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True Progress Moves Us To God True Progress Moves Us To God

True Progress Moves Us To God

As Advent foreshadows the Christmas narrative, Peter Copeland and Father Deacon Andrew Bennett write that our end is not in restless secularism but the peace of union with the Father.

Peter Copeland
Andrew P.W. Bennett
4 minute read

Returning to where we began, to find out what ends we seek, what is the story we claim to be a part of?

The secular progressive story is one that is inherently ill-defined. The end, the telos, are goalposts that are constantly changing. Its gaze is shifting to the next shiny object and short-term goal, related as it always must be to physicality and finitude, positing them as fulfilling.

It is a story of Promethean attempts at domination of nature and ourselves. We are to be liberated from all the ‘constraints’ of norms, customs, history, and even one another by controlling our circumstances. The pursuit is restless, aimless, and ultimately futile. As a result, we are increasingly unable to pursue and fulfill our deepest need – that of the metaphysical, and the spiritual. The Christian understands this end as Truth itself, Jesus Christ, as St. John Paul II stated, “Jesus Christ is the answer to the question posed by every human life.”

In place of a pursuit of truth, a cult of the novel for its own sake, is characteristic. In the place of connections in concentric circles to family, friends, community, people, nation, humanity, there is a direct leap to humanity in the abstract through programs, initiatives, and causes. The result is “universal non-belonging”, in the immortal words of Augusto Del Noce.

Over the course of the pandemic, we have seen that what we cannot control far outnumbers that which we can. In this worldview marked by successive pleasures that are equally evanescent and without significance, death has no meaning, so we must fear it with profound irrationality, and seek to avoid it at all costs.

Christianity understands Creation as a progressive unfolding of God’s creative act, and providence at work in the world. This is true progress. Our universe “was created ‘in a state of journeying’ (in statu viae) toward an ultimate perfection yet to be attained, to which God has destined it.” It transcends all ideologies and all human attempts to define it or own it.

Christians live in the present yet at the same time on a journey towards what continually beckons us as human beings: the Trinitarian life. As we journey, we pass on to those around us and those coming after us the faith in the Resurrection of Christ we received from the saints that have gone on before us. This tradition is not something dead and lifeless but something that is living. This process of tradition-ing is like a tree that grows and unfolds over time, some branches die, and others blossom, yet we always remain connected to the roots, which is the revelation of God’s Word. The Christian life is progress – a moving towards salvation, accomplished ever so slowly by God’s servants, who are missionaries that bring light and progress with the joy of the Gospel, always connected to and building upon the truth to which they are witnesses.

Today, after more than 400 years of steady assault against objectivity in all its forms – starting with beauty moving to the eye of the beholder, then goodness as a mere regulatory ideal or an aggregate of pleasurable states of mind, and now finally truth itself having become something that is ‘true for me’ – testimony and witness are more important than argument.

Because what the philosophies associated with modernity and postmodernity have rightly drawn attention to is the difficulty of finding truth, beauty and goodness in their fullness and manifestation in the institutions, cultures, and nations of the world. They have drawn attention to glosses, triumphalism, and exaggerations – all pathologies of how a rich body of teaching and understanding have only ever been partially applied.

All the more reason, then, to live an integrated life, where the distinction between love of God, neighbour, and one’s faith is indistinct from one’s other roles. Now more than ever, people want to see it embodied and lived, because deep down, we all want to love, to hope, and to have faith. But perhaps people do not see it in Christians themselves. Christians must lay it all on the line, and live an integrated life without fear, in lightness and in hope.

To live a life of integrity, resplendent in faith, hope and charity must be the goal – the life of a saint. For, Christianity is not an empty philosophy, but a way of life – truth, goodness and beauty are not meant merely to be articulated, but to be shown in a life lived in love of God. Indeed, they are personified in Jesus Christ. The Christian life is a life in which one dies to one’s self, and becomes united with God, which is to love ever more purely.

People need the authority of the law, institutions, and norms, and they need a new kind of leader to embody this spirit. But there is nothing new under the sun, and the example will always be Christ, who is the perfect model of the one who is self-effacing, noble, and the Servant of Servants.

In the Christian story, the end is theosis – union with God. Every human heart yearns for it, for we are ordered this way. The desire to have more and more people reach peace and union with God is the loftiest, fullest manifestation of the progressive spirit.

Christians are the true progressives. May they reclaim the title in the decades to come.

Photos in order of appearance: Marc-Olivier JodoinUnsplashDavid MonjeUnsplashBen VaughnUnsplash

Convivium publishes texts that do not necessarily reflect the views held by Cardus, the Convivium team, or its editors. In the spirit of discussion, dialogue, and debate, we ask readers to bear in mind that publication does not equal endorsement. Thanks for reading. Join the conversation!

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