What the Christian social doctrine will be like in the XXI century?
Speech at the II All-Ukrainian Conference of Christian lawyers "Biblical values in the legal activities"
Today a new ressourcement takes place in the field of the Christian social doctrine. This ressourcement may be observed as in Orthodoxy, so in Catholicism and Protestantism. Christians are to be aware of the nature of these changes in the social doctrine, for it is the social doctrine that the actual stance of the Churches regarding law, social order, morals, human rights, individual and collective responsibility and freedom depends on.
The current ressourcement is the second in the history of the Christian social doctrine of the Churches. The first return to the sources took place at the edge of the XIX- XX centuries and was connected with emergence of the modern social teaching of the Churches.
In Catholicism it was the return to theology and philosophy of Thomas of Aquinas, liberation from the heritage of moral legislative casuistry of the baroque age. Proceeding from the teaching of St Thomas on the natural law, Pope Leo XIII formulated the social doctrine which permitted to resolve three tasks at the end of the of XIX and in the XX centuries: first, it allowed to create modern Christian teaching of the society of common good; second, it allowed to substantiate the theory of human rights (Neo-Thomist doctrine of human rights not solely defined the Magisterium of Vatican II of human rights, but also affected the text of general declaration of human rights); third, it allowed to develop the idea of Christian solidarism, which became a basis for the ideology of human democracy.
In Protestantism the ressourcement occurred due to neo-orthodoxy of Karl Barth and liberation of the Protestants from the illusions pertaining to cultural and social progress as means of Christianization of the society. The rejection of liberal theology, which placed the dictates of consciousness at the same high level as the commandments of God, made possible the development of different versions of modern Protestant social doctrine, none of them, however, having become predominant.
In Orthodoxy the ressourcement is related to neo-patristics founded by Fr George Florovsky and Vladimir Lossky. The social doctrine of the representatives of Orthodox neo-patristics was quite simple: the secular society should follow the sacral one, in other words the society should be analogous to a Christian community. This idea is correct in principle but is too simple to become a basis for the developed authentically orthodox social doctrine. This is the reason for a deficit of works by orthodox theologians on the range of issues of the social doctrine of the Church and constant repetition of Catholic models in the official doctrines of the Orthodox Churches.
Thus, at the edge of the XIX-XX centuries the first ressourcement occurred and the respective impulse sufficed for the whole century. Today the new return to the sources takes place.
In Catholicism Pope Benedict XVI returns to St Augustine. The social doctrine of Pope Benedict XVI pays too much attention to the formal side of the social. It was done because the formal functioning of the society is a foundation for the spiritual life proper of the society. The law-based society with human rights observance and having regard to the requirements of common good and subsidiarity – all that was conceived as a sort of foundation and a ground floor of the society. The spiritual life, among them Church life – as a kind of the first floor and the roof. For the theorists of Neo-Thomism it was obvious that society can exist only as a whole. There is nothing to build spirituality on without a foundation of human rights protection. But the entire building will be destroyed in time of crises without the roof of spirituality. The idea of Pope Benedict XVI is even more radical. He believes that without love it is impossible to build and preserve the very fundamentals of the common house. Not only is the backbone of law necessary for the existence of society, but love as the soul of society. It is an ancient theory of Aristotle and Augustine. They also believed that society is being created due to the two facts: law and solidarity. But the pope emphasizes that society in postmodern times can survive only in virtue of love. Solidarity and common trust, mutual respect and humanism are not enough even for normal functioning of a society. Love is necessary as acceptance of the other in his/her otherness. Love is needed as readiness to suffer from the “sharp edges” of the other. But there should be a requirement to the other: accept me too, as a Christian, do not oust my Christianity to the social margins. All social ideas of the pope, and especially the neo-Augustinian encyclical “Love in Truth”, are very close to the social doctrines, enunciated today by influential protestant and orthodox theologians.
Radical orthodoxy, originated by the Anglican theologian John Milbank, is being developed now in Protestantism. The key idea is very simple. The social doctrine of Protestantism should be evangelical by its origin and onrushing by its nature. On the one hand, Christ brought in Christianity as something above the world, above the secular reality. On the other hand, Christ sent his disciples to the world in order to covert the whole world, not merely to make some separate individuals Christians, to bring them to the supernatural society of the Church, but to spread Christianity over the entire secular mode of man’s being. As radical orthodox thinkers believe, Christians are to advance radically their own demands of Christianization of the national and public life. Secularization brought about no good; it took away the soul from society, its spiritual tradition. The earlier the idol of secularization is removed from the public pedestal, the fewer negative consequences there are for mankind. Christians have a right and must live not only themselves in accordance with the high standards of the Gospel moral. Christians have a right and are to bring forward their own social ideals and ideas to the entire society, not imposing their vision of the future, but quietly suggesting a Christian alternative. Thus, if in times of Reformation and Neo-Orthodoxy of Karl Barth the Protestantism refused twice from immediate Christian regulation of the social life, confining themselves to general influence, today the Protestants suggest de facto to adopt the common mediaeval idea of a fully Christianized society. One should certainly avoid the mediaeval mistakes at the same time. But on the whole the idea is the following: post-secular society as the new Middle Ages, as a renewal of the ancient tradition. Once Augustine saw the ruin of the antique society and dreamt of a future Christian society, which emerged later anyway and was what we call the Middle Ages today. Though the contemporaries reckoned Augustine a dreamer, he proved to be a true prophet. Now the ideal of a society of love by Benedict XVI and the ideal of a post-secular society by the protestant radical orthodox thinkers are both just a dream in the eyes of present-day mankind. But, the same as Augustine’s ideal, the social doctrine of Benedict XVI and radical orthodox thinkers may be a true prophesy for the future, a prophesy for the XXI and further centuries.
Radical orthodoxy of the Orthodox thinkers considers social diversity as a gift from God. For God created the world not only as unique, but as diverse. A special gift is the uniqueness of every human personality. According to D.B. Hart, God creates the world as a majestic music, in which every person is a special tune. This tune has its own value in God’s view and is to be appreciated by the others as matchless beauty, which is the reason for love. The unique tune of each personality is developed by God as the author of every existential story. It is developed by a person as well, who creates his/her own life as variations of a beautiful melody set by God. The life of a Christian nation or a local church is an individual melody, symphonic and magnificent.
It is obvious that uniqueness both of a person and communities should be preserved and developed. God creates both unities and distinctions. God does not create and does not suggest merging into a faceless undifferentiated mass. Just as God does not create and desire endless divisions brought about by sin.
Persons and communities are provided freedom to variably multiply the beauty of the melody of common gratitude to God, for enrichment of the general melody of joy of the mysteries of the Life, deepening the tragic perception of the greatness of life and death, gift and sacrifice, bliss and sufferings.
Consequently, instead of unification and multiculturalism, globalization and market domination of simulacra, Radical Orthodoxy suggests to develop the God-created diversity of unique real persons and communities, united by the oneness of grace; instead of the apology of violence (allegedly unavoidable) - the apology of peace (allegedly impossible). Life is an expression of creative melody, but not violence. And the public life may be and should be the area of reign of peace. Peace is the measure of life’s beauty; beauty is the measure of peace of the Universe.
The relation to the other should be defined not merely by the ontology of Good-Love, but by the ontology of Beauty-Love as well. The other has not right to demand of me unification, especially the religious one. The other has no right to demand of me disintegration of my identity. He has no right to do that, referring to the modern misuse of ideology of human rights. When one demands of Christians to stop using the cross as a religious symbol or to accept the new morals of permissiveness of sins – this is a suggestion for Christians to neglect their personal and social identities, which are unity and distinction, for the sake of merging into a faceless mix of globalized society and internal dissection with the lines of sin. Instead of unity Christians are demanded mingling and integration, instead of distinguishing internal and external beauty – dissection by sins. What might be a result? – A mass of dirt instead of society, schizophrenic division and decay. That means too much mingling and integration instead of unity, too much division instead of distinction.
In fact, only restoration of the love of beauty can save in the present-day crisis, as well as understanding of beauty as a form or a structure: a form that personalities and communities possess, a form that is both unity and distinction, but not integration and divisions. The loss of form is modern cacophony, which is not only a social reality, but a personal one as well.
Radical orthodoxy of the orthodox theologians employs so extensively the analogy with music, because it views the very way of Christian living as singing - singing hymns, liturgical singing, and singing expressing gratitude. Therefore, the true way of existence for a Christian is to be a Eucharistic personality: not the one living every Sunday in one’s community, but the one who lives, creatively generating every moment of one’s life through singing; turning one’s whole life into a hymn to God, and especially trying to turn one’s relations with other people into such hymn to God.
It is obvious that such a way of living may originate new theology as laudation of God, generate a new ethics – the ethics of love to the beauty of the other, which is the ethics of protection of one’s own beauty. The beauty of the other is his/her only unique image of God as well as diverse manifestations of this image. The other has a right for this beauty. But keeping the beauty of one’s image of God and creating various manifestations of this beauty is a commitment of every Christian.
Consequently, the protection of Christians’ right for the social and personal Christian living is not just a possibility, but a commitment of a modern Christian. And it is none the less than the commitment to love the other and to be open towards him.
Radical orthodoxy is a return to a healthy balance in the theory of rights and duties of man. It is a new understanding of the value of beauty both of a person, as well as of a society. It is a new aspiration for the social relations of unity without integration, and of distinction without division.
Christianity in modern society is the very enzyme that will neither allow the society to turn into a mass nor to dissolve into a chaos. The remains of Christian culture and morals, the voice of natural humanness not completely muffled – these two melodies still allow the song of humanity to carry on, although the waves of cacophony are growing ever stronger and one cannot tell today what the end of the symphony will be like.
Consequently, in modern theology the moral ethical discourse combines with the sacramental-aesthetical discourse. These two discourses are united by mystical perception of reality “through the eyes of faith”. Man should not overcome the ethical and the aesthetical in order to become a hero of faith, as Kierkegaard taught. Man should find in Christianity the unity of commitment, beauty and faith; the unity of human rights, love, mutual gratitude. For the world can be saved only through the unity of Love, Beauty and Faithfulness, on condition that Christians are able to express it in their lives.
In the nearest decades we will witness and participate in the new struggle of the Christians for their rights, the right to keep and develop their identity. Man has right to remain human. A Christian should have the right to remain Christian, to live freely as a Christian and to express his convictions without restraint, which includes unrestrained critics of the modern social reality and the modern distorted understanding of human rights. Christians should also learn to defend efficiently their group rights. No one can make us refuse our religious or national identity. On the contrary, the assertion of our Christian and national identity in the present-day world should rely on the idea of human rights. Christians are to insist on their interpretation of human rights, on their right to be what they are, on their freedom to preach their moral and social ideals.
On the whole, the entire XXI century will be dedicated to attaining the greater objective – winning sympathy of the entire society. The epoch of Modernity, the new antiquity, is coming to an end. Thanks God, Christianity has overcome this epoch, albeit with considerable losses. Today the Christian theologians think it obvious that mankind stands on a threshold of the new Middle Ages. And it depends on the current generation of Christians what these new Middle Ages will be like: Christian or Islamic? A high day of culture or its decay? A chaos of new barbarity or a renewed life of human civilization?
Therefore the responsibility of Christians today is not only the responsibility of assertion of their identity and Christian attitude towards the others, but the responsibility for Christianization of a future social order. It’s no coincidence that one of the last century martyrs, archpriest Alexander Men’ urged to remember “Christianity is just beginning!” Renewal of theology and social doctrine, new evangelization - all these make a unified strategy, necessary not only for the Church, but for the Society as well. Mankind won’t be able to survive in the new era without Christians’ responsibility for the entire society. Let me stress once again: Christians should not impose Christianization on society, but should constantly offer a Christian alternative to society. In order to offer it, Christians, especially Christian politicians and Christian lawyers should know modern Christian theology, today’s social teaching of the Churches, they should be able to carry out in life the new and efficient radical evangelization. The new epoch brings about the new responsibility to Christians, the responsibility for maintaining and developing their identity, the responsibility for the work of constantly offering a Christian alternative in today’s society with its permanent crises. And if this work for offering a Christian alternative is conducted by church leaders only, and not by every conscientious Christian, in this case Christianity has no future. The renewed social doctrine of Catholicism, Protestantism and Orthodoxy should reach every Christian community, every Christian, and should be studied at universities as a Christian proposition to modern world. It is essential that the social doctrine of the Churches is necessarily presented already today in all public discussions.