Thursday 3 January 2019

Final comments on "Progress and Religion."

Some topics defined:
Religion is the root of all culture and civilization.
The religious impulse is situated within human nature, is the root of religion, and therefore of all culture and civilization.
The root of human life then is not science, economy or culture, but because man is the centre of the natural world, his root is relationship between human nature and God. In Christianity this impulse is revealed in a radical way; that neither power, nor science nor the natural rhythm, governs human life, but rather, that vital centre is the mystical union of man’s human faculties with the Son of God.
Dawson includes some discussion about Religious ideas, for instance Gnosticism, but ideas necessarily develop in the wake of those movements which the religious impulse create, and so would form the content of a separate study.
Science is an intellectual technique; a way by which we know natural reality. Ritual religion was the source of the first form of science. It developed through a seeking to know what governs all life; the divine principle, the Absolute, the Eternal Cycle, the supreme law of Being. Developing science was linked to astronomy.
This ancient outlook is again present in modern scientific determinism.
The ancient forms of science, held no clues to the notion of progress – the idea the people and things could develop. This was because the ancient mind looked at the Cosmos as a whole, whereas today, we look at the particular case. So, for the ancients change was an illusion, whilst for us it leads us into the notion of progress.
The way that science is related to the understanding of human progress is to do with either man’s dominance/control over the laws of nature, or his greater engagement with God.
Science cannot explain reality. On its own it is merely the measurement of the physical world. It needs to be directed by a purpose, eg humanitarianism, and it needs to be supported by morality. Then it can become a good science which genuinely benefits humanity.
Man has always observed that that created nature passes through a process. The ancients thought of this as an eternal cycle. Modern man calls this process evolution. The Gospel reveals that man is the centre of this process and that it can be either progressive or degenerative, depending on whether he acts in accordance with his nature or against it. In Christianity man has a renewed potential for progress.
Christianity is the source of modern science (the way in which a person, who is enlightened by the Gospel, knows reality) and Law.
Contemporary (secular outlook) science is the way in which a person, who is not enlightened by the Gospel, seeks to know reality, seeking a purely rational and empirical knowledge. This form of science developed as a consequence of the Reformation, which focussed men’s minds on what they do, rather than on who they were called to be. In contemporary science observation and experiment supplanted morality, and has led to the desire for success in whatever you seek.
The Church is a social and spiritual force for uniting people, based up the free adhesion of the individual.
The State is a political force for uniting people, based on material power.
Christianity is a radically new outlook which sees great value in humanity and in the natural world. Christianity is the source of modern science (the way in which a person, who is enlightened by the Gospel, knows reality) and Law.
Metaphysics, which has always been a part of man’s reflection, but which became a particular focus with the ancient Greek philosophers, concerns that which transcends change and limitation – what lies behind the things that we see. The ancients called this ‘Being’. Christian metaphysics ultimately calls ‘Being’ God, and involves the History of Salvation – the way that God has acted in history for man’s good. This involves a positive and Realistic outlook on the material order.
For the modern mind, which had set the Gospel aside, metaphysics metamorphosed reality into a mathematical structure. In this system, man is merely a by-product and metaphysics has evaporated, since everything, including man, is part of a vast mechanical order. This state of affairs shows that science has much more difficulty with philosophy and metaphysics than it does with religion.
Progress is either the effect that Christ’s work has on human beings and the created order, or it refers to the belief that human effort will lead to the development of human beings.
Civilisation is the result of social and moral unification.
Christian civilization the unification of peoples through the life and mission of the Church.
The Enlightenment was a period (17th to 19th Centuries) in which there was a fluid mix of two great movements; science and reason, and faith and theology. In England, ever seeking a practical approach, the new Post-Reformation religious impulse of morality and asceticism, produced the Industrial Revolution.
Liberalism, following the Reformation, flowed out of secularization and economic individualism. It is an un-substantiated shadow projected from Christianity and had three, distinct movements; English, American, and French. Liberalism had, at its root, the desire to protect one’s self and one’s material acquisitions. In Liberalism, human beings are defined by property rights, rather than having been created in the image of God. It is economy, not Charity, that shapes our lives. Liberalism, in seeking to secularise people, in fact undermined its own spiritual foundation, the foundation upon which the West had been built. This spiritual collapse, alongside material progress, led to social crises. Liberalism produced Socialism.
Marxism is, at root, a disaffection with the social order and a demand for another one.
Europe arose, in the Dark Ages, as a civilization, based upon ecclesiastical unity, and not upon political unity. Europe did not arise from a place of natural unity The heart of Europe was a spiritual and moral citizenship, knit together with the scientific movement.

Wednesday 2 January 2019

A few comments on "Progress and Religion" by Dawson.

The second Part of “Progress and Religion” by Dawson is an overview of the history of civilization and culture, written from the central hinge of human life, which is the religious impulse that is situated within all human beings, and the concrete expression of religion, both of which form civilization and culture.
What we read here is history looked at from the central axis of human life – not dates or famous people, not food, or reproduction, or the faculty of reason, or economics, but the relationship between human beings and the divine – which reveals the depth of human identity, much of which we have forgotten, and been distracted from, in the fast-changing age in which we live.
Dawson’s scholarship keenly brings together the major facets of humanity, placing them in their right order, an order that arises from the relationship around which all human life and activity revolve – the relationship that human nature has with the divine. This relationship becomes visible in ritual, in society, in culture and in civilization, and so we see human beings set in relief.
Anthropology is implicit in much of Dawson’s narrative. An anthropology, assuming that it is an adequate one, is the foundation for speaking about human beings in any sense. While the author does speak about anthropology directly in Part One of his book, that understanding lies behind what he says in Part Two, and that anthropological basis can be deduced from the text.
Writing long before the New Evangelsation was envisaged, Dawson was not able to comment on what would be the depth of the Church’s response to the human situation today. That is for us to do, so that we can more fully participate in the New Evangelisation.