Epilogue: Consequences of Faith in Creation, Part II
The next figure Cardinal Ratzinger considers after Bruno, Galileo, & Luther is Wilhelm Hegel, who saw God as the “process of reason (p.89),” where sin, grace, & personal salvation all evaporate before the emergence of a new humanity that pulls itself up by its own bootstraps, so to speak. If Hegel proposed this as a theory, Marx made it a reality: “Redemption is now construed strictly as the ‘praxis’ of man… the total antithesis of faith in creation (p.90).” Ratzinger notes two aspects of Marx’s scheme. Firstly, the individual no longer matters; only the whole. “Individual consciousness [& suffering] is taken up into class consciousness… All that matters is the logic of the system… a future in which humans are redeemed by their own creation work (p.91).” A cheery prospect, no? G.K. Chesterton in his book What’s Wrong with the World calls this not the bravest, but the most cowardly ideology of all: ever gazing toward a perfect future that never seems to arrive. Secondly, Marx says a creation ordered toward another is dependency & weakness. It is man that must create his own universe & destiny through work. The Marxist is utterly forbidden to ask where the universe came from, to what it is ordered, & how man finds his place it in. Collectivism promises freedom, but the first thing it eliminates is the freedom to ask a question. In denying the question, it also denies the truth that answers it. Disguised as work, Marxism admits only contempt for both man & creation.
Based on these historical observations, Ratzinger says belief in creation these days is obscured & denied three main ways: scientific rationalism, radical environmentalism, & a view of creation as hostile to grace. The first false view would reduce creation to simply a thing to be examined through microscope & telescope, mere matter to be manipulated. What is beyond empirical observation is “dismissed as meaningless (p.92).” Matter has no questions to ask, no morality to struggle with, nor hopes or desires to pursue; all that remains is what science can do. In such a view, all that is definitively human is swept aside. Yet, isn’t every aspect of human life inseparably linked to questioning & decision making as to what it right, what it true? Science by itself separates man from his anchor in the truth; substituting a false god of progress.
The second trend against creation we are seeing more & more today is the idolatry of radical environmentalism: the view of man “as the disease of nature (p.93).” Even the old pagans that worshipped the earth believed that man had a place on it. This environmentalism views the human intellect as the source of the damage, so it is a highly anti-intellectual movement. Further, it is self-hatred of the gift that is human life. It is ultimately a nihilism in which man finds no grace, no future, & no redemption.
The third false understanding of creation would not permit it to be redeemed by God; it remains an irredeemably corrupted obstacle for man. Ratzinger recalls Paul’s words, “It is not the spiritual that is first but the physical, and then the spiritual (1 Cor 15:46) (p.94),” indicating that grace & creation are two poles of the Christian Faith that must never be set against one another. Indeed, the Christian view sees creation as the gateway to the world as grace. Understanding God as lover presupposes faith in God as creator. Ratzinger calls this “the freedom to accept myself as well as the any other member of the Body of Christ… it is a way of saying ‘Yes’ (p.95)” to the gift of God.
In his conclusion, Ratzinger proposes that ultimately there are really only two philosophies of creation: the Gnostic model & the Christian model. “Gnosticism, in all its different forms and versions, [is] the repudiation of creation (p.p.96).” Here, God’s redeeming love seems too shaky a ground on which to found our lives; it is not something we can force & control. On the contrary, in humility & dependence the Christian receives a redeemed creation as a gift & a promise from the God who entered his own creation to save us. The Gnostic option is, in fact, hostile to God as it aims “at power through knowledge… [it] will not entrust itself to a world already created, but only to a world still to be created. There is no room for trust, only skill (p.97).”
The Christian truth is exactly opposite: man is dependent. In acknowledging this, he rejects every attempt to create himself & his world from within. However, “there is nothing degrading about dependence when it takes the form of love… for only love transforms dependence into freedom (p.98-99).” The center of man’s redemption is Jesus Christ, the God-man, hanging on the cross. Thus, “the doctrine of creation is, therefore, inseparably included within the doctrine of redemption (p.99),” which must be proclaimed to prevent the reduction of man to just another animal in nature & the redemption of man as the future we can build by our own powers. With a proper understanding of the Incarnation & the Resurrection, man finds the truth of God & himself within a genuinely Christian understanding of creation.