The Life You Save Could Be Your Own

The thesis that modern ideologies are a secular replacement for transcendent religions is old hat even to the half-educated in Western society.  (The phrase “immanentizing the eschaton” was coined by Eric Voegelin and popularized by William Buckley in the 60’s.)  And so a cursory glance at James Schall’s book suggests that the author is simply recycling familiar ideas, now become historical-philosophical platitudes.

But that is not the case.  Schall views his subject from an original perspective that adds both freshness and dimension to his argument that God’s plan for the salvation of man as announced by revelation, and modern man’s plan to save himself through an historical project of self-realization, have a great deal in common.  “Modernity,” Schall says, “is essentially an alternate plan of redemption, an alternate version of the last things.”  Being a purely rationalist program, however, based on the rejection of revelation and the conviction that man is in need of nothing beyond himself and his own reason to accomplish his aim, it “not only cannot achieve what it proposes, but, in its proposing, skewers and corrupts what politics and human living can be.”

Schall’s book was inspired by Benedict XVI’s encyclical Spe salvi, which he calls “a document of great profundity.” ...

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