Modernity without Restraint: The Political Religions, the New Science of Politics, and Science, Politics, and Gnosticism

By Manfred Henningsen; Eric Voegelin | Go to book overview

4
Gnosticism
The Nature of Modernity

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The clash between the various types of truth in the Roman Empire ended with the victory of Christianity. The fateful result of this victory was the de-divinization of the temporal sphere of power; and it was anticipated that the specifically modern problems of representation would have something to do with a re-divinization of man and society. Both of these terms are in need of further definition, especially since the concept of modernity and with it the periodization of history depend on the meaning of re-divinization. Hence, by de-divinization shall be meant the historical process in which the culture of polytheism died from experiential atrophy, and human existence in society became reordered through the experience of man's destination, by the grace of the world-transcendent God, toward eternal life in beatific vision. By re-divinization, however, shall not be meant a revival of polytheistic culture in the Greco-Roman sense. The characterization of modern political mass movements as neopagan, which has a certain vogue, is misleading because it sacrifices the historically unique nature of modern movements to a superficial resemblance. Modern re-divinization has its origins rather in Christianity itself, deriving from components that were suppressed as heretical by the universal church. The nature of this inner-Christian tension, therefore, will have to be determined more closely.

The tension was given with the historical origin of Christianity as a Jewish messianic movement. The life of the early Christian communities was experientially not fixed but oscillated between

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