Jesus Christ: The Master Key to Hope in the Age of Science
Edward Holloway FAITH Magazine November-December 2009
For the second time (see July 2008) we publish part of a 1950 book written by Fr Edward Holloway, "Matter and Mind: A Christian Synthesis", of which only a dozen copies were made. Almost 60 years on his insights into religious sociology seem difficult to dispute. His diagnosis concerning the role of scientific knowledge is, we believe, gradually becoming accepted (see our current Cutting Edge and Road from Regensburg columns). This extract is from the beginning of Chapter Nine, Section 1, "And the Word was Made Flesh."
The Springs of Christendom Run Low
The joy, the inspired enthusiasm, with which the first Christians proclaimed the Incarnation of Christ and the tidings of great joy that it held for all the peoples is known to us as a matter of history, but it has become a fact of past history rather than modern history. Today, when Christian civilisation hangs in tatters, when the Catholic Faith of the nations has been rent with heresies and schisms, when good men who glory in the name of Christians proclaim not one and the same, but many Christs, all differing in their revelation and not all Divine, the voice of the apostles of Christ falls hollow upon the nations, and men listen with respect, but not with confidence. It is not easy, even for the voice of truth to assert itself with the same ringing majesty as of old; the message ofsalvation and new hope has lost its loud fearlessness, and Christendom itself, the haven of the world, is urgently in need of a redemption within itself.
Yet even today, when the Faith of Christ is decayed among the nations, and when Christianity seems to belie the promises of Christ, and to be passing into the dead world of human religions, one more among many, even today, whatever individual values we hold sacred, whatever sanctity we claim for the personality of man, whatever freedoms, above the rut of biological materialism, we try to salvage from the ruins of a culture, all these are the droplets which remain within that chalice of the Christian Faith dashed down by the nation. They remain like scattered heirlooms from a wasted treasure. The fullness these noble teachings once verified has withered among us. The living springs of Christendom run low; - the waters of life which Christ promised to the peoples, do they not seem today tobe a poor and muddled trickle? But the spring still flows, and if it flows it can flow strong again, and fill to overflow those banks of the human capacity to comprehend which currently stem its stream. As in a time of drought strong rivers fail, and cities languish in the molten air with fly-blown plagues. But come the blessed storm they are cleansed, revived, and sweetened, and pulse with fiercer life, conscious of death so near; so will it be with us.
Whatever our shame as Christian men, the needless poverty from decayed inheritance, we who have received in so rich a measure of Christ's fullness over two thousand years have not lost all. The weakness and the wickedness of men, and all the bitter tears, the foul squalid things, the chaos of pride, lies, and deceit which have welled up from the heart of man which gives of its abundance, not all these have prevailed to death against the Church of Christ, nor yet belied even those words of Christ within a proverb, that 'by their fruits you shall know them'.
The Renewal of Christianity Will Come
At this present time, in a period of decline in Christian faith and morals which is still unchecked, still sweeping even lower, it remains true that the teachings given men by Christ, although whittled away and progressively abandoned, still preserve a better level of charity, justice, and chastity in human affairs throughout Christendom than prevails in those regions where the name of Christ has hardly entered, or where it is bitterly persecuted. The nations of Western Europe, the nearest to the power of antichrist, whilst conscious of their own miserable decadence, yet shrink from the bloody servitude of Marxist Communism. In the name of what liberties do they refuse to surrender, except those liberties with which Christ alone has set them free?
Let men be of good heart then, for Christ's religion will show itself, and at this present time, to be no failure, for it has within itself the power to bring up from its vast treasury, new things and old for the light and the comfort of men of good will. Far from having failed within herself, or even having failed from the malice of men, so that the world stands upon the final consummation that will follow the final apostasy, the Church of Christ, we dare surmise, has not much more than begun her history. What are two thousand years against the sum of human history which has passed before them? And what may two thousand years appear among the centuries still to come? It is not given to men to know the future, but we have no reason to presume that the pages of man's story are turning uponthe last leaves of their concluding chapter. There is no reason to think that all history is ending irrevocably for men because the human race quails before powers which it dare not trust itself to use, and before unanswered riddles it has come to despair of solving.
From all this it can much more reasonably be argued that we are ending rather the first great era of universal civilisation, and entering upon a second world civilisation that will be greater and more all-embracing than the first.
If in the ruins of Rome, St. Augustine dreamed of a civilisation that should be the City of God on earth, and penned, even while weighted with despair and expectation of the end of the world, the noble outline of the Christian order which inspired so much of mediaeval thought, how much more reason have we today, with so much greater resources, to expect for our civilisation a resurrection out of our decay. The time for the manifestation of Christ in the Incarnation was wisely chosen indeed in the plan of God, for it came at a period of expanding and settled civilisation under the aegis of the Roman Peace. In spite of all the breakdowns and the partial collapses, that Empire of Rome which stood across the West and the East never really perished. It recovered to expand more widely in themiddle-ages, and in the modern period, it was continued in, and with, the Christian tradition, even after the rise of Protestantism, and it endures to our own day in the Christian peoples, free and submerged alike, of the modern world.
The epoch of settled and expanding civilisation which began with the Romano-Hellenic Empire, was the first historically known period of widespread and continuous human culture over a significant area; it came indeed to cover most of the known world by the time of the birth of Christ. At this present time also, many of our woes arise from the insufficiency of the practical embodiments of Christian belief in existing society to inspire that society, or to direct it. Marxism itself is only a new claimant to a very old throne, the throne of authoritative religion, and therefore the throne of the Christian and Catholic Church. It is an alternative from which bad Christians and agnostics alike have begun to shrink in horror, for even if the Church had no more within her to give the modern age,even so would she be a better light to men than the black slavery of the spirit which has arisen out of the East, and stands upon the shores of the West.
Expect a Further Development
We must expect today, when we all know that a new era has begun in the history of human civilisation, that if the religion of Christ is true, and is founded upon the only claim which makes Christianity the hope of mankind - upon the Divinity personal and unambiguous of Jesus Christ - that we will find within the bosom of the Church's doctrine all that we need to fire the world anew, and to restore all things in Christ. This new inspiration will certainly be given, for it has never failed to happen that in times of crisis the Spirit of God has worked within the Church with a new power. This new inspiration will be yielded up from those unfathomed depths of the riches of Christ from out of which the world, like the householder in the gospels, may bring up treasures both old and new. We mustexpect new developments within genuine and orthodox Catholic theology with the more confidence, because men so urgently need a new and a more compelling synthesis of Christian thought and modern knowledge.
Now, for the first time since man opened his eyes to this earth, his world is one in space and time. It is agreed with little dispute among all intelligent men that mankind must rapidly integrate a truly universal civilisation, and become one people in the brotherhood of a world-wide commonwealth. Now is the time when Christ our Lord, who ceases not to work even unto now, will bestow upon us all in greater and richer measure from the fullness of that Faith which was revealed to men in the Person of God and the nature of a man. The economy of the Incarnation continues unto the end of time for men in the authoritative Christian Church, and from the deposit of that Faith, guarded with jealousy and without betrayal from the citadel of God which rides the seven hills of Rome, there will beshown to men a deeper vein, and richer yet, of God's pure gold, latent within the inexhaustible mine of Christian Faith long worked by men.
This we must anticipate with faith and ardent hope, because the times require it, and the arm of God is not shortened more in the present time than in days of old. The Church is never old; nothing she has achieved in the days of her youth will become the boast and marvel of a weak senility. She never ages, and her strength must wax with the centuries to match new needs. What things then we have heard as done in the days of our fathers, greater than these will be done in ours, by the strength of the Son of Man who is born to us. For at all times, and throughout all times, the government is upon his shoulders.
"As in a time of drought strong rivers fail, and cities languish in the molten air with fly-blown plagues. But come the blessed storm they are cleansed, revived, and sweetened, and pulse with fiercer life, conscious of death so near; so will it be with us."
Never since the days when rude minds, but minds aflame with the certainty of truth, laid seige to the proud and empty paganism of ancient Rome has there lain before mankind both the need, and the attainable prospect of one world civilisation, confirmed through one Faith from God, and under God, pacified in the unity of one brotherhood, one aim in human affairs, one common charity of end and purpose. So vast an opportunity as ours the first Apostles of Christ did not enjoy, if they had done, how certainly would they have grasped it, making it a glory to suffer and to labour for the name of Christ.
The meaning for mankind of the Incarnation of God in all that it meant two thousand years ago; in the deeper and more urgent meaning it bears for men today, cannot be expressed fittingly in the clipped language of mathematical science. The language of poetry and mystical theology, the intimate and lovely language of love possessed in fulfilment, this tongue alone uplifts the heart of a man when he has come to love not the Incarnation, not an abstract dogma, nor even a fact, but the Person of Jesus Christ. The language of physics and the sciences of matter is not the language that wells up spontaneously within the spirit of man which transcends all matter, and wings its way upward into God's pure ray, until, so guided upon its limpid beam, it shall have homed deep within the infinity ofthe Sun of Justice. Not in matter, nor in the sciences of matter, but in the depths of the spirit of a man will we find the kingdom of a man's own self; a kingdom, but a vassalage too, because the soul is the throne prepared for the Word of God from the conception of a man.
Jesus Christ - One Wisdom in Which Science and Religion are Complementary
We have elsewhere pondered the impossibility for Science to usurp the place of Theology in human life, and the malaise that men have suffered since the irresponsible attempt to supplant God by a feeble human rationalism, shot through with stupid errors. Nevertheless, in the very name of the Incarnation itself, and the majesty of divine wisdom contained within that economy of human salvation, we insist urgently upon the fact that the birth of Christ is the summit not only of theology and philosophy, but of the material sciences as well.
In this age when so great a gulf seems to yawn between the truths of the Church and the truths of the physical sciences, we must come to see the perfect reconciliation of these two in the unity of an economy which is one wisdom, a wisdom in which Science and Religion are necessarily complementary, not contrary, nor even autonomous systems of knowledge which are unrelated intrinsically, but unable to clash.
If the human mind, enlightened by the grace of God which is offered to every man, will lift its eyes a little from the earth, it will see the mighty consummation in the human nature of Christ of the whole process of living development through evolution. Without Christ, man is meaningless; without man, all life besides is meaningless; without life the earth is meaningless; but all things have meaning in Jesus Christ, to whom all things are relative, through whom all things consist, of whom all things bear witness in their being.
"We insist urgently upon the fact that the birth of Christ is the summit not only of theology and philosophy, but of the material sciences as well."
It is to be expected that Christianity should be developed anew with greater fullness at this time when the presentation to the world of the Faith of Christ has become too meagre precisely on that level of the relation between religion and the physical sciences which is the natural meeting place today between revealed and natural knowledge. It is no scandal that such a redeployment of Christian teaching has not existed until the present time, because only now, in misery, fear, and frustration are all the tribes of the earth disposed to listen in humility and with sincerity. There is then need today for all men to possess a deeper insight into the meaning and fullness of Christ.