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Sign, Faith and Society

December 31, 2006

The late, great Frederick D. Wilhelmsen:

I take as revealed the following proposition: God wills every man to be saved. I take it as evident that he is more easily saved in a society that buoys himself up in the Faith, that surrounds him with symbols of his salvation. Given that my major premise is evident within a Christian context, my minor premise—some societies render it easier to attain salvation than do others: i.e., sacral societies—my conclusion is inevitable: man is better off in a sacral order than out of it.


I am by no means suggesting that we return to the Middle Ages. No man can undo time. This irreversibility is part of its in-built sadness. Who can go home to the innocence of his childhood? But I am suggesting that every paradigm for the future is always crafted out of materials drawn from the past. Our very past is structured around the drive of our future. We remember what is of use to the intentional thrust of our existence. This at least Heidegger can teach us. Everything else from our past we tend to forget. Show me what a man remembers of his past, both personal and corporate, and I will tell you what kind of a man he is. Americanists look back to the late eighteenth century. I look back to both the High Baroque of the Counter-Reformation and, more distantly, to medieval Christendom. Both of us must look back when we talk about the future because the future, as future, is a blank. The present is a past the moment we think about it. This is the way we are built as men. Even gnostics do this as did the French Revolutionaries when they aspired to a new classical antiquity. I look back to Christendom.


Re-evangelization demands re-sacralization. A personal regeneration in the souls of isolated and privileged individuals will not cut the ice. What is needed—I have argued the thesis here—is a corporate, including an aesthetic, restructuring of society so that the Incarnation itself—with all its consequences—signals its sacred meaning to men everywhere. The world, including the political world, must again become a Sign of Salvation. Secularization in the West can go no further. It has reached its apex. Politically and socially we could hardly secularize anything more. The curve of secularization has been drawn to its conclusion, its perfection. That very perfection is the seed of its destruction. We have spent four centuries and more in chasing God out of the forum. The whole enterprise had no other motive in mind. It succeeded and in so doing secularism will now give way to something else. We must invite the Lord back into the forum. This calls from us, I am convinced, a single response. We must convert the world to the Church of God. Each one of us must become an apostle.

Read it all here.


From → On Christendom

One Comment
  1. Thank You

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