Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Providence and secularism

by Peter J. Leithart

Reflecting on discussion of Jesus’ statement, “Without me you can do nothing,” Stephen A. Long writes, “If one denies that the human will receives not only its being, but also its natural motion and application to action from God, one makes the will a demiurgically unmoved first cause. Divine providence extends only so far as the divine causality. It follows that if the human will is not subject to divine power then naturally it is not subject to divine government. . . . Thus our free acts escape dependence upon God for their coming-to-be, it will be an axiomatic inference to separate the governance of these acts from the divine government. Human action then comes to represent a zone of being and good beyond the divine power and outside the scope of divine government.”

Thus, “the denial of God’s causality over human freedom . . . appears to be a critical intra-Catholic contribution to the evolution of secularist anti-theism in the moral realm. For what do we mean by secularism save the claim that the public order is outside the jurisdiction of divine rule? And what could more directly imply this posture than the claim that our free actions are outside the divine government?”

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