Saturday, October 25, 2008

Scripture as Tradition

In Messy Revelation I opened a discussion on the need for a renewed and deepened understanding of "revelation." Here I will provide documentation that illustrates that the perceived need for such a deepened understanding is recognized on many levels within the Church.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Rise of the World Religions

Christopher Dawson begins Chapter VI of Progress and Religion, "The Rise of the World Religions," by situating these "world religions" within the context of “a cultural change of the most profound significance” that swept the civilized world in the first millennium B.C. This cultural change primarily involved a change of thought rather than of material culture, and was felt across the middle part of the world, from Greece through the Middle East, Iran, India and all the way to China--a geographical spread that lead Eric Voegelin to term this period "the Ecumenic Age.". Dawson associates this far flung cultural change with an outpouring of religious literature--“the writings of the Hebrew prophets and the Greek philosophers, of Buddha and the authors of the Upanishads, of Confucius and Lao Tzu”--and he seeks to find a common denominator. Thus, he poses the question: “What link can there be between the Hellenic vision of an intelligible universe or the ethical humanism of Confucius and the bloody rites and barbarous myths of the old pagan culture?”

In formulating his answer, Dawson first focuses (p. 100) on the violent upheavals that transformed the political landscape--invasions of the older civilized regions by “more warlike but less civilized” peoples who “destroyed the old theocratic order,” and introduced a “dual character” to the new cultures that arose, producing “a spirit of criticism and reflection.” The resulting cultural unease, and a corresponding idealization of the “vanquished order as a golden age,” says Dawson, gave rise to “a sense of moral dualism, an opposition between that which is and that which ought to be,” between the divinely ordained order of the cosmological societies (characteristic of Eliade's “archaic man”) and the new reality of human existence governed by brute force and strife. Under the impact of these new conditions the sacred ritual order of archaic man became “moralized and spiritualized,” focusing on justice and truth more than on ritual and ceremony.