Cultivating Time for Eternity, Parts II and III

Ecology, Exceptionalism, and Apocalypse

It is contradictory to insist that future generations respect the natural environment when our educational systems and laws do not help them to respect themselves. The book of nature is one and indivisible: it takes in not only the environment but also life, sexuality, marriage, the family, social relations: in a word, integral human development. Our duties towards the environment are linked to our duties towards the human person, considered in himself and in relation to others. It would be wrong to uphold one set of duties while trampling on the other. Herein lies a grave contradiction in our mentality and practice today: one which demeans the person, disrupts the environment, and damages society.

Benedict XVI, Caritas in Veritate #51

Part II: From Jewish and American Exceptionalism to Trading Wisdom for Technology

(continuing from Part I . . . )

As America’s Declaration of Independence rightly observed, “All men are created equal.” However, this truth has readily and frequently been obscured by human sinfulness and failures to let the Gospel of Jesus Christ penetrate political structures. The Anglo-Saxon Protestant Founding Fathers struggled between their nominal Christianity and the new masonic Deism born with the Scientific Revolution. Scientific revolutionary thought dominated their 18th-century Anglican inheritance and political-economic ideals. They were men of real virtue, but not always Christian virtue.

Too often the Gospel was subjected to an “enlightened” bourgeois desire for Roman and Greek classical renewal in politics rather than in the stunning reality that God had become man in order to renew our humanity from the inside. “Though he was rich, yet for your sake Christ became poor” (2 Corinthians 8:9). Nominal “Christian” Deists, such as the Founders, preferred something more “enlightened” in political discussion. The true Light of the World was being replaced by steam engines and fascination with electricity. Like many today, they admired the trappings of Christian virtue but preferred the promises of the Scientific Revolution and the statecraft of liberalism. They were certainly men of honor, but never honored as devout Christians.

Simply put, the Founding Founders were happily part of a Christian culture, but most were never intellectually dedicated to Christ as true God and true man. The Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776 was a masterpiece of political thought which Christian culture had made possible and which required Christian culture to ultimately succeed. It laid the foundation for something the victors of the Civil War would ultimately accomplish in law: American exceptionalism.

Exceptionalism

To speak about “exceptionalism” must never be confused with racial superiority. Exceptionalism is about the realization of good and godlike ideas within nations. From the beginning, God did not select the race of ancient Israel because it was superior by blood or generation. Israel was never exceptional until it implemented God’s Torah in the midst of its people. God is clear about his reasons for election: God chooses the weak to shame the proud and arrogant. God casts down the mighty and exalts the lowly. What made Israel great was God’s election and sharing of his law with Israel. God’s Ten Commandments for the reform of a sinful nation made Israel great. God holding Israel accountable for those laws made Israel great. God’s promises to Israel made Israel great. Once Israel began to think their race merited them importance (instead of being the bearer of God’s Law and God’s promises to the world), once they wanted the distinction of Levitical superiority, then God humbled Israel for exalting itself.

God punished America, too, with the Civil War, for exalting race over the Gospel of Jesus Christ and justifying chattel slavery. When Christianity brought the original teaching on the image of God to mature and complete development, Saint Paul was clear:  “There is no longer Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, [black nor white,] male nor female; for all are one in Christ” (Galatians 3:28). Abraham Lincoln was clear in his Second Inaugural address that the War was punishment for racial injustices: “If we shall suppose that American Slavery is one of those offences which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South, this terrible war, as the woe due to those by whom the offence came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a Living God always ascribe to Him?”

In his Gettysburg Address, President Lincoln called us back to exceptionalism with reference to our mission and purpose. He opened by saying: “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” Lincoln closed upon our original American mission which this essay wishes to re-emphasize:

It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

America began in 1776, and was reborn to exceptionalism with Abraham Lincoln and the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution. True Christians continue to implement what the Founding Fathers on the 4th of July dreamed would be accomplished: one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all. Christians were dedicated to this proposition not because of “Enlightenment” thought but because we are a religion that stands for true freedom: “For freedom, Christ has set us free” (Galatians 5:1).

Equality, the Universal Destination of Goods, and Human Ecology

Every human has equal dignity before God, no matter their race or sex, because of the image of God in every human. “Created equal” also implies fair access to the goods of the earth and the right to “pursue happiness” in accord with “truths” that should be “self-evident.” Fair access includes respect for the environment in which man lives (ecology) and respect for natural human desires and intelligence which lead every human to pursue truth and happiness (human ecology). However, the principles of America’s founding can be harder to implement and keep when so many injustices compile to blind humans to nature’s urging-onward to the good and true. The Judeo-Christian doctrine of creation, that God created all-things without pre-existing matter or forms, presupposes the universal destination of goods and care for one another. This is the prosperity Abraham Lincoln implicitly hoped for by appeals to being under God and a new birth of freedom.

Fair access to the goods of the earth (and protections of the goods of the earth) require constant renewal of human political communities. Good civil laws are not always established immediately and for all time because human cultures are always in need of conversion and renewal. Deism compromised Christianity. Human focus on physical commodities to the complete public disregard of the more valuable spiritual goods leads us into murder, abortion, rape, adultery, racism, and all forms of evil and dishonesty. Sin blinds us to the universal destination of goods and care for one another. The goods of the earth were meant for all humans to share-in and have equal opportunity for access and use. The universal destination of goods is to occur without exploitation of the environment, with stewardship for creatures, and respect for other humans (including fair property rights and compensation), and with concern for the future of humanity.

This principle of the universal destination of goods is a corollary to the truth that the image of God is in every human. America’s blessings came insofar as its political communities established these principles under God. America’s political failures and devastations came and will continue to come insofar as it gets these foundational principles wrong; insofar as it trades Jesus for mere political technique. Human unwillingness to surrender to Divine Wisdom and love brought injustices, not God. Human selfishness and unwillingness to integrate all desires and passions into intelligence continued abuses that God did not want. Disordered human loves and misuse of freedom are to blame, not God who works with our freedom and through our generations to save us and bring us into divine goods. True freedom never comes without passing by way of the Cross.

Gift and Freedom: “God made us without our consent, but will not save us without our consent”

Jesus’ death and resurrection does not mean all humans instantly were freed from their personal sins and adherence to structures of sin. God does not override our freedom and force salvation upon those who do not desire it. Humans have to freely embrace what Jesus’ life and death means for them by ongoing repentance from disordered passions to the ongoing embrace of Eternal Wisdom. While the truth of the image of God in every human was revealed to man in his beginnings, its true wisdom had been buried under an accumulation of sin and injustices to which humanity always clung in its self-centeredness and ignorance. Even after Christ, such clinging to sin continues where the truth is not proclaimed, justice is not hungered for, and peoples do not continually seek renewal in Christ, Divine Wisdom.

Having brought about intelligence and freedom in the human person, having made men free, God does not override the choices of humans and the communities that arise from human free choices. With freedom comes responsibility for our actions and human responsibility for the social structures humans create. The Eternal is too good and meek to override our freedoms, but the Eternal will still accomplish his purposes in the temporal and his purposes in giving intelligence and free choice to humans. The Eternal will accomplish this through humans who freely cooperate in seeking to institute truth and wisdom in the temporal. By God’s grace, such humans become like the eternal in their freely chosen cooperation and development of good will. Such humans hunger and thirst for justice among men and create exceptional nations and communities where many races become one. E pluribus unum.

Freedom and human free choice were meant to develop our possibilities into authentic goods for ourselves and for all humanity. With an interplay between the divine freedom of the Eternal One and billions of immature human freedoms, Utopia will never be established in the temporal world, only in the eschaton (the consummation of all things). Nevertheless, every human is called to build, be fruitful, and multiply what is good. Endless generations of humans are born and require rearing in truth and love. If we are not dedicated to educating each generation into the eternal and transcendent, we will always favor our sensual nature to the disregard of our intelligent nature, and this will establish structures of sin. Humanity will always need heavenly redemption from the disordered loves we humans establish in ourselves and upon the earth. God the Eternal must not be excommunicated from the public square, or the public square will become a place of enslavement of human dignity.

In the choices for goodness (and abiding daily in choices for the Eternal One), we were meant to turn the wilderness on earth into gardens for each other. Ecology flows from love for God and loving our neighbors as ourselves. Through the same love for wisdom and goodness and one another, we are called to build better futures for our children and our neighbors. Love for the Eternal, upon Whom we depend for existence, and love of our own good teaches us love of neighbor and brings us out of selfishness. Love cannot be separated from truth and loving in accord with truth. Seeking truth is natural to humans and what nature wants realized in us. The truth is what sets humans free. Human ecology and coming out of selfishness (dishonesty) is what makes good terrestrial ecology possible. It makes the temporal flourish under wisdom. God’s commandments are not burdensome, but rather are life-giving because Eternal Wisdom is life-giving: “Love God and love your neighbor as you love yourself” . . . this is living in Wisdom. As the quote from Benedict XVI began this essay: “Our duties towards the environment are linked to our duties towards the human person.”

Election: From Sinfulness to Exceptionalism and Wisdom

Israel’s history at Moses’ time began within racist and misogynist cultures, from the time of their enslavement in Egypt. Their worship of the golden calf revealed that the culture of ancient Egypt and sensuality dominated Israel’s hearts more than the one true God and love of eternal truths. They were without true knowledge of God and ignorant of their destiny and greatness. Eternal Wisdom visited them and began their journey into human development and freedom for the sake of the rest of racist, misogynist, and barbaric humanity. “Your father was an Amorite and your mother was a Hittite . . . I pledged myself to you and made a covenant with you” (cf. Ezekiel 16:3, 8). God destined that through their sufferings and faithfulness we would all be set free by the Messiah. Salvation came from the Jews.

The development of humanity and the development of justice (which God desired in humanity) required stages for humanity to inculturate due to internal cultural weaknesses (sinful societal structures) and external cultural pressures (constant threats of genocide). God works with human nature, individually and even its sinful cultural manifestations, only to purify it of such sins through wisdom. Sinful and sensual men, unwilling to be led by their spiritual nature and truth, too often glorify the very things God wishes to purify of sinfulness. God had a chosen a race and first-born, but this never meant race mattered to God. God’s faithfulness, not Israel’s human prowess, made Israel great.

Because of human weaknesses and proneness to selfishness, helping Israel move forward into the truth required God developing and purifying Israel through commanded practices (religious devotion and cult). Looking at those commanded practices without looking at their spiritual purposes and how God was developing them is a little bit like The Karate Kid. The protagonist had to do multiple chores in a specialized way which seemed unrelated to his development until his teacher showed him the end purpose. Israel had to do a lot of practices in view of the coming of a better covenant from the Messiah (cf. Jer 31:31). Only the Messiah revealed the true meaning behind all the developmental practices and pedagogy (cf. Galatians 3:28). Without the Messiah, everything seems like a senseless exercise of a slave instead of the development of a child for greatness.

Eternal Wisdom could not always shine through the political structures with which the newly advancing Israelite culture was habitually clothed. The freedom of the people, and God’s desire to uphold the freedoms he created, limited God who requires man to freely act and develop the world in wisdom. Before its redemption from Egypt, ancient Israelite culture was habituated in sinful and immature practices because it had grown up in degraded cultures of polytheism. It was surrounded by demonic practices and the accompanying human sacrifices and abortions (Wisdom 12:4-5). Internal lack of virtue from previous practices (polytheism) and external hostilities (tribal genocides and racism) confined Eternal Wisdom to work with existing systems of justice that surrounded his covenant people. God chose to work with and through the human freedom he created until His assigned practices and laws could naturally penetrate their minds and develop the culture in Wisdom, even making them a good leaven and preparation to surrounding nations.

From Judaism to Christian Exceptionalism

Preparing Israel and the surrounding nations for the Messiah, race and dynasty itself was an instrument for pointing all nations to the Messiah’s coming. However, God ultimately wanted to bring all racial prejudices to an end and reunite the whole human family through the death and resurrection of the Messiah. Jesus became for us the new head of humanity, the ultimate new Adam (cf. 1 Cor 15:45). In Jesus, the new race of Christians was founded by a spiritual birth. Through Jesus, all humans could be born again from above by the Spirit because human birth and race no longer mattered in God’s plan to establish justice, only birth from above: “But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God; who were born not of blood . . . but of God” (John 1:12-13). No matter your human origins, you can become a son of God through faith in Jesus, the telos of the Torah.

God only ever intended the human race to be united by participation in his eternal law of upholding goodness, truth, and love. Families and nations are not perfect until they learn to overcome the sins of their fathers and live according to God’s law of dedication to intelligent truth, embodied in the self-sacrificing love of Jesus Christ. Everything temporal is always in need of renewal by the good of intelligent love. The Messiah came from God and his humanity was generated by the Holy Spirit. Israel only ever mattered because of God’s plan for human spiritual development, not because of blood or generational superiority. Blood ties only served to keep the people united to the Divine Covenant given their fathers. No race can claim the initiative or the glory. Only God can be given the glory. All else is lies, false propaganda, and human sin.

Racial modes were intrinsic to Israel’s survival and God’s cooperation with human freedom, but not intrinsic to the Eternal Wisdom that was leading such a culture out of its historical confines. Eternal Wisdom used and developed Israel to restore truth and justice to the world in giving the Messiah. Eternal Wisdom made Israel exceptional. The Messiah brought an end to immature practices and views which were merely protections for Israel’s survival and faithfulness until the Messiah could reveal the full plan. With the death of Christ, all racism was also put to death and lost any power by the blood of Jesus. By his resurrection from the dead, Christ reigns by the Holy Spirit until he brings the full number of the spiritually reconstituted Israel into his mystical body, the true Temple of God.

Christendom’s and America’s Debt to Abraham and Judaism

Western civilization was transformed, and America was made possible, because of that one exceptional revelation of which the sons of Abraham — through the sons of Jacob — were the primary carriers. At great cost to themselves — through the times of the Egyptians, Amorites, Philistines, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, and succeeding Roman empires — ancient Israel carried forward in goodness and fidelity the greatest of all divine and political truths, for which America will always be indebted: “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). Our dignity is given to us by God and not the state, so no state can ever overrule God.

This revelation in Genesis promulgated the basis for inherent human dignity, justice, law, economics, and ecology. In Jesus Christ, the greatest gift of God to the world, Genesis 1:27 received its final and authoritative explanation (cf. Matthew 19:4-9; Gal 3:28): men and women are equal in dignity by the divine image within them; there is no longer Jew or Greek, slave or free. In Christ, the fullness of Divine Wisdom is revealed. God had become man and offered a new birth into the new humanity of Christ. The dividing walls of race, gender, and social caste were never meant to keep us divided. Our inherent dignity is that we all are called to become partakers in the Eternal and Divine Nature (cf. 2 Peter 1:3-4) through the image inherent to every human. We cannot partake in the Eternal without loving one another and caring for one another: Jew, Greek, slave, free, male, female. This truth and wisdom from the Eternal One, after a long history of human barbarism and hopelessness, after the full meaning of the image of God was getting confused under Israel’s struggle for survival, remained available to the world because of the fidelity and faithfulness of the Jews to bring forth the Messiah. It is the Christian debt to Judaism.

The preservation of the truth about the image of God in every human became the driver of recorded world history in the slow transformation of world empires and cultures from Pharaohs and dictatorships to new republics, from pre-Christian cultures to cultures imbued with Christianity. Through Jesus Christ, to the times of the Holy Roman Emperors and nation-states, the truth about the image of God eventually culminated in the republic of the United States of America and Amendments to the Constitution. Certainly, there have been more overtly Christian nations and Christendoms, even nineteenth-century Russia, but none like the United States still fighting worldwide for human rights everywhere based on the Declaration of Independence and the belief all humans are created equal.

Like Israel, America was truly an anomaly and favored beginning (“annuit coeptis”). It was impossible without all the sacrifices of the Jewish people and the Christian cultures that came before it. Christians reined in fanaticism by synthesizing the best advances of political-philosophy with a people dedicated to the highest law of charity. The highest law of charity was inculturated in the structures of a new attempt at government in the New World and ultimately after the Civil War. Still imperfect, the new synthesis delivered a Pax Americana. “E pluribus unum” . . . a land of immigrants developed to eventually free the world from genocidal Nazis and godless Marxist Soviets. However, more recently, our unity and institutions are being inculturated by a false sense of progress based in technology instead of wisdom and moral natural law.

Wisdom is eternal, but knowledge (scientia) is temporal. We overcame slavery only to be enslaved by technology. With Abraham Lincoln, we must again be “dedicated to the great task remaining before us.” Purified by trial and travail, America (and Russia) must recover its Christian mission to the world.

Can America Open to Wisdom and Defeat the New Atheism?

The “Novus Ordo Seclorum” (see the back of your dollar bill) worked until a new ethos of materialism and atheism gradually entered the American people and Christian virtue diminished with the rising “Enlightened” atheism. What took thousands of years of Jewish and Christian history to build was already under attack before it left continental Europe. Beginning in the midst of the glitz and glamour of the scientific revolution, America may have been bound to end by the hand of the false cultural progress that science promised. Just as the revolution began, Shakespeare reminded us to choose wisdom over glamour, the truth of the intangibles as greater than the tangibles: “All that glitters is not gold; often have you heard that told . . . Gilded tombs do worms enfold . . . Fare you well, your suit is cold.” 1 Wisdom is something more than just a system of checks and balances and free market economies. “In God We Trust” was supposed to be about wisdom and not the money it was printed on.

Wisdom is about things spiritual and eternal, while knowledge (Latin: scientia) is about things material and temporal. The Founding Fathers may have given us a system of checks and balances, but the Christian people are what made America great, despite the Founders’ preference for Deism. From De Tocqueville to today’s Chinese economists, everyone is agreed that Christian virtue and houses of worship on every corner are what made America culturally triumph over injustice: From colonial times to the Civil War, Christianity made America great and willing to fight for human rights. From the Industrial Revolution to labor unions, Christianity and Leo XIII saved America from Marxist revolution. From World War I through World War II, Christian virtue made American families and society strong, but science and technology had already started to corrupt us. Margaret Sanger’s racism and eugenics, which fostered Nazi beliefs and became Planned Parenthood, was already becoming imbedded in American culture.

From the invasion of Marxist ideas into Hollywood and American universities, and the adoption of abortion and eugenics, atheism made America arrogant, ungrateful, and divided. The modern sciences fostered the same materialistic atheism and arrogance as the Marxists. The tangibles and the sensual became more valued than the intangibles and truths that set us free. Before Christianity could reintegrate the new knowledge from the scientific revolution with the revelation of Jesus Christ, philosophes and finally Marxists managed to lie to the world and slander Christianity as the enemy of progress. And this, although it was Christians who led the scientific revolutions and Galileo died a devout Catholic!

Wisdom is about channeling eternal goodness into time and bringing time into eternity. Knowledge is about time management and control of things in time. Wisdom is about spiritual shares in the eternal, while knowledge is about material distribution. Wisdom and knowledge need not be opposed, but wisdom is greater than knowledge and puts knowledge and technology to wise use within the eternal plan for true freedom (cf. Gal 5:1). Without wisdom, there can be no authentic unity and love among humans. American media and cultural leaders are trading wisdom for knowledge, Christianity for the space age and science fiction. Lies dominate social communications. Living on other large rocks in space is becoming more glamorous than living on this rock, the third planet from a star. On any planet, in any solar system, man is still stuck with himself in the order of time. Only Eternal Wisdom can save him from self-destruction, lies, and eternal loss.

Christians Must Reclaim the Sciences They Initiated, Love Dogma, Understand Doctrine

The Trinity, Love, Christ’s eternal divinity and full humanity, the Sacraments, the Commandments — these are inseparable from Wisdom and dogma. The truth that the Eternal became human (Jesus Christ) so humans could share in the Eternal is dogma, unchanging truth. The systems that surround and support these dogmas are full of doctrines which are mixed with human scientia, and those doctrines have always been understood to be open to development. The dogmas will not change, but the doctrines surrounding them do develop as knowledge progresses and the Church discerns authentic development from false development. The human scientia of the long past must not be clung to and mistaken for authentic Christian doctrine. Not every doctrine is dogma (fully matured doctrine).

Many Christian communities are mistaking for dogma that which was only tentative and actually hypothetical, while others are throwing away dogma for the false glamour of scientia. Faith and reason are compatible and faith is always seeking understanding and developing as it engages contemporary questioning. The dogmas are clothed in faith seeking reason, but sometimes the clothing needs tailoring as human scientia has grown and the pant legs and sleeves need lengthening. Christian communities have been failing to continue to integrate and recapitulate new knowledge of nature into better understandings of cosmology (conditioned realities) and eschatology (man’s ultimate ending in the eternal by grace). Secondarily, such cosmologies should be engendering better economies for better ecologies in the temporal.

Knowledge is increasing too rapidly and it is hard to recapitulate all of it within what the Messiah revealed (cf. Daniel 12:4 “et multiplex erit scientia”). Having always been joined to former knowledges, Revelation came within a lot of historical clothing. A truth of knowledge (scientific theory, hypothesis, point of natural philosophy) and a truth of God’s revelation (dogma) cannot join in a syllogism for new dogmas, just more clothing for dogmas. The dogma that God created all things ex nihilo, joined with the ancient peripatetic philosophies, cannot justify holding today to what is known as creationism. Science is updating our knowledge of chronological processes and separating dogma from immature doctrine and philosophy. Some old doctrines form only systems that attempted to try and explore a dogma’s relevance or support a dogma based on the scientia of the time. 2

Mistakenly, many Christian communities and well-intentioned people have repeatedly clung to former and incomplete syntheses of faith and reason as though they are defending Christianity. Saint Augustine, the greatest Father and Doctor of the West, needs to be heeded: “It is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on the topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it [doctrine] to scorn.”

The truth is, thinking they are defending God’s honor in questions of evolution and biology, they are only defending old pre-Christian sciences and natural philosophies in immature conditions. The revelation of Jesus is not dependent upon old syntheses. Jesus’ revelation came into the world when these former knowledges were present, but his revelation was never intrinsically dependent upon them. The distinction between the eternal and the temporal, and the dependence of the temporal on the eternal, is in dire need of recovery, before the mysteries of Christianity are mistakenly thrown out with the bathwater of immature philosophies.

Augustine was fond of reminding us: “Platonism was false theology, while Christianity is true philosophy.” We need only let down the hem to see all the designs God wished to open us to. A new exceptionalism is available to the peoples who defend the image of God in every human and subject technology to the service of that image.

 

Cultivating Time for Eternity, Part III: Back to the Beginning, and Possibly the End

 

The Temple of God Is Still Temporarily Open to Humans on Earth

The prophets were clear: God’s kingdom is not made by human hands, nor is his true temple, which is the Lord’s “mountain” and destined to cover the earth (cf. Daniel 2 and Isaiah 2). The true glory of the religion of Second-Temple Judaism was the religious education and faith it gave the Virgin Mary, Daughter Zion, so God could enter history through human freedom and a culture of faithfulness to God. Through her faith, full of grace, Mary’s consent to God’s plan established permanently the true meaning of time. God’s temple in heaven (eternity) was brought down to earth for the remainder of history so all humans could be made sharers in eternity. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” Time exists for the glory of God in the exaltation of humans into participation in the Eternal God. Holy Communion is inseparable from being built into God’s Temple (1 Pet 2:4-5).

It was this singular representative of humanity (Mary), preserved by Judaism, who by God’s grace consented that her virginal womb be consecrated to God’s temple in Heaven. The glory cloud of God came down upon her mystically, protecting her virginity, while the glory cloud rained down from heaven the Messiah of the world, the Just One. Second-Temple Judaism gave us the Queen Mother of the promised Son of David while Heaven gave us the Messiah, Torah in the flesh. Earth and Heaven were joined. YHWH, Wisdom, came dressed in human flesh and tabernacled among us, invisibly wearing the name of his Father on his forehead. Eternity had entered time permanently. The apocalypse and unveiling of God had begun. “He who has seen me has seen the Father.” The invisible and Eternal One had disclosed Their internal and eternal mystery of intelligent love and goodness . . . three Persons, one Eternal Life. Humans were invited into an eternal home. Time, and worshipping God in Spirit and truth, had become the entrance and gateway into Eternity through Christ.

Torah Began with Abraham, not Moses

Rome was not built in a day, and the American ideal took 4,000 years of recorded history to realize (even with its current two steps forward and one step back). Heaven can never be perfectly realized on earth, because time has not the strength to encompass eternity. Time only leads to the threshold of eternity. It is meant to initiate humans into eternity. Exceptionalism is about always trying to build a better place on earth through truth and justice and the willingness to sacrifice oneself instead of one’s neighbor. Earthly utopias are pipe-dreams and end in Marxist hell-holes under the control of false light-bearers. All of history has been a movement towards God’s plan for humanity to become sharers of eternity, infinite goodness, the Trinity. This has always been the true Torah. It has been about desire and hope: good ideas moving men to build better worlds for their families despite the constant clash between truth and human sinfulness.

It took 2,000 years for the Torah first given to Abraham to finally be realized in the promised Messiah. The Messiah was destined to bring the full Torah to every tribe and people. After a 2000-year reign from Heaven, Jesus the Messiah has done so. The right hand of God is Heaven, and the Psalms were clear that the Messiah would reign at God’s right hand until the earth was subdued by Torah. The Torah was always more than Judaism; its end and purpose was the Christ, as the Talmud witnesses (below). Christ always was God’s ultimate and end plan for time, the fullness of God’s revelation.

The necessary tribalism of Judaism is no longer intrinsically necessary to protect and carry forward through time the Torah, God’s wisdom for mankind. The fullness of time arrived in the Messiah. However, Judaism’s witness to monotheism and God’s faithfulness remains a necessary foundation that Christianity carries within itself to carry forward the light. Judah’s faithfulness made possible and brought forth the promised Messiah. Animal sacrifices intrinsic to Israel’s confederacy and the fight against cultures of its time were never intrinsic to the true worship which God desired. God desired to establish worship that could elevate the human will and mind and permanently establish them in eternity, in salvation. In God becoming man, he accomplished this and invited every human to share in Jesus Christ.

Apocalypse Foretold

The greatest Jew, Christ, has made Christianity the final carrier of God’s plan for human development. Race no longer matters and people of any race can become a part of Christianity’s mission to the world. A Jew from Nazareth (the true “Branch”) opened up the source of Jewish exceptionalism (the Torah) to every race and religion, everyone who would receive the truth of God’s goodness and who desires to share eternal life by living exceptionally in God’s eternal law of justice and love.

The Torah and rabbis foretold the Messiah’s approximate entrance into time and seemingly the end of time as we know it. It is found in the Talmud, the recorded oral tradition of Judaism’s understanding of the written Torah (as well as rabbinic commentaries). Using a biblical and religious chronology common to its period, Judaism’s rabbis summarized their view of time and history in terms of bringing man to share in eternal life, the wisdom of Torah:

The world is destined to exist for SIX THOUSAND YEARS: the first TWO THOUSAND YEARS were OF NOTHINGNESS; the second TWO THOUSAND years were OF TORAH; the third TWO THOUSAND years should have been THE DAYS OF THE MESSIAH . . .

. . . the “two thousand years of Torah” are counted not from the Revelation [Moses], but from the beginning of the era alluded to by the verse: and the people they made in Charan, for we have a tradition that Abraham was fifty-two years old at that time. [Tractate Avodah Zarah, 9a2-9a4, in Talmud Bavli, Schotterstein Daf Yomi Edition (Brooklyn: Messorah Publications, 2002).] 3

The time before the biblical flood of Noah is called the time of “NOTHINGNESS” because before then men were living without knowledge of Torah. Torah was understood as spiritual and true knowledge of God, wisdom for living in communion with the Eternal Life. Torah was God’s plan for union between time and eternity and for the blessing of all humanity through one man. The two thousand years of Torah after the time of Nothingness began with Abram/Abraham, who progressively received God’s friendship and promises for all humanity. Torah did not begin with Moses but was rather transmitted orally by Abraham first. A note in the Talmud explains: “The Amoraim of the Gemara had received an oral tradition which stated that Abraham began to disseminate the Torah when he was fifty-two.”

It should be recalled that Leviticus was therefore only a temporary amendment to Torah due to Israel’s unfaithfulness at Sinai (cf. Jer 31:31). Leviticus could not have been part of Abraham’s original proclamation of the Torah nor God’s final plan in the Messiah. The priesthood Abraham received from Melchizedek’s blessing was the true and ultimate plan for Israel and led the Psalmist to say of the future Messiah: “You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek.” It is the priesthood of Melchizedek that is eternal and taken up by the Messiah.

Two thousand years after Abraham, the Messiah did in fact come at the time the rabbis expected and taught he would come. Sinfulness did not prevent his coming, since the Messiah actually came to free us from sin and death. Additionally, he found faithfulness and sinlessness in the Jewish woman he secretly prepared, Mary of Nazareth, the very humanity he chose for entrance into this world — the same woman the Talmud blasphemes.

God is eternal goodness and self-giving love. Our sinfulness could never prevent the Eternal Life that created us and sustains us from fulfilling his faithfulness. He wasn’t afraid to touch us or be touched by us. A father loves his children and doesn’t avoid them. God prepared the Jewish race for the woman through whom he would come into the world and take flesh and tabernacle among us . . . to become one of us! God with us! Jesus, the Eternal Life, can only heal and renews us. He loved us before we loved him. Only those who refuse to understand that he entered into death to redeem all dying reject that Jesus is the promised Messiah. He has been with us even in death and thereby redeemed us from death!

Apocalypse Now?

The Temple of the Messiah has extended over the whole earth, beginning even before the mournful destruction of the Second Temple on Tish’a B’Av in 70 A.D. That temple was only a visible and temporary representation (as was the Levitical priesthood) of something greater to come. The Sanhedrin sought to maintain the Levitical priesthood, contrary to the Messiah and God’s ultimate plan for humanity. The Levitical priesthood, along with the Temple, was removed by God’s hand for the sin of refusing to recognize the Messiah’s superiority and priesthood at the appointed time. In its valiant effort to preserve the Torah against so many enemies, Judah’s leaders failed to recognize the Messiah and became reactionary even to Him. They valued legalisms more than the promises of God, which are the true Torah. They clung to the outer covering of Torah in the symbol of a stone Temple and Levitical priesthood, instead of to the eternal Torah given to Abraham. At their time of renewal, the Sanhedrin chose the way of all sinful men, self-serving power and politics instead of surrender to the truth and the next step forward, world-wide blessing.

The Temple of the Messiah is not made by human hands. It is transcendent, intangible, and mystical; it is the eternal life of God. It can be encountered and entered under signs that the Messiah established and that Christ’s priesthood continues from heaven. The temple is entered only by faith in Christ and love for him. Christ’s temple, his resurrected humanity in Eternity, comes down from heaven and opens when the bread and wine of Melchizedek’s priesthood is transubstantiated and made present for Holy Communion. Such true worship has been on earth reigning in mystery (in sacrament) for almost 2,000 years. “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek” (Psalm 110). The ministers of the entrance are sinful men who have received authority to bind and loose. They are called to holiness and continued sanctification by their office, but many have grown unfaithful with the cultures of which they are a part. It is the mystery of iniquity.

This raises another question about the Talmud and the witness of the rabbis who were actually right about the timing of the Christ’s appearance on earth. They said the Messiah would reign for 2,000 years. His Risen reign among humanity through his Church (the beginnings of the Kingdom) is now almost 2,000 years. What comes next? Will today’s council of Christians betray Jesus’s plan and lead humanity to unfaithfulness? Can America continue its favored beginning and still defend and protect the authentic Gospel? What good is salt that loses its flavor? Will the light of Christ raise up another nation to exceptionalism? Or does the Death of the West signal the great apostasy and the end of time? Will the Light which arose in the East end in the waning light of the Christian West?

 

My thanks to colleagues who helped me be more informed on American colonial history (Professor Christopher Shannon) and the Greco-Roman world (Professor Kevin Tracy). They answered questions that helped me edit my thought. They do not necessarily agree with anything written herein and are far better academics.

 

  1. Merchant of Venice, II.vii.65-72
  2. cf. Jerome J. Langford, Galileo, Science, and the Church, 3rd edition (Ann Arbor, Michigan: The University of Michigan Press, 2011), 152. Galileo’s condemnation by the Holy Office in 1633 read in part that he: “. . . believed and held the doctrine which is false and contrary to the Sacred and Divine Scriptures, that the sun is the center of the world and does not move from east to west . . .” Clearly not every doctrine is the same as dogma. My gratitude to Professor Steve Snyder for pointing out this record.
  3. cf. Matthew A. Tsakanikas, “Unmasking the Pharaoh in the Garden of Eden: A Canonical Reading of Genesis 2-3,” in Communio: International Catholic Review, Vol. 47:1, Spring 2020, 207-208. Here an exegesis of the quote is given in light of the “garments of skins” patristic tradition.
Matthew Tsakanikas, STD About Matthew Tsakanikas, STD

Dr. Matthew Tsakanikas is Chair of the Department of Theology, Christendom College, Front Royal, Virginia. His doctorate is from the Pontifical University of the Lateran’s John Paul II Institute for Marriage and the Family, Rome. He has taught for Benedictine College, Saint Meinrad Seminary’s Permanent Diaconate Program, and Saint Paul Seminary School of Divinity.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Part II of this essay will appear in our next issue and treat Jewish and American exceptionalism, and how the “image of […]

  2. […] They also recognize the problems associated with Christians mistaking that which was only tentative and hypothetical for essential dogma and secular culture throwing away truly essential dogma for the false glamour of science. Tsakanikas discusses this topic in a section entitled, “Christians Must Reclaim the Sciences They Initiated, Love Dogma, Understand Doctrine.” (You’ll find it towards the end of Part II of the article.) […]

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