Angilbert (fl. ca. 840/50), On the Battle Which was Fought at Fontenoy

The Law of Christians is broken,
Blood by the hands of hell profusely shed like rain,
And the throat of Cerberus bellows songs of joy.

Angelbertus, Versus de Bella que fuit acta Fontaneto

Fracta est lex christianorum
Sanguinis proluvio, unde manus inferorum,
gaudet gula Cerberi.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Christ's Third Temptation: The Two Kingdoms and Two Loves

THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW tells us that a scholar, one of the party of the Pharisees, was sent to Jesus in order to stump him with a question on which was the greatest of all commandments:
"Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?" He said to him, "You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments."
(Matt. 22:36-40; see also Mark 12:28-32; Luke 10:25-27)

According to Jesus, there are therefore two great loves which should govern our lives: love of God and love of neighbor. It is an error to collapse them into one. It is as much an error to ignore or minimize the former as it is to ignore or minimize the latter. "If anyone says, 'I love God,' but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen." (1 John 4:20)

It is also an error to suggest there is a contradiction or even tension between the two loves. As Dom Jean Leclercq puts it in his classic Seul avec Dieu (Alone with God), "The soul that loves God in God participates in the love by which God unites all the creatures that He loves . . . . Thus the love of God in God extends to all the creatures loved by God but flows into each of them according to its property capacity."* These two loves are entirely consistent since the former orders the latter.

We live in a world, however, and perhaps always have and always will, in which these two commandments--these two loves--are opposed, are set one against the other as if inconsistent. Either that or the two loves are conflated so that one disappears into the other sort of like the Monophysites say what happened to Christ's human nature as it got completely absorbed into his divine nature. Secularists, for example, seem to stress love of neighbor (as they understand it) at the expense of love of God, and so the love of God becomes absorbed into love of man, and disappears. The product is secular humanism. Islamists, on the other hand, seem to stress love of God (understood more along the lines of submission or slaveship) at the expense of love of neighbor.** For Islamists, the love of neighbor becomes absorbed into the love of God, and essentially disappears. The product may be called theoism, or perhaps Allah-ism.***

In his book Jesus of Nazareth, Benedict XVI suggests that the divine ordering of the two commandments is somehow related to the divine ordering in between the Kingdom of God and the kingdoms of this world. We cannot ignore this divine ordering, for he observes that "without heaven, earthly power is always ambiguous and fragile." (p. 39) In the same way, without heaven, earthly love is always ambiguous and fragile.

"Only when [the earthly] power [of the kingdoms of this world] submits to the measure and the judgment of heaven--of God, in other words--can it become power for good. And only when power stands under God's blessing can it be trusted." (pp. 39) This would appear to be true for the love of neighbor. It is only when the love of neighbor "submits to the measure and judgment of heaven--of God, in other words," that it can become a power for good.

Christ's Temptation, by James B. Janknegt (1990)

There are two kingdoms, really distinct, with one subordinate to the other. There are two loves, really distinct, with one subordinate to the other.

It seems that Western history, and really the history of the world, is jam packed with a tendency of forgetting the real distinction between the two loves--and so conflating the love of God with the love of neighbor or conflating the neighbor with the love of God. In terms of kingdoms, the tendency is to forget the real distinction between the two kingdoms, and so conflate the kingdom of God with the kingdoms of this world. In such instances, a kingdom of the world becomes confused with the kingdom of God, or the kingdom of God becomes confused with a kingdom of this world.

There is a constant temptation to conflate, to confuse, to collapse distinctions between the things of God and the things of man, and thereby reduce religion to politics or economics, or promote economics or politics to the level of religion. So men traveling through history are constantly confronted--like Christ--with a third temptation of their own:
The temptation to use power to secure the faith has arisen again and again in varied forms throughout the centuries, and again and again faith has risked being suffocated in the embrace of power. The struggle for freedom of the Church, the struggle to avoid identifying Jesus' Kingdom with any political structure, is one that has to be fought century after century. For the fusion of faith and political power always comes at a price: faith becomes the servant of power and must bend to its criteria.
(p. 40). It is true that historical circumstances have made the notions of Christian empire or the secular power of the Papacy obsolete, and so the temptation that was particular to that historical setting "is no longer a temptation today." (p. 42) And yet we ought not to fool ourselves that the temptation is still not with us. This temptation "is constantly take on new forms," (p. 39) and so it is like the Hydra, a monster which grows another head or two if one is chopped off.

In fact, this Hydra-like temptation simply shows itself in another way, in a way proper to the historical circumstances we face. Modernly, the temptation is to conflate the love of God into the love of neighbor, so that religion becomes a force by which political, economic, or social progress or justice is fanned, and the God whom we do not see becomes secondary, irrelevant.

[T]he interpretation of Christianity as a recipe for progress and the proclamation of universal prosperity as the real goal of all religions, including Christianity--this is the modern form of the same temptation. It appears in the guise of a question: "What did Jesus bring, then, if he didn't usher in a better world? How can that not be the content of messianic hope?
(p. 42-43)

But as the Pope reminds us in his encyclical on hope, Spe salvi:
Christianity did not bring a message of social revolution like that of the ill-fated Spartacus, whose struggle led to so much bloodshed. Jesus was not Spartacus, he was not engaged in a fight for political liberation like Barabbas or Bar-Kochba.
Spe salvi, 4.†

The devil is actually much more wilely and subtle than as presented in the third temptation as narrated in Scripture. "The tempter is not so crude" Benedict XVI states, "as to suggest to us directly that we should worship the devil. He merely suggests that we opt for the reasonable decision, that we choose to give priority to a planned and thoroughly organized world, where God may have his place as a private concern but must not interfere in our essential purposes." "Religion thus conceived," says James V. Schall who reflects on this passage, is one that is not so much at the service of God, but "at the service of our own world reconstruction."

The Pope continues his reflections and ties in the modern misinterpretations of Jesus as a sort of political or social messiah as nothing other than forms of the "third temptation." We must understand Christ's messiahship as Christ understood it, within the context of the suffering servant of Isaiah, and not as we want it. And the only way to understand Christ's messiahship is to set it within the context of what Jesus rejected in his third temptation.

Jesus' third temptation proves then to be the fundamental one, because it concerns the question as to what sort of action is expected of a Savior of the world. It pervades the entire life of Jesus. It manifests itself openly again at a decisive turning point along his path. Peter, speaking in the name of the disciples, has confessed that Jesus is the Messiah-Christ, the Son of the Living God. In doing so, he has expressed in words the faith that builds up the Church and inaugurates the new community of faith based on Christ. At this crucial moment, where distinctive and decisive knowledge of Jesus separates his followers from public opinion and begins to constitute them as his new family, the tempter appears--threatening to turn everything into its opposite. The Lord immediately declares that the concept of the Messiah has to be understood in terms of the entirety of the message of the Prophets--it means not worldly power, but the Cross, and the radically different community that comes into being through the Cross.

But that is not what Peter has understood. "Peter took him and began to rebuke him, saying, 'God forbid Lord, this shall never happen to you.'" (Mat. 16:22) Only when we read these words against the backdrop of the temptation scene--as its recurrence at the decisive moment--do we understand Jesus' unbelievably harsh answer: "'Get behind me Satan. You are a hindrance to me for you are not on the side of God, but of men.'" (Mat 16:23)

(p. 42)

What does this say to us? Those that reject the kingdom of God and opt only for the kingdoms of the world, such as the secularists, and those who confuse the kingdom of God with the kingdoms of the world, such as the Islamists or Allah-ists, deserve the "unbelievably harsh answer" that Jesus gave to Peter: Vade retro me Satanas.

Jesus . . . repeats to us what he said in reply to Satan [in the third temptation], what he said to Peter, and what he explained further to the disciples of Emmaus: No kingdom of this world is the kingdom of God, the total condition of mankind’s salvation. Earthly kingdoms remain earthly, human kingdoms, and anyone who claims to be able to establish the perfect world is the willing dupe of Satan and plays the world right into his hands.

(p. 43-44)

If Jesus does not bring us a political program or an economic program, what did he bring us? The answer is simple: Jesus brought us what we really need, for he knew that man does not live by bread alone:
The answer is very simple: God. He has brought God. He has brought the God who formerly unveiled his countenance gradually, first to Abraham, then to Moses and the Prophets, and then in the Wisdom Literature - the God who revealed his face only in Israel, even though he was also honored among the pagans in various shadowy guises. It is this God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the true God, whom he has brought to the nations of the earth. He has brought God, and now we know his face, now we can call upon him. Now we know the path that we human beings have to take in this world. Jesus has brought God and with God the truth about our origin and destiny: faith, hope, and love. It is only because of the hardness of hearts that we think this is too little.
(p. 44)

So let us not worry and say, "What are we or our neighbor to eat? What are we or our neighbor to drink? What are we and our neighbor to wear?" All these things the pagans seek without regard to God. God knows we and our neighbor need them all.

What then are we to worry about? We are to worry about seeking "first the kingdom of God and his righteousness"--which is to say, loving the Lord our God with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our mind, and with all our strength." (Matt. 6:31-33; Mark 12:30) Only after being informed by that love of God are we then to concern ourselves with the "kingdoms of this world," with politics and economics and social questions. Things then are added unto us. Only within that love of God, in other words, are we to love our neighbors as ourselves. (Matt. 22:39; Mark 12:31) There can be no social justice, in other words, without the love of God first.

As Schall so eloquently summarizes it:
The affirmation of the first three commandments of the Decalogue about the worship of God is also an affirmation to the second seven, the love of God and neighbor. But the second commandment comes about only by knowing the first and its primacy. This is what the third temptation was about. Jesus is the Son, "the new Jacob, the Patriarch of a universalized Israel." The conclusion remains, behind everything that we think and do, "God is the issue."
In his Urbi et orbi message of Christmas 2010, Pope Benedict XVI referred to priority that must be given to the Kingdom of God--that is, the love of God--as a condition of understanding our role of the kingdoms of the world--that is, the love of neighbor:

We know that his Kingdom is not of this world, and yet it is more important than all the kingdoms of this world. It is like the leaven of humanity: were it lacking, the energy to work for true development would flag: the impulse to work together for the common good, in the disinterested service of our neighbor, in the peaceful struggle for justice.
Love God. Love your neighbor for love of God. Do not fall victim to the Third Temptation. Give preeminence to the first, or you will sour or spoil the latter. Do not confuse the two loves, and do not collapse them into one. Remember, there are two kingdoms: the kingdom of God and the kingdoms of the world. Do not fall victim to the Third Temptation. Give preeminence to the first, seek it first, and then, and only then, attend to the latter. Do not confuse the two, and do not conflate them. In a nutshell, that is the heart of Catholic social doctrine.
*Dom Jean Leclercq, Alone with God (Ercam, 2008), 127.
**Qur'an 3:31("If ye love Allah, follow me.") Love of God represents a submission to, or following of, Muhammad and his dualistic teachings which call for struggle and indeed war (jihad) against non-Muslims and which reject a universal love of neighbor. There is nothing similar to the two great commandments of Jesus in Muhammad's Qur'an or in the Sunnah.
***"[T]here is a certain cryptic relation between the notion that we can construct our own world [secularism] and the notion that God, if He chooses, can will evil to be good or good to be evil [Islam]." (Schall) "Both the thesis that God is pure will and that he does not exist end up in the same place, as the Pope indicated in the "Regensburg Lecture." They allow us to do what we want and to justify it on theoretic grounds." (Schall) In terms of moral duty, the Islamist, theoist, or Allahist kingdom is starkly dualist. There is one moral law for the Muslim, there is another moral law for the non-Muslims. So Islam suffers from a moral dualism imposed, the Islamist or Allahist would say, positively by Allah. The Jew, the Christian, and Infidel, and the Muslim "hypocrites" (the kuffar, the mushrikun, and the munafiqun) are a different category of neighbor from the Muslim. So the two commandments of Christ become--under the teachings of Muhammad--something akin to love Allah, and love your fellow Muslim, but the Jew, the Christian, the infidel, and the hypocrite you shall not love. This is the upshot of such ayat of the Qur'an such as Qur'an 5:51 ("O you who believe! do not take the Jews and the Christians for friends; they are friends of each other; and whoever amongst you takes them for a friend, then surely he is one of them; surely Allah does not guide the unjust people"). See also Qur'an 3:10, 28, 85, 118; 5:80; 9:23; 53:29.
†Spartacus (ca. 109–71 BC) was a Thracian gladiator/slave who became a famous military leader of his fellow slaves in the Third Servile Was, an ultimately unsuccessful slave rebellion against the Roman Republic. Spartacus is frequently cited as an example of an oppressed people fighting for their freedom against their oppressors. Notably, he was an inspiration to modern revolutionaries such as Karl Marx (who mentions him as his "hero" in his Confession at Zalt-Bommel, April 1, 1865) and Fidel Castro's comrade-in-arms, the guerillero Che Guevara. Barabbas, of course, was the Jewish revolutionary who was released during the Passover season at the behest of the crowd when given an option by Pilate on whether to release Barabbas or Jesus based upon legal custom. (e.g., Matt. 27:15-26) Simon bar Kochba was a 2nd century Jewish leader who successfully spearheaded the Bar Kokhba revolt against the Roman Empire in 132 A.D. He was head of a short-lived Jewish state, which eventually was re-conquered by the Romans in 135 A.D. As to those whose "struggle led to so much bloodshed" and those who "fight for political liberation," Pope Benedict XVI may have cited Muhammad, a self-acclaimed "prophet" who, more than anyone in the history of the world, fell into the temptation of advocating "the fusion of faith and political power," failing thereby to recognize the price that in such instances "faith becomes the servant of power and must bend to its criteria." (p. 40) But surely his recollection of the violent Muslim reception of his 2006 "Regensburg Lecture" and its tangential reference to Muhammad by quoting the Byzantine emperor Manuel II Palaeologus (1455-1512) ("Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.") suppressed any inclination at pointing out the obvious.

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