Fr Jean Daniélou: Did You Know the Goal of Progress is Christianity?

Feast of St. Paisios the Athonite

Danielou_Square_2.jpgCHRISTIANITY is not only progress, but itself the goal of progress. The Christian outlook on history is eschatological; the idea of an end, escaton, is of capital importance in the system, from three distinct points of view. First, history is not conceived as an indefinite progress, but as finite in scope; it is a determinate, circumscribed design, called by the Fathers of the Church the cosmic week, which is to be followed by the eighth day, representing the life of the world to come. Secondly, Christianity is itself the term of development: Christ professedly comes ‘late in time’, and inaugurates the stage that will not pass away. So there is nothing beyond Christianity. It is indeed, escatos , novissimus, the last thing. And it is the everlasting juvenescence of the world, which makes everything else obsolete. Thirdly, the end of history has already taken place, because the incarnation and the ascension of Christ fulfill its purpose.

It is the great merit of Oscar Cullman’s book, Christ and Time, that it gives powerful emphasis to this truth: Christ’s resurrection being the decisive event in all history, nothing that can every happen will equal it in importance. This disposes at once of all the errors of evolutionism. No progress now can ever bring about for us what we have already got in Christ; that which is beyond all progress is here and now in him; the last state exists already in the Christian mysteries. Consequently no identification is permissible between the Christian hope and a belief in progress: they are radically different things. We have said that Christianity gives a metaphysical value to the idea of innovation: but as it now appears that Christ is the ultimate event, He is, in a sense, the culminating and final innovation. It is a further peculiarity of the Christian outlook on history that the centre of interest is neither at the beginning, as it was for the Greeks, nor at the end, as it is in evolutionary theories, but in the middle. It follows that history differs in kind between B.C. and A.D. History before Christ was a preparation and an awaiting. Once He is come, the essential business is to hand on (paradosis) the sacred and now immutable trust delivered once and for all. The idea of tradition thus acquires a real meaning, because the world to come is there already.

~Jean Danielou, The Lord of History


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