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Thursday, May 4, 2017

Christian Realism & Christopher Dawson: WHAT IS CHRISTIAN REALISM?


[first published February 4, 2016]


by David Pence

AOA begins a weekly series considering thinkers in religious history and geopolitical military strategy. We will try to faithfully record and introduce thinkers such as Samuel Huntington, Francis Fukyama, Timothy Snyder, Abraham Kuyper and Richard Niebuhr. Our goal is to engage the best thinking in international relations, the nature of the polity, military history, and geopolitical strategy with the religious/cultural/historical approach of Christopher Dawson. We understand that "realism" in international relations is a fairly well-defined school of thought (explained in another entry). We do not concede, however, that such a spiritually nihilist materialism and Social Darwinism can ever give a true description of REALITY. There are some particular present-day events which the Darwinist professors explain very well and we want to learn from them. Their continued prominence and growing inadequacy makes even more striking the absence of serious Christian thinkers addressing the realities of life among the nations. There are Catholic  intellectuals who write about the thought  of Dawson and Christians who write about political philosophy.  But Dawson worked with the material of nations, men, wars and the rise and decay of civilizations. To illuminate the interrelations of men and nations by the light of Christ necessitates knowing geography, military history and the religious cultures of many peoples. One must write about Russia and Orthodoxy, the Shiites and Wahhabi Sunni, the explosion of Pentecostalism and demonic Western gender ideology. Dawson worked in this difficult medium -- he was a realist. His true progeny will not write about him as a thinker but will help explain  the life of nations, the history of cultural civilizations and the present purposes of war and diplomacy in terms of the unfolding of Divine Providence. This is our goal.

Christian Realism accepts the Providence of God as an ordering reality in history. God sent his Son to draw men into a public brotherhood. The Christian church is the living continuation of this bond under the Father and serves as a Light for the Nations. We see the nation as a natural and spiritual covenant of men to constitute a people and defend a defined territory. We see the existence of many nations as biblically ordained. We see national citizenship as a living public expression of Christian brotherhood. It should be fostered as a way to overcome tribal, racial and class antipathies. We strive for fraternity among nations as a realistic goal which is consonant with human nature and our common destiny as men. We recognize that man is fallen and Satan is active and thus war is often necessary. War can be an act of justice and Christian duty. It is to be avoided but not at all costs. The fundamental drive in foreign policy, however, cannot be wars and threats of war. A Christian nation must continually hold up to the world that men are brothers under God and we are meant to live in fraternity as nations. We do not accept as inevitable that nations will always be at war in the way Marxists argued that the classes will always be at war. These paradigms of inevitable and perpetual human conflict and violence are not the true destiny of man and should not be inflated as tough minded realism. What is real is that there is only one permanent enemy of man, and that is Satan. What is real is that the worldwide movement of Christianity is flourishing but our ability to shape international relations in terms of Christian ends is pathetic. We are allowing a discredited Social Darwinist and sexually confused globalist network to direct a discussion which they can no longer define -- much less illuminate.

The term "Christian Realism" has been used before to describe the thought of Reinhold Niebuhr chastising  Christian pacifists during the wars of the 20th century. Our project is not his. (In fact it is the work of his brother Richard that we find most compelling.) We are not erecting philosophical arguments for just-war theory. We believe the use of force by the State is a biblical given which raises significant moral dilemmas -- more often of prudence than justice. All discussions of international relations must be grounded in an understanding of physical ecology, communal loyalties, military history, and biographies. But these physical realities can only be interpreted in terms of the deeper reality of our final destiny as spiritual beings. Christian thinkers are long on philosophy and short on geography, military history and the spiritual role of nations. The international realists are long on the conflicts of nations and their competing interests, but blind to the spiritual nature of nations and the common destiny of men in history.

Professor Dawson said it best:
"The mystery of the Incarnation is the birth of a new humanity through which man is incorporated into the unity of the Divine Body... All temporal events and all changes in culture are in some way to be related to this central reality."  

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