Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Church-State Organic Unity?

Vladimir Soloviev, in "The Russian Church and the Papacy", tells us that neither the Church nor the secular state (relying upon its own resources) can succeed in establishing "Christian justice and peace on earth."

In discussing the co-mingling of church and state, he says "if we consider the political and social condition of Europe toward the close of the Middle Ages, we must admit that the papacy, robbed of its secular organ... was unable to give a genuinely Christian organization to the society which it had governed."

He saw the social constitution of Europe as based on power disparity, an insurmountable barrier between "victors and vanquished". This caused a horrific tendency to do violence, making "every country the scene of civil war and plunder... Where in all this can the features of a truly Christian society be recognized?"

Turning to his modern era (late 19th century), Soloviev reviews secular efforts at providing political justice in Europe. Post-Reformation European states, freed from church oversight, tried to improve upon the Church's labor. The result?

"The philosophy of the revolutionaries has made praiseworthy attempts to substitute for [Christian] unity the unity of the human race--how successful is well known: a universal militarism transforming whole nations into hostile armies and itself inspired by a national hatred such as the Middle Ages never knew... and a continuous lessening of the moral power in individuals."

I am certain that had Soloviev lived to see the devastation of war upon Europe in the 20th century, his opinion would have only strengthened. This humanism-based unity continues in full force, but I am curious to know what will replace waning Nationalism (or will Nationalism resurge?). His individual moral power line was prophetic.

But I am not sure I can agree with the ultimate conclusion he reaches, that church and state must be closely aligned in an organic union "without confusion and without division (emphasis original)" to achieve "true social progress". My disagreement probably stems from my very non-Orthodox eschatological belief that such "true" progress is not for this world. The best I expect to see is fits of something less than "true" (i.e., idealistic, Kantian) progress, always to be interrupted by sin. Even granting that Christ gave His graces to the Church such that it can be preserved from all error, I don't see that flowing into an establishment of an infallible state. Heaven is not on earth. Not yet.

2 comments:

Gil Garza said...

Indeed, former ideas that religion, economy and the nation need the state to achieve greatness are disproved by our Great Experiment. The state founders religion, economy and the nation when attempting to direct them.

Principium unitatis said...

I agree. It seems to me that the city of man and the city of God can never be entirely at peace in this age. Soloviev is right that the state and the Church should form a kind of organic unity. That is what true human community should be. That is what the city of God should be. The city of man, however, is by [fallen] nature intrinsically at odds with the city of God. "The kings of the earth take their stand. And the rulers take counsel together Against the LORD and against His Anointed." (Psalm 2:2) I go back to this quotation from Soloviev:

"The fundamental truth and distinctive idea of Christianity is the perfect union of the divine and the human individually achieved in Christ, and finding its social realization in Christian humanity, in which the divine is represented by the Church, centered in the supreme pontiff, and the human by the state. This intimate relation between Church and state implies the primacy of the former, since the divine is previous in time and superior in being to the human. Heresy attacked the perfect unity of the divine and the human in Jesus Christ precisely in order to undermine the living bond between Church and state, and to confer upon the latter an absolute independence."

I wrote some more about this back in May, in my "On the Imminent and Final Conflict between the City of God and the City of Man".

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan