A Collective translation reviewed and corrected by Filip Maj
|Table of Contents|
|Man's Hope for Eternal Life|
|I. Hope as the Base of Human Existence|
|II. Man's Hope for a Happy Life<|
|III. Hope and the Question of Man's Freedom|
|IV. Hope and the Traps of Human Suffering|
|V. Hope and Prayer as a Language of Faith|
|VI. Man's Hope for Eternal Life|
It is not easy to define the cognitive status of faith in the man's life. Till now, Benedict XVI has been the first Pope to ask such questions, or at least to formulate them in this way in an encyclical. They are the most difficult questions that science addresses to faith. If faith and hope are to be the subjects of the judgement of reason, this question cannot be avoided. What does man find thanks to the fact that he believes and has hope for something? Only salvation justifies Christian faith.
Christians over the centuries have to answer the question what they believe in, and what they hope for. They point at Christ. And in this way they respond to the common necessity "to live eternally". In the course of their history, Christians have tried to express this „knowing without knowing” by means of figures that can be represented, and they have developed images of „Heaven” which remain far removed from what, after all, can only be known negatively, via unknowing (Enyclical, n° 13). A similar track of analysis can be found as early as at the time of Philo of Alexandria (born ca. 25 BC, died 50 AD).
The paradox of faith and hope is based on the denial of natural cognition (knowledge about ignorance) and on the promotion of supernatural cognition. What is the man of faith and the man of hope unaware of? He does not know about the things that are denied by the senses and natural cognition. Nevertheless, he tries to know, in spite of his ignorance. This passion for supernatural knowledge has its limits. It is difficult to invent something, it is easier to see. Cognition reaches to primal conditions, imaginations and visions, which have a metacognitive status, that is a precognitive or a supercognitive status.
Cognition through faith has a mystical character, it requires the identification of the subject with the object of cognition. Then, thought identifies with the object which is perceived. But what a believing or hope-filled Christian perceives, depends on his attitude to the Gospel message. A Christian sees (hears) the word of Christ through the words of those who "heard" and "saw" Him. Gospels are images, which a believer learns. Thus, he who reads them, sees the images (contexts and situations) in which the traces of Jesus exist.
Benedict XVI presupposes that cognition through faith and hope can take place in a certain way. It is not natural, but supernatural (or extranatural), falling outside the normal cognitive procedures. All these attempts at the representation of hope have given to many people, down the centuries, the incentive to live by faith and hence also to abandon their hyparchonta, the material substance for their lives (Encyclical, n° 13). The renunciation of one's property has a negative relation to real cognition, because in faith we have to do with the cognition of real things, which are permanent, lasting, substantial (hypostasis), not changing or exchangeable.
Man lives as if in two cognitive systems: one is defined by the perishable things, which are insubstantial (hyparchontic); the second, by the permanent, substantial (hypostatic) things. The Summa Theologica by Thomas of Aquinas, which the Pope refers to, contains a statement that faith is the "substance" of things hoped for; the proof of things not seen (Encyclical, n° 7). It is not in any other way but through the relation with substantial things that we discover what we do not see. There are things that bind people in an impermanent (temporary) way, and things that bind them in a permanent (eternal) way.
The statements of the encyclical Spe salvi are radical. The Pope introduces a theological hypothesis which is against the anthropological hypothesis. It presupposes that the ability to see eternal things requires a renunciation from the attachment to the temporal things. Benedict XVI focuses not on the question whether salvation exists, but how it realizes itself, and what structure the human hope has. Does individual cognition, the orientation to individual salvation have only cognitive roots, or does it also have extracognitive, e.g. social, relational, communal ones?
Hope, faith and love cannot only justify themselves in man's individual dispositions. If this was the case, these would be individual talents only. It can be clearly seen that they are also collective talents with a high probability. They can be used by everyone who by nature are predestined to salvation.
Eternal things are not only individual talents but a relation of man to the Trinity-God and a relation of man to man. The Pope reminds us that in the history of humanity many people renounced the possession of changing things, directing themselves towards unchanging things. An example is The Letter to the Hebrews (11), which outlines the history of those who live in hope and of their journeying (Encyclical, n° 13). The list of those who direct themselves towards eternal things through the passion of hope begins with Abel. This example is supposed to show that the project of Christian hope cannot be a proposal to escape the world, through escapism, a way of abandoning the world to its misery and taking refuge in a private form of eternal salvation (Encyclical, n° 13).
The Pope refers to the theological studies on the individual and collective salvation, which has been conducted by Henri de Lubac (cf. Lubac 1983). This French theologian raised a question whether it is possible to save oneself individually with no regard for others? Can a person who wants to be saved, limit the perfection of oneself only to his self? Is the individualistic attitude such as the following sufficient to achieve salvation — I will save myself, I don't care about others!. Does a solitary life in peace, in solitary happiness, with a feeling of having been chosen, give real happiness?
In ancient times, the individualistic patterns of salvation were predominant. Philo of Alexandria, who lived at the time of Jesus, defined such teachings as misleading and uncertain, giving insecure hopes, founded on no sure ground, and sometimes even promises which are in no respect better than dreams (Philo 1993: 155). De Lubac shows that the first theologians of Christianity — the Church Fathers understood salvation as a communal reality. It is not possible to save oneself individually, in a narcissistic way, without a relation to others. It is possible to save oneself living in a community, ie "in a city" (Hbr 11, 10:16, 12:22; 13, 14).
Individualistic attitudes towards salvation are assessed negatively by the Church Fathers. They consider breaking up the unity of mankind as a source of sin. Babel is an example. Philo of Alexandria translates this name as "Betrayal". Sin is a form of betrayal which begins with a division which is the "root of sin" (gr. hubris). The sin of division can be overcome — through "redemption", that is through the reestablishment of the unity, which is based on the community of faith. The first sin, the "betrayal" of God by man, creates the second sin related to the "betrayal" of man by man.
The theology of salvation refers to various interpretations, half of which have an economical character (the theory of redemption). Man has to pay for the division and buy himself out of the betrayal in God, in quite a realistic way. It is not simple and easy to gather the various parts of the community together into the original unity with God. It requires the effort of faith that it is possible and is more important than an individual life, an isolated and exclusive life. A happy life requires the creation of not only the relation I-You, but also the relation I-We.
St Augustine (cf. the Letter to Proba) describes how it is possible to achieve a happy reality which is constantly sought for by man, how the "blessed life", in other words, the happy life, is possible. The Psalm 144:15 [143:15] says directly: "Blessed is the people whose God is the Lord". Happiness is a form of salvation here and now, in the present life of man inside a community. Happiness — outside a community does not exist. In order to attain everlasting life with God there is a need of love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and sincere faith" (cf. 1 Tim 1:5).
The existential unity with a community ("people") creates a happy and joyful, and thus a loving and saving "We". It presupposes that we escape from the prison of our „I”, because only in the openness of this universal subject does our gaze open out to the source of joy, to love itself—to God (Encyclical, n° 14). The community of faith as a "universal subject", makes God's love and the love in God possible. Without the community, love becomes alienated, impossible to realize. Such fantasy about love gives appearances of happiness (and salvation).
Man is a subject in the context of culture and nature. The Pope undertakes the thread of culture that is based on interpersonal relations. Each individual has his beginning in a community, in God, in his father and mother. This original triad has a character that makes the existence happy. Every human being is referred to it as a model of every kind of happiness. The human triad of happiness is confirmed by the image of the Trinity-God, the source happiness which becomes a metaphysical point of reference of every saving relation of man.
Benedict XVI writes: While this community-oriented vision of the „blessed life” is certainly directed beyond the present world, as such it also has to do with the building up of this world—in very different ways, according to the historical context and the possibilities offered or excluded thereby (Encyclical, n° 15). The reconstruction of the unity of man with God has an individual and collective dimension. Neither an individual alone, nor an anonymous group can attain a real salvation. One can be absolutely happy or made happy only on the theological plane. One can be partially saved psychologically (plays, parties, excesses) or biologically (drugs, narcotics, medicaments), but an absolute salvation has a theological character.
The reintegration with the Divine source of salvation has its historical context. Not only individuals but also communities make attempts to regain such a unity in different ways. Movements and organizations are formed of people acquainted with the Gospel, which under the pressure of unfriendly reactions of the environment, take the form of "secret" types of faith. They have a certain significance for keeping the message of the Gospel in the most difficult times of the developing faith. At times, they were transformed into authoritative groups administering communities of the "chosen" or the "already almost saintly". Nevertheless real faith knows no borders in the access to the truths of the Gospel.
A negative exclusivism of faith is still an obsession of people with a passion for salvation beyond the „society”. Numerous sects and religious formations find their candidates among the people dissatisfied with their personal or social situation. The feeling of danger always triggers a reaction of "shutting away" from "strangers" who upset the established social and religious order. In such situations, the Church was building its Ark of Faith, in which it kept the people dedicated and dear to God, who cannot die amidst the worst tempests of history and cosmic catastrophes.
Benedict XVI reminds us that at the time of Augustine Aurelius (St Augustine), the cohesion of the ancient world was threatened by the inflow of "new peoples". The guarantee of law and living in a society (Encyclical, n° 15), the rules of order and peace, were endangered. In the situation of historical changes, the established models of cultural and religious survival were challenged. In an access of religious passion and a sense of mission of spreading Christian faith, special communities were created with an aim of keeping and strengthening the positive models of faith. They were not only home prayer communities, but also monasteries organized in a military or elite style.
Monasteries were not institutions of organized "defence of Christian faith" or common places of flight from the world (contemptus mundi) and of withdrawal from responsibility for the world, in search of private salvation (Encyclical, n° 15). Though, the monasteries were treated in this way as early as the times they were founded. At times, they are treated like that nowadays. A well-known reformer, Bernard of Clairvaux, decided that there is a necessity for a change, emphasizing the obligation of the "monks" towards the entire Church, and not only towards themselves and their own exclusive community. The community of salvation reaches from the "I" - through one's own family - up to the whole world.
Pseudo-Rufinus called for "monks" (that is the "right-minded") to join their personal destinies with a passion for the salvation of the world. The human race lives thanks to a few; were it not for them, the world would perish ... (Sententiae, 118: CLL, 6/2, 215; qtd. in: Encyclical, n° 15). A man who possesses a personal passion for salvation can and should help others in getting saved by bringing them the good news. The very passion of faith changes the individual, group and world. It facilitates the striving after unity, it is a redemption through words, acts and faith, which has hope in God. The role of saintly individuals in the world is obvious and irreplaceable; they show people higher goals and hopes of salvation by means of a language which is more comprehensible than biblical metaphors.
Cognition through faith cannot only take place in the elite of believers, monks or priests. It should be realized in real life, in human acts and activities, in the minds and acts of those who do not belong to the elites of faith. In order for the elites of faith to not change into the elites of power, but into the elites of work for salvation, ways to change saintly thinking into saintly actions are needed. Contemplatives—contemplantes—must become agricultural labourers—laborantes—he says (Encyclical, n° 15). Young people from noble families, who had an experience of their social and religious exclusiveness, joined Bernardine monasteries.
Exclusivism has been adopted from Judaism, where the religious and social authority was held by priestly clans. Christianity tried to overcome this "genetic exclusivism" of faith. The candidates for the monastic life, with their eyes fixed on the Judaic model of priesthood, were given an opportunity to change in Christianity. The religious practices show man his place in the entire creation and teach him to respect the whole evangelical message. Yet, there is always a tendency to self-complacency. As in 1954 a Polish ethicist, Henryk Elzenberg, wrote: no community as a community needs salvation, because it is always infinitely satisfied with itself (Elzenberg 2002: 428).
In medieval monasteries work gained a theological meaning. They became a model of ennobling the understanding of Christian faith. The creators of monastic movements, Augustine and Benedict, knew about this. After them, this thought was developed in a new way by Bernard, who said that physical work has a spiritual and theological dimension. A monastery is not a temporary heaven or a clone of a theological heaven. It is a place where soil is ploughed and the spirit is shaped, it is a workshop where the real possibilities of heaven are discovered (cf. Encyclical, n°15). In this sense, the "monastery" creates conditions for the preparation of a "new heaven" in man.
The preparation for life in monasteries comprises the education of the monk's body and soul. A man that is prepared in this way can be an example for others. Benedict refers here to the monastic rule of his own Patron — ora et labora ("pray and work"). He compares the human character to a broad plot of „wild forest” that needs to be transformed into a farmland. In this, he is a follower of the European way of cultural change, with which Christianity entered Europe from the land of Izrael.
In popular consciousness, the metaphor of "wild forest" is juxtaposed with the metaphor of "ploughed land", as is the metaphor of "jungle" with the metaphor of "desert". They symbolize various states of the body and soul. A monastery is a laboratory of spiritual and religious transformation. A wild plot of forest land is rendered fertile—and in the process, the trees of pride are felled, whatever weeds may be growing inside souls are pulled up, and the ground is thereby prepared so that bread for body and soul can flourish (Encyclical, n° 15) Salvation requires work on oneself in the theological laboratory.
"Wild reactions" of the soul can be ennobled by instilling in man the hope of theological salvation. Otherwise, instead of faith "in salvation" there appears a faith "in destruction". Are we not perhaps seeing once again, in the light of current history, that no positive world order can prosper where souls are overgrown? (Encyclical, n° 15). It has been proved by many cultural, ethnic, national and political catastrophes. They have ploughed the history of Europe and world for over two thousand years, in spite of the systematic preaching of the savational Evangelical message.
Earlier and today, the message of Jesus has been treated either too collectively or too individualistically, and as a consequence the Christian project is conceived as a selfish search for salvation which rejects the idea of serving others (Encyclical, n° 41). In any case, it is interpreted as such by the representatives of humanistic and natural sciences. According to Benedict XVI such an "individualistic" label has been attached by the modern scientists and philosophers. The opinion of Francis Bacon can be used as an example. The individualism that Bacon sees in Christianity is of a specific kind. It is not about the monasteries as places for spiritual elites, but about science which affirms the power of human reason in the modernizing of the world.
Individualism in the whole of European culture has been strengthened not by monasteries but by scientific, biological and geographical discoveries. The experimental method has given man the conviction that nature can be controlled. People started talking about the victory of art over nature (Victoria ursus artis super naturam — cf. Novum Organum I, 117; qtd. in: Encyclical, n° 16). Scientific discoveries have given man a feeling of exceptional power over everything that he discovers. The centres of theological power have lost their significance because a conviction emerged that the dominion over creation — given to man by God and lost through original sin—would be reestablished (Encyclical, n° 16).
Benedict XVI identified the modern paradox of science and faith with the sources of negative individualism in the whole of culture. If science is an instrument of cognition, which "restores" the bond between man and God, then faith is not necessary — science and practice based on the principles of science is sufficient. Therefore, the theological explanation of faith has become, with the development of science, an alternative explanation, not the only one. From that time, we have been dealing with a competitive configuration of systems of knowledge based on the foundations of science and faith. Science is supposed to become the basis for the restoration of the "lost paradise". It has a trait of objectiveness. From this moment, in opposition to it, every theological doctrine appears as subjective.
In the era of scientific expansion, nobody in fact contradicts faith, but it is treated as if it was a personal, extraterrestrial or supernatural problem and not a natural problem as it was earlier. Faith, thanks to the authority of science, becomes marginalized and expelled from the modern world's doctrine of salvation. This programmatic vision has determined the trajectory of modern times and it also shapes the present-day crisis of faith which is essentially a crisis of Christian hope (Encyclical, n° 17). The Christian project of theological faith and hope is being replaced with the project of scientific development.
What Francis Bacon, who Benedict XVI refers to, tells us is more than just a reformulated cognitive doctrine. His project subordinates direct faith in God to the faith in "scientific progress". Discoveries and inventions that are implemented in practice are treated as the real bases of hope in human power that God has restored to man by withdrawing from further interventions in the course of the history of life on Earth. Bacon's stance was consolidated by a strong conviction that thanks to scientific and technical discoveries, it will be possible to build a "Kingdom of God" on Earth or that it will be a new "Kingdom of Man".
In The New Atlantis, Bacon presented plans of inventions that were to modernize the world, including the plane and submarine. These fascinating ideas, carried out today, helped marginalize the theological vision. Benedict XVI underlines the fact that: As the ideology of progress developed further, joy at visible advances in human potential remained a continuing confirmation of faith in progress as such (Encyclical, n° 17). And that no theology of salvation is needed for it. What is needed is rather a theology of earthly realities. Its development was forced by science's appearance as a "new faith".
The progress of knowledge based on cognitive criteria came in aid to social changes and contributed immensely to the fall of the feudal model of social organization, which the Church had been involved in for many centuries. The principle of faith, based on learning the Evangelical message, rituals and mysteries, was confronted with faith based on the principles of the mind and criteria of mathematical logics. The Church though, was not completely unprepared for the change of the cognitive paradigm. The confrontation of the Church's doctrine of faith with the scientific development of knowledge was made possible by St Thomas Aquinas. His teachings, which came much earlier, allowed a neutralization of the ambivalent attitude to faith, and a better understanding of scientific discoveries as well as the new social doctrine, among whose top postulates were reason and freedom.
Due to scientific discoveries, the principles of reason and freedom were defined in opposition to the principles of faith. No longer were they treated as complementary, as they used to be treated in the late Middle Ages; they came to be viewed as separate and antinomical (opposing each other). In that case, progress was identified with realizing freedom which was based on flawless reasoning, allowing a complete realization of humanity. Faith became ostensibly unnecessary and was treated as an impediment to realizing one's own vocation. This stand was reinforced by Renaissance humanism, which restored ancient doctrines and rationalism that identified existence with thinking (cf. Rene Descartes and his cogito ergo sum, which outdistanced or replaced the Christian dubito ergo sum).
Reason and freedom as values, though are originally insufficiently defined, become political slogans and influence social development so strongly, that they replace the doctrine of salvation through faith in God. They shake the foundations of the order based on theological thinking. Scientific thinking was opposed to faith (theological thinking) not only in the dimension of cognition alone, but actions too. As Benedict XVI describes it: Both concepts (...) contain a revolutionary potential of enormous explosive force (Encyclical, n° 18).
The French Revolution overthrew the absolute monarchy and was an attempt at establishing the rule of "freedom and reason" on a national scale. Europe of the Enlightenment embraced these changes enthusiastically and with hope. It tried to benefit from them politically. At the same time, under the influence of these dramatic events that laid the foundations of the modern republic and destroyed the foundations of the monarchy, a new philosophical thought emerged in the structure of the country and society. A question aroused: what now? How can we maintain the doctrine of faith with its anthropological project of salvation in the context of real political practices?
The philosophical and practical separation of scientific and theological projects of life sowed doubt on theistic religious messages and the theological justification of human life. A thought emerged that God may not exist. But even though God's existence is not certain, it was accepted that it is still worth to believe in Him, since even if He does not exist, faith alone does not cost you anything, while if He does exist — you can benefit from the faith. (cf. Pascal 1977). The so called "Pascal's Wager" was an attempt to combine the laws of scientific and theological thinking. It expressed one's personal faith in the situation that its social and philosophical bases were undermined.
Pascal's project still applies to people who consider, in view of scientific knowledge and current cognitive procedures, the system of faith based on the historical Revelation as senseless. Questioning the Christian vision of history and human life came to an end when the German philosopher, Immanuel Kant unexpectedly in 1792 (cf. Werke IV, ed. W. Weischedel (1956), p.777; qtd. in: Encyclical, n° 19) presented the problem of the victory of the good over evil in establishing the God's Kingdom on earth. He predicted that destroying the ethical bases of the world's order may turn out tragic for it. This had been prevented by the Christian faith through the agency of the Church.
Kant was not in favour of what he referred to as a "Church faith". The greatest modern idealist strongly supported "pure faith". He addressed the issue of how to move from "Church faith" to "pure" religious faith and thus come closer to God's Kingdom. He had no doubts as for the fact that the "Church faith" era was coming to an end and that an era of "pure faith" based on the mind was emerging. He supplemented his extremely rational view of faith, as would any obsessive rationalist, with an emotional — typically apocalyptic - theme. He embraced the view that a revolution was needed that would accelerate the transition from "Church" to "pure" faith.
Benedict XVI sees in Kant's line of thought a philosophical source of a new attitude towards Christianity and religious faith in general. Something, be it an apocalypse or a revolution, should instantaneously change the situation of the Church. Otherwise, it will become extinct, so to speak, as a result of a systematic loss of faith in God's love. Kant wrote: "If Christianity should one day cease to be worthy of love ... then the prevailing mode in human thought would be rejection and opposition to it; and the Antichrist ... would begin his—albeit short—regime (presumably based on fear and self-interest)" (I. Kant, Das Ende aller Dinge, in Werke VI, ed. W. Weischedel (1964), p.190.; qtd. in: Encyclical, n° 19). This diagnosis seems apt and its recollection is fully justified.
Immanuel Kant believes in the „Kingdom of God” and that Christianity is destined to be the "world religion". Yet, if a revolution is to break out, Christianity "would not be able to rely on destiny" and that would mean a universal collapse - in a moral respect, this could lead to the (perverted) end of all things (cf. Das Ende aller Dingen, in: Werke VI, 1964, p. 190; qtd. in: Encyclical, n° 19). Many a times has the disintegration of the principles and the ethical system of the Christian faith showed its perverted nature in Europe. Kant's noble and idealistic postulate of "pure faith" was exchanged by the "perverted faith", which has and still will attempt to eliminate the saving message of Christianity through totalitarian systems, such as Nazism, communism, fascism.
Christianity as a system was faced with new doctrinal and moral challenges in the 19th century. The advance of technical development gave rise to a "new social situation": a class of industrial workers and the so-called „industrial proletariat” emerged, whose dramatic living conditions were shockingly described by Friedrich Engels in 1845. The conclusion was clear: this cannot continue, changes are necessary. Yet the change would shake up and overturn the entire structure of bourgeois society (Encyclical, n° 20). The political economy of socialism, which was an alternative theory of social salvation, did not however, translate into the Churches economy of salvation, and the so-called French bourgeois revolution of 1789 broke out.
The organizational rigidity of the faith's structure was made use of by Engel's ideological comrade, Karl Marx, who designed the "proletariat revolution" as a transmission of the working class from the "kingdom of necessity" to the "kingdom of freedom". The Church's Doctrine was placed in the "kingdom of necessity", i.e. together with the structures of "enslavement", both social and religious. The socialistic doctrine was on the side of the "kingdom of freedom", i.e. of the mind.
The Church has been in this conflictive situation up to this day, trying to reach —
by new means of communication — broader circles and communities that seek both the truths of science and the truths of faith. It attempts to show them the social benefits that result from dialogue and autonomy of the mind and faith.
Marx's social doctrine owed its success to the evangelical idea of Godly brotherhood and sonship. Though it renounced it, the doctrine made use of the analysis of the master-slave relationship by G. W. F. Hegel, who revealed the evil roots in the conflict between people of power and workers. What Hegel, the great German idealist, included in the domain of spirit, his disciple, Marx, included in the material domain. It seemed to him that it was enough to merge the two doctrines to move on to the practical application of them. He believed that the "kingdom of freedom" on earth would replace other kingdoms, God's Kingdom included. The criticism of the Christian theology of salvation and the belief that man is God's partner was based on the idea of exclusiveness. Marx's project stated that all people should have access to the goods of this world and that the access should be made without delay.
In the 19th century, the previous knowledge of man, society and its structure was subjected to harsh criticism. It was made in the name of progress and the aspiration towards the better, towards the undoubtedly good world (Encyclical, n° 20). At the basis of this change lay science, which entered into politics and the social theory capable of depicting a world free of any blockades. As Benedict XVI admits: With great precision, albeit with a certain onesided bias, Marx described the situation of his time, and with great analytical skill he spelled out the paths leading to revolution—and not only theoretically: by means of the Communist Party that came into being from the Communist Manifesto of 1848, he set it in motion (Encyclical, n° 20).
The European "obsession with change" turned into social movements that brought about the liberation of great masses of people. This kind of change has in the past and continues to fascinate communities, whose pace of changes is slowed down by political structures and the economy (e.g. in Africa, Asia and the Latin America). Another model for them is the Russian revolution of 1917 and its numerous versions in both adjacent and remote countries, which took place in the 20th century and continue to take place in a degraded form, propagating their hope.
The existence of structures enslaving the potential for hope in great masses of people, who are suppressed on grounds of political systems, remains a challenge for the 2000-year-old Christian project to face. The modern Church supports many nations that want to escape the system of enslavement by identifying with their fate and making due sacrifices. This is a lesson Christians learn directly from their Mentor, but also one that they learned while suffering their own defeats, while they identified themselves with the systems of political power. The history of Christianity is a continuous lesson of the positive and negative autonomy of politics in relation to faith.
Karl Marx by applying the Judaic and Protestant apocalyptic-revolutionary rhetoric, included it in the description of the current political situation, petrified by the economical wrongdoings of the elites. This thinker, filled with a passion of salvation, has shown how the unfair economical system and the system of power related to it, can be overthrown. He postulated depriving the "ruling class" of goods it appropriated unfairly and "making social goods generally available". The project of salvation intended for the "working class" postulated the abolition of private ownership. As well as faith that doing so would eradicate all social conflicts.
Marx's global approach soon changed ("became distorted" or "degraded") in the social practices of his followers. They understood the principles of socialism in a totalitarian fashion. The new Jerusalem that was propagated with a prophet's enthusiasm by Marx and his believers caused many current European social projects to fall apart. Others had to (or yet have to) be reformed to prevent cyclic revolts of people dissatisfied with their position. The Church became a victim, for as a backward force, as it was defined, it deserved to be sacrificed. The social change was supposed to lead to the destruction of not only the hitherto material base (economical organization) but the religious superstructure as well.
It soon turned out, however, that the people who were supposed to benefit from the revolutionary projects suffered most at its hands. Many people and nations were subject to a reign of the "terror of salvation" by those who perceived themselves as true Messiahs, the communist party leaders. Many followers of this "secular religion" accepted the theory of the interim phase of the dictatorship of the proletariat as a necessity which in time would automatically become redundant (Encyclical, n° 21). Soon, those revolutionaries fell victim to their own doctrine, thanks to which it is easy to become an "unconscious counterrevolutionary". Each revolution devours its own children, since destruction begets destruction.
The revolutionary doctrine of "salvation" from social injustice, inculcated with force, moved us closer to "the perverse end of time" Kant warned us against. However, it was not noticed by neither Lenin and his communist party, nor Stalin and his comrades, who considered themselves a new incarnation of the revolutionary Spirit of Time. To belittle their absolutistic endeavours, they put forward the doctrine of the so-called "interim phase", which was to provide them with a legal and social justification of the travesty of justice. This „intermediate phase” we know all too well, and we also know how it then developed, not ushering in a perfect world, but leaving behind a trail of appalling destruction (Encyclical, n° 21).
It is difficult to pass from violence to freedom; violence begets violence, giving an impetus to a spiral of vengeance; a sea of tears is cried, victims are many and the wounds do not even heal in several generations. "In good faith", though idealistically (simply naively), Marx assumed that a revolution will suffice to establish a just order in the world and the rest will turn out favourably. This shows not only that his evocative project of a global salvation of people from inequality and injustice was based on an imperfect logic, but also that he lacked the knowledge about man and the limitations of human nature.
Benedict XVI claims that, in his noble project of salvation, Marx made several mistakes. One of them is an insufficient comprehension of human freedom, the basic category with which, as we know, he attracted both uneducated workers and educated intellectuals to himself. He forgot that man always remains man. He forgot man and he forgot man's freedom. He forgot that freedom always remains also freedom for evil (Encyclical, n° 21). This failure to acknowledge the ambivalent nature of man brought about the tragic mistake of Marx and, consequently, of those who decided to realize his project by force in the name of freedom.
Another erroneous premise of Marx resulted from his illusive assumption that once the economy had been put right, everything would automatically be put right (Encyclical, n° 21). Polish people are acquainted all too well with the economy of "socialism" that ruled for 44 years after World War II. By changing the relations of ownership, it resulted in an equality at a low level and an inequality at a high level. The socialist economy ceased to bring about positive changes in the standard of living. It came to be a theory of one-time change that was to be accepted through an Announcement that it was an introduction to reach the best possible living conditions.
The theory of religious and spiritual Revelation began to be renounced by the theory of political and materialistic Announcement. The oppressed were to believe that not only did socialism have a power of salvation, but it also possessed the liberating force of a social theory which decreed the rules of social life. They were supposed to believe these were the foundations of every kind of freedom. Those who refused to believe it were murdered or transported to the Gulag Archipelago and other places of re-education through individual and collective terror. The materialist faith demanded material and not only spiritual sacrifices.
Another mistake of Marx was his inability to foresee that the economic progress triggered by the revolution and decreed by the political theory, later to be realized by the state and party apparatus, concerned entirely different types of realities and would cause both positive and negative changes. Freedom is also ambivalent on the level of an individual subject. Neither new pedagogical and legal projects, nor penalizing misbehaviour and controlling thoughts managed to change this ambivalence. Quite the contrary, what was repaired on the one hand (socialistic economy) was ruined on the other hand (individual freedom).
The systematic persecution of the negative aspects of freedom does not lead to a change in man's situation. Freedom depends on consciousness and it has a tendency do split depending on man's level of personal and collective development. The economical improvement of freedom concerns the community and not the individual. Freedom cannot be limited to a collective subject alone, it cannot exclude an individual. Otherwise, it leads to a contradiction that turns into a systematic conflict of attitudes and interests.
The initial fast success of the "practical" application of the Marxist working class "project of salvation" (Lenin's and Stalin's versions too) from economical and social injustice, showed that "faith in progress", when based on the conception of collective freedom, can be destructive, or even fatal. If there are any positive effects of the change in the way people think about freedom that Marx and his followers brought about in the 20th century, it must be that this project has contributed to the thinking about the freeing of masses. At the same time, it blocked the thoughts of enslaving the individual.
However, as Benedict XVI states, [Marx's] real error is materialism: man, in fact, is not merely the product of economic conditions, and it is not possible to redeem him purely from the outside by creating a favourable economic environment (Encyclical, n° 21). Yet, the Marxist project of hope for social and economic salvation has not died out. It is still active and attracts the communities of the so called Third World, the culturally and economically underprivileged countries of Africa and Asia. In European countries it is in retreat.
The Church must constantly take up the dialogue with alternative projects of salvation, bearing in mind that it is in fact understanding freedom that is at stake. And that it is not possible to realize it when one value alone becomes the absolute value. The Christian project, whose real subject is the Trinity-God, sets conditions for freedom and salvation in every border situation. By stepping on the path of revolution, one breaks the bonds with the Christian paragon of praxis. If it is true that human communities are always imperfect and that their negative development is always possible, then it is also true that Christian faith is the message of power and the method of mediation between all contradictions of life.
The tragic and fateful realizations of Marx's social projects were once again analyzed in the 20th century. Philosophers and sociologists (e.g. those of the Freudian-Marxist orientation within the Frankfurt School) were engaged in a self-criticism of modern secular projects of salvation. The Pope refers to Theodor W. Adorno's views . They indicated Marxism's theoretical errors and pointed out the need to eliminate them by including the findings of Freud, the psychoanalysis founder, into the social doctrine. They stressed that the revolution can be replaced by a critical approach that does not need victims, nor a destruction of the system, and that it can have an evolutionary character.
Undoubtedly, the Marxists' self-criticism will not suffice and a self-criticism by the Church (theologians) is also needed. Flowing into this self-critique of the modern age there also has to be a self-critique of modern Christianity, which must constantly renew its self-understanding setting out from its roots (Encyclical, n° 22). Benedict XVI gives an example of a new way of thinking which dates back, rather than to the theological theories, to the evangelical sources and the meaning of the word "progress".
The 19th century revolutionary project of salvation based on the concepts of freedom and progress was already theoretically corrected in the same century, when a criticism of faith in revolutionary progress emerged. It was replaced by faith in evolutionary, slow but more sustainable progress. It was, however, a novelty that did not prevent the paths of changes through revolution. The lesson that Europe learned cannot be translated into a lesson for countries relying on oppression, economic exploitation and material poverty today.
Sociologists, philosophers and psychologists coming out of the Frankfurt School, who created their most important ideas in the 20th century, decided to transform the Marxist project. Thus, they referred to Freud's findings and added the idea of pleasure to the idea of technological progress. They came to the conclusion that a revolution of pleasure can replace one of bloodshed. Hence, the "sexual revolution" gained popularity in countries where freedom and progress had already been introduced (USA, Western Europe).
Representatives of the Frankfurt School (e.g. H. Marcuse, M. Horkheimer Th. W. Adorno, E. Fromm and others) began studying the nature of freedom in the contemporary world, questioning its unequivocally positive relation to the realization of the liberation projects. In the twentieth century, Theodor W. Adorno formulated the problem of faith in progress quite drastically: he said that progress, seen accurately, is progress from the sling to the atom bomb (Encyclical, n° 22). Marcuse viewed the problem alike and noticed that children are given more and more duties as they grow and that their responsibility becomes greater with time, as does their enslavement by structures and things. Erich Fromm wrote a full study on the escape from freedom.
The project of a new liberation has been accepted positively in communities, which are run by feudal, caste or clan rules. In these countries, which are economically disadvantaged, it assumes various forms of protest, revolutionary and reformative movements, which are always accompanied by violence and bloodshed. Freedom and ownership, liberation and property rights of great social masses is a burning issue in Third World countries. A project based on the Christian vision of salvation emerges there, but it reaches only a small group of people and countries afflicted by civilizational inequity and ideological enslavement.
The very idea of social and technological progress is ambivalent, with both positive and negative aspects. Without doubt, it offers new possibilities for good, but it also opens up appalling possibilities for evil—possibilities that formerly did not exist. We have all witnessed the way in which progress, in the wrong hands, can become and has indeed become a terrifying progress in evil (Encyclical, n° 22). No one can deny it. The relationship between technological progress and human life cannot be unequivocally said to be only positive. If technical progress is not matched by corresponding progress in man's ethical formation, in man's inner growth (cf. Eph 3:16; 2 Cor 4:16), then it is not progress at all, but a threat for man and for the world (Encyclical, n° 22).
Benedict XVI points to the fact that the technological mind is not an ethical one, just as technological freedom is not ethical freedom. There still remains a gap between these spheres of reality in the contemporary world. One can get the impression that in countries enjoying technological prosperity this gap gets wider and deeper. What is missing here is a theological reflection that could — by going back to the roots - appeal to the social imagination, not only in an "affective", but also "effective" way. The technological mind was separated from the ethical one, technology replaced theology, technopolis replaced theopolis that St Augustine dreamed of and designed .
Now, here is an example of intellectual reasoning typical of the way faith was understood in the 20th century. A great Polish axiologist, Henryk Elzenberg, wrote in 1913 (under the date of 11 XI): The Christian virtues of faith, hope and love summarize the very profound "affirmative" relationship with the world; this relationship being a virtue required from man by the world. It used to outrage me: the lack of faith (or, positively, cognitive diligence) formed the foundations of all things; I used to condemn hope consciously (its place was to be taken by resignation), and I valued the ideal of stoical ataraxia more than anything else. Today, however, I have come to sense what is right in that system. One could say that, lately, for me faith is replaced by the sense of value, hope — by seeking its fulfilment, and love — by love for valuable things that have already been completed. What is needed now, though, is to start to see the w o r l d in this light, and not only my little inner world (Elzenberg 2002: 89).
Freedom and reason are great gifts to man from God, and the victory of reason over unreason is also a goal of the Christian life (Encyclical, n° 23) . Thus, theology must once again reach out to the problems of human reason and faith. Benedict XVI asks questions about the God-Reason relationship. He asks: when does reason truly triumph and when was it detached from God? Is the "reason behind action" and "capacity for action" already "the whole of reason"? How can these different forms of reason be integrated with the "ethical reason" so that it becomes a true "human reason"? (cf. Encyclical, n° 23). All Christian theologians must ask themselves these questions once again.
Human reason is itself completely when it is followed by will, and thus by freedom too. It becomes human only if it is capable of directing the will along the right path, and it is capable of this only if it looks beyond itself (Encyclical, n° 23). The human mind has the power of stabilizing and balancing affective reactions that can easily be provoked or changed. Only reason and will allow the transcendence of the system of present stimuli and reactions which turn into attitudes full of superstitions and false beliefs. The reason's referring to what's beyond itself means an "opening for the saving powers of faith" that accepts the judgements of reason. Without reason, faith becomes a useless project driven by passions of power and despair. Such faith turns into an ideology of fight and conflict which has to be won, even by violence.
Faith without reason becomes blind, which is why the Pope questions: When it [reason] has become blind to God? (Encyclical, n° 23). Only under the rule of reason can faith come to be complete and confident, and recognize and distinguish between good and evil. Otherwise, man's situation, in view of the imbalance between his material capacity and the lack of judgement in his heart, becomes a threat for him and for creation (Encyclical, n° 23). Let us dot our i's — faith based on the spontaneous reactions of the heart is nice and exciting, but also "wobbly" and vulnerable. It is equally easy to start emotional faith as it is to give it up.
The judgements of reason and the faith based on them are reluctant to manipulation, because the reasoning of faith is connected the freedom of faith. Choosing reason-based faith is the basis of faith's and man's freedom. Thus where freedom is concerned, we must remember that human freedom always requires a convergence of various freedoms (Encyclical, n° 23). The harmonization of freedom has to be assessed with one's inner evaluation criteria. It cannot be anything physical, for freedom would then be limited to choosing things. Neither can it be just spiritual, for the freedom would then be limited to choosing between ideas and spiritual facts unrelated to things. The human criterion of faith has to integrate these two partial ones, it has to be inside and beyond them, thus above them as well. And only a certain kind of God's Integrity, that is the Trinity-God, can serve as a criterion for man's freedom and hope.
The Creator, who sets the goals of the world and man, sets him free from the material and spiritual bonds (materialistic and spiritualistic determinism). In Him freedom and hope have their cause and aim. That is the source of the hope for life, both in and outside the limitations of individual and collective life. There is no doubt, therefore, that a „Kingdom of God” accomplished without God—a kingdom therefore of man alone—inevitably ends up as the „perverse end” of all things as described by Kant: we have seen it, and we see it over and over again (Encyclical, n° 23). Man's faith is inscribed into God's life project (theological inversion) but it can be realized according to a perverted project (outside God).
The life in God's freedom differs from the life in man's freedom. These two types of freedom are realized differently. They can be realized either jointly or separately. Man's separation from God's freedom can change freedom into a perverted form of life. The holy inversion changes into the devil's perversion — the holy beginning turns into the sinful end. All this happens when man excludes the gift of social, psychological and political freedom from his life; but most of all, when man excludes the gift of God's freedom from the project of his life, because all kinds of freedom have their beginning and end in it. Beyond them is God's eternity; he is the model and archetype of faith, hope and love.
The restoration of broken motifs of freedom can only take place through the faith of reason. Man's faith and hope can be motivated in various ways and can take on different forms, both positive and negative. Such partial freedom and hope have to be integrated with its eternal model, which is an attribute of God. This freedom becomes man's task and is attributed to the acts of reason. That is why, we cannot think of a lasting faith when thinking about God is replaced with fantasies and magical conceptions of Him. Such faith is unconscious, thus erroneous and false.
There is no doubt that God truly enters into human affairs only when, rather than being present merely in our thinking, he himself comes towards us and speaks to us. Reason therefore needs faith if it is to be completely itself: reason and faith need one another in order to fulfil their true nature and their mission (Encyclical, n° 23). The divine element in man is reason, and through reason a real contact with God is possible. Benedict XVI attempts to present faith, hope and love in the light of truth, good and beauty, i.e. the classical values that were revealed to man by the Trinity-God. Only if man acknowledges the meaning of his freedom - in spe salvi, can he be saved in faith, hope and love.
Copyright © by ks. Jerzy Lewandowski
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