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The component parts of Christianity split apart

Saturday, 4 Jan 2014

Christianity on Staff and Scrip, Dr John Dunn First posted on Monday, 11 February 2013 at 20:50

From the early Christian antiquities in the Graeco-Roman Museum in Alexandria in Egypt

The destruction of original justice had resulted in a new order. In reality this was a disorder but, and this is the critical point, it was not self-apparent, precisely because there was no longer any access to the criteria of the original hierarchy, which alone could reveal it to be a disorder. This meant the disorder was lived as an order. Adam could not have known the truth of sin. Moreover, it is not by chance that the dogma of original sin was not elaborated in the Old Testament, but by St Paul. As if to emphasise this great unknowing, Christ repeatedly exposed the Pharisaical adherence to the Law of his detractors as sinful self-righteousness. The point made was that no-one could understand what happened on the last day of earthly Paradise until the day of Christ’s passion. In Jean Borella’s words, ‘we needed to wait for the Incarnation of that One who is Truth, infinite Wisdom, Sun of Justice, Hypostatic Hierarchy, the Divine Word, for the injustice of sin to be fully and totally revealed’.*

The Pharisaic followers of the Law handed Christ over to that epitome of worldly pragmatism, Pontius Pilate. Thus in the Passion, Christ confronted all that was contemptible in the state of fallen man: self-righteousness and pragmatism. To Pilate’s question ‘so you are a king?’ Jesus answered ‘you say I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth...’ The pragmatic Pilate responds with the question ‘What is truth?”

Subjectivism and moral relativism are betrayed in the very question. They were prominent too in the self-righteousness of the Jews who, together with Pilate, spurned the truth in condemning Christ. The truth in all its grandeur and purity was not apparent before the raising of Christ on the cross. From that point, the world could only be true to the extent that it reflected God, the creative logic and the eternal reason that brought it into being. For with Christ’s passion a new hierarchy came into being that united man to other men in their union with God, through Christ. If the truth is objective, then ‘bearing witness to the truth’ means giving priority to God and his will - the truth of the cosmic hierarchy -over against the interests of this world and its powers. The antithesis stated in these terms could not be more stark - choose God or the devil.

We have seen that medieval society sought to reflect the truth in an order of faith that stretched from the parish church and man or, to kingship, the Holy Roman Empire and Christendom. Securing the resultant social organism meant the maintenance of a constant vigilance against forces wholly inimicable to Christic justice, namely the Muslim threat externally and the practice of usury internally - that latter, as we have seen, drew the strictures of the major church councils in the twelfth, thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, as well asthe expulsions of the Jews from England (1290), France (1306) and Spain(1492).

No wonder the increased acceptance of usury and a reversion to the Law in theology was met with so much hostility by Luther. To him, and to others who saw this coming years before, Calvinistic covenantal theology was indeed a replaying of the Fall. At this point a cyclical historicism emerged, just as a Judaic linear understanding of history became dominant. The former existed amongst the scattered ruins of the past, whilst the latter pressed ahead in a manner that would later become triumphalist progressivism and liberalism. A traditionalist Christianity of gnosis,with an emphasis on the cross, was eclipsed by a Christianity of progress, with its emphasis on the Law. The component parts of Christianity split apart, the vertically orientated, which was Hellenistic and pagan in origin, from the horizontally orientated, which was Judaic in origin and earth-bound.

*Jean Borella, The Secret of the Christian Way, State University of New York Press, 2001, p.101.

John Dunn.

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