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The Singularity of the Person
The True Son and the False The true Son does not reject, or disengage from, any other person. The Son is in always in good company, and opens that company to us. The false Son flees relationship, is turned in on himself, but without company is unable to become truly human. The person is defined by his relationship with others; the individual is determined to rise above all his relationships.
1. The True Son
The Son confesses the Father
Jesus Christ is the true Man, who is in relationship with the Father and with all other persons. All others are in relationship with one another through his relationship with them. Jesus Christ only hears the voice of the Father, and no other. Jesus Christ ‘made the good confession’ (1 Timothy 6.12-13). He confessed the Father and was content to receive his whole identity from him. He is the Son of the Father, and as this Son, he makes the Father who he is. Christ made the good confession before Pontius Pilate: ‘Jesus made no rely and Pilate was amazed’ (Mark 15.5). Jesus has the power to withhold his word. He has the power to speak or not to speak. Pilate does not have the power of Jesus’ name, and so has no power over Jesus. He does not know who he is, and so does not know where his authority is sourced from, and what power it has. Pilate does not know who he is up against. Pilate represents Caesar and Rome. Christ resists and overcomes the ‘whole company’ of the soldiers of Rome, and does not without being provoked into using anything that Rome could understand as force. The Son did not give this recognition to any other, and deferred to no other authority. He withheld what every other man had conceded. The Son called on no other name, and paid no respect to any other entity, no matter how exalted. He did not recognize Nature, or Necessity, or Fate, or to any other foundation. The Son was able to see through all worldly offers of support as attempts to control him and separate him from the Father. He fends off every offered form of earthly respectability, support and covering. He forewent public recognition. When threatened by them, the Son did not rely on the support provided by any other relationship. Christ Son was tempted but withstood. He refused all the status we extended him. He took from us nothing that would put him in our debt or our power. Everything we had he counted as partial and insufficient and so as temporary and mortal, and thus as ‘death’. He took only from the Father, and accounted only what the Father gave him, regardless of whether this appeared to be life and glory or suffering and death. And yet the Son accepted the proper discipline (Hebrews 5.8, 12.9-10). He was obedient to the prophets and patriarchs, learning from them how to suffer and resist the resistance of the Gentiles and the aggressors, and so acted ‘according to the Scriptures’.The Son went down through all tiers of relationship into the place with an absence of relationship. He made the plunge, down through all layers of being into non-being and death, knowing that God would not let go of him. Therefore God raised him from the dead.
2. He Became Poor
Though he was rich yet for your sake he became Poor (2 Corinthians 8.9)
Christ abandoned all things in order to redeemed his people. He gave up the glory and peace of life with the Father in order to become our provider and protector. Though ‘being in very nature God’, he ‘made himself nothing’ (Philippians 2.5-11). The Lord Jesus Christ became poor for our sake. He abandoned worldly power and wealth and took on the appearance of someone utterly without glory .
‘He had no form or majesty that we should look at him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. We held him of no account’ (Isaiah 53.3-4)
Spending Oneself The self-emptying of Christ is made visible by his body. The apostle Paul spends himself for the churches in his care. His own health, and material well-being have gone to support the churches. Paul points out how little he has left in the earthly account to indicate how much has been given to the Corinthians. Like all earlier prophets, Paul has been supplying what the churches needed, interceding for them, doing for them what they could not do for themselves, sorting out for them whatever they left to be done by someone else, and cleaning up after them. He has been carrying them, putting up with their sin, and assisting them to be reconciled with one another and to learn how to support one another. The apostle has been investing in the Corinthians with his own life and so supplied them with the gospel at his own cost.
‘Children should not have to save up for their parents, but parents for their children. So I will very gladly spend for you everything I have and expend myself as well’ (2 Corinthians 12.14).
Nevertheless the Corinthians must learn that they will remain as children, but will become parents on their own account. They will have their own children in the faith, who must be supported, spiritually and materially. The apostle expects them to support him as he takes the gospel on to the new Church.
‘We sow a spiritual seed among you: is it too much if we reap a material harvest?’ (2 Corinthians 9.11).
The gospel is food for the truly hungry, that is for those who are not only materially, or intellectually, but also spiritually hungry. Spiritual provision brings material provision, money and services, with it. Each earlier generation represents the spending of the Holy Spirit for the sake of this generation. This generation will now inherit the whole wealth God has given to mankind. We are stewards and managers of resources for one another. We do not own the earth: it is leased to us. Every material thing in it is a trust given to us. We must be reminded that we do not own and possess one another. We have to keep renewing our loans with God, and sending him acknowledgement and thanks. What God loans us are other people. We have to grow them and let them flourish, and we have to present to him the increase they show. The increase they evidence we present to God as our interest payments. We give them all that they need which is all the hospitality we have received from God. We accept hospitality from man. The Lord not only gives but also takes from our hand. He takes this recognition and thanksgiving in the form of hospitality from us. ‘If the Lord had meant to kill us he would not have accepted a burnt offering from our hands’ The Lord registered Manoah’s thanksgiving by accepting his sacrifice as a token of his hospitality.
In Christ all created and material things can properly be regarded as the means to bring all others in relationship with Christ. The Christians follow Christ away from material wealth, down the ladder to what in worldly terms as poverty. In the economics of the kingdom, spiritual promotion involves material demotion. We opt out of the economy of Caesar, which is denominated in terms of power and money, and thus requires the subordination of persons into impersonal substance, and into the economy of God, in which living persons are riches. Christ is building the household of the church. Every member of the body of Christ participates in this work. ‘Each one should be careful how he builds’ (1 Corinthians 3) Where our work is good, it is truly his work and truly ours. Where it is not yet good, it is not his work, it will not survive and will prove not to have the truth of us either.
‘His work will be shown for what it is, the fire will test the quality of each man's work. If it is burned up he will suffering loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames’ (1 Corinthians 3).
Adoptive Parenthood We are called to be godparents, who take on other people and make them members of our household. They are to be our children and we are to be their parents and sponsors. We are here to lend to them and invest in them, and as often as it necessary, to bail them out. How many times should we be prepared to bail them out? ‘Seven times seventy’ (Matthew). The rich young ruler is told to give all his money to the poor. His question is ‘What must I do to inherit eternal life?’, and the reply that he receives is: ‘Sell all that you own and distribute the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me’ (Luke 18.18-22). Perhaps he is to do this over a lifetime or perhaps Is he being told to do this all at once, and reduce himself to penury right away. The Christian community participates in Christ’s work of redeeming the poor out of the exploitative relationships in which they are held. It has to buy them because their present masters will not otherwise let them go. We have to find the financial and political means to induce masters to release those servants whom they hold in abusive relationships of debt bondage. The Christian therefore has to cash in everything he have in the worldly economy. We have to buy ourselves out of one economy (apprenticeship) and into another. We are transferring our stock and holdings from these worldly currencies to the permanent currency of the Lord. In the course of this transition period we may get rid everything we have held in the old currency of earthly glory. Our citizenship in the coming kingdom depends on our giving up reliance on citizenship in this present city and in the reputation that our peers in this present generation can give us. Our investment in the future kingdom may look reckless spending to our peers.
‘Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted’ (Luke 12.33).
God has chosen ‘those who are poor in the eyes of the world to inherit the kingdom he promised’ (James 2.5) We are transferring our stock and holdings from our short-lived worldly currencies to the permanent currency of God. According to the parable of the dishonest manager is that we should cash out of one, partial economy, that of material things, and into another, the full, which is that of persons.
‘His master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes’ (Luke 16.8-9). We should cash in your savings and use every worldly resource to expend on them so they know themselves spoiled and treasured, to make yourself their host and them your dependants and so make them your children in the faith and you will be their father in the faith and they will be your savings and your investment and your deposit and when you are exhausted they will take you into their house and look after you in your old age because they realise that you are their father in the faith. Make friends just as Christ has made himself your friend. The people of this world know how to use wealth to make friends and alliances. We should do what they do. We should use material wealth to gain friends for ourselves, so that when it is gone they will have become our wealth. Then we will be able to present them to the Lord as our harvest and so, with them behind us, we will be ‘welcomed into eternal dwellings’ (Luke 16.9). We must give and not be given back. ‘Do not invite your friends. If you do they may invite your back, and then you will be repaid’ (Luke 14.12). We must not hoard the wrong sort of wealth. We must not harvest the health out of the people, but rather must harvest and gather the people themselves. We embrace the costs of bearing others with glee, and get on with the work of paying back everything we owe. In this way we are being ‘poured out like a drink offering.’
Sacrifice and Spiritual Worship Presenting people holy to the Lord
The work of Christians is spiritual, and it is worship and sacrifice. The Body of Christ lifts up the world to God. They may do this for they are themselves God's offering to the world. God is a cheerful giver, and cheerful givers share in God’s joy. They are the aroma of life, a ‘fragrant offering, acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God (2 Corinthians 9.12). ‘The gift is acceptable according to what one has’ (2 Corinthians 9.12). Every gift is ‘credited to your account’ (Philippians 4.17). ‘I am already being poured out like a drink offering’ (2 Timothy 4.6). Christ feeds his people on his own work. We too must ‘work with our own hands’ (1 Corinthians 4.12, Ephesians 4.28, 1 Thessalonians 4.11) so that we always have something to give, for we cannot give them what other men have worked for. The command to ‘stop bringing meaningless offerings’ (Isaiah 1.13) means that we can give what has cost us nothing, gifts which are therefore not really from us.
3. Restitution and Restoration
Recovering the Wholeness of the Body Man in Christ is a whole being. His integrity is restored to him, the internal civil way that waged between his members (Romans 7) is ended and his divisions are healed. His wholeness comes to him and it comes through the spiritual service of all other members of the Body of the Church. The body is holy. Within it all parts receive their work and dignity. Those parts of the body that seem to have no great significance must be treated with ‘special honour’ (1 Corinthians 12.22). But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honour to those who have so far received none. Christ needs to be all in all before the most humble can find their place in this totality. Any lesser totality would leave out some of the most humble, and this would make it a false totality. Only when the whole body is present will even the most modest parts find their role and receive their honour.
The Integrity of the Body
The whole body is responsible for the defend of the body from all outside influences. Neglect of the defences that maintain its integrity allows impurities to enter the body and endanger the weaker members within, and compromises the witness of the body to the world. When impurities enter the body the weaker members within it are endangered. James regards neglect as culpable as murder. ‘Anyone who knows the good he ought to do and does not do it, sins’ (James 4.17). By doing nothing he allows blemishes that travel around the body to harm those infected by them. Neglect or unconcern that allows anyone die is murder. If we know the right thing to do and do not do it, it is as if we had committed an act of violence. We are complicit in their destruction. To show partiality is to direct your attention to the parts rather than to the whole. It is to see them as they presently are, mere parts, none of them sufficient, without also seeing them as they will be, and thus as members of the whole. It is to judge them inadequate and not to lift a finger to help them. Instead of judging each part as insufficient, let us rather work to integrate each into the body, by providing them with writing they need to find their proper purpose and place. We have to be purely and singly people of the Lord, entirely filled by the Spirit of the Lord. We cannot bring other forces into the body. We cannot dilute the Holy Spirit with other spirits, or confront the Lord with other lords. Being single-mindedly the Lord’s people, means rebuffing all other forces for ‘friendship with the world is hatred towards God’ (James 4.4). We cannot continually change our allegiance, or serve two masters, or show partiality or favouritism. We Confess Our Sins and They are Forgiven Salvation is re-connection and integration into unity with the Lord and with one another. Sin is therefore alienation from one another, division, individuation, isolation and divorce. Sin is failure within a relationship. I sin when I withhold from you what is due to you: your misery may be the result of my failure. You may be poor or without resource when I do not pass on to you what you require and do not bring you back into full participation in public life. We must give two definitions of sin. It is not merely that we sin, but that others sin against us. We are denied, so we do not receive what God has promised. In this reduced position, it is increasingly difficult for us not to lead sin. We allow people to remain in poor condition, disregarded and excluded. There are two forms of human action going on simultaneously: 1. We are robbing people, short-changing them, using them as our resource, while insisting that is normal and necessary. We are aggressors (sinners) and those we are abusing must be saved from us. The Lord tears them out of our grip. He comes between us and them. He tears us out of their grip. 2. We are being robbed, short-changed, kept in false consciousness. We are the sinned against. The Lord comes between us and them. He intervenes. He tears us out of their grip. Sin starts inadvertently. It is a matter of failing to purify yourself after contact with what is not pure or of failing to pass on to others what they need. Continued uncleanness and impurity is matter of ignorance or negligence. It may be become fecklessness, irresponsibility and unreasonableness. It takes us into error, delusion and illness and makes us enraged and irrational. But our sin can become deliberate. It ceases to be merely what has happened to us or what has been inflicted on us and becomes what we ourselves have committed. Then it is disobedience, refusal, and rebellion. We have two ways of describing this deliberate sin and we need both. One is to describe in terms of debt. We have acted against the property of a persons, and this may be a long-term act. We have failed to render them what they are due. The other is in terms of guilt. We have committed a sudden and deliberate act of violence against a person. Whether we describe
this sin in terms of debt or guilt depends on whether we want to emphasise its short- or longterm character. Sin is against the creature of God and therefore against God. God considers prolonged offences against his creatures to be aimed at him. Sin is not just a something we unaccountably find within us. It is not a private matter between God and ourselves. We withhold from others what God has given us to with the express purpose of handing on to them. It is because God takes their side that he intervenes and declares that this action of ours is against him. God takes their side against us. There are the haves and the have-nots, the insiders and the outsiders. Salvation consists in the have-nots being given what they do not have, and in the outsiders being brought in. but the haves also have to be saved. They may be saved by being re-connected to the havenots. Sin is not a matter of nature or cosmology as the pagans believe. Sin is our failure to pass on what we have been given. We do not consider other people our people. Our sin is listlessness and lack of love. Our sin is against one another. It is against God because we withhold from them what God intends for them. We come between them and God, between the little ones and their protector. We have usurped God.
Reimbursing What We Have Taken On the Day of the Lord we have to be sure that we have nothing in our possession that does not belong to us. Whatever we have that does not belong to us will bear witness against us when the Lord arrives. We should check ourselves regularly to make sure that nothing has attached itself to us, and that we are clean. If we extracted our wealth from the poor, it was us who made them poor. Their poverty then denied them the means of making their offering, and receiving their renewal with all God's people. If we allow them to be pushed out of the body and into the wilderness, their impurity is not the result of their act but of our failure to provide aid. When a man sees his donkey has fallen into well, does he not go to its aid? (Mark) We have to get rid of whatever does not belong to us. At the year end we have to spend whatever remains in each account, or we will lose it. The single payment (interest and capital) that God demands is that you turn up, that you come and visit in person two or three times a year. God does not demand anything that would mean that we have to go to work to earn alien currency in order to pay alien creditors in the currency and on the terms that they set. He is not looking for any payment that can be denominated by any currency, but he is looking for some token that is truly your own, and that communicates something of yourself. Zachhaeus offers restitution. ‘Look, Lord here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor and if I have cheated anyone out of anything I will pay back four times the amount’ (Luke 19). He is referring to the command to pay back double what has been taken (Exodus 22.3-9 and Deuteronomy 21.17). We must ask ourselves whether we are in possession of anything that belongs to Caesar, and which possession and employment of made us functionary of Caesar? Have you got anything that belongs to some foreign force or relates to its ideology (see Numbers and warning against Nabab – holding on the idols of other nations). ‘Eating food presented to idols’ (1 Corinthians 9). Through the event of baptism and the process of sanctification, which is itself a process of divestment and reinvestment, of redemption and re-integration, the gospel turns us from individuals to persons.
The Son of No Father is the False Son
The Modern and Pagan Account of Man and his History We identified the chief components of the pagan life as self-advancement, team-building and escapism. We said that the pagans understand that man is alone against the world, against all other men. Plato saw the universe as totality, and provided a total theory of the universe. There is nothing outside what there already. Change is an aberration: all change will be halted, reversed, and timelessness restored. The Greeks believe either that everything is timeless, or that everything as moving. These two positions are not very distant from one another. In either case none of this change is purposeful. It is all pointless. Man has to make his own destiny, and make it against other men and against nature, though he is eventually defeated and re-absorbed. Above the gods is Fate, or Necessity. Fate is absolutely unchanging, impersonal: it cannot be changed or argued with. It is not concerned with us. The modern account of time is largely owed to this (Greek, pagan) account of Fate: time is Fate. In the modern account time is absolutely unchanging. It cannot be changed or negotiated or argued with. Every culture, and the philosophical tradition that encapsulates that culture, is a course of education, and therefore a project of human formation. It is not merely a description of a static state of affairs, but is itself an orientation and a project. Like any endeavour, it demands our effort. But in the Christian account, God can be negotiated with and argued with. We can address him, protest to him and ask him for what we want. Our world, time and space are acts of his hospitality. We can take up this course of formation or we can reject it as we wish. Our freedom grows as we progress on that course of formation. But we can attempt to be free without Christian course of formation, but this is then a freedom in the absence of others, and maintained against them. To the degree that man gave up his apprenticeship with Christ he showed himself to be the unready son and to the extent this was affirmed and enforced by intellectual political leaderships, they revealed themselves to be the false son.
4. Kant as Modern
From the seventeenth century Western thought began to separate the spiritual from the material and physical. A new emphasis on the transcendence of God unmediated by the Christian gospel pushed God away to the top of the cosmos and into Arian and deist irrelevance. God was no longer concerned with creation and was held never to interrupt the working of what was understood to be the self-regulating system of nature. Isaac Newton (1643-1727) is representative that nature is a closed system of cause-andeffect. God is to remain outside this world-system and thought to be above concern for us or is reduced to a vague conception of providence. On this basis, if God showed any concern for this creation he would be confounding its autonomy and perfection. The Enlighteners present us with the claim that there has been a general move from religion and superstition to secularity and reason. History represents a slow growth of man from primitive to mature. Man has progressed through stages of mediated knowledge, expressed in narrative and particular practices, towards a more general and universal knowledge. The Autonomy of Nature Man who is not prepared to heed the call of God to be his creature, and so not determined by God for freedom, is determined by default by ‘Nature’. What in theory is attributed to nature is in practice a matter of the exercise of power and the practice of that hold that exercise of power within limits.
We could call this the naturalisation of ethics and politics. The individual and his property was not longer understood as project in which others are involved, but as static, and need of defence from others. We have to negotiate minimum rules and standards for commerce, and such minima were referred to as ‘natural law’. Such natural law provided a notional global framework. But natural law assumes that biology settles our questions for us, as though biology determine morality. Seventeenth century political philosophers treated self-preservation as the fundamental right and on its basis erected the structures of ‘natural jurisprudence’ along with a minimalist natural ‘law’, the bare obligation not to harm anyone unnecessarily. But nature cannot give laws, and since only law can give rights, nature cannot give rights. Nature cannot set us limits that bind us, but only represent to us challenges. The Reduction of Man Christianity was able to remain in conversation with Plato’s conception is that it all works because it is drawn forward (upward) by goodness, truth and love in a common understanding of paideia. Secularisation gives up on the concept of paideia. Plato and Aristotle had provided the complex conceptuality for this account. Plato’s understanding concept that everything is moved by love gave way to a darker and more pagan conception in which things are constantly in conflict with one another and life is a state of war. Man was no longer understood as a creature nested in nature or as work in progress. Aristotle’s anthropology of man's rational and social being was replaced with an epicurean conception of man as a passion-driven self-destructive being. So in the seventeenth century intellectuals turned from the issue of how to build society and form persons to the more modest issue of how to prevent social conflict. But from the seventeenth century we can see a number of conceptual separations: the first is the separation of the business of government from the greater project of human formation. Governors ceased to be accountable for the formation and education of their people. The second separation is between government and self-government. If we are no longer understood as essential responsible for ourselves. Our rulers have to step in to provide for us the self-control we cannot manage for ourselves. If government compensates for the selfcontrol we don't have, our self-control does indeed wither and is compensated for by government. The third is the separation of government from the discipline of the good, and the separation of the discourse of desire from the discourse of virtue and excellence. A further separation was that between into two spheres of ‘religion’ and ‘politics’. Politics deals with the outer world in which we meet and exchange, while religion covers the inner world of the heart and the deep, essential, unchanging identity of the individual. ‘Religion’ meant whatever either did not impinge on the public square, or whatever it was deemed should not impinge on it. Politics had to keep religion out: politics had to defend itself against religion. Government Without Self-Government If human nature is violent, it has to be controlled. Government the control, which for the sake of society, has to be imposed on passions of man. But if we assumed that man is always violent and that his nature does not change, government cannot set out to help man grow to maturity. The enlighteners want self-control without external control. But because they have discarded the means whereby we can learn self-control and teach one another self-control. But in the seventeenth century the schoolmaster see his pupils as unruly, as incapable of making any progress. He began to despair of making any progress with the project of the education of his people. He becomes less a teacher and increasingly a warder. The disappointed
schoolmaster, adopts an alternative syllabus. The apprenticeship is increasingly restricted to an elite who are to control the majority, not to form them but only in order to prevent them from becoming violent. The apprenticeship gradually ceases to be a Christian apprenticeship, though Christianity continues to represent its content, and increasingly adopts reductions that make the apprenticeship effectively pagan. The End of the Apprenticeship The understanding of that all knowledge involves an apprenticeship, referred to in the Christian tradition as discipleship, was replaced by an understanding of knowledge as data, immediately available. There is nothing we have to learn from the past and there is no apprenticeship to be served. Now we no longer see law as a course of education, but merely as restraint, and as unfortunate necessity . The course of enlightenment then consists of getting rid of mediate (learned) knowledge and substituting immediate knowledge, delivered by a universal method which is independent of its content. Francis Bacon (1561-1626) is a chief early representative of the new primacy of immediacy and method. The individual must practice a universal scepticism based on assurance about his own existence as thinking and observing mind. The mind and intellect was separated from the body and sense impressions. From the seventeenth century the Christian understanding of Christian knowledge as discipleship and life started to be replaced by a concept of knowledge as information. There is nothing we have to learn from the past and there is no apprenticeship to be served. We are our own master. It is an affront to suggest that we have to learn from, or be instructed and formed by, anyone other than ourselves. Knowledge is matter of breaking out of all previous knowledge and experience and discarding it. It is a matter of seeing the object directly, without the help of anyone else. This misunderstands how we know anything. Since scientists learn from previous generations, and rely entirely on learned practices, principles and doctrines, it is falsification even of science. The belief grew that unmediated knowledge was superior. The scientist awarded himself a God’s eye view of anything: he decided that he knew everything as well as its Creator. Descartes promoted this disembodied view of knowledge into theory. He regarded us as essentially and purely minds. Our minds can see without the aid of any physical interaction – without speech, discussion or debate with other people. He rejected the experience of previous generations, which the Church terms ‘doctrine’. Some believed that the process of Reformation waited to be completed. Religious, moral and ecclesiastical had made some headway. But the reform all public institutions, political power and life had to be continued. Power and influence had to be removed from the Church and given to national governments. In restoring the gospel to the people, removing obstacles of language, comprehension and access, the Reformation also questioned the purpose of Christian creeds, doctrine, and the public practices of the Christian life. This process of challenge of Christian doctrine and leadership continued, and became a larger process of secularisation, of attempting to be worldly, without God. In Britain in the civil war and commonwealth years (1640-1660) the people began to rediscover their voice and to participate in political and theological debate. But with the Restoration of the monarchy in 1660 this freedom of speech came to an end. A political elite decided that allowing ordinary people to talk about the reform of public Christian life was divisive and created civil conflict. Much of the subsequent movement of secularisation, later called Enlightenment, started in England with this mixture of anti-clericalism and elite distrust of popular debate of public Christian life.
Building Society without the Company of God
Modern Political Philosophy as Pagan Reply The Western tradition is concerned with building a society. The Enlightenment thinkers wanted a return to the Greek or Roman republic. Modern thought is the return of ancient thinkers in the Platonic, Stoic and Epicurean traditions. Platonism resulted in the return of dualism and the drifting apart of the top from the bottom the universe. Gradually the issues that arose from this dualism were greeted as new challenges, and together they encourage the impression that whole these were new, Christianity was old, even though these pagan traditions were obviously simply the return of some very old ideas, that had never been entirely absent. We have two traditions, the Christian and the pagan. But both were stifled from real encounter confrontation by a determination that synthesis is desirable or possible, that truth required a mediation between them. Some believed that the Greeks and Romans gave the truthful account directly accessible to the educated mind, while Christianity represented a merely narrative and illustrated account for the common people. Secularisation We have established that we are not dealing with one tradition, the Christian tradition or religious tradition, that has given way over time to clearer modern secular tradition. There has been no general historical move from immaturity to maturity. Those who taught that there has been such a move, away from religion and superstition to secularity and reason, we may call enlightenment thinkers, or moderns. We may say that they are telling a story, and a false one at that. That they are telling a story, is a point that must be explicitly made, because they claim that stories are inferior to unmediated (non-narrative) truth. The seventeenth century saw the beginning of a separation of Christian life into ‘religion’ and ‘politics’. Politics covers broadly the life of the outer world in which we meet and make contracts. Religion covers the inner world of the heart, the deep, essential, unchanging identity of the individual. ‘religion’ meant what was of no public interest and had no public effect, and which was not allowed to impinge on politics. Christian teaching was pushed out from the public debate into the private sphere. Elites set out to stop people talking about public life (politics) and doing so in the language they learned from scripture, using the bible to hold their leaders to account. They distinguished between two sorts of reform – outer and inner, political (external and institutional) reform, and internal, personal reform – personal pietism of religion of the heart’. Christianity is not for the elite, and the elite are justifiably suspicious of it. The gospel gives the poor the language by which they can call God, appeal to him to help them and give them what their leaders have not given them (resources, justice). To take away the gospel, and the right to teach it and publicly pass it on, is to deny the poor the name by which they can ask for salvation. Secularisation represents laying down the task of education and paideia and disallowing all the vocabulary by which it can be debated. Aristotle had provided the complex conceptuality for this account. From the seventeenth century this gave way to a simpler conceptuality that made difficult any discussion of man as creature nested in nature or as work in progress. From the seventeenth century the Aristotelian anthropology of man's rational and social being was replaced with an epicurean conception of man as a passion-driven selfdestructive being. The belief that the will was A voluntarist theology excluded theological conceptions of justice from the civil domain. If justice is not the expressed will and command of God, some other foundation for justice must be found. Philosophers identified justice with natural law, with the commands of the civil sovereign, and with the contracts and covenants made by man, and kept by fear of the consequences of man’s own preservation if he broke them.
There was a divorce of nature and culture, body and action, the changing concept of religion, cultivation of interiority and story of the disenchantment of the world. Secularisation gives up on political debate and the project of building a society that is content to be led by God. Political debate cannot function within definitions of what is worth doing and bein. g, and so without notions of paideia and of the criteria. If these are all ruled as inadmissible, because they relate to tradition that are religious, there is no possibility of reasoned debate. If what was said in the public sphere was not related to purposes and to our own social and political nature, an Aristotelian mode, all that was left was the Stoic cosmology of passions and natures. The discourse of withdrawal, Stoic and Epicurean indifference (apatheia) to public affairs and failure to control our passions, became the mode of discourse of the public square. The language designed for retreat from public responsibility became the whole vocabulary in which politics and public responsibility was debated. Economics is a moral discourse disguised as a discussion of nature. In the modern centuries economics became the conceptuality in which politics took place.
The Paradoxical Republic of Individuals
The Return of the Roman – Cicero, Stoicism and Natural Law Now we must consider the Republic of Man without God. The state is the construct of man. Man must build it for himself without God. Man has to put himself beyond God in order to put himself beyond partisanship and violence. The state cannot come from the generosity of God. The republic is the attempt to build society anew. The law is not given, or at least not by God. It to be constructed, by ourselves, without reference to anything outside ourselves. Civilization is corrupting, and that we should abandon the effete and unmanly life in the smoke of industrialization for the vigorous life of the man who works the land and builds his own house There is therefore no one to hold the ring between state and individual. The return of the ancient Roman mind-set of Stoicism, best represented by Cicero and wellsuited to the patriotism of Britain and France, the European powers then extending their power around the world. Stoicism represents the noble qualities required by patriotism. Tacitus represents the cultivation of the private disgusted resignation, the cynical, and disenchanted commentator on political events, who reduces every issue to the question of who stands to benefit (cui bono)? The sceptics intended to search for wisdom by ridding themselves of all their inherited views, all interests and all passion. Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) and Bernard Mandeville are convinced that man is by nature, passion-driven and violent. Hobbes replaced the Aristotelian anthropology of man's rational and social being with an epicurean conception of man as a passion-driven selfdestructive being. In his Leviathan Hobbes argued for unqualified obedience to a sovereign power. This represents the return of Thrasymachus’ view (343c.) that pursuing our own advantage is never just because justice consists in promoting the good of other people, in fact of promoting the good of the ruler, which is to say the self-interest of that ruler embodied in his laws. If justice (good action) consists in doing what the ruler lays down in his laws, we will have to say that it is about promoting someone else’s good, not your own. The republican tradition bases itself in nature. Nature gives us our theology, philosophy and ethics. We have a truncated version of Plato’s belief that so that ultimately human society will flourish to the extent that it harmonises with the beauty of the movement of the cosmos. Man who is not prepared to heed the call of God to be his creature, and so not determined by God for freedom, is determined by default by Nature. What in theory is attributed to nature is in practice a matter of the exercise of power and the practice of negotiations and contractarianism. We could call this the naturalisation of ethics and politics. Seventeenth century political philosophers treated self-preservation as the fundamental right and on its basis erected the structures of ‘natural jurisprudence’ along with a minimalist natural ‘law’, the bare obligation not to harm anyone unnecessarily. But nature cannot give laws, and since only law can give rights, nature cannot give rights. Nature cannot set us limits that bind 11
us, but only represent to us challenges. The individual and his property was not longer understood as project in which others are involved, but as static, and need of defence from others. We have to negotiate minimum rules and standards for commerce, referred to as ‘natural law’. But such ‘natural law’ is premised on the mistaken belief that nature and our own biology, answers our questions for us: it is the contradictorily assertion that our freedom is determined. Baruch Spinoza (1632-77) saw the cosmos as a harmonious single global-organism and believed that every nation and state should be understood in the same way within it. in his Theological-political Treatise God is just another word for the totality of the world of nature. We are back with the biological cosmology of Plato’s Timaeus. We live inside a single worldorganism, a biological-political unity (a single being, a One-and-All (hen kai pan) which he also called ‘God-or-Nature’ (deus sive natura). We are indistinguishable from the world, and it is indistinguishable from us. Spinoza wants us to see no significance in the great tradition, and in particular in the tradition that we take to be so important, the Scriptures, of this people, Old Testament. God has been absorbed into creation. The means by which we can protest about our masters is lost Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527) tells his ruler that he has to be an absolute master and to employ any means to do so. He must have unquestioning obedience. But Machiavelli avoids all considerations of what it is that the ruler wants. So how can he know when he has got what he wants? The ruler has no one who can tell him what is genuinely good or worth having. Unless he can take advice, and perhaps even discipline from his counselors and from the law, a ruler will follow the multitude and his desires will be no more mature than theirs. If he has other source of criteria, he will chase the same desires and never achieve any greater satisfaction than the multitude does. But Xenophon (431-355 BC), in Hiero, the master tells his servant how miserable, abasing and servant-like it is to be an absolute master. When you have no one in authority in you, but are entirely your own master, the result is misery, and you have no one to blame for it. Not to be under authority, does not give us the freedom we imagine. The Earl of Shaftesbury (1671-1713) charted the escape from public into the private and interior life. His Characteristics of Men and Manners tamed the aristocracy by teaching them the vocabulary of the inner man. The model for the self-controlled gentleman, was the ancient republic of Sparta. John Locke (1632-1704) argued that Christianity has to be shown to correspond to canons of reason that are accessible to all (The Reasonableness of Christianity), without attributing any distinct status to the church. He put the natural theology of the distant God before the revealed theology of the gospel, and so demoted all that was distinctive about the Christian and trinitarian doctrine of God. He stepped away from the Nicaean homoousion and the deist religion that resulted Locke set out was a revived Arianism that thereafter had a renewed public existence with the Socinians, and Unitarians.
Dualism and Gnosticism
René Descartes (1596-1650) believes that all previous generations of knowledge (Aristotle) has obscured the beautiful simplicity of truth. In Meditations and his Discourse on Method, Descartes argues that we have to see behind the veil of all this useless ‘knowledge’. Geometry is the new model for all knowledge: knowledge is clear vision of the individual object directly before you. The philosopher has to remove himself from the distracting fray, cut out all but the most essential concepts and stop his ears. Descartes wants to extract knowledge from the distracting clutter of old concepts. Words spread as much confusion as clarity so, he believes, we have to go behind words to the wordless.
Descartes represents the triumph of unmediated (pure) knowledge (and reason) is the triumph of the paradigm of vision. All knowledge is a form of seeing. Descartes sets out to turn all knowledge that is mediated to us by other authorities into immediate knowledge, which we perceive directly for ourselves. He wants to get rid of the role of other people in our knowing. How can we have any reliable knowledge while other people are involved? This makes knowledge a function of rumour. We have to surmount the obscuring complexity by rising to a higher pure knowledge of pure and direct vision. If we learn the internal selfcontrol we can filter out the distracting noise of crowds and traditions, and attain a direct contemplation of the object for ourselves. The scientist has to achieve a mystical experience, which come through abandoning the turbulent and contradictory confusing sense impressions of this world. Descartes’ method is immediacy, and this method is always independent of the content. The individual must practice a universal scepticism based on assurance about his own existence as thinking and observing mind. Descartes took over the Platonist and Plotinus agenda of separating mind from body and intellect from sense impressions, once again understanding ‘spiritual’ as ethereal, and putting spirit in opposition and antagonism to materiality. The task is to release the soul or mind from captivity in the body. Only the intelligible is really real, and so what is tangible is only apparently real. The Unaccountable Spectator The place we live in is a location in absolute and empty space, and geometry is able to give its exhaustive description. The world is the inert object available to the immediate view of the observer. There is no requirement that the observer undergo any apprenticeship or be accompanied in order to be taught to see. Descartes first promotes God up out of the way, back into a heaven that is sealed behind him, and then the scientist, the eyeball, is made the unchallenged demiurge. He is the real god of this age – who can prowl and pry, see and know everything, and remain unconcerned and above it all. Descartes has taken the Christian talk of judgment and the forensic account of our reconciliation and transferred it to man and the world. Man is now the judge, spectator and critic of all that is before him. The individual is judge and critic of society. And man is judge of the world of nature. Descartes raised the autonomous individual, secure in his knowledge of himself, and able to look down on the world, both social and natural with his whole panoptical technology, in detachment, viewing, registering, controlling. Descartes has made this individual unaccountable, beyond the language of protest. The scientist, a detached spectator like a single eyeball, became the new demiurge. Our personal identity is imagined as a little man (homunculus) in our head who watches all the inputs arriving to our senses as a spectator in the theatre. The external world does not touch us. We have put ourselves beyond challenge, so within us all is calm and serenity. By making us pure spirit, impassively receiving the impacts of the external sensual world, Descartes has situated us above the animals. We have ceased to be a social political animal of Aristotle’s account. From the seventeenth century it was understood that the soul and the body are opposites. Subsequent development in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries reduced the upper circle so it appeared to be in repeated danger of total eclipse. Thus the modern epistemology searches for empirical (that is tangible) verification but it disallows that the intangible can ever make things tangible (because it sets them as opposites). We have two spheres, the upper representing heaven and the intellectual realm of unchanging truth, and the lower representing earth and the realm of material, all that is sensory, empirical and changing. In this period we return in many variations to the insurmountable problem of how to get from the lower to the upper sphere, to have real unchanging knowledge, of God, or of anything else.
Enlightenment without Definition, Education Without Syllabus
The Western Protestant tradition has not talked about the world, location, place and space, and our role and identity within it. it has avoided ‘metaphysics’. It has let all that all be determined by a concept of inert nature. The concept of nature is owed in part to the Christian teaching that creation is really given by God so is reliably there for us. It is not a miasma but allows and invites investigation. But the doctrine of creation has then be reduced to the two concepts of nature and man, which require a third concept to mediate between them. Another aspect of the Enlightenment is the assumption that whatever is still and timeless is more primal than anything historical. Narrative had to be replaced by pure and distinct ideas (Descartes) sense impressions (Locke) or fear and passion (Hobbes). The Enlightenment concentrates on the task of education with new vigour. But it did not allow this education to have any specific content. The Enlighteners saw themselves as finishing the work of the liberation of man that the Reformers had left unfinished. Now however man had to liberated from the self-estrangement. If our knowledge of the world does not come from God, it must come from some other source. The crisis of the source of knowledge. This took the form of the dispute between the empiricists and the ‘intellectualists’. The sensualists, of which Epicurus is an example, maintained that the reality of things was to be found solely in the objects of the senses, and that all other pretended sources of knowledge were fictions. The second group, Plato as chief example, regarded sensory knowledge as false and asserted that only the understanding can distinguish what was true. Confusion results from trying to deduce normative principles from empirical materials (ie intellect from the realm of sensations). This battle of intellectualism (idealism, metaphysics) and sentimentalism (sensation, science of phenomena, experience) also represented the battle of thought versus real life, theory versus practice. The Enlightenment proponents of unaccompanied reason represent a movement that wanted to escape from the body and from the demands of the emotions. Each enlightenment provides a particular view of human nature, an anthropology and psychology, a particular account of man’s relationship with nature and the natural world –and a particular ethic, that intends that man fashion himself selves suited to differently envisaged worlds. Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-78) regarded civilisation as loss of innocence, and as an act of violence perpetrated on every individual. The only moral agency is self-expression and the search for authenticity. The progress of arts and sciences had corrupted human morals, not improved them. We have to teach the child to be wild and so free again, shedding all the constraints of civilisation.
The thinker who, more than any other, has established our modern context is Immanuel Kant (1724-1804). Kant has made a simple declaration of freedom. He has declared us free from the whole tradition and from the apprenticeship it represents. But saying that we are already free doesn’t make it so. It allows that the individual is the unchallenged sovereign, but in effect this means one individual, or some individuals, over others. Only the few really exercise this untrammelled and commanding view – over all others, and are able to make all others the object of their sight and control. First we must say that Kant is a moral thinker of profound vision. He is looking for a gentler more cosmopolitan, tolerant, less sectarian world, in which each individual will be treated
with respect regardless of their culture. We are looking for a world in which arguments are judged on their merits, in which we can reason with one another and so in which reason is supreme. . Why should we deal with this important turning point through this German philosopher? It might seem easier to discuss the Enlightenment in terms of the English, Scots, French and Americans and so in terms of Locke, Shaftesbury, Rousseau, Hume, Bentham, Jefferson, Robespierre and John Stuart Mill. But since Kant philosophical work, which has a wide range, and his position in the founding period of the German university makes his programme stand out more starkly. Kant’s own writings made a profound impact on nineteenth century thought, culture and politics, and on the German form of the university which came to re-shape the university, and the arrangement of sciences, in Britain and America. Unity and New Division of Man The thinkers whom we refer to and the intellectual phenomenon we call the Enlightenment were hopeful that man was progressing from lower to higher, from fables to clear knowledge through concepts and measurement. Some thinkers, such as David Hume, were also sceptical about this, and some these are commonly referred as Romantics. Nevertheless the hope is that man will discover the true underlying principle that unites all human thought and endeavour, and which unites the intellect and emotions of man (connecting head and body), and which connects each man to all others (bringing about peace between communities and nations). Man will find the unity of all things, and no longer be estranged, from them or from himself. All earlier thinkers were trying to reason from man to the world and from man to God. They were trying to establish the path of rationality that takes us from us to the world and to God. Kant is the pinnacle, but at the moment that he seems to bring man and the world together into one unifed system, the system cracks from top to bottom. There is the human world of mind, judgment and value, and there is the natural world of the interaction of physical bodies. Kant, the greater representative of the modern achievement decides that the search for their unity is in vain. There is no fundamental unity. There are two worlds. The hope of going further, on towards which all human reasoning has strained is unachievable and has to be abandoned. At the moment that man comes to himself, it is clear that his alienation from everything around him – his own drives, other people and the natural world – is as complete as ever. Modernity aims for a completion of the long-sought fundamental unity, but it stalls. Kant is determined that there can only ever be two parallels worlds, of knowledge (science) and faith. They do not impinge on each other at all. In other words Kant ultimately cannot show that we are persons, that is, that each individual person is one undivided person. He has only shown that each person is two – one is inhabits the material world, and knows and is known in that world, while the other inhabits a parallel world of freedom, in which he is utterly independent of any material or social consideration. One man is both object and subject of knowledge. The other is simply a free agent, a pure will. We have an outer and an inner person, a public (material) and an private (intellectual-moral) person. Thus we have the scientist (the knower) and we have the free man. But we cannot have both simultaneously. Kant ruled that the rationalists and the whole Christian and or Platonist traditions of political philosophy were at an end. He alone was able to provide what they had not and his claim has not been seriously challenged. Kant regarded himself as Robespierre, the destroyer of all previous metaphysics, of the possibility of knowledge of both God, and with it secured our knowledge of the world. Kant claims to have summed up and made redundant the thought all these previous thinkers.
The Impatient Disciple
First let us ask about Kant as a thinker who concedes the validity of Christianity. Kant inherited the Pietism of Lutheran Germany which regards religion as primarily the concern of the inner man. In his ‘Religion within Reason alone’ Kant turned this separation between public debate (‘politics’) and internal personal reform (‘religion’) into a theory. For Kant ‘religion’ means self-control. This is what all philosophy and theology has been about, nothing other than this, self-control. ‘God’ is nothing than our own alienated and unadmitted duty of self-control, hovering over heads. We do not need to be under other-control. You do not need to listen to me, nor to each other. All religion is about the achievement of self-control. As Augustine showed us, the Christian gospel is a species of the genus ‘religion’. The Christian religion has to be inward: outward religion makes no sense, for then it is not self-control. This makes it no more than the truth about ourselves alone, and that means that we establish our identity ourselves, against all others. This ‘religion’ of self-mastery consigns us to an exercise of power against other people. The tradition seems to have accepted Kant’s own view that had made all previous metaphysical speculation redundant. The whole chase is off. All confidence in the knowability (and thus goodness) of creation is gone. The compatibility and suitability of creation for man is gone, as is the thought that the world is not identical with man or his desires, but has its own dignity. Scepticism has triumphed and declared all certainty of knowledge impossible and foolish – but it has let a new unadmitted Platonist dualism in through the back door. Kant believed that the process of Reformation was not complete. The reformation of all public institutions, political power and life had to be continued, by removing power and influence from the institution of the Church and giving it to the citizens of nations. But external institutional changes represented only the minor part of the real Reformation, which is self-reformation. Kant cut out the master, announced that we must be our own masters, made Christianity a set of principles and so a self-help course. He preferred a self-imposed and self-interpreted discipline, ruling out the discipline imposed by others, both other teachers and external institutions. Kant has taken the Christian talk of judgment and the whole forensic account atonement transferred it to man. Man is now the judge, spectator and critic of all that is before him. Kant’s much reduced ‘gospel’ ended the need to be patient students of our subject. This new Law makes far simpler requirements of us than the discipline and discipleship of the gospel. His ‘gospel’ does not teach that God helps us, that because God is distant and unconcerned we have no one to rely on but ourselves, and we can replace God’s aid with our own. Kant turned gospel into Law – we have the book and we are on our own – therefore be brave! Morality has to start with giving up the external disciplinarian. Morality is autonomy. Being moral is being independent. The first moral act is to dispense with all external sources of morality, and to dismiss the external disciplinarian, God. Real authority cannot be external, for to suffer external authority is not to be a moral agent, but a slave. This external agent must be reconciled and united with the internal agent, so the internal agent is as complete as the external agent (God) notionally is. The external must be absorbed into the internal, and extinguished, the inside and outside must be united, the barrier between them extinguished. Kant understood the gospel to be a summons to personal development. We develop personally by bravely setting ourselves apart from all others and eschewing all outside influence. Kant decided that Jesus was important for this reason alone: he was an example or pioneer of this distinguishing oneself from one’s people. Kant separated Jesus, first from the people of Israel, then from the Church. Kant’s initiative in separating Jesus from the
Church, was followed by the nineteenth century quests for ‘the historical (and ethical) Jesus’. The truth of Christianity is just a picture-book version of what the independent individual can work out for himself: Christian doctrines are at best illustrations of timeless truths, but possibly just an obstacle. He changed the gospel from ‘relationship-with-Jesus’, to ‘beinggood’, or ‘being-an-independent-individual’, rejecting all external norms and living as a society of one, in retreat from the world, from embodiedness and from history. Kant and subsequent Idealism and enlightenment is Platonism re-launched: it re-asserts the old pagan dualism, and the triumph of the private sphere over all public truth and life. This makes for a dramatically reduced Christology, in which Christ is our example. We follow the example set by Christ, or those of us who are more mature can work these things out for ourselves. Christ worked these things out for himself and became free by throwing off that apprenticeship and all external discipline. Most of all Jesus became himself by dispensing with his own nation, the people of Israel and the Old Testament.
The Return of Marcion
First we must examine Kant’s approach to the New Testament. Kant decides that Jesus cannot be truly representative of the people of Israel. He separates the God of Jesus, the first autonomous individual, from the God of the Old Testament and the Jews, that stubborn people with their primitive religion. Next Kant separates Jesus from the Church and its teaching, and so from the apprenticeship of Christian discipleship. He initiated the nineteenth century quests for ‘the historical (and ethical) Jesus’, that proceeded by isolating Jesus from his people. To show that the Christians had misrepresented their messiah was the only way that German intellectuals could protest against the smug alliance of Lutheran Church and Prussian state that held back the development of German civic and political life. Christian doctrines are at best illustrations of timeless truths, but perhaps they are actually an obstacle, or even possibly a huge falsehood foisted on the German nation to keep them down.
In The Religion Within the Limits of Reason Alone Kant argues that Christianity exemplifies the process of moral regeneration. Such a recovery from the evil propensity is not a gradual reformation but a revolution. Our will, though it is inclined to evil, can regenerate itself. Man must first make himself worthy to receive grace. Our radically evil disposition requires supernatural aid to overcome it and yet it must be in our power to deserve such aid. We have make ourselves worthy of divine grace. But if the individual does what he needs to deserve grace surely he does not really need it. We have met this account before. It is belongs to Pelagius. Kant is offering the morality of self-improvement that we saw Augustine refute because it was not the account of salvation offered by the Church. Kant is looking for a progression from church-faith to pure rational religion; we calls this progress the kingdom of God. False worship is anything that puts the statutory and institutional in place of the pure moral service. All life should be in a spirit of prayer of good action, but actual prayer is just an otiose wheedling of God. Philosophy of religion intends to replace political philosophy, that is of all earlier public and political discourse of how we may live together in societies. The discourse of the inner world intends to replace the discourse of the public world, so that the discourse of the public world may not be heard again. Kant had made himself heir to those political elites that intended to stop people talking about public life (politics) and doing so in the language they learned from scripture. It may be fairer to regard him as a Platonist and therefore not as a Christian theologian at all, but a pagan one. Kant hoped to see the restoration of a republic like Plato’s. He hope to replace Christianity with the more reasonable science of a revived Athenian academy and
more sacred morality of a restored Athenian Republic. German idealism is the rediscovery of Plato and attempt to make all Europe a new Athens. In Religion within the Limits of Reason Kant separated ‘religion’ from ‘politics’. ‘Religion’ then meant internal personal control and reform, while ‘politics’ meant public debate. From this point on ‘religion’ meant whatever had no constructive role and no legitimate place in the public arena. Kant turned theology from a public discipline into the esoteric science of religious studies. This decision has mean that ever since Christian theology has had to counter first the assumption that religion is a private matter, and one which it is embarrassing to discuss.
New Man and New Republic The Society of Man without God
Idealism is the programme of the inauguration of Plato’s Republic. It is easier to see it as a whole in its German form at the turn of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It intends to create a single educated nation of worthy, self-governing sovereign citizens, led by its thinkers. In Plato’s ‘Republic’ the guardians are responsible not only for leading the citizens but for teaching and disciplining them too. This movement intends to bring into being a single nation and national self-consciousness. But Kant’s ethics are not purely Greek, but mixed with a braver Roman spirit, owed to Seneca and Marcus Aurelius, with a dash of scepticism – the mixture made familiar by Cicero. Each of us has to make his own way and be his own master. This is the religion of the self-discipline of the noble Roman. Kant’s ethics are Stoic. He rejects all passions and extrinsic considerations, all external forces. He watches his own body, and make sure it does not betray him by giving in to emotions or needs. Kant’s fundamental law, the ‘Categorical Imperative’, is that we should ‘act only in such a way that you can at the same time will that your maxim should become a universal law.’ His Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals (1785), repeats Cicero’s remark (De Officiis 3.26-7). Universal truths drive out particular ones: whatever is true must be so everywhere and for all time. We must promote the interests of others simply because they are fellow men, and not for any other more instrumental reason.
Mind Without Body
Kant took the pictures, doctrines and history out of Christianity to leave ethics, which he called pure religion. He separated the narrative and particular from the universal, and separated reason from imagination. Kant believed in a self-imposed and self-interpreted discipline, and rules out the discipline imposed by others. He allows public discourse no part in constituting our desires and character. Kant is a overly fastidious (hypochondriac) mind with a platonic distaste for bodies. He gives ‘pure’ reason priority over language, the incidental. He was opposed by Hamann, who pointed out that all thought is founded on language, and language in turn depends on the body. Pure reason, so-called, is not prior to language and bodiliness. Language therefore has priority of ‘pure’ reason, indeed language is reason. To point out the bodily foundation of thought is not to exalt sense over reason, but just to refuse to let the cerebral be exalted over the rest of the bodily faculties. We have to allow that the human being is a unity of mind and body: it is mind and body do their thinking together. Kant’s dislike our human embodiedness threatens the unity of the human being. Kant attempted to free the mind by distancing it from all the practices of social formation. This cerebral disembodiedness is a return to Socrates’ view of the world as an unfortunate miasma from which the mind has to extricate itself. Kant’s determination to make the strongest case for the powers of the mind reveal his distaste for the body, practices, habits and crowds. The Mind is the supreme authority, and it can not defer to any authority but itself. There is nothing outside that we have to give acknowledgment to.
Kant’s gospel of personal development by bravely distinguishing yourself from all external influence and refusing an apprenticeship now serves as the criterion for knowledge in the university. His distrust of society has become the criterion of critical reason and analytic philosophy. Can philosophy be reconciled to our embodiedness and sociality?
Dualism and Polarisation
The Vanished Unity of the World In the modern view, we cannot know the upper realm at all, but we can know the lower realm, and man, utterly. The upper realm, the transcendent, does not function to control how we know the world or one another, and because it has no purpose, this realm has disappeared from our discourse. This is very different from the teaching of the Church, which understands that the world may not be known without God. God hosts the world for us and does not let it go. The unity of the world with God and the distinction of the world from God are both intrinsic to the Christian doctrine of creation; there is a unity and duality, simultaneously. The world separated from God and drifted away until God was so distant that it makes no difference whether or not God exists. But this does not mean that this cosmos is without God – for man has de facto become its god. Modernity believes it knows its world. It has left behind all questions of how our knowledge of the world appears. Yet the upper transcendent realm has not disappeared after all, for it our very own action of knowing. As such the modern knowledge that sees through and pushes aside all mediation remains indissolubly part of the one indivisible cosmology in which the upper sphere knows intellects - the lower. The modern epistemological constitution, far from being an escape from this dualist cosmology, is a continuation of it. Action, chief of which are knowing and uniting, continues to represent that upper realm. Knowing is the whole mode of action. The lower realm is defined as being quite without action and unity. Modern epistemology and cosmology is dualist. Yet, since it cannot concede that there is anything outside itself, it is monist. We have seen that the whole philosophical task is the unity of knowledge, and this means to re-unite science and morality, theory and praxis (life), to unify the scientific and the moral into a single continuum. It reckons that the whole task is to stay in time with the rest of the cosmos, to learn to keep in step, to pick up the tune of the heavenly bodies, to avoid wayward irrational mindless non-divine movements. Plato’s account related the individual human (psyche) to human society (polis) and to the natural world (cosmos), and suggested that man had to grow (back) up to resume to his proper relationship to the cosmos, through paideia to justice. But Kant declined this challenge and instead followed Socrates, who declared that he would confine himself to the world of men and not attempt to say about man’s place in the cosmos. Kant has taken very much less than Plato is offering, leaving out Plato’s large concept of justice and paideia. So with Kant we have two worlds – the world of human interaction, of politics, morality and freedom, and the second world of nature, of cause and effect. But Kant also distinguishes two worlds, the world we can know and the world beyond that we cannot. Science is able to know the world, but we can never know whether the world that science knows is finally real. We know the appearance (the ‘economy’), but can never know whether they correspond to reality (the ‘theology’). Kant wanted to award reason the highest status possible, and identifying a pure and general reason, that is to be found above all the particularities of traditions. He wanted reason to be universally applicable and this universal reason to be supreme all other considerations. But Kant has also betrayed reason because he divided it into two. There is moral reason (the realm of ‘ought’) and there is pure reason (the realm of ‘is) also called science, which of facts, existence and givenness. The attempt to unify these was over. The long search to find the unity of things was declared, by Kant, to be impossible. Man had given up, turned around and started his retreat. 19
Kant as Reduced Augustine
Kant is determined to complete what he believes Augustine and Luther had started but not finished. The route from Augustine has brought us to Kant. Is the modern individual who distinguishes himself from his fellows the high point of the story we have been telling? Certainly there are many intellectual influences identifiable in Augustine that Kant has made very good use of. Kant believes that he has expressed the greatest ambition of humankind, to be his own master. Does the Enlightenment man hauling himself up onto a plateau? He has hacked down all the bogeys that once held him in thrall? We should remind ourselves that secularism does not start in the middle of the seventeenth century. Secularisation is the re-arrival of forces and ideologies that are in lesser degree always present. The most cursory look at Machiavelli, Hobbes or Spinoza shows that this is a rediscovery of Roman thought. Secularism is then not a demythologisation but just the demotion of the Christian account and the promotion of the pagan account of the world. we could even say that – a buying in to a cosmology that Europe had once seen as violent and which through its conversion to Christianity it was gald to see the back of. Does route starts with Plato, and with Aristotle, then it goes via the Stoics, sceptics, Cicero and Seneca, and atomists? In the early modern period does it then go via the proponents of a restored Greek or Roman Republic or commonwealth? Does it go like this: Machiavelli-Hobbes-SpinozaShaftesbury-Locke? Does Kant sum up this rational and republican tradition and finalise it for us as the modern world, made up of constitutions, the absorption of smaller communities by ever larger ones, human rights, American Way, globalisation? Kant wants also to complete what Augustine started. He wants to give a coherent account of morality and religion. But he wants to go further, and so not merely to state this religion but to reform it. He wants to improve and rationalize the Christian religion. Kant intends to be more true and more consistent than Augustine himself was able to be. In this of course Kant is no different from any other thinkers we have met.
Reduced Anthropology of Forensic Atonement
We have said that it is the economy of modernity that reverts from the Christian and Platonic ontology of love and of persons in constitutive relation to the much simpler, Roman ontology of substance and debt. It is this Roman ontology (which modernity has returned to) which understands us in financial terms, in which the models of ransom (satisfaction and propitiation) belong. It is Kant and modernity which fails to ask what money is, or what this substance is, to which all human life is referred and reduced. Kant has taken the Christian talk of judgment and the whole forensic account atonement transferred it to man. Man is now the judge, spectator and critic of all that is before him. Kant’s anthropology erects the individual above society. This autonomous man, secure in his knowledge of himself, looks down on the world with his whole panoptical technology, in detachment, viewing, registering, controlling. Kant’s high anthropology makes this individual unaccountable. Kant’s anthropology puts us beyond the language of protest. Perhaps theology is the one conceptuality that enables us to ask whether this man and this anthropology has become a monster. God is nothing than our own alienated and unadmitted duty of self-control, hovering over heads. We do not need to be under other-control. You do not need to listen to me, nor to each other. Each of you is your own unchallengeable king. Kant has sanctified the atomistic self, incurvatus and autistic. He has normalised our disease. The pagan ontology is our default. We live in the mind of Kant. This modern man is an alternative account of man. Since Christ is the Christian account of man, we can say that that modern man, Kant’s man, is an alternative Christ. He intends to
draw us away from Christ and towards himself. He believes that his definition, offered and represented by himself, is superior to that definition offered by Christ, and indeed given in Christ and in which the church participates. We have to decide whether it is bigger, or smaller, than the definition of man offered and represented by Christ, in which his body participates.
6. The Disappearance of The Good
Economic Man The Christian faith insists on a large but coherent account of human beings and their relationships. This account includes ideas of being and freedom, and of good, truth and even of beauty. But when the Christian faith is removed, these transcendent no longer function to hold together all the various aspects that make up our view of the world. In intellectual developments in eighteenth century in which religion, ethics, politics and economics drifted out of a common framework to become separate domains. Ethics then dealt with a private sphere and individual responsibility, while politics dealt with public action, and the discipline of economics dealt with another domain of interaction and exchange. These three realms delineated respectively (private) lack of responsibility (ethics), public (cooperative) responsibility (politics) and no responsibility (economics). The older, and larger, discipline of moral philosophy, or ethics, distinguished between what I want and what I need, or between what I want and what is good for me. The science of economics covers the issue of my material needs. It gives no definition of those needs, indeed it is premised on the avoidance of any the truth of any given account of what is good, and what is beneficial for me. It makes no distinction between my needs and my desires, and no distinction between those desires I control and those I do not, or between those of my desires fulfilment of which would be good for me or for others. All these issues of what is good, and good for whom, are ruled out. I can make my claim about my needs as large as I wish. Economics takes all my demands at face value, as givens of nature. Economics is about the satisfaction of the desires of bodies and so it is the science of the distribution of bodies – that is of the goods, the that body is going to use. We are not persons. For economics, we are bodies and desirers (disembodied wills). Our bodies and the world they inhabit are simply aggregations of desires. This is the world as a storm of atoms described by Epicurus, from which we can only hope to flee into some inward place. David Hume (1711-1776) championed an attitude of scepticism about all forms of knowledge along with a Epicurean detachment. We cannot be sure that we are impartial enough for our beliefs to be firm knowledge. Hume dismisses the entire tradition of metaphysics by which Europeans had tied to establish the certainty of our knowledge. we cannot know anything about what is good or say with certainty that one thing is better than another. There is therefore no support for of are any rationality underwriting our sense of purpose. Adam Smith (1723-1790) represents the Stoic option. In his ‘Theory of Moral Sentiments’ Smith followed Cicero in setting out the function of the natural empathy of human beings for one another. In The Wealth of Nations Smith argues that we do not need to be individually good, or to care for one another, in order to reach the best outcome. When we care for ourselves the paradoxical result is that everybody gets the best deal. This is the result of the harmony or equilibrium that results from the working of large numbers of people. We are not reliant on the virtue of the people. Good comes about as an unintended consequence of the magic of large numbers. Society can work without virtue or a trained or practiced people. We do not need to exercise control because our desires are reconciled by the market through the price system. Like nature, the market tends to bring about a harmony. But the science of economic regards the economy is a piece of machinery. Equilibrium is the basic paradigm of economic. Fundamentally the market balances itself out, and though it is
never static it is always correcting itself. But economics is not merely science but also a form of expertise in management. This expertise because the basic paradigm of equilibrium is not sufficient. It is not the case that economy balances itself, but it also requires to be managed. The economic machine also needs machine-minders constantly to alter its settings. It does need humans, and therefore minds and decision-making, in order to be harmonious. Under the definition established by Smith and Ricardo, what is good is whatever individuals desire and create demand for. Economics does not believe that we may decide which of our appetites are important. We may rank our own desires. Economics decides to take them as all of equal value and to let the market decide which of them we may have. Relations without Purpose The disconnection of politics from conceptions of what is good continued with the disconnection of economics from theology. Our talk about sin, guilt and morality has been separated from our talk about our financial description of our economic and material relationships with one another. This split of religious thought from the way we see our material and social and economic relationships has had extraordinary consequences. The chief of these is that we cannot see how our own public and economic behaviour can have a devastating impact on people beyond our field of view. The split between ‘religion’ and economics allows us to be insulated from the consequences of our (economic) actions. This means that religion has been turned into an inoffensive metaphorical talk about our own inner spiritual or emotional states, that has no impact on the world. By allowing the theological concept of sin and debt to become divided in this way between the moral and the material, one described by religion the other by economics, we have created two parallel worlds. In one in which the language of guilt describes some private state of our own, the other in which the language of credit and debt describes the external world of finance and career – but is not thought to impact on our own inner being. The economy of modernity reverts from the Platonic ontology of love amplified by the Christian ontology and of persons in constitutive relation, to the much simpler, Roman ontology of substance and debt. These modern thinkers do not tell is what this substance, money, is to which so much human interaction is denominated. The academic discipline of economics conceals from us that it is we ourselves who provide one another with recognition. We give one another the affirmation we require, and we also withhold the affirmation we seek from one another. Economics is premised on an account of human being which is reducible to nature. But an Christian account of our material interrelating, a Christian economics, would insists that we are social at the same time that we are material, and that we cannot have our sociality stripped off to reveal some more truthful core. Inasmuch as economics insists that we are first material, and that the material is more basic than the social and inter-personal. We are not only bodies but also persons. We are not bodies first, wt bodily requirements that must be satisfied before our other less tangible demands are met. We are at once bodily and more-than-bodily. The Christian teaching that the human is body and soul (person) must therefore regard economics as offering a dramatically inadequate account of human being. There is another way to do economics, and that is in terms of inter-personal recognition, the workers who give us our substance and being are also our responsibility. An economics is just an evasion of responsibility which is ultimately also an evasion of the people that God gives us as gifts. The Champions of Autonomy We are searching for self-rule. We have two sets of rival theologians, Christian and pagan, who offer rival definitions of our identity of our place in the world and of how we may acquire such self-rule. The political philosophers of the seventeenth century and eighteenth centuries represent a dramatic reduction of political ambition. They dismissed Plato’s political philosophy, with its central belief that man is subject to a process of formation
(paideia) and they dismiss the tradition of Christian political philosophy, which understands that we are formed by a process of trial we call ‘history’, which is led by God. Modern man lives in the mindset or intellectual environment created for him by these thinkers. Although Hobbes, Descartes, Shaftesbury and Locke exist explicit Christian, together with Spinoza they are also the theologians of a tradition that is not Christian, and which has another way of saying what human society is and what human beings are, and which involves power and necessity disguised by ‘nature’ and ‘contract’. Christian theology includes a political philosophy. Kant and the champions of secular autonomy such as Hobbes, Descartes, Shaftesbury and Locke, who led up to him had succeeded in suppressing the politics in theology and in taking theology out of politics. They turned theology into moralism, psychology and ethics. When Christian theology did not resist this division and interiorisation it ceased to have anything distinctive to say to the world. Then theology just intellectualises and sentimentalises, prey to the rationalists who want to decide whether it does or does not correspond to canons of reason that have already been defined in opposition to large Christian account of man. Through the nineteenth century theology fell to an oscillation between reason and emotion that produced endless new claims to the status of science, and new forms of sentimentalism and the expression of the individual who feels how undetermined his identity is.
7. The True and the False Son
The true son is with God and with man and with all men. This particular being, Jesus Christ, is the catholic and universal being. From him every human being receives their relationships with every other human being, and with God. Modernity is a reduction of man. Modern thought offers us man bereft of relationship. Modernity has reduced man to a head without a body, an intellectual, and an individual without a community. It offers us the universal, but without any connection from any particular, so we have no idea where this universal could merge from. The modern concept of man (modern anthropology) is a ‘christology’ without Christ, an account of man who always intends to be without God, and who is as a result, separated from his fellow man. It is a ‘christology’ without connection to an assembly, and so without an account of our unity with our peers in a society. It is an anthropology without an ecclesiology, an account without any understanding of our place in the assembly of mankind. The related person has become the individual without relationship. The modern has become the anointed and canonical form of man – the man of the present has replaced the man with present-and-future. For the generation that does not challenge him, Kant has become their Christ.