Transcendence After America Project

Restoring Jesus Christ to the Public Square

On the New Evangelization . . .

. . . For her part, the Church in the United States is called, in season and out of season, to proclaim a Gospel which not only proposes unchanging moral truths but proposes them precisely as the key to human happiness and social prospering (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 10). To the extent that some current cultural trends contain elements that would curtail the proclamation of these truths, whether constricting it within the limits of a merely scientific rationality, or suppressing it in the name of political power or majority rule, they represent a threat not just to Christian faith, but also to humanity itself and to the deepest truth about our being and ultimate vocation, our relationship to God. When a culture attempts to suppress the dimension of ultimate mystery, and to close the doors to transcendent truth, it inevitably becomes impoverished and falls prey, as the late Pope John Paul II so clearly saw, to reductionist and totalitarian readings of the human person and the nature of society.

With her long tradition of respect for the right relationship between faith and reason, the Church has a critical role to play in countering cultural currents which, on the basis of an extreme individualism, seek to promote notions of freedom detached from moral truth. Our tradition does not speak from blind faith, but from a rational perspective which links our commitment to building an authentically just, humane and prosperous society to our ultimate assurance that the cosmos is possessed of an inner logic accessible to human reasoning. The Church’s defense of a moral reasoning based on the natural law is grounded on her conviction that this law is not a threat to our freedom, but rather a “language” which enables us to understand ourselves and the truth of our being, and so to shape a more just and humane world. She thus proposes her moral teaching as a message not of constraint but of liberation, and as the basis for building a secure future.

The Church’s witness, then, is of its nature public: she seeks to convince by proposing rational arguments in the public square. The legitimate separation of Church and State cannot be taken to mean that the Church must be silent on certain issues, nor that the State may choose not to engage, or be engaged by, the voices of committed believers in determining the values which will shape the future of the nation.

In the light of these considerations, it is imperative that the entire Catholic community in the United States come to realize the grave threats to the Church’s public moral witness presented by a radical secularism which finds increasing expression in the political and cultural spheres. The seriousness of these threats needs to be clearly appreciated at every level of ecclesial life. Of particular concern are certain attempts being made to limit that most cherished of American freedoms, the freedom of religion. Many of you have pointed out that concerted efforts have been made to deny the right of conscientious objection on the part of Catholic individuals and institutions with regard to cooperation in intrinsically evil practices. Others have spoken to me of a worrying tendency to reduce religious freedom to mere freedom of worship without guarantees of respect for freedom of conscience.

Here once more we see the need for an engaged, articulate and well-formed Catholic laity endowed with a strong critical sense vis-à-vis the dominant culture and with the courage to counter a reductive secularism which would delegitimize the Church’s participation in public debate about the issues which are determining the future of American society. The preparation of committed lay leaders and the presentation of a convincing articulation of the Christian vision of man and society remain a primary task of the Church in your country; as essential components of the new evangelization, these concerns must shape the vision and goals of catechetical programs at every level. . . . [bold added]

Benedict XVI to the American Bishops, January 9, 2012

Americans Love God (The First Amendment)

You can tell what a culture loves the most by looking at what it seeks to protect the most. In America’s Bill of Rights — the very first rights of man which government was established to protect — reads as follows:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

This first and most important protection was based on the fact that a plurality of Christian confessions went to the “New World” in the seventeenth and eighteenth century to escape the oppressions of confessional states that persecuted them for not belonging to the State’s prescribed practice of Christianity. The earliest settlers in the thirteen colonies had sought the freedom to practice Christianity without hindrance from a confessional state and wanted assurances that the new American government would not become like the governments they fled. The more aristocratic who settled the colonies — alongside religious refugees — were not interested either in further religious civil wars ravaging England, nor the Protestant vs. Catholic feuds on the European continent. Many of them leaned towards Deism in their philosophy as the Scientific Revolution was developing new ideas within their social circles.

By establishing no official federal religion for the sake of its majority Christian culture — and respecting the Deist sympathizers — the United States was launched within a Christian cultural context that embraced both Christian and classical natural law theory. The Bill of Rights made clear that all religions would be free to practice and enjoy freedom of expression, all implicitly free so long as they did not run afoul of previous natural law tradition: that good is to be done and evil is to be avoided as contextualized by the Ten Commandments. An overtly Christian government was not the intention of America’s founders, as witnessed in some of their letters. Nevertheless, a Creator and the presupposition of purpose within creation was the cultural foundation of all law, whether the Creator was God the Father, or the Deist and Freemasonic “Great Architect.”

Background to the Declaration of Independence: Natural law requires eternal law and a Creator

For theistic cultures like America, an intelligent Creator and his purposes referred to eternal law in the natural law tradition at America’s founding. Eternal law was seen as guided and sustaining that which made creaturely life possible and capable of flourishing. It was about the wisdom of the Creator behind the structures, instincts, inclinations and natures that make existence and biological life even possible; the structures, natures, and inclinations which make even freedom and free choices possible. Eternal law is more about the perspective of the Creator and his purposes; purposes which are intended to work even while respecting human freedom and working with human freedom. Such purposes were generally discoverable by human intelligence and common sense.

The attendant and corollary to eternal law was known as natural law or better: natural moral law. Natural law is best referred to as natural moral law because natural law is so misunderstood popularly today. Too often people popularly misconceive the natural law tradition as being about natural processes in nature that should be followed. Close, but such popular misconceptions miss the mark that natural law also allows for human freedom. Natural moral law is about the freedom of intelligent creatures being affected through intelligent desires (like the desire for truth) to work for the good and common good as humans begin to perceive the eternal law through mature reflection (natural philosophy). As humans mature and reflect intelligently upon the world and what makes for fair and just human actions, they are taken into a participation in and discovery of eternal law. Intelligent reflection upon the good is in the image of the eternal God, the “Creator” which the American Declaration of Independence relies upon for its justification.

Natural moral law is not solely a human or subjective invention. It occurs when eternal law is perceived through the reasonings of intelligent creatures from their inclination to seek goodness, truth, and beauty. It is a participation in something higher — eternal law (the transcendent) — which gives natural law its moral authority. It is based on something higher than just the subjective reasoning process. The natural inclination inside every human — which the Declaration of Independence points to by the reference “endowed by their Creator” — is the first principle inside all reasoning creatures: that good is to be done and evil is to be avoided. This inclination that comes from the Creator is what opens humans to participate in eternal law. God made man for free participation in eternal law and not merely instinctual movements. Man is distinct from all other animals in that he is made to know God, the Transcendent, and so develop all things in light of God and the good.

Natural law could refer to sub-rational determinations of matter and instinct within creatures while natural moral law is understood as a means within intelligent creatures to rationally discern purpose and freely chose the good. Natural inclinations of the body, emotions, and intelligence common to human experience assist humans but do not determine their free choices. Natural moral law is the subjective experience and real participation of free and intelligent creatures in the objective eternal law.

Natural Law in the Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights depends on truthfulness

Declarations (like the Declaration of Independence), federal and state constitutions, and civil laws were viewed as established and having authority with respect to natural moral law and its subjective participation and perception of the objective eternal law. Subjective participation does not mean merely opinion but rather a personal subject’s ability to perceive the eternal law.

This is reflected in The Declaration of Independence’s opening paragraph about “Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God” as the reason a new government and constitution should be formed. The language is neutral to Christian or Deist/Free Masonic conceptions for eternal law and avoids mandating Christianity or Masonry (purely naturalistic philosophy that rejects divine revelation). In the next paragraph of the Declaration of Independence, the opening about “Nature’s God” served as the foundation that humans are “endowed by Their Creator with certain unalienable rights.” Here eternal law (a “Creator”) opens to the corollary of the desires creatures experience (desire for life and liberty) and which lead intelligent creatures to happiness only by free choices to uphold the true good (natural moral law).

The ends or purposes of innate and natural desires in humans — especially the desire for truth — were the desires and ends (or goods) which governments must protect access to so humans can flourish. Natural law was bound by eternal law in which “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” took place. In the eighteenth-century American tradition, no contradiction existed between liberty, freedom, and the truth about human destiny, because the truth was valued as that which sets humans free. Truth was not seen as a limit on humans. No contradiction between law and freedom was present within a correct understanding that God wanted humans to flourish and develop by exercising their natural powers as “endowed by their Creator.” God wants humans to have what is good and to develop in the good; in accord with the structures and existence that makes human freedoms truthful and good.

How do we even know there are truths that make us free? Something beyond the authority that Jesus said so? The human experience of the principle of non-contradiction establishes what we know as logic. Logic demonstrates that we cannot state “The truth does not matter” or “There is no such thing as truth,” without simultaneously claiming that our statements are true and do matter. The previous sentence should be re-read if it did not make the reader realize how sacred truth is for human communication and relationships. The point which has just been demonstrated shows that we must use accepted foundations of the existence of truth and honesty to live happier and sane lives. Human conversation is impossible without truth claims and acceptance that truth matters. Human relationships and thus communities (commonwealths) are impossible without truth claims and trust that one is truthful. Truth and love become inseparable.

Have you ever noticed how upset people get when they discover someone has been lying to them? It is because humans have a natural and innate desire for the truth (as “endowed by their Creator”) and begin life by trusting people to be truthful. Humans value the truth as much as life itself. Otherwise, broken hearts would not be real. Lying is a betrayal of what is most foundational to human existence: truth and the search for living in it. This natural desire which is caused by intelligence has an end or object which is “truth.”

The First Amendment was protecting the highest and most ennobling desire in humans when it protected the natural desire for the truth by forbidding limits on religious expression, speech, or press — all being about searches for the truth and the truth which preserves freedom. It is why the 10 Commandments forbade bearing false witness.

Marriage: Natural Law Clarified by Divine Law In the American Synthesis

Since the eighteenth century, Americans overwhelmingly discerned in the 10 Commandments aspects of the established boundaries that were intelligently defensible for human happiness because Americans culturally accepted eternal law from a Creator and the corollary of natural law. The 10 Commandments were understood to be protections of human values or goods (natural moral law): the good of religion and piety (origins), the good of life (thou shall not kill), the good of family and friendship (honor parents & thou shall not commit adultery), and the good of truthfulness (thou shall not bear false witness). Laws and Commandments are supposed to be about protecting truly human values in their proper hierarchical foundations for lasting happiness and the “pursuit of happiness.”

Further, accepting additional revealed laws from the Creator, known as divine laws, the natural moral laws were clarified and so divine laws assisted weaknesses in human reasoning and pointed to personal and structural sins which are destructive to freedom and happiness. Through divine law — like the Ten Commandments and especially Jesus’s teachings in the New Testament — Christian culture permanently rejected polygamy as a diminishment of the equality of men and women, both made equally in the image of God. Jesus re-established the meaning of sexual love for humans as a gift-of-self and re-stablished its bodily language (truthfulness) of communicating: forever, faithful, and open to God’s goodness. For this reason, Jesus forbade divorce of lawful marriages. Adultery was clarified as cheating and going back on one’s word, a violation of truthfulness. Divorce and remarriage were understood to be serial polygamy.

Christian marriage served as an institutional memory of how Americans easily synthesized and accepted eternal law, natural law, divine law, and so established civil law. The very rejection of marriage today, as ultimately defined by Christian divine law, discloses that the once-general synthesis of American legal tradition has fallen apart. America’s just and civilized rule has come to an end because it is no longer founded on eternal law in the hearts of its people. Individuals are no longer virtuous and so marriages are no longer virtuous. Families are now torn apart by divorce and strife, children are emotionally abandoned instead of educated in love and safety. We’ve accepted lying at the very foundation of the marriage and family level, because of the lie that God is dead or doesn’t matter. We have become more Deist and Masonic than Christian and such is a diminishment.

This is the crux of the issue that has brought America to its tipping point and now evident decline. It is why the title of this work is: Transcendence After America. Based on all that has been said about natural law’s dependence on eternal law, what happens to the human legal systems (civil law) once the majority of Americans no longer believe in an intelligent Creator? What becomes of human rights, law, and freedoms once God is kicked out of the public square and into a side alley, similar to when Jesus Christ was kicked out of the city and placed on the Cross to die?

Obviously, natural moral law can no longer find room within such a culture. Ideas about freedom must change to match the new situation of a world without reference to eternal law. In what kind of legal context do we then force the American Constitution to operate since it no longer fits within its original cultural make-up and context? When we are at such a tipping point and loss of civilization, what must be done? Certainly, we must do the New Evangelization.

God is dead? And natural law? Nietzsche and the post-modern forgot the Divine Pedagogy

How do we understand liberty and the purpose of law without truths about our origins and our ends or purpose? How can we be happy if we cannot comprehend the value of what we possess or its worth because it has no ultimate context to support it? It is not courageous to believe there is nothing ultimate and to live life like a Nietzschean uber mensch. Such living is based on either a lie, pathology, or misunderstanding. Maybe all three. Such false Nietzschean conclusions would only lead one to despair and madness as it did Friedrich Nietzsche and now leads America.

Without eternal law, “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” are bound by nothing and morality must become an arbitrary invention of human beings instead of something which leads to a fulfillment in the truth and happiness. However, human life really does have meaning because it takes place within the meaningful God “in whom we live move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). God unites the meaning of all of our desires and ends within his eternal Trinitarian life of self-gift and promised beatitude. Humans must find the courage to live for the truth and to reject misrepresentations masquerading as knowledge.

The Enlightenment and Scientific Revolution of the seventeenth century invited mankind to find moral truths we should live by “even if God did not exist.” If we even succeeded a fraction, it was only because we never stopped believing in the Transcendent and that God does exist, even while pretending not to know God’s goodness. Those who thought they discovered a means of morality through “ethics without God” at our universities and political parties now have proven themselves a dictatorship of relativism and power politics based on lies instead of the truth. Just before becoming Pope, Cardinal Ratzinger turned the tables on the so-called idea of morality “even if God did not exist” with a challenge:

The attempt, carried to the extreme, to manage human affairs disdaining God completely leads us increasingly to the edge of the abyss, to man’s ever greater isolation from reality. We must reverse the axiom of the Enlightenment and say: Even one who does not succeed in finding the way of accepting God, should, nevertheless, seek to live and to direct his life veluti si Deus daretur, as if God existed.

As mentally ill as Nietzsche became, his madman character in the town square put his finger right on where America would go wrong . . . America likewise ending in madness as it can no longer even distinguish between the norm of male and female. Oddly enough, Nietzsche’s work with the madman character was entitled The Gay Science. The title exacts that it would be man’s light-hearted search for the truth in scientific endeavors that killed all understanding of God and law. Once man discovered that his prior interpretation of scripture (divine law) and doctrine was wrong via the scientific method, God would be dead as old authorities get replaced with new authorities: old gods with new gods. We just hadn’t realized culturally the impact of the Scientific Revolution.

Since Nietzsche’s misunderstanding of the Galileo controversy, it was only a matter of time before man would eventually no longer trust in any authority greater than himself, but rather only in his autonomy. Without eternal law, man must become god for himself, inventing good and evil for himself in his newfound autonomy and rejection of eternal law. Nietzsche was partly right, and the madman saw it better than anyone else: ever since Galileo, the Sun seemed unchained from the earth:

Where is God? I’ll tell you! We have killed him — you and I! . . .

What were we doing when we unchained this earth from its sun? Where is it moving to now? Where are we moving to? Away from all suns? Are we not continually falling? And backwards, sidewards, forwards, in all directions? Is there still an up and a down? Aren’t we straying as though through an infinite nothing? Isn’t empty space breathing at us?

Note Nietzsche’s portrayal of emptiness of all meaning in life since people lost trust in God and eternal law. However, contrary to Nietzsche and the twentieth-century totalitarians he inspired — those anti-Christians of every stripe who killed hundreds of millions of innocent people — this introduction and work would like to argue that it was not man’s search for truth or sciences that killed God. After all, the main innovators of the Scientific Revolution died as devout Christians (especially Galileo). They knew science aided Christian faith. It was forgetfulness of divine pedagogy — which contextualizes interpretation of divine law — that led to today’s state of affairs and atheistic totalitarians slaughtering hundreds of millions. Misrepresentation, forgetfulness, or rejection of divine pedagogy was the string that was wrongly pulled upon and unraveled eternal law and natural law through misrepresentation and rejection of divine law.

Divine pedagogy is about how God has a plan and works patiently and gradually to bring humans to full comprehension of eternal law through divine law; divine law also being known as “revelation from God.” Divine pedagogy means that some divine laws are not meant to be permanent but are in place only until a people mature and reach a new stage for being brought deeper into the eternal law through more ultimate revelation from God. Divine law culminated in Jesus Christ.

Since eternal law is accessed in different ways, some aspects always exceed human intelligence and reason. After all, eternity and the transcendent always exceed that which is temporal. Otherwise, the eternal would not transcend us and be greater or “higher” than us. Certainly, natural law gives real access to eternal law, but there are other aspects of eternal law that exceed human reason and so God, the Transcendent, comes down to us in miraculous display or signs and reveals his fuller purposes, but he always works with human structures and freedoms.

Divine Law and Pedagogy Until the False Prophets of “Science”

Why didn’t God speak to everyone? Why did he only speak to Moses? Why did Jesus form the college of the Twelve Apostles instead of endless displays of miracles for everyone? The more important question is: who is everyone and would they have understood him? Even the Apostles struggled to comprehend Jesus before Pentecost. Context is everything and only those naturally closest to us usually grasp our context. When I speak my mind to my own household, when I speak to “everyone,” my spouse understands my mind better than my oldest son. My youngest son, without my additional guidance, will usually misunderstand me, so I have to give another explanation to him if he is not to get confused. One message does not fit everyone in a human culture and it requires lots of work to be understood and properly implemented.

In other words, everyone is at a different place in the reception of a message, so it is best to leave an authoritative interpreter of what was said, a final arbiter already accepted in an earthly communal structure or divinely appointed. In a multiple tribal-culture like the Israelites, one need only speak to the leader for the whole community to understand the message. The leader then speaks to the tribal chiefs, who then speak to their clans and elders, who then speak to family heads, and so everyone stays together. God was not a revolutionary looking to undermine natural human social relations, to advance French Revolutionary ideals of equality 3300 years before proto-Marxists espoused them. God works with human nature and structures, respecting freedom in order to lead all humanity forward from immaturity to maturity. Moses was the selected arbiter of the Israelites and everyone heard God speak to Moses at Mount Sinai, but everyone understood God according to their own perception.

According to Saint Paul, Galatians 3–4, some divine laws under Moses were restrictions meant for immature people, like when we put restrictions on our children, but remove them as they grow older or we adapt them as God did under Christ. Pedagogy is about leading people forward into their development. For instance, in the Old Testament, God forbade certain foods or established civil laws and penalties through Moses’ prior existing governing experience. God also established certain ceremonies for sacrificial worship for people very used to Egyptian ceremony. Since many of these matters of divine law (revelation) were about civil laws and ceremonial laws, but not directly the natural moral law, they could be changed in accord with the ultimate purposes of eternal law. However, the Ten Commandments were about natural moral law, so they remain essential and unchanging due to human intelligence which seeks the truth.

When it was time for the Jews — those who had entered true faith in Christ — to go among the nations and convert them through sharing the truth about Jesus, God removed the kosher food laws, earthly temple ceremonial laws, and civil authority of the Levites. This planned evangelization and salvation of all humanity is why Jesus said he did not come to destroy the Law but rather to fulfill it. Salvation was from the Jews, but not only for the Jews. It is why Saint Paul always speaks of the “plan in Christ.” God prepared a nation (Israelites) in order to educate the other nations as part of God’s pedagogy for humanity. Without an understanding of divine pedagogy, immature people, and some religious leaders, will see contradictions or errors where there are none.

The False Prophets

It was misrepresentation and forgetfulness of how to understand the Book of Genesis within the divine pedagogy that greatly led to today’s loss of eternal law amongst formerly Christian nations. From Galileo to Darwin and the “Scopes Monkey Trial” of 1925, Genesis began to be seen popularly as false history and false science instead of as theological history and an early form of the divine pedagogy. Worse, the story of Eden is nearly impossible to contextualize without an understanding of Israelite liturgical practice. Without understanding of the purposes of worship and the value of liturgy, biased interpreters go far astray.

Enlightenment philosophy and fundamentalist false understandings of biblical inerrancy blinded popular culture to the previous tradition of biblical interpretation. As Erich Auerbach would say, prior to the Enlightenment & Scientific Revolution, Christendom interpreted Scripture “in a general direction” and with the expectation of recapitulation of biblical narratives due to the future promises of the prophets and their re-telling of the prior narratives. By understanding that divine law was always open to future interpretive clarification, divine law was always kept in its pedagogical context as awaiting transformation in Christ and avoiding hardened ideology impenetrable to the grace of Christ.

After the Scientific Revolution and the Protestant revolution, Christians forgot their own tradition of interpretation and the centrality of Jesus Christ as the culmination of the divine pedagogy. Horrible anti-liturgical biases were introduced and blinded exegetes. More to the point, reactionary Christians falsely tried reading Genesis through a fundamentalist and scientific lens instead of maintaining their tradition of recapitulating all new knowledge in Christ. Competing with Fundamentalist false prophets on dedication to biblical inerrancy, even some Catholics abandoned their own tradition to falsely portray themselves as a faithful remnant at the time of Galileo.

Jesus Christ is the true key to properly understanding Genesis, the incompleteness of prior revelation (divine law), and all literary forms within the Old Testament. Jesus brings Genesis into its proper light and gives it proper context. Genesis does not bind a final context around Jesus, but rather Jesus binds a final context upon Genesis as Ephesians 1:10 clarifies: “[God the Father] has made known to us in all wisdom and insight the mystery of his will, according to his purpose which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fulness of time, to recapitulate [anakephalaiosasthai] all things in him.”

Scientia at the Service of Sapientia: God works with and through human nature

A hundred years before Galileo, John of the Cross, the sixteenth-century Doctor of the Catholic Church from Spain, always reminded people to seek God’s spiritual meaning in divine law instead of following only the literal text. God is more interested in our holiness and eternal salvation than our worldly understandings. God is more interested in leading us to knowledge of the transcendent (in Latin: sapientia or wisdom) than feeding our lust for knowledge of the temporal (in Latin: scientia or science). In his Ascent of Mt. Carmel, John of the Cross touched on some of these issues when he wrote:

In order that God lift the soul from the extreme of its low state [attachment to sense knowledge] to the other extreme of the high state of divine union, he must obviously, in view of these fundamental principles [of working with our nature], do so with order, gently, and according to the mode of the soul. Since the order followed in the process of knowing involves the forms and images of created things, and since knowledge is acquired through the senses, God, to achieve this work gently and to lift the soul to supreme knowledge, must begin by touching the low state and extreme of the senses [appearances of the world]. And from there he must gradually bring the soul after its own manner to the other end, spiritual wisdom, which is incomprehensible to the senses. [Book II, 17.3]

God communicates to us through knowledges and languages developed under human powers and freedom in order to use such human artifacts to bring humans into his transcendent life (cf. 2 Peter 1:4); an infinitely higher language and life which even the earthly perfection of knowledges (scientia) cannot achieve on their own. It is why symbols, images, and sacraments are so important for human development. God does not need perfected human scientia to bring humans into sapientia of divine and transcendent matters. Otherwise, we would all have to be astrophysicists and biologists to be saved. Fishermen, carpenters, and even tax collectors have enough experiential knowledge and scientia to learn about divine matters. To protect our development, God just needs something basic with which to work, basic structures of knowledge and basic inclinations to the good.

Basic structures of human knowledge and human desires provide symbols for analogies by which God can advance humans in knowledge and understanding about entering God’s own invisible and divine life. The primary meaning of human life is to “become sharers in the divine nature” (2 Pet 1:4). Nor does this need for basic structures reveal a limit on God, but rather it reveals a limit on the very definition of creatures who are necessarily temporal and limited by being created; and, thus not eternal by nature. Nevertheless, God is wise enough to overcome these limits and draw us up to himself. He creates us in order to give us a basic freedom that will always maintain our personal distinction from Him, and then he develops us for participation in what is eternal by nature.

For creatures to maintain their independence and distinction from God as persons, God must begin human life in the temporal order so that created persons can continue as distinct from God once they start to participate in the transcendent order. It is a not a limit on God’s power that he cannot make square circles, because square circles are not real things. Power is about real things and not playthings. It is a logical contradiction to think God could start human life with himself in the transcendent order, since the transcendent is by definition without a beginning; not contained by time. (The previous sentence needs to be re-read and understood before moving to the next paragraph.)

Creatures must have a beginning structure (nature) that allows them to be taken into participation of the Transcendent. As Saint Irenaeus always taught, man has a beginning in order to experience increase in God. Divine pedagogy and revelation (divine law) are about how God raises intelligent creatures into communion with a transcendence that is Trinitarian and without beginning. Eternal life is the transcendent and Trinitarian life into which God wishes to raise temporal creatures…by likening them to himself by love. God is love and humans are made to enter the eternal by learning to love in the truth . . . Jesus, the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Human freedom, which belongs to the structures of time, exists to unite humans with eternity, with transcendence. Human intelligence and will are the point where time (the temporal) can hold onto transcendence; the temporal can partake in the transcendent and strengthen union within the Transcendent through choices to love in the truth. This is why Saint Paul writes things like: “For while we are still in this tent, we sigh with anxiety; not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life” (2 Cor 5:4). He is simply explaining from one chapter earlier whence he reflected, “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels [i.e. eternal life within the temporal], to show that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us” (2 Cor 4:6).

Human accomplishments and God’s infinitely higher life are two different kinds of knowledge which are inter-related in God’s plan of salvation. Human knowledge is always changing and at different levels in different people and cultures. God is always working with the human condition and human freedom to preserve human freedom in order that it may achieve the infinitely higher divine freedom: “For freedom, Christ has set us free” (Gal 5:1). Humans were not made for this world as their end or ultimate realization. Rather, this world exists as the place to exercise choices of love in order to consolidate transcendence within ourselves (cf. Veritatis splendor #39). Yes, God cares about the temporal and so must Christians by loving their neighbors, but his focus is not the temporal world which he has given man to conquer by his natural powers. Rather God’s point of focus, his reason for giving revelation (divine law), is to bring the soul’s life into the Holy Spirit, into eternal life.

Receiving the Holy Spirit, that kind of divine knowledge (sapientia) does not come by human accomplishment or powers even though our powers exist to receive the Spirit. Reception of the Holy Spirit is a knowledge which only the Triune Transcendence can accomplish within our freedom. Any kind of human scientific knowledge or understanding can work as the symbols that open us to divine communication since divine communication always exceeds natural powers, but our natural powers are not the primary cause. It’s not that God doesn’t care about our sciences, it is simply that any kind of created and natural knowledge can serve God’s purposes no matter how mature or immature the knowledge may be — whether simple fishing or complex astrophysics.

Knowledge of nature is a means and never simply an end. God cares more about the end, more about what we know of him than what we know of nature. When speaking to cultures in divine revelation, God enters their way of thinking about the world to show them how to think about the transcendent world. He respects human freedom and accomplishments, not only to supply for human needs, but also so they can serve us achieving freedom in the transcendent and serving our neighbors in love.

Divine Pedagogy: Moses was just the beginning of the accepted written tradition

Four thousand years after Moses’s culture, God certainly does not expect advanced scientific cultures to take out of context why God interacted the way he did, why God did not correct scientific knowledge. After all, the major scientific achievements came through Christians and Christian cultures. However, perverted cultures also began to use scientific advancement badly. When we harness nature today, do we make the world a better place for everybody, or do corporations, dictators and empires use it for their hegemony and riches? Teaching advanced sciences to Moses and the Israelites — beyond Egyptian technology of that time — would have made humans less concerned with reforming their moral character and more concerned with earthly hegemony. The kingdom of God is not of this world.

In its pre-Exodus state of immaturity, Israel would have evaded faithfulness to God via scientific achievement just as the super-wealthy avoid God through their money. Most people would much rather have knowledge of nuclear energy in the hands of morally and spiritually mature people than spiritually immature and immoral people making bombs for genocide. The only answer to existence that God wants us to get right, the only answer he gives to our self-righteous heckling, is the love of God revealed in Jesus Christ on the Cross . . . the God who suffered with us and for us.

This explains why the Christian approach to Genesis, already in the fifth century, was explained by Saint Augustine with explicit cautions. Saint Augustine already knew the world was not flat, as did most other astronomically advanced cultures. He knew to interpret Genesis more spiritually than literally. He warned Christians not to treat Genesis as a book of scientific knowledge, but rather sapiential and spiritual knowledge. In his On the Literal Meaning of Genesis, Book I, Chpts 18–19, Saint Augustine reminded readers:

  • “In matters obscure and far beyond our vision, even in such as we find treated in Holy Scripture, different interpretations are sometimes possible without prejudice to the faith . . . we should not rush in headlong and so firmly take our stand that if further progress in the search of truth justly undermines this position, we too fall with it.”
  • “[In keeping with the supposition that scientific truth may be revealed in Genesis] there will be nothing in such a supposition contrary to the faith until unerring truth gives the lie to it. And if that should happen, this teaching was never in Holy Scripture but was an opinion proposed by man in his ignorance . . . and even if reason should prove that the opinion is unquestionably true, it will still be uncertain whether this sense was intended by the sacred writer.”
  • “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 to scorn.”

Saint Augustine left the Manichaean gnostics because their cosmologies were proven to be unscientific and ridiculous. He loved Christianity for always allowing scientific knowledge to correct prior scientific misunderstandings in how to understand God’s role in upholding that which is contingent. He knew God worked through the contingent natures (secondary causes) that God (the primary efficient cause) created, and that God worked in accord with the natures he created. As Saint John of the Cross said, God works with our natures [and immature understandings] to bring them to spiritual knowledge: moving from the sensual way of thinking to a spiritual way of thinking. Saint Augustine knew that the Scriptures were after spiritual wisdom (sapientia) through the knowledges (scientia) and ways of communicating available at the times the Scriptures were written.

Saint John of the Cross was only following Saint Augustine when he reminded Christians, 100 years before Galileo, that we must follow the spiritual meaning in prophetic utterances; that it must be sought more than what appears to be literal:

. . . souls are oftentimes deceived with respect to locutions and revelations that come from God, because they interpret them according to their apparent sense and literally; whereas, as has already been explained, the principal intention of God in giving these things is to express and convey the spirit that is contained in them, which is difficult to understand. And the spirit is much more pregnant in meaning than the letter, and is very extraordinary, and goes far beyond its limits. And thus, he that clings to the letter, or to a locution or to the form or figure of a vision, which can be apprehended, will not fail to go far astray, and will forthwith fall into great confusion and error, because he has guided himself by sense according to these visions, and not allowed the spirit to work in detachment from sense. Littera enim occidit, spiritus autem vivificate [2 Cor 3:6] as Saint Paul says. That is [translated]: The letter killeth and the spirit giveth life. [Book II, 19. 5]

Warnings of God’s “death” have been greatly exaggerated, despite the warnings of Nietzsche’s madman. Christians have simply been paralyzed by knowledge falsely so called. They have mistaken scientia for sapientia. They have seemingly forgotten the face of their true fathers in faith. They have forgotten the truth of God’s great love and plan for every man and woman: divinity and transcendence (eternal life) without loss to their persons or created humanity. They have forgotten how to read the Sacred Scriptures and draw life from them. This book is written to help you believe again in the truth that makes you free, because Jesus is the truth about God and man. It will seek to show a way forward again to synthesize eternal, natural, divine, and civil law without creating a theocracy on earth and while also learning from past mistakes and ignorance.

We’re Going to Renew the Synthesis of Eternal, Natural, Divine, and Civil Law

Such a future synthesis like America approached at its constitutional beginnings will not be a utopia and is not intended to be. America was not the new Israel and the kingdom of God cannot be “controlled” by the temporal. The kingdom can break through the temporal and the temporal can participate in the kingdom (as happens in Eucharistic Liturgy), but the temporal and the earthly domain can never replace the kingdom which comes from above and always remains transcendent to time and space. Human sinfulness will always require a future synthesis of eternal and civil laws to be a work in progress (while witnessing to human dignity). Time (the temporal) cannot forcibly contain the transcendent; such would be demonic thinking. Anyone who promises utopia on earth is running contrary to divine revelation and has a Kool-Aid you should never drink. Nevertheless, we should look at the principles for keeping the eternal in our midst; divine wisdom dwelling among us for our own good.

The Transcendence After America Project ©

This “Introduction” represents the start of an intellectual project that is meant to be continued in fellowship and community. It is meant to lead to the renewal of post-2021 America and help seed authentic religious freedom in every country. This Introduction is a popularized motivational chapter for lawyers, politicians, academics, media, pastors, non-profits, etc., to work together and bring Christianity back into the public square of constitutional republics and even totalitarian states.

Hopefully the public humiliations of Christians through our past failures have helped us learn from past mistakes. Beginning with the writings of Moses, our wisdom tradition is 3,500 years old. The true glory of Jesus Christ — which we have failed to show through the fault of our own sins and ignorance — has the right to be shown in our public squares. Jesus Christ’s glorious meaning for human freedom has the right to be represented again in our civil laws instead of Jesus’ reputation being publicly scourged by the new Marxists, totalitarians, and hordes of mis-educated humanity. Jesus seeks to save them and us, but only the truth can makes us free. Following in the tradition of the great civil rights leader, Martin Luther King, Jr., only as Christian witnesses can we usher in and renew authentic freedom.

I hope you will start writing and speaking more to accomplish the above ends or at least find edification from this project to keep fighting the good fight. I certainly need your fellowship, too. We all need to evangelize our leaders more effectively and form future godly leaders. We need to influence especially our local communities, local networks and politics. Many wonderful non-profits and institutions already exist that are doing this project, at least implicitly. We need to help them. Join them. Support them as associates. For my part in this educational and intellectual project at catholic460.com, in the next paragraphs below I will show you where I am headed as a Christian theologian. I hope you will beat me to it, complement it, or find inspiration for what you think you should be doing. Coming soon, I wish to also set up a blog for your input despite my lack of web skills.

The next chapter I’ll post (Chapter One) will cover why the First Amendment was about freedom of worship and how America fell away from natural law and eternal law in less than 100 years from America’s founding. It will rapidly cover the movement from Galileo to the Scopes Monkey Trial to show some of why the natural law tradition was no longer relied upon within civil law. This will hopefully prepare us to remember not to abuse civil law and to properly apply divine revelation in light of Jesus Christ, the Alpha and the Omega.

Chapter Two will further address misreadings and misunderstandings of divine law; particularly Genesis 1­–3 and Eden. Such misreadings currently cause obstacles to accepting the importance of God and respect for authentic natural moral law discussion. It will demonstrate that Eden is more about liturgy (freedom for worship per Chapter One) and eschatology (the call to enter the transcendent for final realization) rather than an attempt at archaeological anthropology (which awaited the sciences). It will demonstrate that from the very beginning, the Seventh Day of Creation was the promise that God would raise us to share in his divinity (cf. 2 Peter 1:4). It will emphasize how human law must serve human freedom.

Chapter Three will establish a radical Christocentrism. It will explore the mystery of Christ himself as God and man. His worldwide expectation, his historical reality, and his historical claims. Most importantly that he revealed man’s origins in a mystery of love despite all the sufferings inherent in earthly existence. Having discussed the importance of worship for human transformation in Chapter One, and divine law in Chapter Two, this will show the importance of allowing Christ to influence perceptions of natural law in civil discourse and civil law.

Chapter Four will address why the doctrine of the Trinity matters to the development of human persons and civilization. How knowledge of the Trinity affects true worship, the meaning of freedom and civil law. It will attempt to catechize on how human love is purified and elevated through knowledge of the eternal Divine Love of Divine Persons revealed in Jesus Christ.

Chapter Five will address how morality is a form of worship that develops the human person in Christ and why governments must protect Christian morality in order to protect freedom of worship. Morality is about obtaining happiness and fulfillment. It is about the pursuit of happiness as stated in the Declaration of Independence. It is more about interior realization than external laws as a right understanding of eternal law will demonstrate.

Chapter Six will explore how to restore civil law to a basis inside natural law and eternal law; respecting both divine law and those who do not wish to accept revealed law. Ultimately it will be about restoring Jesus Christ in the Public Square and upholding Christian marriage. People will need to realize there is no need to reinvent the wheel, and this chapter is especially where, hopefully, lawyers will join and rescue me from my intellectual weaknesses in the civil legal tradition.

Chapter Seven will conclude on Christian hope and the vocation to work to build a civilization of love so God’s Transcendence is always worshipped and loved for the development of every human.

Please beat me to all of this and start to correct what I should do! Like many of you, my day job and vocation to marriage and family have me busy enough. Glory to Jesus Christ!

 

You can reach me at matthew.tsakanikas @ christendom.edu to share ideas and comments. Please put in your subject line: “transcendence project”

Matthew Tsakanikas, STD About Matthew Tsakanikas, STD

Dr. Matthew Tsakanikas, STD, is a professor in the Department of Theology at Christendom College. He started catholic460.com for the new evangelization and to continue Benedict XVI’s vision of “scholasticism without the armor.” He is a graduate of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Marriage and the Family, Rome.

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