Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Culture Is Incarnational

Rationalists, [Dawson] realized, misunderstood religion precisely because they misunderstood culture as well. Indeed they misunderstood both for the same reason: their thin and etiolated behaviorism denied the possibility of a grander vision of man. Allowing religion no other purpose than the [xxiii] sanctification of social or private compulsions, they closed off an entire realm of man’s being. This represented, of course, the collapse of the very empiricism they claimed to uphold. A conclusion was contrived, then evidence adduced to support it: hardly a triumph of the investigative arts. Yet the circularity should not surprise us. With their functionalist view of culture and religion no other conclusion was available to them.

Dawson’s recognition of culture as a bearer of truth was the insight of an anthropologist but also, in a more profound way, that of a Christian. His understanding of man in society was, in the deepest sense, incarnational. […] Man grasps the divine in diverse, sometimes prosaic, ways. His spiritual insights come mediated through the materiality of the everyday. He understands the blessedness of the ordinary: the common meal, the shared sorrow, the unburdened heart. Slowly, too, he begins to understand the truth beyond these smaller moments: that the God who enters human history reveals Himself in living cultures, authentic communities. His face shines in material and sacramental ways, evident to those with eyes to see. This is not to say that culture itself is religion. Nor is it to say that one culture is much the same as another. Least of all is it to propose that human culture contains the entirety of the divine revelation. It is, however, to acknowledge that culture matters more profoundly than even cultural historians realize.


Dermot Quinn, “Introduction,” in Dynamics of World History, ed. John J. Mulloy (Washington, DE: ISI Books, 2002), xxii–xxiii.

No comments:

Post a Comment

All comments ad hominem or deemed offensive by the moderator will be subject to immediate deletion.