Monday, August 8, 2016

"The profound pessimism of Luther"

THE profound pessimism of Luther saw in Nature nothing but the kingdom of death and the Law of Nature as a law of wrath and punishment, and thus his extreme supernaturalism prepared the way for the secularisation of the world and the abolition of objective standards.

But the revolt against Natural Law did not only spring from

Martin Luther
the other worldliness of Luther and the Reformers. It found an even more powerful support in the worldliness of the Renaissance statesmen and thinkers. Already before the Reformation Machiavelli had produced his Intelligent Man’s Guide to Politics which studies the art of government as a non-moral technique for the acquisition and maintenance of power, thus depriving the state of its religious character as the temporal organ of divine justice and making the interests of the state the supreme law by which all political acts must be judged. This is the source of the “new jurisprudence” which took the place of the common law of Christendom and which Leo XIII explained in his political encyclicals* undermined the moral foundations of Western Civilization.



Niccolo Machiavelli

It leaves no room for the consecration of the state to God which is so solemnly and sacramentally expressed by the traditional rite of the coronation of Christian kings. On the contrary, it involved the secularization of the state and the desecration of law and authority. By emancipating the prince from subordination to a higher order, it destroyed both the principle of order and the principle of freedom in the state itself.

This false political realism which denies or ignores spiritual realities is no less fatal to the Christian tradition and no less destructive of Christendom as a social reality than was the false spiritualism of Luther. Indeed, its influence has been wider and deeper, since it has not been restricted to certain countries and peoples, but has influenced the thought of Catholics and Protestants alike, and has grown stronger with the progressive secularizing of our civilization. The thought of Luther belongs to a different world from that in which we live; he was still a man of the Middle Ages, though he was in revolt against medieval Catholicism. But the thought of Machiavelli is still alive in the modern world and finds expression in the words and deeds of modern politicians and dictators. As Pius XII writes in this Encyclical “Darkness over the Earth,” “Today the false views held in earlier times have been amalgamated with new invention and misconception of the human mind. And this perverse   process has been pushed so far that nothing is left but confusion and disorder. One leading mistake we may single out as the fountain head, deeply hidden, from which the evils of the modern State derive their origin. Both in private life and in the State itself and, moreover, in the mutual relations of State with State and country with country, the one universal standard of morality is set aside, by which we mean the Natural Law, now buried away under a mass of destructive criticism and neglect.”

~Christopher H. Dawson: The Judgment of the Nations, Part II, Chap. 2—Christian Social Principles. (1942)

* Leo XIII: Immortale Dei, and Libertas Praestantissimum.


The Judgment of the Nations

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