The Lord of History, by Msgr. Eugene Kevane. ©2003 The Miriam Press. All Rights Reserved

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References – VII. Modernity as Apostasy from God

120. Cf. the works of Cornelio Fabro and Geog Siegmund in note 67, above, abiding post-modern foundations for further study of the matter; and the four-volume work of Giulio Girardi (ed.), L’ateismo contemporaneo (torino: Societa Editrice Internazionale, 1967- ), helpful for its accumulation of facts and references. For his brief statement of his conclusion, that the principle of immanence is virtual atheism, cf. Cornelio Fabro, “Filosofia moderna e ateismo,” Humanitas (1961), pp. 481-492.

121. Cf. 2 Thess. 2, 1-12: “The Day of the Lord…cannot happen until the Great Revolt has taken place…” (vv. 3-4; version of the Jerusalem Bible).

122. Cf. Arnold Toynbee, op. cit., Vol. VI, p. 535: “What is at stake in this debate is nothing else than the essence of the Christian Faith: the threefold belief in the love of God, in His Incarnation in Jesus Christ, and in His perpetual operation in this World through the Holy Spirit.” Toynbee points accurately here to the Profession of the Apostolic Faith, the Apostles’ Creed, which constitutes the baptismal apostolicity of the Church and which has built the Catholic Fact into what Augustine called the Sixth Age, and what we call the Christian Era.

123. For Nietzsche’s “Death of God” theme, cf. Die fröhliche Wissenschaft, in Werke, (Munich: Karl Hanser Verlag, 1955), Vol. II, the episode of Der tolle Mench, p. 126ff. “Wir haben ihn getötet—ihr und ich! Wir alle sind seine Mörder. Aber wie haben wir dies gemacht?” (p. 127). This is indeed the ultimate question which Modernity must ask itself. Heidegger, Nietzsche’s foremost disciple, gives the answer in his Holzwege (Frankfrut: Klostermann, 1963), in “Nietzsche’s Wort, Gott ist tot,” pp. 193-247. It was done, Heidegger says accurately, by subverting the historic Christian paideia, the Christian education of youth which sustained the edifice of Christian culture. The subversion was a philosophical one, the introduction of Modern Philosophy with its characteristic inability to see the intelligibilia, the abiding truths of the intelligence, because it had eliminated metaphysics and substituted mathematical physics for it. Thus young people were denied a solid foundation for the values, whether natural or Christian. The “Death of God” is the eclipse of the intelligibilia in the education of youth. The answer to Nietzsche’s question, Aber wie haben wir dies gemacht? lies in the field of philosophy linked with education: in the philosophy of education. John Henry Newman agrees completely: this is the very idea of his Idea of a University.

124. Christopher Dawson, in Studies (Autumn, 1953), p. 297, citing the whole of Newman’s Lecture, “Christianity and Letters,” in The Idea of a University.

125. John Henry Newman, The Idea of a University (London: Longman’s, 1947), p. 132.

126. Newman, ibid., p. 371. When vigilant care is not exercised in the education and training of priests and catechists, what Newman saw and foresaw can become visible inside the Church. From the viewpoint of its social and pedagogical background, Newman is indispensable for understanding the phenomenon of Religious Modernism. One might perhaps say that Newman projects accurately the “mind” of certain segments of the 20th century episcopate and priesthood. Cf. for example pp. 370-373; and p. 296: “It is a miserable time when a man’s Catholic profession is no voucher for his orthodoxy, and when a teacher of Religion may be within the Church’s pale, yet external to her Faith.”

127. Donoso Cortes, quoted in Denis de Rougemont, The Idea of Europe (London: Collier-Macmillan, 1966), p. 267.

128. John Henry Newman, Discussions and Arguments on Various Subjects, op. cit., p. 50.

129. Ibid., p. 60.

130. In 1762 Rousseau published his Emile, or, Concerning Education; approximately one eighth of the text, customarily omitted in English versions, is devoted to “The Confession of the Savoyard Vicar,” Rousseau’s explanation of his own naturalistic religiosity. He uses this clergyman whom he conjures up, often called the first Modernist priest, to do the explaining.

131. Cf. Note 123, above, on Heidegger’s pedagogical interpretation of Nietzsche’s dictum, the Death of God. For further research on this matter, one must analyze Rousseau’s Emile as the background for John Dewey’s Impact of Darwin on Philosophy and Democracy and Education, works which fasten the Death of God, the revolt against God, upon America, and move it toward the whole world as “The American Way of Life.”

132. For the seminal treatment of this mysterious matter in Christian thought, cf. Augustine’s De civitate Dei, Book XX, cc. 8-30. The delay in the parousia, that article in the Profession of the Apostolic Faith linked intrinsically with the redeeming death and the resurrection of Jesus the Messiah, has been a problem for members of the Church from the beginning, since 2 Thes. 2, 1-12. Perhaps the philosophy of history is now in a position to cooperate with theology in understanding the matter better. For it was an unhappy effect of Modern Philosophy as such, as Leo XIII stated in Aeterni Patris, to undermine the Liberal Disciplines in their Christianized form which functioned as the dynamic social foundation of Roma Christiana, the historic edifice of Christian culture. Newman’s greatness lies in his masterful analysis of this negative phenomenon from the viewpoint of the philosophy of education. For he saw that this phenomenon evokes permissivist “men of sin” who are not formed to know and to value the Way of Life, consisting of definite moral positions and principles. Thus Newman’s analysis aof the situation in modern Western education becomes the philosophical tool for recognizing the apostasy as someting empirically given and knowable by the light of sound natural reason. Newman grasps the philosophical and social principles which make intelligible that immensely grand succession in human history which he himself states in lapidary form, in the passage cited in the text above: “I grant, that as Rome, according to the prophet Daniel’s vision, succeeded Greece, so Antichrist succeeds Rome, and the Second Coming succeeds Antichrist.” The experience of Modernity and the perception of it as apostasy from God is clear in the documents of the Holy See since about 1740 when the encyclical letter was adopted by Rome as the ordinary vehicle of its apostolate to the modern world. This is especially true from Pope Pius IX to the present. This entire matter calls for a separate study; it might well bear significant fruit for both the philosophy and the theology of history. Furthermore, such a study could reveal in a new way the prophetic role of the Holy See standing among the increasingly apostate gentile nations of the Modern period of the Christian Era.

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