husks of nineteenth-century platitudes.”2 But the beginnings in philosophy antedated the external social catastrophe of World War I and its definitive termination of the Religion of Progress and its “philosophical faith.” Edmund Husserl, for example, was already post-modern in 1900 when he first published Logische Untersuchungen, his devastating critique of positivism and empiricism, the very heart of the philosophizing which had been characteristic of the Modern Age as such.3

It may be taken, then, that philosophers have been recognizing the end of Modernity as a living and viable intellectual position. From within the field and curricular discipline of philosophy the historical category called “Modern” since Petrarch has been placed in philosophical doubt of itself. Meanwhile, the research of truth in other disciplines, some of them entirely new in the last century or so, has been working havoc with all three of the categories “Ancient,” “Medieval” and “Modern”.

The New History

History itself, to begin with, has made a veritable quantum leap forward during the past century, as new techniques for documentation have been discovered and developed. One need only mention names like Von Ranke and Lord Acton. The cumulative effective of this newer scholarship has been to unsettle the category “medieval,” in its pattern of qualifying notes fixed finally by Voltaire, and the category “Renaissance” as the essence of Modernity, fixed similarly by Burckhardt. One scholarly study after another has made it clear that there were other “Renaissances,” that of the 12th Century, and the “Carolingian Renaissance.” Has there been simply one long “Renaissance” in successive waves since St. Justin Martyr and Augustine’s De doctrina christiana? Meticulous scholarship, furthermore, began to reveal a demonstrable cultural continuity from classical antiquity to the Christian culture that succeeded it.4 Both the beginning and the end of the so-called “Middle Ages” were thus thrown into flux. The newer view of the world-historical importance of Islam linked with the work of Jacques Pirenne cast doubt upon the “Fall of Rome” as the cardinal event of universal history.

Historians themselves, then, apart from the contributions of other disciplines, have been breaking up the neatly self-contained categories, “Ancient,” “Medieval” and “Modern,” and raising the question whether they were after all only philosophical constructs, intellectually provincial, limited to the subjective impression of one particular cultural moment. For the idea of an historical period like a sealed compartment is the sure sign of a philosophical construct. “Western historiography,” writes Castellan, “structured its methodological categories prior to the great advances made by historical erudition across the 19th Century.”5

Prehistory

The science of archaeology, an entirely new discovery and development during the two contemporary centuries, has unsettled the category “Ancient” in a similar way. Modernity viewed classical antiquity as a self-contained ideological entity: the pagan culture of Greece and Rome, with its artistic and philosophical forms, and the classical languages as the hallmark of higher education and humanistic culture. Archaeology has broken antiquity open to the rear, revealing a succession of older cultures as the background of the Graeco-Roman world, to which it was affiliated. Furthermore, it was discovered that there was a “Dawn of History” at about 4000 B.C., marked by the invention of writing and hence by written records available for scholars today to decipher and to study. But archaeological evidence is not limited, as is history in the strict sense, to these documents: it has been able to penetrate back into a relatively long and hitherto hardly recognized period called the prehistoric past of mankind. Oral traditions, such as those preserved for example in the first book of the Bible and in the writings of Homer, give some insight into these dime times when mankind was dispersed thinly over the earth, prior to the first cities, in tribal groups of families and clusters of families in small farming villages.

But the new science of Archaeology, with its excavations of these inhabited sites, has thrown a ray of new light upon this Prehistory, and revealed the fact that the first cities and their archaic culture, growing naturally and gradually out of these villages, formed the basis for the larger “Empires” of Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome which were to come.

Cultural succession and cultural diffusion thus became established as the newer pattern of historical understanding, which had little in common with the limited view of Classical Antiquity which prevailed from Petrarch through Voltaire as its idea of the first of the largest entities of historical succession.6

The Comparative Study of Cultures

This same contemporary period, furthermore, has witnessed the rise of the new human sciences of Ethnology, Anthropology, and the Comparative Study of Civilizations. The raw material studied by these disciplines has resulted from the immense outgoing effort of the West to reach all the other peoples of this planet. The origin of this effort, so uniquely characteristic of the cluster of peoples called the Christian West, was simply missionary in character, rooted in the command, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations…, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you…” (Mt. 28, 19-29). That Western expansion in the Modern Age has remained fundamentally this mission is a fact that comes home when the motivation of Prince Henry the Navigator is studied. For he conceived the conquest of the oceans, which he spearheaded, in the context of the Christian World mission, always seeking to bypass the Islamic roadblock and to reach India and China with the message and doctrine of Jesus Christ. After Henry, of course, the mercantile trader began more and more to accompany and then to replace the missionary.

As the base for the World mission in the West became an increasingly secularized culture, so the outgoing movement became increasingly one of mere this-worldly imperialism. Yet the Christian effort as such continued deep into the 20th Century, alongside of the secularization, and despite the internal disunity which had come to characterize the missionary enterprise, confusing the populations of Africa and Asia, and blunting the effectiveness of the message.

From the viewpoint of scholarship, the contact of the West with the rest of the world after the conquest of the oceans make available an immense mass of new data regarding the other ways of life on earth: the more isolated tribal patterns and the great historic civilizations of China, India and Islam. Thus a new university discipline, the comparative study of cultures, began to emerge, to acquire right of place on programs of study and to do its scholarly publishing. And out of this new knowledge Arnold Toynbee proceeded with his vast project for the re-writing of history from this new point of view.7 Universal history now appeared as a long succession of cultures in time, related to each other in ways which scholars were coming increasingly to recognize. Laterally in planetary space the relationship is that of cultural diffusion and longitudinally in historical time, Toynbee terms it affiliation.

The particular affiliation between cultures that looms largest in Toynbee’s Study of History is that between the Classical culture of Greece and Rome, and the Christian culture which followed it.

“In short,” he writes, “during the time when the Empire and the Church coexisted as occupants of the same field, the Empire was dead-alive while the Church was animated by a fresh vitality. And so, when the moribund Empire fell, the ensuing ‘interregnum’ gave the living Church an opportunity to perform an act of creation. The Church then played the part of a chrysalis out of which there emerged in the fullness of time a new society of the same species as the old society which had disappeared — but disappeared without carrying away the Church in its ruins as it had carried away the Empire. Thus the Catholic Church was … the chrysalis of a new society in gestation. These…two societies — the Hellenic and the Western — stood to one another in the relation which we have called Apparentation-and-Affiliation.”8

It is clear that the “Fall of Rome” as a hard and fast line of demarcation between “Antiquity” and “The Middle Ages,” as Modernity through Voltaire and Gibbon had conceived it, had become untenable and outmoded. At the same time, the Christian culture that succeeded Rome no longer looked like a bleak and empty period of a thousand years best passed over in silence, but rather as the seminal period for the characteristic values of Western Civilization as such. In fact, Toynbee recognizes suo modo the uniqueness of Jesus Christ and the special presence of the Christian culture which was built into universal history on the basis of His teaching and example.9 By means of them, continued by the apostolate of the Church He sent to teach in His name, Jesus Christ exercised a sway over minds, laws, home life, social customs and political policies not unlike that of other examples of merely human Emperors or Kings of Kings, with the exception that His sway was far more deeply rooted in intellectual culture and in the principles of religious and family life, and far more tenaciously lasting, than other Empires had been. In the newer historiography, therefore, this fact of Christendom in the millennium after pagan Rome has an altogether different meaning and significance than that given to “The Middle Ages” in the older Voltairean construct. It is an integral part of the succession of civilizations, the largest entities of human organization on the planetary scene.10

“The place of Christendom in that period of world history,” writes the Polish historian Oscar Halecki, “seems absolutely secure and makes that Christendom a clearly distinct field of study in itself.”11

“There is no decisive turning point,” he continues, “which could serve as a boundary between ancient and medieval times as far as the Mediterranean region is concerned. More important is the recently stressed issue of the gradual passing from the Mediterranean to the European community. But what seems definitely established is the ‘making’ of European culture in the course of the first millennium A.D., a process which was completed not later than in the tenth century. The realization of the importance of that century is one of the most valuable results of contemporary research in the field of European history.”12

Defining Christendom as “a cultural community with a spiritual basis,”13 Halecki turns to the post-modern, truly contemporary dimensions of the new perception of the reality and nature of Christendom.

“The question regarding the real place of Christendom in the history of mankind,” he writes, “has thus become the test, as it were, of two conflicting interpretations of history. This is just one more reason for discussion of it in the free world in a spirit of full scholarly objectivity. It is a question which concerns not only the Middle Ages where the existence of Christendom is unquestionable and only its record a matter of controversy. More difficult and more important is the study of that same question in all other periods of European history, including the modern and contemporary period which so frequently are described as if the very conception of Christendom, doomed with the rise of secularism and modern science, had ceased to exist or lost any real sense.”14

This is obviously a quite different view of historical entities in succession, one which can only be termed Post-Modern, one which has left the older “Modern” view of the first half of the Christian Era behind as outmoded by contemporary scholarship. For Christian culture is not denigrated a priori in this new perception of things historical, but rather appreciated positively as a great sign or standard held aloft for the peoples of the planet to see. It is not held up before the nations as something physical or even social, like a World Empire in the earlier pre-Christian sense, but rather as an entity in the realm of the human values. It stands high like a mountain made of precious stones, silver and gold, where the valuables are the values of a truly human culture.15

The Advent of Post-Modern Thinking

The outbreak of World War I, then, can be taken as a watershed date, symbolizing the manner in which the cumulative effect of the more recent scholarship in the human social and historical sciences has literally demolished the three categories “Ancient,” “Medieval” and “Modern.” They have been broken apart and reduced to rubble by the contemporary knowledge explosion.

Philosophers therefore are in a position to recognize what they were: dated philosophical constructs which resulted from the union of a particular subjective ideological disposition with a limited and parochial view of the historical reality.

It is characteristic of the 20th century after 1914 that the post-modern realization dawns gradually upon more and more minds, while the older modern outlook upon the meaning and direction of historical succession, especially with its view of “The Middle Ages,” lingers on only in popular publications, in the rut-like tracks of school textbooks, or where the Voltairean philosophy of history is imposed by certain university in-groups or by raw political power and its techniques for the control of thought.

The advent of post-modern thinking comes home even more forcefully when the Twentieth Century revolution in the physical sciences is given due consideration. The renaissance of Classical Antiquity was one of the fundamental components of Modernity, and nowhere was this more true than in philosophy itself. The doctrine of creation brings this clearly into view. For the pagan philosophy of pre-Christian times, it will be recalled, was characteristically unable to rise to this insight into the nature of the existence of the visible cosmos. For paganism, matter is eternal. The gods, if there are any, at most shape and form a pre-existing stuff.

The Christian Philosophy cultivated in the Schools of Christendom from Justin Martyr and Augustine through Aquinas toward Descartes was characterized by a new and far more lucid concept of God as ipsum esse, Existence Itself, with all other existing realities participating in existence, each in its own particular and limited way, thanks to the divine act of creation.16 This insight philosophizes within the Catholic Faith which the Apostles’ Creed professes, for whoever calls himself Christian begins his profession with a formally-stated Article of Faith: “I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth.”

Descartes no longer sees the doctrine of creation clearly and in his disciple Spinoza, the metaphysician of modern atheism, it disappears entirely. From Spinoza on through the history of Modern Philosophy as such, the doctrine of creation is characteristically absent. Philosophers in the pattern of Modernity again conceive of matter in the mode of Classical antiquity as something eternal, operating mechanically or by chance — or by some immanent Weltgeist or élan vital, when atheism feels it must wear its pantheistic mask. Such concepts are the very essence of the nineteenth century philosophies of history, especially in the Hegelian and Marxist forms: and always Modern Philosophy conceived itself to think and to teach in some kind of pre-established harmony with the meaning of the physical sciences.17

Science Discovers Creation

All of this came rather abruptly to an end in the same turn from the nineteenth into the twentieth century. The atoms of matter are discovered to be not tiny solid balls but empty space structured like the planetary system. And the new discipline of Astrophysics becomes able to demonstrate that the entire visible cosmos had a beginning. It even calculates approximately how long ago this event took place. Not only that: it also observes that the cosmos is proceeding on a linear course of development that projects toward its mathematically predictable end. During this development, furthermore, it is ruled by constant laws, non-material in character, that postulate a Reality standing outside the space-time continuum, giving it not only its existence in general, but also the modes and kinds of existence that appear as phenomena of the continuum.18

In other words, physical science itself suddenly has become post-modern in a philosophical sense: it leaves Modern Philosophy behind as an outmoded construct, and, with a new openness to the First Article of the Creed, calls for a mode of philosophizing that bears primarily upon existence as such.19 Such a philosophy concerned with the act of existing would only secondarily devote itself to the kinds and modes and essences in which particular things exist, as they are observed to be in the cosmos. In Aristotle’s time, this latter task was uppermost for the philosopher, reflecting on the data of the unaided senses; but in recent times, due to the articulation and development of the various empirical sciences, together with the new techniques for assisting and amplifying the power of the senses to observe phenomena, this task of studying the kinds of natures of natural substances has become primarily their province.

Is there such a mode of philosophizing? There is, indeed. The Christian Philosophy born in the catecheses of the Fathers of the Early Church and elaborated in the Schools of Christendom produced a metaphysical genius named Thomas Aquinas, who carried the insights of his predecessors on Ipsum Esse and creatio ex nihilo, especially those of Augustine, far beyond the level achieved by Plato and Aristotle. He carefully distinguished the essences of things from their acts of existing, the act by which a thing is real, by which it really and actually is. For each concrete thing can be studied first from a viewpoint which asks what kind of essence it is, and here the empirical sciences have taken over in a new way; and secondly, from the viewpoint of its act of existing. How can one understand that it has this act, that it is, instead of having remained the nothingness that it once was and whence it somehow came?20

The Catholic Church and Philosophy

With this one stands suddenly before the question whether the Catholic Church has a position in philosophy. And if so, whether it is “Modern” or “Post-Modern”?

The answer is immediately clear, both from philosophical analysis, and from the authority of the Magisterium. The position is stated in the Constitution Dei Filius of Vatican I and in the consequent program for the renewal of Christian Philosophy in all Catholic institutions of Higher Education. For the Holy See launched this renewal to implement Vatican I and has sustained it consistently to the present.21 The fundamental reason for doing so is pastoral in character. Repeatedly, in document after document, the reason given is this metaphysics of openness to Yahweh, the Hebrew God of creation and Revelation, who sent His Eternal Son in whom the Catholic Creed continues its changeless profession.

The entire philosophical program of the Catholic Church from Vatican I, across 1914 and through Vatican II to the present, has been qualitatively Post-Modern.22

This has far-reaching consequences for the Philosophy of History, for one must ask next what kind of thought about history takes place in Christian Philosophy? Furthermore, does it offer any assistance in evaluating Modern Philosophy as such, together with its now outmoded view of the past as an order of succession of those three particular and restricted constructs, “ancient,” “medieval” and “modern”?


  1. 78. Nicholas Berdyaev, The End of Our Time (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1933), pp. 11-13, his emphasis. The Russian original, published in 1919, was substantially written in the depths of the Great War: cf. his later work, The Fate of Man in the Modern World (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1935), p. 7. 

  2. 79. Will Herberg, Four Existentialist Theologians (New York: Doubleday, 1958), “Introduction,” p. 27. One is reminded of Peter Wust’s classic work in post-World War I Germany, Die Auferstehung der Metaphysik, on the resurrection of metaphysics. From a different point of view, but bearing witness to the same insight, cf. William Ernest Hocking, The Coming World Civilization (New York: Harper, 1956), chapter II, “Passage Beyond Modernity,” pp. 21-42. Likewise Romano Guardini, The End of the Modern World (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1956), esp. chap. III, “The Dissolution of the Modern World and the World which is to Come,” pp. 68-133. Pondering “the ominous spectacle of a human nature withering beneath the destructive hand of modernity,” Guardini writes: “Our concern of the moment is neither to repudiate nor to glorify; it is to understand the modern world, to comprehend why it is coming to an end” p. 69. 

  3. 80. Cf. the English translation Logical Investigations (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1970), Vol. I-II; and his “Philosophy and the Crisis of European Man,” in Phenomenology and the Crisis of Philosophy (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1965), pp. 149-192. The fact that he had Edith Stein and Dietrich von Hildebrand as his students and disciples underlines the post-modern character of Husserl’s fundamental thinking. 

  4. 81. For a pioneering study on this point, cf. Alfons Dopsch, The Economic and Social Foundations of European Civilization (London: Kegan Paul, 1937). 

  5. 82. A. A. Castellan, Filosofia de la Historia e Historiografia (Buenos Aires: Dedalo, 1961), p. 16. 

  6. 83. The eminent German scholar Fritz Kern notes the change in perspective: “Two human lifetimes ago Leopold von Ranke began his World History with the Pyramids. Since his time Archeology, Ethnology, Racial History and Genetic Biology have extended our knowledge far earlier. In 1931 Menghin was able to publish his World History of the Stone Age, after Schmidt and Koppers in 1924 ventured the first ethnological synthesis of Prehistory”; in his Der Beginn der Weltgeschiechte (Bern: Francke Verlag, 1953), p. 9. For a general overview of the development of the new discipline, cf. Glyn E. Daniel, A Hundred Years of Archaeology (London: Duckworth, 1950); and the now classic work of William F. Albright, From the Stone Age to Christianity: Monotheism and the Historical Process (New York: Doubleday Anchor Books, 1940, 1957), already cited; cf. Chap. II, “Toward an Organismic Philosophy of History,” pp. 82-126, post-modern in its rejection of the Comtean idea that the pattern of succession (Augustine would say the ordo) is “given” as the facts are given to historical science. 

  7. 84. Arnold J. Toynbee, A Study of History (London: Oxford University Press, 1934-1954), Vols. I-X. 

  8. 85. Toynbee, ibid., Vol. I, pp. 56-57. 

  9. 86. Cf. Toynbee, op. cit., Vol. VI, pp. 175-278, and Annex II, “Christus Patiens,” pp. 376-539. It is well known that the insight reached on p. 278 did not continue in its logic, and did not come to its maturity in the later volumes of Toynbee’s Study. The post-modern situation is anything but clean-cut and unambiguous; cf. below, note 99, on Maritain’s experience of the 20th Century, and the topic below on the on-going problem of Religious Modernism. 

  10. 87. This amounts to a re-discovery of Christendom, seen now in a positive evaluation that contradicts the older construct in the “Ancient-Medieval-Modern” pattern. Cf. the strictly post-modern work of the Swiss scholar Gonzague de Reynold, La formation de l’Europe (Paris: Plon, 1944-1957), Vols, I-VII, esp. Vol. VII, Le Toit Chrétien. 

  11. 88. Oscar Halecki, “The Place of Christendom in the History of Mankind,” Journal of World History (April, 1954), p. 938. Interestingly enough, this is the UNESCO periodicial, and Halecki’s article was commissioned by Ralph E. Turner, chairman of the Editorial Committee. 

  12. 89. Halecki, ibid., p. 937. 

  13. 90. Ibid., p. 947. 

  14. 91. Ibid., p. 949. 

  15. 92. An immense and fruitful field for future research, both empirical and philosophical, opens up in this way for younger scholars to pursue. The seminal minds in this area, all of them basically post-modern, include Frederick Ozanam, John Henry Newman, Kenelm Henry Digby, Godfrey Kurth, Gustav Schnürer and Christopher Dawson. Perhaps the best general introduction is Dawson’s Progress and Religion: An Historical Enquiry (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1938), together with his Religion and the Rise of Western Culture (London: Sheed and Ward, 1950). 

  16. 93. The works of Etienne Gilson, professor at the Sorbonne across the 20th century, bring the historic reality of Christian Philosophy, especially in this its fundamental characteristic, clearly into view; cf. especially God and Philosophy (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1959); Christianity and Philosophy (London: Sheed and Ward, 1939); and The Spirit of Medieval Philosophy (New York: Scribner’s, 1940), the Gifford Lectures for 1931-1932. 

  17. 94. Again a fertile field for fresh thought and liberating research opens for younger scholars. The suspicion is growing among them already that the meaning of science is not atheism, but rather the contrary. The research already is pursuing relentlessly the dated and purely philosophical character of the atheistic mentality, and beginning to separate it rigorously from the sciences. Cf. James Collins, God in Modern Philosophy (Chicago: Regnery, 1959); M. F. Sciacca (Ed.) Con Dio e contro Dio: Raccolta Sistematica degli Argomenti pro e contro l’Esistenza di Dio, (Milano: Marzorati, 1972), Vol. I-II; and especially the works of Philip Dessauer and Adolf Portmann in German. 

  18. 95. The 20th Century has witnessed the gradual accumulation of works which explain the new science ever more intelligibly to the non-mathematician. Beginning with those of James Jeans, The Universe Around Us (Cambridge: at the University Press, 1929) and The Mysterious Universe (ibid., 1931), and of A. S. Eddington, The Nature of the Physical World (ibid., 1929), one comes by way of mid-century studies such as Sir Edmund Whittaker’s, Space and Spirit (Chicago: Regnery, 1948), to the more contemporary syntheses which bear witness to the re-discovery of the doctrine of creation by the empirical sciences. Cf. for example Henri Bon, La creation: vérité scientifique du XXe siécle (Paris: Nouvelles Éditions Latines, 1954); Pierre Loyer, Du cosmos à Dieu (Paris: Nouvelles Éditions Latines, 1971); Claude Tresmontant, Sciences de l’univers et problémes métaphysiques (Paris: Seuil, 1976). There are many university professors in the United States who teach “Creation Science.” Cf. for example the “Institute for Creation Research,” San Diego, Cal., and its literature. For a recent example of this unique literature of the Twentieth Century, cf. Robert Jastrow, God and the Astronomers (New York: W. W. Norton, 1978), a book occasioned by the awarding of the 1978 Nobel Prize to two American physicists for their discovery “by accident” (p. 20) of empirical evidence for the first moment of the existence of this entire visible cosmos. “The astronomical evidence proves that the Universe was created twenty billion years ago in a fiery explosion” (p. 12). Jastrow calls these discoveries “strange developments” which indicate “that the Universe had, in some sense, a beginning — that it began at a certain moment in time” (p. 11). Jastrow’s conclusion: “The scientist’s pursuit of the past ends in the moment of creation. This is an exceedingly strange development, unexpected by all but theologians. They have always accepted the word of the Bible: In the beginning God created heaven and earth” (p. 115). At the very least, for any student of Modernity as such with its characteristic philosophical resistance to the First Article of the Creed, these developments (expected or unexpected) must be termed post-modern. Aeterni patris, representing metaphysical openness to the doctrine of Creation, can celebrate its centenary with a certain sense of calm intellectual peace. 

  19. 96. The new physics calls for the omnipresence of the Supreme Spiritual Power throughout the entire space-time continuum, exercising upon it an on-going creatio continuata without which its laws of being and operation would vanish into nothingness, and with them the continuum itself. The modes ofbeing of course contain factors of temporal development, “evolution” if one wishes to use a word still laden with the inadequate understandings that hold over into the 20th Century from the philosophizing of atheistic Modernity as such. Cf. Loyer, op. cit., p. 40; Tresmontant, op. cit., pp. 14-15; 20-26, where it is recognized that the materialism and atheism of Modernity has simply been “condemned to death” by the discoveries of post-modern science. For a thoroughly post-modern presentation of Christian doctrine, able to see biological evolution, defined with accurate scientific limitation, as a law of the Creator giving a certain portion of His living creation its kinds and its modes and sustaining them in the very being of their seeds and kinds, there is the work of the English priest and priestly philosopher Edward Holloway, Catholicism: A New Synthesis (London: Keyway, 1970). The creatio continuata, which the inner eye of Christian Philosophy has been able to see since its birth in Patristic thought, is receiving a powerful new empirical support in the post-modern situation of mankind. Holloway recognizes lucidly the uniqueness of the human mode of existing, which calls for the special creation of each human being in and with the seminal mode, Cf. pp. 82-93. Ingeneral, this priestly work in philosophical thought, coming late in the first century of Aeterni Patris, merits careful study by those who carry the renewal of Christian Philosophy forward into its second century. Étienne Gilson laments in his urbane work The Philosopher and Theology that the renewal never yet has come properly to grips with Bergson’s effort to break away from the atheistic materialism of Modern Philosophy. Father Teilhard de Chardin failed abjectly. Father Holloway intends explicitly to replace the Teilhardian confusion with a work truly sound in metaphysics, truly open to the transcendent God of the Judaeo-Christian Revelation, and truly at home with all the findings of the contemporary empirical sciences. Father Holloway himself recognizes that his work is a beginning, not a finished intellectual product. But here one is constrained to mention an apparent defect in the realm of history and the philosophy of history. On the one hand, this work is distinguished by an adequate concept of the all-present active Supreme Being, by a perceptive rejection of the Modernist “New Theology,” and by a sustained criticism of the errors of Marxism. On the other hand, especially in the final chapter, “The Scientific Society,” pp. 448-491, it leaves the impression of a pro-Marxist bias in that it praises the coming “one world,” “one common civilization of Science,” without discerning the concrete reality during Modern times of the Great Apostasy from the divine plan for the Kingship of Christ in world society. Thus Father Holloway does not come to grips with the necessity of conversion on the part of the Wall Street managers of the great world-wide corporations and on the part of the Kremlin managers of the Communist Parties throughout the world. This is to leave matters in a realm of philosophical astraction open to the unfortunate impression just mentioned. Our Lady, in her maternal visits to this troubled planet beginning in 1830, is always concrete: she gives specific instructions on what each one must do concretely in order that healing events like the conversion of Russia may take place in the temporal order. In other words, Father Holloway’s work, so admirable and so priestly in its intention and its substance, so superior to the work of Father Teilhard de Chardin, needs further study by younger Catholic scholars in the second century of Aeterni Patris to effect that better coordination of philosophy and theology for which Vatican II calls. He himself is commendably open to this on p. 503 in his final word. This demands a greater attention to the meaning and direction of the concrete realities of actual history, including the factual nature of the apostasy of the once-Christian West. One must ponder the historical character of Revealed Religion, as Newman did in all his life and work. Dom Gregory Dix stated this character well in his Jew and Greek: A Study in the Primitive Church (New York: Harper, 1953), p. 5: “Christianity is the revelation of Divine Truth from beyond all history and all time, but it is so only because it is the only fully historical religion. It is the only religion which actually depends entirely upon history. (His emphasis.) It is faith in the Incarnate God, it is Divine redemption given from within history, not by the promulgation of doctrines (even true doctrines) but by the wrenching of one Man’s flesh and the spilling of His blood upon one particular square yard of ground, outside one particular city gate during three particular unrepeatable hours, which could have been measured on a clock. You cannot (and you never could) enter into the truth of Christianity apart from its history. And that historical condition of Christian truth is not something which begins at Bethlehem and ends at Olivet. It applies equally to the Church, the Body of Christ, which He launched into history no less unreservedly than the Body of His flesh.” The St. Augustine of The First Catechetical Instruction, with its “From Genesis to the present times of the Church,” would accept this historical concreteness. It is the basis for the Christian philosophy of history. The divine plan for the unification of mankind is concretely offered to mankind. If accepted, the Kingship of Christ, with all its benefits for human persons and human rights, will function on this planet. But if it is not accepted, then any coming “one world” will necessarily be an anti-Christian Empire. Christians may see it coming and Christians may liv under it, indeed as Christians. But they should not applaud it s coming, much less abet its triumph, or even seem to do so. In an age of cunning intellectual deceptions, the apostolate of intellectual clarity will be an increasing need. Younger scholars will be called upon to hammer out the intellectual postions on these matters with all the careful distinctions which minister to clear understanding. The philosophy of history will assist them greatly in their work of coordinating philosophy and theology according to the Optatam totius of Vatican II. Indeed, the time may well come when Father Holloway’s plea (p. 477) for “unilateral disarmament” will take on a new light if there is to be a world-wide political and social triumph of the atheistic ideology. It would then appear to be the fundamental thinking which underlies a patient and non-violent suffering of the situation in the spirit of the Early Church. At the same time, it remains true that Vatican II does not espouse “unilateral disarmament” in its call for an ending of the arms race, Cf. Gaudium et spes, no. 82; Flannery, op. cit., p. 991. 

  20. 97. In his Introduction to Metaphysics (New York: Doubleday, 1959), p. 1, Martin Heidegger asks, “Why are there essents rather than nothing…, why is there anything at all, rather than nothing?” This is to ask the correct question. But Heidegger remains embedded in the philosophizing of the Modern Age as such, never able to break through to the post-modern liberation. It is deeply significant as Tresmontant points out (op. cit., p. 14-17, 39-42) that Heidegger and Sartre studiously ignore the evidence of 20th century empirico-mathematical science for the beginning and the contingency of the existence of the cosmos. “The work of Heidegger, and that of Sartre, could have been written…in the 4th Century, in the time of Proclus…” (p. 15). These Existentialists symbolize the way in which Modern philosophizing tends to hold over into the post-modern situation, in a manner that has religious significance and a bearing upon theology which will be discussed below. For Heidegger, it is always The Question of Being (New Haven: College and University Press, 1958), never the Answer; the refusal to recognize Ipsum Esse Subsistens as Das Sein; always Das Sein as a Vorstellen in man’s own mind, and not Yahweh, the Creator of heaven and earth. A mancentrism that is atheism by implication and by silence? 

  21. 98. For the Aeterni Patris (August 4, 1879) cf. Étienne Gilson (Ed.), The Church Speaks to the Modern World (New York: Doubleday Image Book, 1954), pp. 31-54. For the important official title of this Encyclical, frequently missed in translations, cf. not 2-b, above. The Documents of the Holy See which repeatedly confirm this renewal are too numerous to list here. Let one serve as an example of them all, the Address of Pope Paul VI to the Sixth International Thomistic Congress (Rome, Sept. 10, 1965), in The New Scholasticism (Jan. 1966), pp. 80-83; it is noteworthy that Paul VI calls this philosophical position “the natural metaphysics of the human intelligence…. This permanent value of Thomistic metaphysics explains the attitude of the Magisterium of the Church in its regard” (p. 82). This theme recurs constantly in the philosophical Addresses of Pope Paul VI and it formed the foundation for his ongoing catechetical instructions in his regular meetings with the public as the implicit natural substrate for his fidelity to the Christian Message, without the re-interpretation proposed by Modernity as such. Cf., for example, “Faith and History,” L’Oss. Rom.-English (Oct. 7, 1976), pp. 1 and 12. The Holy See is abidingly post-modern ever since Vatican I and Aeterni Patris. Pope Paul VI reaffirmed luminously the place of St. Thomas Aquinas in this renewal on the occasion of the seventh Centenary of the death of St. Thomas Aquinas. Cf. his Lumen Ecclesiae (Nov. 20, 1974); English translation in L’Osservatore Romano — English Edition (January 30, 1975), pp. 6-11. In a strong and lucid move, Pope John Paul II likewise reaffirmed the entire program of Aeterni Patris with his Apostolic Constitution Sapientia Christiana, dated Easter Sunday, April 15, 1979 and published in AAS (May 15, 1979), pp. 469-499. In Articles 71 and 80, on the norms of sound teaching method in theology and philosophy, the Pope refers to Optatam totius of Vatican II and to this document Lumen Ecclesiae (1974) of his predecessor Pope Paul VI. The bearing of all this upon the second century of the renewal, about to open, is clear to see. 

  22. 99. This fact can be seen and studied perhaps best in the life and work of Jacques Maritain. Cf. Charles Journet, “D’une philosophie chrétienne d’histoire,” Revue Thomiste (1948), 33-61, in the special issue, “Jacques Maritain, son oeuvre philosophique.” Maritain’s philosophical life was a post-modern intellectual struggle with holdover Moderns, anxious to set him aside as a mere laudator temporis acti, who were blind to the principles of a Christendom as distinct from particular temporal realizations, including that relatively large and compact one prior to Petrarch. Cf. Brooke Williams Smith, Jacques Maritain, Antimodern or Ultramodern? — An Historial Analysis of His Critics, His Thought and His Life (New York: Elsevier, 1976). 

  • You are my witnesses (Is. 43:10)  •  You shall be my witnesses (Acts 1:8)