Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Modernity's False View of Man and History

The French Revolution saw the birth of the ideology according to which Christianity, because it believes in the end of the world, in judgment, and the like, is by nature pessimistic, whereas modernity, which has discovered progress as the law of history, is by nature optimistic. We now see that these comparisons are slowly dissolving. We see the self-confidence of modernity increasingly crumble. For it is becoming clearer and clearer that progress also involves progress in the powers of destruction, that ethically man in not equal to his own reason, and that his capability can become a capability to destroy. Christianity in fact does not have such a notion that history necessarily always progresses, that, in other words, essentially things are always getting better for mankind.

When we read the Book of Revelation, we see that humanity actually moves in circles. Over and over there are horrors that then dissipate, only to be followed by new ones. Nor is there any prophecy of an inner-historical, man-made state of salvation. The idea that human affairs necessarily get better and better has no support in the Christian outlook. What does, on the other hand, belong to the Christian faith is the certainty that God never abandons man and that man therefore can never become a pure failure, even though today many believe it would be better if man had never appeared on the scene.

--Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
Salt of the Earth (1996)

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