The Home of American Intellectual Conservatism — First Principles

November 19, 2017

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Eric Voegelin and Christianity
Lee Trepanier - 12/08/08

For myself, I am inclined to agree with Voegelin on the first question and disagree with him on the second. Since we are participants in and not objective observers of reality, we are incapable to grasp any finality of meaning in the unfinished process of history. It would also seem that any human assertion about the finality of meaning in history would limit the omnipotence of a transcendent deity. But having rejected a finality of meaning in history does not equate into philosophical relativism, for some insights into the nature of being may seem to us more correct than others, e.g., revelation and philosophy are superior to myth in their understanding of the primordial field. I suspect Voegelin himself subscribed to this view with his modified concepts of compactness and differentiation in the metaxy.

The second question—whether the history of order only emerges from the metaxy—raises more questions than it answers. It seems too restrictive that revelation only occurs within the metaxy. Certainly without dogmatizing our encounter with the divine, we should be able to sense whether the movement of divine reality has emanated from the beyond or the external world. Thus, someone like Peter may not have understood the entire essence of Jesus but, nonetheless, could respond existentially to the event of Christ’s Incarnation. If this were true, it would suggest that the divine could be intelligible to humans not just in their internal consciousness but in the external history of world events. Of course, this would require Voegelin and his followers to revisit his philosophy of consciousness, history, and metaphysics—another daunting task to be sure. But it might be the proper beginning point to resolve these and other questions that Order and History: IV raises for philosophers and theologians.

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