Religion and the Modern State

By Christopher Dawson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VIII
THE CATHOLIC DOCTRINE OF THE STATE

WE have seen that the Christian interpretation of history, the Christian theory of man and society, involve two great principles which superficial observers often regard as mutually exclusive and irreconcilable with one another. The first of these is the principle of Transcendence—the idea of a supernatural order, a supernatural society and a supernatural End of History—which seems at first sight to empty the natural order, the state, and the historical process of significance and value, and to result in a sharp eschatological dualism between " this world " and " the world to come." And, secondly, there is the principle of the dependence of human society and human law on the divine order: the idea of a law of nature to which all social and individual behaviour must conform and which rests in the last resort on the eternal Reason of God, the source and bond of the whole cosmic order.

Now it must be admitted that history shows a certain divergence and conflict between these two principles in the Christian tradition. There has always been a tendency on the part of sectarian Christianity to deny the principle of natural law and to condemn the whole world of nature, state, and civilization, as irremediably evil in the interest of a sharp eschatological dualism; while, on the other hand, the Latitudinarian, the Deist and the Unitarian equally tend to deny the principle of transcendence and to identify the order of nature and the order of grace in the interests of a theological rationalism. Thus the Protestant theory of society and attitude to

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