Monday, October 12, 2015

The Line of Connection

Earlier this year I was given a very special book: Oliver O'Donovan's The Problem of Self-Love in St. Augustine, first published in 1980. Little did I realize that it would have so much to do with some of my interests this year. In chapter six,  which concludes a study on Augustine and eudaemonism, O'Donovan lays out a beautiful summary of Augustine's take on creation, teleology and redemption.

Augustine's picture of the universe shows us one who is the source and goal of being, value, and activity, himself in the center of the universe and at rest; and it shows us the remainder of the universe in constant movement, which, while it may tend toward or away from the center is yet held in relation to it, so that all other beings lean, in a multiplicity of ways, toward the source and goal of being. But the force which draws these moving galaxies of souls is immanent to them, a kind of dynamic nostalgia rather than a transcendent summons from the center. Such a summons, of course, is presupposed; but it is reflected by this responsive movement which is other than itself, so that there is a real reciprocity between Creator and creature...
It is the meaning of salvation that is at stake: is it ‘fulfillment,’ ‘recapitulation’? . . . Between that which is and that which will be there must be a line of connection, the redemptive purpose of God. We cannot simply say that agape has no presuppositions, for God presupposes that which he himself has already given in agape. However dramatic a transformation redemption may involve, however opaque to man's mind the continuity may be, we know, and whenever we repeat the Trinitarian creed with Saint Augustine we confess that our being-as-we-are and our being-as-we-shall-be are held together as works of the One God who both our Creator and Redeemer.

Between that which is and that which will be there must be a line of connection...if salvation is truly salvation, if redemption is truly redemption, it necessitates continuity between that which is natural, and the perfect.

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Forgetting to be Secular

Over the past two years I've enjoyed dipping into Charles Taylor's epic A Secular Age and James K.A. Smith's reading guide, How (Not) to be Secular. More recently I have been reading Augustine and Oliver O'Donovan, and have rediscovered this quote by O'Donovan on the Christian (and eschatological) nature of the secular, which seems to be along the same lines as Taylor and Smith:

"The Christian conception of the 'secularity' of political society arose directly out of this Jewish wrestling with unfulfilled promise.  Refusing, on the one hand, to give up what it knew of God, itself, and the world, accepting, on the other, that what it knew was incomplete and demanded validation, Israel understood itself and its knowledge and love of God as a contradiction to be endured in hope. 'Secularity' is irreducibly an eschatological notion; it requires an eschatological faith to sustain it, a belief in a disclosure that is 'not yet' but is absolutely presupposed as the inner meaning of what we know already.  If we allow the 'not yet' to slide toward 'never,' we say something entirely different and wholly incompatible, for the virtue that undergirds all secular politics is an expectant patience. What follows from the rejection of belief is an intolerable tension between the need for meaning in society and the only partial capacity of society to satisfy the need.  An unbelieving society has forgotten how to be secular."
- Oliver O'Donovan, Common Objects of Love: Moral Reflection and the Shaping of Community, 42.