January 18, 2009

"The central thing in the business of Europe..."

This looks like it may be a good book. Ignatius Press is re-publishing Hilaire Belloc's The Battleground: Syria and Palestine the Seed-plot of Religion. I've ordered a copy.

They have an except here, and I've posted an excerpt of the excerpt. (Why? Just because I can. No one can stop me!):

....It is a great misfortune to history that just at the moment when detailed historical study began, some two and a half centuries ago, there also began that gradual but increasingly rapid decay in religion which made it more and more difficult for those who would write history to understand the vital importance of doctrine.

Almost every force has been called in to explain this and that in the past--except the force of doctrine: dogma. Race has been appealed to; economic circumstance; military circumstance (certainly more important than the other two) has been appealed to, and the chief r´┐Żle has been given (by those who understand and value a decisive victory) to the fact that men were what they were because of this and that battle.

All these forces have their place in the story of change, but until quite lately the supreme factor of religious conflict has not been understood. It has puzzled and it has irritated, so that commonly it has been dismissed. Yet supreme it is.

The central thing in the business of Europe is the Doctrine of the Incarnation: the affirmation that God had appeared among men, and the denial thereof. From the first public announcement of that affirmation about A.D. 29-33, it has been the main issue dividing all men of the Graeco-Roman world, moulding and unmoulding our society.

Constantine had established his peace, he had founded his new city, he was prepared (from A.D. 325) to administer vigorously and with justice a united, orderly, permanently established society, when he found himself at the outset confronted by a storm within that world which took him by surprise, puzzled, and exasperated him. The magnitude of it he at last perceived, though he could not understand why it should be so great--and by the time he died it was the main issue in the world over which his successors were called to rule.

This storm had arisen on the fundamental question of Our Lord's Divinity.

Let there be no error; the question is fundamental not only to that time but to our own. It remains the root question for those who ridicule the doctrine, for those who are indifferent to it, and for those who would defend it. With Jesus Christ as God incarnate there is one view of the world. With Jesus Christ as a Prophet, a model, or a myth, there is another: and the one view is mortal enemy to the other. The meat of the one is poison to the other....


* Update: Writing about things forces one to think them through. My experience, as a blogger from early days (since November 2001) has been like peeling an onion. I keep asking why things are the way they are, why various assumptions about things have turned out to be wrong. I peel back layers, and end up a Catholic who's reading stuff like the above. I think Belloc is on the trail of the real story of our world, and I'm avid to find out. (Which is why this will never be a popular blog--most people's reaction is, "Why do you care about this stuff?")

If anyone's curious, the assumption I had when I started Random Jottings was that most Americans of the Left, even though they were tiresomely anti-American in many ways, would rally to our country with warm hearts if she were attacked, much like all Americans did after Pearl Harbor. Wow, was that ever wrong! Which gradually led to the question of what's going on in their heads--an onion layer. Leading eventually to the question of what's going on in people's souls--a deeper layer. And under that the deep currents of history--what's driving them?


Posted by John Weidner at January 18, 2009 5:48 AM
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