The Roots of Western Culture. Chapter 3: History, Historicism, and Norms
39 min read
39 min read
Historicism is the fatal illness of our “dynamic” times. There is no cure for this decadent view of reality as long as the scriptural creation motive does not regain its complete claim on our life and thought. Historicism robs us of our belief in abiding standards; it undermines our faith in the eternal truth of God’s Word. Historicism claims that everything is relative and historically determined, including one’s belief in lasting values.
Bid it halt before the gates of your faith, if you wish. The demon of historicism will not be shut out so easily. He has bribed your watchmen without your knowing it. Suddenly he stands in your inner chamber and has you in his power. He asks: do you claim that Holy Scripture discloses eternal truth? Do you, imprisoned in your dogmas, not understand that the Bible, which you accept as God’s revelation, itself underwent the process of historical development? Is it not true that the road from the Old to the New Testament is the great highway of history? If the Old Testament is the revelation of God, do you not understand that this revelation developed historically into that of the New Testament? Or do you still believe that the book of Joshua contains the divine rule of life for today’s Christian? Can you still sing the Jewish psalms of revenge without experiencing a clash with your modem christian consciousness? Do you really mean to say that the content of your christian faith is identical with that of the first christian community or with that of the Bible-believing Christian of the Middle Ages? If so, solid historical research will quickly end your illusion. Even your use of archaic terms cannot prevent you from colouring them with new meaning. The meaning of words changes with historical development, which no power on earth can halt. You speak of political principles and appeal to sphere sovereignty, forgetting that we live in “dynamic” times. Change is everything, certainty of principle is nothing! You live in an age that has overcome the dogmatic prejudice regarding the existence of the abiding standards that are not subject to historical development. To be at home in these times you must place yourself midstream in the movement of history. To be listened to today you must be open to the spirit of the age. Above all you must be progressive, for then the future is yours.
These are the surreptitious ways with which historicism enters the heart of modern man. Some unsuspecting theologians accepted its claims insofar as temporal reality was concerned but tried to preserve the eternal value of christian truths. This, however, was a formidable mistake. If one accepts its view of temporal reality, historicism does not stop short of one’s faith, for the life of faith itself belongs to temporal reality. Further, historicism is driven by a religious ground motive that takes its stance in radical opposition to the ground motive of the christian religion.
Earlier we saw that at an early stage historicism partially infiltrated antirevolutionary political thinking in its view of history. It is not an overstatement to say that the dangerous spirit of historicism permeates all of modern reflection on human society. In view of its vast influence, it is extremely important to observe once again that even though one may try to limit historicism to a view of temporal reality, historicism takes root only when the creation motive of divine revelation loses its hold upon one’s world view. Academic training or the lack of it are irrelevant here. Historicism is more than a philosophical theory. It belongs to the “spiritual hosts of wickedness” [cf. Ephesians 6:12] which claim not only our thinking but our whole practice of life.
When historicism abandoned the creation motive it made a serious error: it identified the historical aspect of reality with history in the concrete sense of what has happened. Even Groen van Prinsterer appealed to “it is written” and to “it has come to pass” as the two key witnesses in his testimony against the idolatrous philosophy of the French Revolution. But “it has happened” may not be identified with the historical aspect in terms of which facts and events are scientifically investigated. I can scarcely warn enough against this fundamental error that leads directly into the embrace of historicism. It is a blunder made continually, even by believing thinkers. Moreover, this first concession to historicism has filtered down from scientific theory into the world view of the average person.
Concrete events like wars, famines, revolts, the rise of new political forms, important discoveries, inventions, and so forth, all belong to concrete reality which in principle functions in every aspect, without exception. Indeed, the things of our everyday experience and the various spheres of society-such as the family, the school, and the church – function in every aspect. If, however, one identifies the historical aspect with “what has occurred,” then one forgets that concrete history displays a great many other aspects not historical in character. The result is that reality is equated with one of its aspects (the aspect abstracted by the science of history). One then abandons the christian motive of creation and becomes a historicist.
It can be shown convincingly that this is the case. Ask a man what he understands by “history.” His prompt answer will be: whatever has happened in the past. This answer is correct. In the ordinary experience of daily life one does not direct one’s attention to the abstract aspects of reality that are distinguished in a theoretical approach. In ordinary experience, attention is fixed upon reality’s second, concrete structure: the structure of things, events, and so on. But it is futile to delimit the field of investigation for the science of history in terms of the criterion “what has happened.”
Consider, for example, the following event: yesterday a man smoked a cigar. Today this event belongs to the past. But is it therefore a historical event, fit for entry into the annals of history? Of course not. And yet, closer reflection reveals that this event does have a historical aspect. In the Middle Ages men did not smoke. The introduction and popularization of tobacco in western culture was certainly an event of historical significance. One’s own activity of smoking takes place in a historical context of culture, and it is hard to conceive of this context without smoking as a source of enjoyment. Although the event of smoking displays a historical aspect when contrasted with medieval means of pleasure, yet the event itself is not characterized typically by its historical aspect. Other events, by contrast, are typically historical, such as the French Revolution and the capitulation of Japan and Germany in the last world war. Typically historical events act formatively in world history.
Surely, the contrast between different kinds of events is known implicitly in ordinary (nontheoretical) experience. No one will say that smoking a cigar is a typically historical event. Nor will one consider a natural event like a rockslide or a flood a historical event as such. Such occurrences become historically significant only in connection with their effects in human culture.
It is imperative, therefore, that we do not identify the historical aspect of reality with the concrete events which function in it and which display all the other aspects that God gave reality in his creation order. The historical aspect must be distinguished from the aspects of organic life, emotional feeling, logical distinction, and so forth. The basis of this distinction is not what occurs in the historical aspect but how something occurs in it. The primary concern of the historian, therefore, is to grasp the core of the historical mode of concrete events. He needs a criterion for distinguishing the historical aspect of reality from the other aspects. Historicism lacks such a criterion, since in its view the historical aspect and the whole of reality are one and the same.
The current criteria for carrying through this distinction are completely useless. If, for instance, one argues that the science of history is the science of becoming or development, then one forgets that the natural sciences also deal with becoming and development. When one acknowledges both organic development and historical development, then the cardinal question is this: what is the specifically historical character of a developmental process? Certainly, the organic development from the seed to the full-grown plant or from the embryo to the mature animal is not the kind of development that concerns the science of history.
What then is the core or nucleus of the historical aspect of reality? Whoever grasps it correctly is not victimized by historicism. It is understood only when the creation motive of Word-revelation intrinsically governs one’s view of reality, for then historicism has no hold upon one’s thought. The nucleus of the historical aspect, that which guarantees its proper nature and irreducibility, is the cultural way of being. Cultural activity always consists in giving form to material in free control over the material. It consists in giving form according to a free design.
Culturally formative activity is different from the activity by which lasting forms arise in nature. The marvelous rock crystals, the honeycomb, the spider’s web, and so on, are not cultural forms because they do not originate through the free design and free control of a material. They arise through the natural processes and instincts that move according to fixed, unchangeable schemes and laws.
The story of creation itself indicates that the cultural mode of formative activity is grounded in God’s creation order. God immediately gave man the great cultural mandate: subdue the earth and have dominion over it. God placed this cultural command in the midst of the other creational ordinances. It touches only the historical aspect of creation. Through this aspect, creation itself is subject to cultural development.
The cultural way of being is the way reality reveals itself in its historical aspect. Usually the term culture refers to whatever owes its existence to human formation in contrast to whatever develops in “nature.” It is then forgotten that the cultural way of being is no more than an aspect of concrete things and events, and that a so-called cultural object such as a chair also functions in the aspects of reality that are not themselves cultural in character.
The Greek culture religion deified the cultural, the nuclear moment of the historical aspect. Its form motive stood in religious antithesis to the matter motive, which deified an eternal flux of life. Still, in the Greek form motive one did not find the typically relativistic and dynamic moments that confront us in modern historicism. Their absence was due to the fact that in the Greek form motive the cultural way of being was completely detached from the moment of development, which binds the historical aspect to the organic aspect. Since in the religious ground motive of Greek antiquity the culture religion was absolutely antithetical to the old religions of the flux of life, the cultural form motive had to sever all ties with the motive of the older religions. Thus, for instance, the form motive led Greek thought to the belief in an eternal, immutable world of forms, a world completely separate from the earthly stream of life. In the religion of the Olympian gods this belief assumed a form that appealed to the imagination of the people; the Olympian gods were invisible, immortal, brilliant gods of form. They were personifications of the various cultural powers who lived far beyond the fate of mortals.
Modern historicism, by contrast, is dominated by the religious ground motive of humanism (nature and freedom). It views culture in terms of unending historical development, rejecting all the constant, creational structures that make this development possible. Historicism rejects the constant structure of the historical aspect which contains the divine decrees for historical development. As a result it has no reliable standard for distinguishing reactionary and progressive tendencies in historical development. It faces the problems of the “new age” without principles, without criteria. Because of its historicistic and relativistic view of life, the slogans with which it battled national socialism and fascism had no reliable value. The same holds with equal force for the slogans “democracy,” “the rights of man,” “law and order,” and “freedom.”
At the same time we must remember that the weakness of antirevolutionary thought was its conception of history. Certainly, the scriptural basis of its position – It is written! – provided a powerful weapon against historicism. Nevertheless, as we saw before, antirevolutionary thought allied itself with humanistic historicism in its view of history. It was inevitable that this alignment would avenge itself precisely in the present phase of world history: today the historicistic spirit of the “new age” can be combated effectively only if confronted in the arena of historical development itself. This encounter requires the complete spiritual armour of the christian religion.
In my critique I do not mean to denounce the great work of Stahl and Groen van Prinsterer. My critique has a constructive aim. It is offered in a spirit of deep gratitude for the labours of these christian leaders and thinkers. But their work can be continued in their spirit only if the scriptural ground motive of the Reformation continues to operate in it. If weaknesses in their spiritual heritage become apparent, they must be cut away without hesitation. Today’s primary need is a deeper scriptural insight into the relation between the creational principle of sphere sovereignty and historical development. Today our culture needs clarity with respect to the ordinances that God established for historical development in creation.
The core or nucleus of the historical aspect of reality is the cultural way of being. The cultural mode of an activity consists in control over material by formation according to a free design. This free control applies to both persons and things, although the first is primary. Free control reveals itself in the historical formation of power. Without personal power a discovery or invention that aims at controlling “nature” cannot be historically formative. For example, the great Italian artist of the early Renaissance, Leonardo da Vinci, was also a great scientist. Apparently he already knew how to construct an airplane. But this knowledge went with him to the grave. It remained his private property. If he had gained support for his invention, it could have had a formative effect on world history. For that Leonardo needed historical power formation and historical influence, which he had as an artist but not as an inventor.
What then is the nature of the personal power that equips the genuine moulder of history? The most distorted notions present themselves with respect to this question, also in christian circles. Many equate power with brute force. Today many Christians, misled by this identification, consider it unchristian to strive for the consolidation of power in organizations that aim at applying christian principles to society. They believe that power may play no part among Christians. Especially theologians in Barth’s circle – I am thinking of Emil Brunner’s book Das Gebot und die Ordnungen – view the state as a half-demonic being because of its organization of power. A Christian may speak of love and justice with an unburdened conscience, but as soon as power comes into his purview he has probably lent an ear to the devil.
Such opinions indicate that the creation motive of the christian religion has retreated from the world view of these Christians. As a result, these Christians also do not understand man’s fall and redemption through Jesus Christ in its full scriptural significance. The unbiblical impact of their view becomes apparent when we recall that God reveals himself as the creator in the original fulness of power. God is almighty. At creation he charged man with the cultural mandate: subdue the earth and have dominion over it. Throughout history God reveals himself as the Almighty.
Because of the fall, the position of power to which God called man in the development of culture was directed toward apostasy. But Christ Jesus, the Redeemer, revealed himself as the possessor of power in the full sense of the word: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me,” says the risen Lord £Matthew 28:181 He charged his apostles to proclaim the power of the gospel among all nations.
The spiritual power of the gospel is of course quite different from the sword power of the government. In turn, both of these powers are essentially different from the power of science, art, capital, a labour union, or an organization of employers. But regardless of the concrete structure in which the historical formation of power reveals itself, power is not brute force. It is rooted in creation and contains nothing demonic. Jesus Christ explicitly called himself the ruler of the kings of the earth. He even summoned the sword power of governments to his service, for all power in heaven and on earth was given to him. Only sin can place power in the service of the demonic. But this holds for every good gift of God: for life, feeling, thinking, justice, beauty, and so forth.
Insofar as power has been entrusted to man as a creature, it is always cultural. It implies a historical calling and task of formation for which the bearer of power is responsible and of which he must give account. Power may never be used for personal advantage, as if it were a private possession. Power is the great motor of cultural development. The decisive question concerns the direction in which power is applied.
Finally, contrary to a frequently held opinion, the formation and exercise of power are not subject to natural laws. They are subject to norms, to the rules of what ought to be. The norms for the exercise of power are intrinsically historical norms. Nations and bearers of power are subject to them. It is not true, for example, that the individual national character is itself the norm for cultural development, as the Historical School taught. This irrationalistic view of history must be rejected emphatically, for the creation motive compels us to acknowledge that in every area of life the law of God stands above the creature subject to it. The creature is the subject (sujet) of divine order. But the ordinances placed by God over the process of historical development can be transgressed by nations and bearers of power. This possibility of transgression confirms the truth that these ordinances are norms. Man cannot disobey a natural law, such as the law of gravity.
Actually, whenever one speaks of the contrast between “historical” and “unhistorical” and calls unhistorical action “reactionary,” one accepts the existence of truly historical norms. When one characterizes a certain political trend as “reactionary” one makes a historical value judgment that presupposes the application of a norm for historical development.
An example of reactionary policy in the Netherlands was the attempt of William I in 1814 to restore at least partially the outmoded land rights of the nobility and the old estates fStiinde] of the realm. Manorial rights, which brought governmental authority into the domain of private ownership, were remnants of the undifferentiated state of society in the Middle Ages. The old system of estates too was a relic of medieval society. Neither the manorial nor the estate system could adapt themselves to the result of the French Revolution; namely, to the modern idea of the state and its clear demarcation of civil and private law. The so-called counterrevolutionary movement in the Restoration period did not simply attempt to resist the principles of the French Revolution; it sought to eliminate whatever was associated with the French Revolution including the modern idea of the state. It tried to turn the political clock back to the old regime with its feudal relationships. From the outset, the Antirevolutionary Party opposed the counterrevolution, recognizing that it was a reactionary and unhistorical movement. It realized that the political efforts of the counterrevolutionaries conflicted with the norm for historical development.
But how do we know that God placed historical development under norms and not, for instance, under the natural laws that hold for electrical and chemical phenomena or for the organic development of life? The normative character of historical development is apparent from the place God assigned the historical aspect in the creation order. The contrast between historical and unhistorical action refers back to the opposition found in the logical aspect of reality between what agrees with the norm for thought and what conflicts with this norm. If a person contradicts himself in a logical argument, we accuse him of arguing illogically. The logical/illogical contrast presupposes that our thought function is placed under logical norms that can be transgressed. Among the various aspects of reality the aspect of logical distinction is the first that displays a contrast between what ought to be and what ought not to be. The divine ordinances or laws for all subsequent aspects are normative in character. Norms are standards of evaluation, and as such they can be employed only by creatures who, endowed with a logical function, are capable of rational distinction.
Some maintain that norms appear already in the organic aspect. After all, we call an organism healthy or unhealthy depending upon whether or not it functions according to the “norm” for health. But this judgment rests upon a misunderstanding. A norm exists only for creatures who are responsible for their own behaviour and who are accountable for conduct that transgresses norms. Our ability to give account in this way is possible only on the basis of the faculty of logical judgment. Surely, no one would hold a sick plant or animal responsible for the abnormal functioning of its organism. No one would blame it for its sickness. Yet, we do hold someone accountable for arguing illogically. Accountability is also at stake when we blame a political movement for its reactionary attitude toward historical development, or when we say of someone that he behaves antisocially, expresses himself ungrammatically, runs his business uneconomically, writes poor poetry, acts unjustly, conducts himself immorally, or lives in unbelief.
Norms are given in the creation order as principles for human behaviour. Within the historical aspect, as well as in all subsequent aspects of reality, these principles require formation by competent human authorities. The process of giving form to normative principles must always take into consideration the level of development of a people, for all subsequent aspects of human life are interwoven with the historical aspect of culture. Giving form of any kind always refers back to cultural formation in historical development. Accordingly, the principles of decency, courtesy, respect, civility, etc. require formation in social intercourse, in our concrete social manners. Likewise, lingual principles require the forms of language; the principles of economic value require economic forms; the principles of harmony require the forms of style; legal principles require the juridical forms of laws, decrees, statutes, and regulations. All the later aspects thus display an inseparable coherence with the historical aspect.
If the creation motive does not govern one’s thinking, it may seem that social intercourse, language, economics, art, justice, morality, and faith are in essence historical phenomena, as if they are of purely historical origin. But the creation motive of God’s Word, which continually reminds us that God created all things according to their own nature, keeps us from this historicistic error and sharpens our ability to distinguish the aspects of reality. For example, positive law, in its human formation, is not historical in nature. In contrast to historical formation, which presupposes the power of those who give form to cultural principles, the legislator’s formation of positive law requires legal power and juridical competence. Legal power cannot be reduced to power in the historical sense. Such a reduction results in an identification of justice with power, which is tantamount to an abolition and negation of justice.
The persistent claim of national socialism that a nation establishes its right to exist through a historical power struggle was a typical outcome of historicism. “Might is right” was the political slogan of the totalitarian state. The slogan was all the more dangerous because it contained a moment of truth. It is indeed true, as we shall see later, that a world judgment comes over the nations in world history, though never in the sense that right dissolves into might. It is indeed the case that the figure of “legal power” points to the inseparable coherence between the jural and the historical aspects of reality. Without power in the historical sense juridical power cannot exist. Nevertheless, the nature of each power is intrinsically different.
All historical formation requires power. Formation thus never takes place without a struggle. The progressive will of the moulder of history invariably clashes with the power of tradition, which, as the power of conservation, opposes every attempt to break with the past. In tradition one finds the embodiment of a cultural, communal heritage acquired in the passing of generations. Tradition shapes us, as members of a cultural area, in large measure quite unconsciously, because we have been nurtured within it from our childhood and thus begin to accept it as a matter of course without taking stock of its intrinsic worth. The wealth of tradition is immeasurably richer than the share which an individual can appropriate for himself. Anyone who dares to oppose it is never confronted merely with a few conservatively prone souls but with a communal power binding the past to the present and stretching across the generations. The innovator almost always underestimates the conserving power of tradition, for he sees only the surface of the present where tradition appears mainly as inertia, as a retarding force. But tradition has deep dimensions that reveal themselves only gradually in careful historical research. Only in that light does the investigator begin to understand how great the power confronting the shaper of history actually is.
It is childish to complain about tradition as if it were a grouchy old person who simply swears by what is and who fails to appreciate anything new. Culture cannot exist without tradition. Historical development is impossible in its absence. Imagine that every new generation would try to erase the past in an earnest effort to start afresh. Nothing would come of it. The world would be a desert, a chaos.
Cultural development, then, is not possible without tradition. The power of tradition is grounded in the creation order, since the cultural mandate itself is one of the creational ordinances. However, truly historical development also demands that a culture not vegetate upon the past but unfold itself.
Progress and renewal have a rightful place in history alongside tradition and the power of conservation. In the power struggle between both forces the progressive will of the shaper of history must bow before the norm of historical continuity. The revolutionary spirit of reconstruction, which seeks to dismiss the past entirely, must accommodate itself to the vital forms of tradition insofar as they conform to the norm of historical development. Surely, this norm of historical continuity is not a “law of nature” working itself out in history apart from human involvement. In every revolution guided by false principles an attempt is made to reverse the existing order completely. The French Revolution, for example, tried to begin with the year “one.” But quickly it had to moderate its revolutionary intentions under the pressure of tradition. If any revolutionary spirit is able to overcome the power of tradition, culture itself will be annihilated. Though this may be possible, man cannot overturn the creation order, which binds historical development to abiding norms. The creature cannot create in the true sense of the word. If the past were completely destroyed, man could not create a real culture.
A typical mark of the historicistic spirit of the age is the belief that the distinction between conservative and progressive directions in history can replace the religious antithesis as the line of demarcation for political parties. This suggestion, first made in this context by the historian Johan Huizinga, has gained wide support, particularly in the Dutch National Movement. It is symptomatic of the spirit of our time that this distinction originates in the historical aspect of reality itself. For the viewpoint that the demarcation between political principles and goals can be made on the basis of this historical criterion is plausible only when one absolutizes the historical aspect. It will become clear, however, that this criterion is insufficient, even from a historical point of view, for a proper determination of the basic principial directions in politics.
In examining the structure of the historical aspect, we uncovered the normative principle of historical continuity. Although the Historical School also arrived at this principle, it gave this norm an irrationalistic twist that led toward an acceptance of a fait accompli and that raised the individual national character as the “destiny of the nation” to the status of law. Appealing to “God’s guidance in history” only masked these unscriptural conceptions which conflict with the motive of creation. The norm of historical continuity does not arise from the national character. Rather, nations and rulers are subject to it. Good and evil may be mixed in the national spirit and in tradition, which demonstrates that neither may function as norms.
But if neither tradition nor the national character are norms, then is the norm of continuity an adequate standard for judging the pressing question as to what is progressive and what is reactionary in historical development? Evidently not. Not every movement that announces itself as progressive contributes to true cultural progress. In retrospect it may become apparent that it is basically reactionary.
National socialism undoubtedly claimed that it was an extremely progressive movement. Was that claim justified? Let no one answer too hastily, for I fear that many would be embarrassed if they were asked for the criterion of their historical value judgment. It is precisely the historicist who lacks such a criterion. What do we gain if on the historicistic basis one claims that nazism trampled the “rights of man” and the “foundations of democracy”? If everything is in historical flux and if the stability of principles is a figment of the imagination, then why prefer an ideology of human rights to the ideals of a strong race and its bond to the German soil? Is the modern conception concerning the “rights of man” still the same as in the days of the Enlightenment or the French Revolution? Are the modern views of democracy identical with those of Rousseau? If not, then from where does the modern historicist derive the right to describe his own internally undermined ideology as progressive and call the vital ideals of nazism terribly reactionary?
Surely, the quest for the norms of historical development must continue. The norm of continuity needs further clarification. This can be arrived at only on the basis of the ground motive of God’s Word.
Historical formation occurs in the battle between conservative and progressive cultural powers.
Conservative power guards tradition, which binds the present to the past. In the power struggle the progressive will of the historical shaper ought to accommodate itself to the vital elements in tradition. Tradition itself, however, is not a norm or standard for determining what one’s attitude should be toward a power that calls itself “progressive.” Tradition contains good and bad, and thus it is itself subject to the historical norm. Even the criterion that a progressive direction ought to take its point of departure from the vital cultural elements in tradition is not yet sufficient.
By the “vital” elements in tradition we refer to the inseparable coherence of historical development with the development of organic life. I have repeatedly stated that the historical aspect of reality cannot exist without this link. In the divine creation order all aspects of reality are placed in an unbreakable coherence with each other. If any were left out of this coherence, the others would lose their meaning and the possibility for their existence. It is a consequence of the integral character of God’s creational work that every aspect of his work coheres inseparably with the others. Only in this coherence is it possible for each aspect to reveal its irreducible, unique nature.
The historical aspect maintains its coherence with the organic aspect through cultural life. Cultural life should follow its own development. As such, it cannot be reduced to organic life, even though cultural life cannot exist without organic life. Historical development cannot be seen simply as an extension of the organic development of plants, animals, or man. Organic development takes place in accordance with the specific natural laws prescribed by God in the creation order. Creatures are not responsible for the process of the birth, growth, and death of their organisms. But, as we saw earlier, the historical development that takes place in cultural life is subject not to natural laws but to norms, to the rules of what ought to be. These norms presuppose the human ability to make rational distinctions, and they are given by God as principles requiring concrete formation by those who possess historical power.
Because historical development is subject to norms instead of natural laws, it is improper to view the “vital forces” in tradition, to which we have to attach ourselves in the continued formation of history, as natural givens not subject to standards of historical evaluation. In particular one should not go along with the Historical School, which argued that “unconscious, historically vital powers” and the “individual national character” operate in the process of history under “God’s providential guidance” just like the “vital power” in a bodily organism. Such an appeal to “God’s guidance in history” can only serve as an escape from one’s own responsibility for the course of cultural development. In this way of thinking “God’s guidance” became identical with Schicksal, the destiny or fate of a nation. In practice “God’s guidance” was reduced to the point where the national character itself became the norm. In other words, responsibility for cultural development was relegated to a mysterious “national spirit” [Volksgeist] that could not be altered and that swept the members of a national community along like an irresistible fate.
A view of history led by the scriptural motive of creation comes to an entirely different conclusion. In cultural tradition “vitality” is not rooted merely in the national character, nor does it signify only that large parts of tradition are still supported by enough historical power to prevent their eradication. Both are indeed necessary for historical development but, by themselves, they are not sufficient. True “vitality” in a historical sense only points to that part of tradition which is capable of further development in conformity with the norm for the opening or disclosure of culture. This norm requires the differentiation of culture into spheres that possess their own unique nature. Cultural differentiation is necessary so that the creational ordinance, which calls for the disclosure or unfolding of everything in accordance with its inner nature, may be realized also in historical development.
This point is eminently important for the pressing issues of the “new age.” Indeed, we may not rest until we have gained clear insight into the meaning of the historical norm of differentiation and into this norm’s foundation in the divine creation order.
Earlier I have repeatedly discussed the condition of undifferentiated societies. In such societies there was as yet no room for the formation of life spheres characterized by their own inner nature. The entire life of the members of such a society was enclosed by the primitive, undifferentiated bonds of kinship (familia or gens), tribe or folk (Volk), which possessed an exclusive and absolute religious sphere of power. These bonds were distinguished only by their size and scope. They fulfilled all of the tasks for which at a higher level of culture societal structures are developed which display an intrinsic nature peculiar to themselves, like the state, the church, the business enterprise, the school, etc. At an undifferentiated level, the community absorbed the individual person. There was as yet little concern for the life of the individual person as such. His entire status was dependent upon his membership in the primitive community. If he was ostracized from that community, he had no rights and peace. He was an outlaw. The same held for the stranger or foreigner who did not belong to the kinship, tribe or folk community.
If one considers a primitive community in terms of its historical aspect, one discovers that it consisted of a completely undifferentiated cultural sphere. Differentiated spheres that unfold themselves according to their own nature, such as science, art, trade, the church, the state, the school, sport activity, and so forth, did not exist. Culture was bound rigidly to the needs of the organic development of communal life. It had a predominantly vital, organic character. The idolatrous religions that stamped these cultures were basically religions that focused on organic life.
Tradition was all-powerful in a primitive, undifferentiated culture. Its guardians were the culture’s priestly leaders. They immediately rejected any attempt at renewal, believing that the gods would not approve. They also guarded fearfully against the infiltration of foreign influences in the lives of the people. If such a culture remained in this undifferentiated state, it isolated itself from cultural intercourse with other peoples. Bound to the organic development of communal life, it stood outside of world history. When the tribe became extinct, the community disappeared from the scene without a trace.
These, for instance, were the characteristics of the Papuan tribe of the Marindamin in New Guinea. Only a few of its members still exist. This dead culture had nothing to offer to the historical development of the human race. By contrast, Greece and Rome developed into a real world culture after an originally primitive phase. The influence of this culture continued into the christian-Germanic world, and it became one of the foundations of our modern western civilization.
Medieval society was also largely undifferentiated. But in terms of its historical aspect, it is evident that medieval culture was vastly different from the culture of the pagan Germanic tribes of the prechristian era. Largely by means of the christian church, medieval Germanic culture was tremendously enriched by Greco-Roman culture. It also underwent the deeply formative influence of Christendom. The Roman Catholic Church, which became the leading power in medieval cultural development, was a highly differentiated societal bond. Under its leadership science and art flourished. It established universities. Because a real body politic was still lacking, the church functioned as the organization of all Christendom. It transcended the boundaries of tribe and nation, and with its canon law, strongly influenced by Roman law, it produced a worldwide ecclesiastical law. The church was catholic, that is, it embraced all Christians regardless of their origin.
But in medieval culture, which itself went through a number of developmental phases, the institutional church was largely the differentiated superstructure of a highly undifferentiated substructure. Both structures, according to the roman catholic view, belonged together in the way that “grace” belonged to “nature.” This religious ground motive of nature and grace operated as the central dynamic force in western cultural development during the Middle Ages. We will discuss this more fully later. In the present context we shall note only that the “natural” substructure below the ecclesiastical institute of grace displayed much that was primitive and undifferentiated. In the dominant medieval conception there was one great community of Christendom, the corpus christianum. The pope was its spiritual head while the emperor was its worldly head. Their relation was not analogous to the modern relation between church and state, for a differentiated body politic did not exist. The emperor was only the head of the church’s “natural substructure,” whose members were also members of the church. The church, in fact, was the all-embracing bond of Christendom, which was differentiated in its superstructure but undifferentiated in its substructure. For this reason medieval culture was essentially ecclesiastical. National differentiation was largely unknown. The fact that the substructure was undifferentiated enabled the church of that time period to control the whole of cultural life.
Let us examine this natural substructure more closely. When the old Germanic sib or clan (a patrilineal familial community comparable to the Roman gens) disintegrated, the Germanic guilds preserved the totalitarian principle lying at the foundation of this undifferentiated societal sphere. Originally a guild was an artificial clan, a fraternity based not on natural lineage but on voluntary membership under oath. Voluntary membership did not indicate, as the famous legal historian Otto Gierke held, that the limits of primitive society had been transcended. Investigations by anthropologists and ethnologists have shown that secret “lodges” (communities requiring an oath) were a common feature among primitive peoples. The medieval guild revealed its primitive character in its totalitarian and undifferentiated structure. It embraced its members in all the spheres of their lives, and it could be seen as a model for any undifferentiated community built upon the basis of voluntary membership. When the medieval town arose, the burghers or porters (those who guarded the gates) united in a so-called burgh guild. When outside the walls the merchants established merchant districts, they joined together in merchant guilds. The later trade guilds originated in the same way. The trade guilds were not like modern business corporations; originally they were primitive fraternities that clearly betrayed the pagan heritage of the old religious communities of the Frankish era in their rituals. The guild also served as a model for the country boroughs, which sometimes are explicitly called “guilds” in the historical documents.
A second model for the undifferentiated substructure of medieval society was the Germanic home or household community, the counterpart to the Roman familia. Like the familia, this household defined the religious sphere of authority of the gods of home and hearth who represented the continuity of life between the household’s ancestors and its living members. The head of the household exercised absolute and totalitarian power, just like a Roman paterfamilias. He had the power of life and death over all who belonged to the household. He possessed an absolute right to them and to the household properties.
Power in the Germanic household community was called Mund. One became independent [mundig] if one were released from the Mund of one’s lord and established a household community of one’s own. In contrast to the guild principle, the Mund principle expressed the personal dominion of the chief over those who belonged to him. The first Merovingian kings built the entire organization of the great Frankish realm on this Mund principle.
The Frankish kingdom, established by Clovis in the fifth century, gradually subjugated many of the Germanic tribes on the European continent. It expanded its religiously rooted household power far beyond its original limits by subjecting all its subordinates to a general Mund and by bringing the governors and military leaders into a narrower, special Mund sphere. The Frankish church and other groups who depended upon royal protection because of their helpless station fell under this special Mund. The old Germanic tribal kings already had extended their original household power or Mund through the formation of a so-called trustis, a royal retinue (Gefolgschaft). Prominent German youths belonged to it who under oath accepted the royal service of knighthood and subjected themselves unconditionally to the Mund of their royal Fuhrer, who had the power of life and death over them. The first Frankish kings made a special effort at extending their royal company (Gefolgschaft), from which they recruited their palace aides and central administrative officials. The later feudal system, under which the vassal personally subjected himself to his lord, incorporated this basic idea of trustis, even though the feudal system itself had a different origin.
Hitler – consciously reaching back to this ancient Germanic example – built his Fuhrerstaat on the primitive and essentially pagan principle of the Gefolgschaft. He used this principle in a totalitarian fashion as a guide for organizing all of life into a deified “Greater Germanic Empire.” Every sphere of life, including the economic sector, was incorporated into the totalitarian national community in the light of the principles of Fiihrer and Gefolgschaft. Each sphere was delivered over to the exclusive power of a “divine leader.” The idea of a differentiated state was explicitly pushed into the background in favour of the ancient Germanic idea of the nation [Volkl But members of the German Volk were not encouraged to recall that the principle of the sib or clan had constantly asserted itself over against the Fiihrer principle in ancient Germanic society. Even though national socialism made the “study” of these “national beginnings” an integral part of cultural education, it carefully avoided the historical truth that the Frankish kings vehemently opposed the principle of the clan whenever the clan asserted itself in society. The clan’s demand for recognition was a threat to the Fiihrer principle.
The ancient Germanic sibs did not know of lords and subjects. They were associations that granted their members equal rights. The relation of authority and subjection was foreign to them. Not until the Frankish realm collapsed in the ninth century could the guilds, based on the sib principle, develop freely and act as a counterbalance to the authoritarian principles of Mund and Gefolgschaft. These principles were now being incorporated – in a fragmented manner, to be sure – in the feudal system, with its radical structure of authority and subjection in the relationship between lords and vassals.
The fundamental difference between the cultural development of classical Rome and the medieval Germanic world was this: when the Roman city-state arose, the ancient bonds of lineage lost their significance. The undifferentiated sphere of authority of the Roman household (familia) remained limited to its original boundaries. Independently of the Roman household, a process of differentiation created both a true body politic (res publica) and a civil law (ius gentium) of great potential significance. But in Germanic countries the undifferentiated sib and the equally undifferentiated household community became the mutually opposed models for organizing the worldly “substructure” of medieval society. Above this structure only the Roman Catholic Church could form a differentiated cultural community of worldwide impact.
Did national socialism then follow a truly progressive line when it imposed its totalitarian ideas upon western culture according to the model of the old Germanic Fuhrer principle? I trust that by now it is clear that a well-founded scriptural answer is possible, and that this answer contains a historical judgment upon the totalitarian tendencies which still threaten our cultural development after the fall of national socialism.
Let us examine more closely the second norm for historical development that we have explored thus far. This norm requires the differentiation of culture into spheres that possess a proper nature of their own. This norm can be understood in its scriptural sense only when seen in immediate relation to the creation order. In the light of the creation motive, historical development ought to bring the wealth of creational structures to full, differentiated disclosure. Only in the differentiation of culture can the unique nature of each creational structure reveal itself fully.
Historical development is nothing but the cultural aspect of the great process of becoming which must continue in all the aspects of temporal reality in order that the wealth of the creational structures be concretized in time. The process of becoming presupposes the creation; it is the working out of. creation in time. Time itself is encompassed by the creation. The process of becoming, therefore, is not an independent, autonomous process that stands over against God’s creation.
In all its aspects, the process of becoming develops, in conformity to law, from an undifferentiated phase to a differentiated phase. The organic development of life begins from the still undifferentiated germ cell, out of which the separate organs gradually differentiate. The emotional life of a newborn child is completely undifferentiated, but gradually it unfolds into a differentiation of sensuous feeling, logical feeling, lingual feeling, artistic feeling, juridical feeling, and so forth. The course of human societal development is no different. Here too undifferentiated forms gradually differentiate into the various societal structures through a lengthy process of historical development. This differentiation occurs in accordance with its historical aspect by means of a “branching out” of culture into the intrinsically different power spheres of science, art, the state, the church, industry, trade, the school, voluntary organizations, etc.
Cultural differentiation necessarily terminates the absolute and exclusive power of the undifferentiated life spheres. Not a single differentiated life sphere – in accordance with its true nature – can embrace man in all his cultural relationships. Science is as incapable of this as art; the state is as unsuitable to do this as is the institutional church, the world of business, the school, or a labour organization. Why is this so? Because each of these spheres, in accordance with its inner nature, is limited in its cultural sphere of power. The power sphere of the state, for instance, is characterized typically as the power of the sword. This power is undoubtedly awesome. But it cannot embrace the power of either the church, the arts, or the sciences. The cultural power exercised by any sphere of life is limited by the sphere’s nature. As a temporal institution the church cannot claim the whole of cultural power. God did not give the church the historical calling that he gave to science, to art, to the state, or to economic enterprise. The church’s spiritual power cannot incorporate the other power spheres.
Certainly, ecclesiastical power was very extensive in the Middle Ages when the Roman Catholic Church embraced all of Christendom. The papal ban could suspend even one’s duty to obey a worldly government. But even at that time the church had to recognize the inherent limitation of its power. It was careful never to gird itself with the sword power of temporal government. It allowed “profane” science its own cultural sphere of power, pressing its ecclesiastical power only in matters that affected the “souls of the faithful.” Yet, according to its conception of its special task, the church demanded the leadership of all of cultural life. For this reason one can indeed speak of an overextension of ecclesiastical cultural power. The church overreached itself not because of the nature of the church’s spiritual power but because of the religious ground motive that ruled all of medieval culture: the motive of nature and grace in its typically roman catholic formulation. As the leading cultural power, the Roman Catholic Church was the bearer of this ground motive, which opposed the differentiation of the “natural substructure” of medieval culture. The roman catholic ground motive had a totalitarian propensity to conceive of temporal society in terms of the scheme of the whole and its parts. This inclination was related to the fact that the Greek form-matter motive dominated the scriptural motive of creation in the ground motive of nature and grace.
Still, one can speak of an overextension of the cultural power sphere of the church only if other differentiated cultural spheres, such as art and science, already exist alongside the church. When culture remains in a primitive and undifferentiated stage, it has only one undifferentiated sphere of power. Although households, clans, and tribes may exist alongside each other, they are not distinct according to their nature. A process of overextension in culture, therefore, presupposes a process of differentiation. It thus conflicts with the norms that God established for differentiation in his creation order. Every extreme expansion of the historical power sphere of a specific life sphere occurs at the expense of the other life spheres, for it retards their unfolding in an unhealthy way.
We have now arrived at a more exact determination of the norm for historical development. I shall call it the principle of cultural economy. If we observe carefully, we notice that this principle is nothing other than the principle of sphere sovereignty applied to the process of historical development. “Cultural economy” requires that the historical power sphere of each differentiated cultural sphere should be limited to the boundaries set by the nature proper to each life sphere.
The principle of cultural economy is a guarantee that the view of history developed so far is indeed on the course charted by the scriptural motive of creation. The line of true historical progression is clearly marked out by the creational ordinances themselves. Wherever a totalitarian image of culture is pictured as the ideal that erases the hardwon recognition of sphere sovereignty – whether the appeal is to ancient Germanic customs or to the medieval church – one can be certain th.;it we are faced with a reactionary direction in history. We should not be deceived by the adjective “progressive,” a label that any new spiritual movement gladly claims for itself. It will be known by its fruits!
We will now attempt to show how, in the concrete realization of the historical norm of differentiation, the aspect of culture begins to disclose its meaning. This disclosure occurs when the aspect of culture concretely expresses its inner coherence with the subsequent aspects of reality and thus reveals its “sphere universality.” We will first pay attention to the coherence between the aspect of culture and the aspect of social intercourse.
We have seen that a culture which has not yet begun to differentiate isolates itself from cultural intercourse among peoples and nations which play a role in world history. Such a culture is bound rigidly to the organic aspect of the community and to a nature religion of the stream of life. In these cultures neither science, an independent art, a body politic, nor an independent industrial life can arise. For every differentiated life sphere depends, for its historical development, upon cultural intercourse in world history. With the cultural exchange the historical aspect discloses its coherence with the aspect of social intercourse.
In this connection we should note that differentiation of the distinct cultural spheres goes hand in hand with individualization. Individualization here refers to the development of genuinely individual national characteristics. Because of it, one can speak of French, British, and Dutch cultures. A primitive, enclosed culture is never national. “National” consists of the individuality of a people characterized by common historical experiences and a disclosed community of culture. This historical individuality is first developed in the cultural relations and exchange of civilized peoples. This individuality is thus entirely different from the individual traits of tribal and racial communities which are based on “vital” or organic factors.
The national differentiation of culture is thus consistent with the disclosure of culture. In the idea of the “Greater Germanic Empire” propagated by national socialism, the national element was purposely suppressed. Here too one can ascertain the reactionary character of national socialism as a historical and cultural movement. It nourished itself on the myth of “blood and soil,” which had no room for the national individuality of culture. National individuality was replaced by the primitive idea of a people [Volk] based upon the “vital” or organic community of race and tribe.
The national character of a people is not a product of nature but the result of culturally formative activity. Cultural formation is subject to the norm that God established for the historical disclosure of culture. Thus a specific instance of national individualization, actually developed in a particular time and place, can never be elevated to the status of a norm. For it is quite well possible that such a specific instance displays antinormative traits such as a lack of initiative, sectarianism, untrustworthiness, bourgeois provincialism, an illusion of national grandeur, or an apostate glorification of national culture.
The norm for the formation of a nation consists in a type of cultural individuality which ought to be realized with increasing purity as the special calling of a people. We will illustrate this with reference to the Dutch nation.
The Dutch national character can be viewed as a “normative type.” In accordance with this “type,” the character of the Dutch nation is marked by its calvinistic bent, its humaneness, its down-to-earth-ness and sober lifestyle, its religious and political sense of liberty, its enterprising spirit stimulated by its constant struggle against the sea, its pronounced international orientation, its special aptitude for the art of painting and natural-scientific research, etc. The spiritual earnestness of the Dutch national character, nourished by Calvinism, carries with it a strongly principial orientation that places its mark upon political parties, education, and social organizations.
One can undoubtedly claim, therefore, that it is in keeping with the national character of the Dutch that attempted syntheses between contradictory world views lose their effect especially in times of spiritual revitalization. At the same time, one may certainly not reduce the antithesis between Christianity and humanism to a typically Dutch cultural phenomenon. Religion is not determined by national culture, but vice versa; it is religion that brings its formative power to bear on national culture. Since the religious antithesis, posited by the scriptural ground motive, has been a major influence on the nationality of the Netherlands by means of the cultural power of Calvinism, the continued impact of this antithesis, also in political party formation and societal organization, is certainly not to be considered as anti-national.
The Dutch National Movement does not do justice to the Dutch national character when it expects the abolition of the antithesis in political and social life to reinforce the Dutch national consciousness. If indeed the scriptural ground motive would no longer have an impact on political and social principles, then the national character would be subject to a fundamental degeneration. This would prove that the Dutch people had erased the impact of its scriptural-calvinistic formation in history.
At this point, the Dutch National Movement may posit the question: is it not true that humanism has also worked formatively on the Dutch national character? Undoubtedly it has, to a very great extent. From a purely historical point of view it has done more for the recognition of public freedom for religious convictions than did seventeenth-century Calvinism. It has worked formatively on scientific and artistic talents and on political institutions. In these respects humanism has indeed fulfilled its own cultural calling. But before it succumbed to a period of inner decay, humanism was always very conscious of its antithesis with scriptural Calvinism. Particularly in the Netherlands it never hesitated to acknowledge the close connection between its political principles and its world view whenever confronted with scriptural Christianity. A truly Dutch humanism is a principled humanism that in its own way expresses the spiritual earnestness of the Dutch national character. If Dutch humanism no longer sees the necessary connection between its religious conviction and its political and social principles, then it has degenerated internally both in its world view and in its historical role as a national power in Dutch culture. The entire national identity degenerates if it becomes unfaithful to its normative historical type.
Cultural differentiation leads to the rise of national individuality. It also opens the way for personal and individual potential to make itself felt in history. Individual personality is no longer absorbed in the undifferentiated community, which earlier determined the whole of cultural activity, but receives an opportunity for the free unfolding of its talent and genius. It is in this context that the individual shapers of history enter the stage. Their formative activity takes on worldwide historical significance.
Individual traits are of course not absent in primitive, dosed cultural spheres. But this cultural individuality displays a relative uniformity throughout the successive generations maintained by the power of fixed tradition. To be sure, exceptionally talented individuals do appear in primitive cultures, as anthropologists have observed repeatedly. Their influence, however, is limited to the narrow boundaries of a closed community. A disclosed culture, on the other hand, has individual forms of world-historical character upon which individual leaders place their personal stamp.
Genuine historical consciousness arises first in an open, disclosed culture. This consciousness begins to distinguish what is historically significant from the historically insignificant. It also contributes to the urge to record what is historically memorable in symbols, such as historical accounts, movements, inscriptions, etc. In the relatively uniform life of a dosed, primitive culture, the muse of history does not have materials for her chronicle. The lack of historical consciousness in such a culture results in the lack of historical writing. Although in any undeveloped society one finds certain strange myths concerning the origin of its people and the origin of the world, one searches in vain for truly historical information concerning the development of its culture. For such a culture lacks a critical awareness of distance with respect to the past. Only an opened culture reveals the remarkable connection between the cultural aspect and the aspect of language whose nucleus is symbolic designation or signification by means of either words or signs. Thus the presence of monuments, historical inscriptions, or chronicles is a reliable criterion for determining that a culture has passed beyond the undifferentiated stage.
Without doubt many remnants of primitive cultural formation exist even in very highly developed and opened cultures. Reminders of old pagan customs are still with us today: Easter rabbits, Santa Claus, the “celebration” of an eclipse, and so on. But such remnants are not alive in our culture. They are the petrified, fossilized relics of tradition. Today we classify them as “folklore.”
National socialism tried to restore new life into the petrified remains of a primitive and pagan Germanic culture. These relics were accorded a place of honour in the culture of the “race” in accordance with the demands of the national-socialistic myth of “blood and soil.” A more pronounced retrogression or a bleaker spirit of reaction is not known in the history of mankind. National socialism can be explained only as the poisonous leaven of a directionless historicism that lost all consciousness of historical distance in the face of the dead remains of tradition.
Once the process of differentiation in culture begins, the connections between the historical aspect and the later aspects of reality disclose themselves. We have already mentioned the connection with the aspects . of language, social intercourse, and economy. The relation between the historical aspect and the aesthetic aspect may serve as an additional illustration. Only when a culture observes the principle of cultural economy does it guarantee harmonious cultural development. Every transgression of the historical norm expressed in this principle leads to disharmonious cultural development.
Examples of such disharmony are many. In the days of the Enlightenment the influence of the humanistic ideal of science granted virtually unlimited power to the natural sciences. All progress in the history of mankind was expected to come from the further development of science. Due to its penetration into the church, the first victim of the humanistic deification of science was the life of faith. “Modernism,” preached from the pulpit by enlightened preachers, spread a spirit of rigid and provincial rationalism which strangled biblical faith. For the “enlightened” the miracles and the mysteries of faith in God’s revelation were outdated. Science, after all, had a natural explanation for everything.
At the same time, economic, legal, and moral life were infected with a spirit of superficial utilitarianism and individualism. The state was seen as an artificial product constructed from “elements,” just like a compound in a laboratory. Even art fell under the influence of the rationalistic spirit of the age. It was subject to rigid, rational formulas and to inflexible artistic patterns.
In the long run culture cannot survive under an overextension of the power sphere of natural science. A judgment then begins to take place in history, which opens up the relation of the historical to the jural aspect of reality. Under God’s guidance, the French Revolution executed this judgment. And after its liquidation, the French Revolution was in turn followed by a period of reaction, the Restoration, in the great struggle for the freedom of nations against the conqueror Napoleon. In a similar way the medieval overextension of ecclesiastical power, which subordinated every cultural expression to its authoritarian leadership, was followed by an individualistic counterforce which rejected every belief in authority and attempted to liberate itself from every societal bond.
What a great historical judgment has been executed over the excessive expansion of the cultural power of historical science in our most recent historicistic and relativistic period! The first phase of this judgment is already behind us: we have witnessed the unspeakably bloody and reactionary regime of nazism, the degenerate spiritual offspring of modern historicism. Totalitarian “racial” [volkse] ideals, inspired by the myth of “blood and soil,” reverted western culture to the dark night of the pagan nature religions. Moreover, these totalitarian ideals were backed by the military power of a mighty modern state. The total Germanic “race” – incorporated in a totalitarian state! The military power of the German nazi state expanded without bounds, attempting to break all opposition from the other cultural spheres. Science and art, nurture and education, industry and technology, labour organizations and philanthropy – all were made serviceable to the pan-Germanic ideal of the Volk. Each became a segment of the all-embracive state. The totalitarian state led to a totalitarian war among the nations that made no distinction between soldier and civilian. Great cities and great cultural treasures were transformed into smoking ruins. Certainly this was God’s judgment in world history!
The second world war has ended. But has the political and military defeat of the totalitarian states also delivered us from the spirit of modern historicism with its overestimation of the folk community and its flight into an all-encompassing whole? Do we not detect totalitarian ideas of either an ecclesiastical or political nature all around us? Surely, today no one desires centralized state power. Today people prefer “functional decentralization,” which seeks to unburden the central organs of government by creating “new societal organs” and by recognizing their autonomy and self-government. What men do not recognize, however, is the great creational principle of sphere sovereignty, the principle that sovereignty is rooted in the intrinsic nature of the life spheres according to their creational structures. Neither do men recognize the divine norm for historical development which is rooted in the principle of sphere sovereignty. This is the norm of differentiation, which demands that the structures of creation disclose themselves also in the cultural aspect of human society. Nor do men today respect the norm of cultural economy, which grants every differentiated sphere no greater expansion of its cultural power than that which agrees with its nature.
Many still live in the relativistic, leveling world of historicistic thought. There is much talk of industrial democracy, but there is little evidence of careful thought as to whether democracy, as a typical political form of organization, can be transplanted to the life of industry, whose structure is so very different. There is much talk of the autonomy and self-government of the spheres of life within the state in terms of a universal planning scheme, as if the relation between the nonpolitical spheres and the state is quite similar to the relation between the state and its autonomous parts. Precisely today, when in view of the whole international situation it is hardly conceivable that the pendulum of world history will swing back from an absolutization of the community to an overestimation of individual freedom, the danger of totalitarian ideas, no matter what their guise, is greater than ever.
In view of this, the scriptural conception of the spiritual antithesis must continue to assert itself in today’s political and social life. It has perhaps never been needed as urgently as in these times of spiritual uprootedness and disruption. The continued permeation of the spiritual antithesis is today the only path, not to divide the nation but, to the contrary, to save the best features of our national identity.
Thus far we have explored the scriptural view of history in terms of the biblical motive of creation. But the indivisible unity of the christian ground motive demands that we now place this history under the full light of man’s radical fall and his redemption through Jesus Christ. Ultimately, disharmony in the historical process of cultural development can be understood only in terms of the fall, and the antithesis can be grasped only in terms of redemption.