"God Is The Issue" | The Temptation in the Desert and the Kingdoms of This
World | Fr. James V. Schall, S.J. on Benedict XVI's Jesus
of Nazareth | June 29, 2007
"The alleged findings of scholarly exegesis have been used to put together the most dreadful books that destroy the figure of Jesus and dismantle faith." -- Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth, 35.
"Earthly kingdoms remain earthly human kingdoms, and anyone who claims to be able to establish the perfect world is the willing dupe of Satan and plays the world right into his hands." -- Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth, 44.
Somehow, I find it refreshing to have a Pope who, gentle man that he is, can still alert us to the presence of "most dreadful books" produced by "allegedly scholarly exegesis" and, at the same time, of "willing dupes of Satan," who promise us a "perfect world." I still remember with something of a thrill the first time that I ever fully realized the meaning of the observation that very little about politics is found in the New Testament. The thrill comes with the insight that the New Testament was not designed to be a political treatise or handbook. Though this same Testament speaks rather frequently of "the Kingdom of God," it has significantly little to say about politics. What it does say is that there are "things of Caesar" circumscribed by the "things that are God's."
Why is this important? It is often charged against Christianity that, since it has been around for a couple of thousand years and the world is still full of pain, toil, corruption, and angst, it therefore must be either ineffective or untrue--or both. This is not quite Nietzsche's problem with Christianity. He thought it preached a doctrine fit for patsies and thus practiced by a bunch of weaklings, unworthy of nobility. In fact, as the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church seeks to spell out, if we practice what we are taught in the Gospels, the world will indeed be better--not perfect, but better. On the other hand, the New Testament also warns us that we will be most persecuted precisely when we do practice what Christ teaches, something that seems to be an historic fact, beginning with the Crucifixion.
But why did not God reveal to us everything that we must know and do so that we would just have to follow directions for everything to be fine?
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