Monday, January 12, 2015

Eras and Titles

The practice of dividing time into discreet eras goes back a long way.  The Greeks were already talking about the Age of Gold and Age of Silver in what we now call Classical Antiquity.  The eras are always somewhat arbitrary, but useful for keeping the exuberance of the past in manageable and memorable pigeonholes.

It was the mention in the last post of the English historian Eric Hobsbawm that got me to thinking about this use of "ages" and "eras."  Hobsbawm was a true and lifelong disciple of Marx.  And with Marx (as with St. Augustine), history has a meaning, each age having its own particular role and responsibility in the procession of time.

The four volumes I am thinking of I purchased from the Folio Society back in 2005.  They share a common format, and sit in a handsome single slipcase, emblazoned with a series title, "The Making of the Modern World."

But Hobsbawm didn't mean, at first, to write a four-volume account of recent history.  As is so often the case, one thing led to another, and we are now fortunate to have the the following:

The Age of Revolution, 1789-1848
The Age of Capital, 1848-1875
The Age of Empire, 1875-1914
The Age of Extremes, 1914-1991

These are books I can heartily recommend.  God knows I'm no Communist, but I honestly know of no series that compares for conveying the sense of breathtaking change that has overwhelmed the world these last few centuries.  One need not share Hobsbawm's Marxist hopes to get caught up in the drama of this story.

And yet I come back to those titles--especially the incongruity of the last one.  Marxist history, as I said above, has a definite shape.  Class conflict gives rise to revolution, then to a new orientation of class relationships, based on newly emerging forms of the means of production.  The nineteenth century form, bourgeois industrial capitalism, begins to crack when untrammeled competition forces it to make increasingly crushing demands on the industrial proletariat.  Lenin's assertion that imperialism is the final last stage of capitalism then gives a plausibly Marxist rationale for capitalism's unexpected reprieve, the interval in which the entire world is roped into the system.

So far, so good.  We have in the titles of Hobsbawm's first three volumes the three stages that Marxism-Leninism considers the prelude to the triumph of socialism.  So why, I wonder, was the last volume not called The Age of Socialism.

After all, the period chosen encompasses, almost exactly, the lifespan of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the first and most powerful of the "workers' states," and the unchallenged leader of the international Communist movement.  This period also sees the rise of the British Labour Party, the adoption of social democracy and the welfare state as the predominant form of government in Western Europe, and, even in the resisting United States, a vast expansion of the regulatory apparatus and the so-called "safety net":  social security, mandatory unemployment insurance, the federal reserve, medicare, and the like.  And fascism?  We tend to forget that fascism was not an ideology of laissez faire capitalism or material consumption, but a corporate and centralized movement for collective effort;  we overlook the fact that Hitler's "Nazism" was short for "National Socialism."

So why didn't the next stage in Marx's schema, which fits so well the world of 1914-1991, supply the title to Hobsbawm's last volume?  Perhaps because it wasn't supposed to end that way...or even end at all.  There is a certain sense to the Marxist eras.  But history is not that clean or precise.  Socialism, though denied in name, is a growing omnipresence.  But revolutions have not ceased.  Capitalism and imperialism, far from being abolished by socialism, aufgehoben out of existence, seem to be getting along quite well with socialism.  Our syntheses are much muddier than the Hegelian-Marxist model might suggest.

This should not be a surprise.  The future doesn't, and ought not, to yield so easily to our scrutiny.  "No man knows the day or the hour."  We really, really realize that the future is, essentially, surprise.  Thus our own "Age of Anxiety," as we wonder where the next wonders, the next disasters, will arise.




Sunday, January 4, 2015

Creating History: A Follow-up

In my post of October 18 I was thinking about how we all create a particular past by, to some extent, choosing the objects that populate it.

A related idea was very commonly voiced during the recent midterm elections.  Some significant number of voters have their own favored news sources.  The choice of a single source may perpetuate itself; the accuracy of a unique source of news is apparently confirmed by a lack of engagement in self-criticism or self-correction.  In this circumstance the electorate can therefore develop (or be manipulated into) discreet outlooks that are politically useful, but at the cost of increasingly alienating them from those others with a different viewpoint--to the extent, even, that any other viewpoint becomes so incomprehensible that the only explanation for it must be stupidity or malice.

That's something we can see practically every day in our politics.  But I thought of another example.

I have been interested for some time in reading a Spanish account of the Spanish Civil War.  Twenty to twenty five years ago I read Antony Beevor's account of it, and it struck me as fairly balanced.  I had the bad judgment to lend the book to a judge on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, and I never got it back.  So I was thinking, my Spanish is much improved these last two decades, maybe I should tackle ithe subject in Spanish.

So I was looking on Amazon Spain and ran across what looked like a pretty good general account of the war, a Historia de la Guerra Civil Española, by Ricardo de la Cierva.  As is sometimes the case, after ordering a book I became curious about the author.  Now the literature of the Spanish Civil War is still fiercely heated, and soon I became aware of rather bitter animosity on the part of some against de la Cierva.  I learned that he was, and remains, a franquista, a Franco partisan who served as a cultural minister in some of the last Franco governments.  His partisanship is arguably understandable, since his father, a supporter of the Nationalists, was imprisoned and then murdered by the Republicans as the Nationalists closed in on Madrid.  

That's not to say that de la Cierva is a fascist.  "Reactionary" is a word that would probably be used by his more polite opponents.  He seems to characterize himself as one who values the "old Spain," the Spain of Catholic monarchy over a more traditionalist society of peasant farmers and middle class artisans and merchants.  His more vocal critics call him only a "historian" (in quotation marks); his own great criticism of writing about the war, especially that written in English,  is that it too often ignores primary documents (to which he, as a government insider, has had some advantage of access).

These are not things that will put me off reading him.  One of the interesting things about Spain--not exactly unique, but perhaps more pronounced than elsewhere--has been its ambivalence about the modern enterprise, its alleged backwardness in the face of a challenges from bourgeois capitalists, anarchists, socialists and communists.  Spain seems now to have "caught up" with the rest of Europe--for better or for worse--but the civil war seems to have been fought, in part, over that whole issue of the implications of modernity, and I think, therefore, it could be enlightening to hear the story from what was, militarily, the winning side, but, culturally, the side that is probably now losing. 

In doing so I will undoubtedly be given to sympathizing with those whom many think beyond the pale.  Franco is associated with fascism, and it was, and has been, the work of the Spanish left to paint him so.  I'm not so sure myself,  The English Communist historian Eric Hobsbawm, whose leftist credentials are surely impeccable, states right out that Franco was not a fascist (though his coalition undoubtedly included them).  

In any case, Hobsbawm raises the interesting issue that, though I give second thoughts to reading a historian tagged by some as a fascist, as, in any case, an unreconstructed franquista, it never occurred to me to be particularly "on guard" with a communist like Hobsbawm.  Perhaps it's because I've read quite a bit of Marxism, and though I can't accept it as a real science, or as defensible ideology in practice, I can certainly respect its implicit promotion of those who labor so that the few can live at ease.  It is one of the great virtues of Hobsbawm's four volumes on the making of the modern world that they pay attention to the obscure as well as the great, the suffering of the many as well as the triumphs of the few, the price paid by the voiceless for the "progress" of the world.  One would think that those topics should be more front-and-center in Christian historiography.

The upshot is the same.  In a world filled with angels and devils, who all write their own books, we owe it to ourselves not to confine ourselves to our own little tribe, but to also sup occasionally with the angels and with the devils, hoping thereby not to become trapped in our own untested assumptions--but also keeping one's own long spoon handy, just in case.



Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Meaning of the Story of Noah

The occasion for this post is my having just watched Aronofsky's Noah.  To be charitable, it's an entertaining CGI spectacle, looking more like The Two Towers than anything out of Genesis.  The desolate scenes at the beginning remind one of another popular Hollywood genre, the "post-apocalyptic"--which is in fact kind of funny, when you think about it.

But that's the occasion, not the aim, of this post.

I was baptized and raised Presbyterian.  Therefore I went to Sunday School practically every single week for most of my childhood and received a fairly thorough grounding in the stories of the Bible.  Now, "Sunday School" is not, generally, a positive adjective.  A "Sunday School" conception of something ordinarily means something sentimental, simplistic, pious, saccharine.  But let's consider Noah.

Even in a time of diminishing biblical knowledge, the story of Noah is still known fairly widely.  Almost everyone knows about the Ark, the "floating zoo," the sign of the rainbow.  Almost everyone gets the joke about thinking Joan of Arc Noah's wife. 

The story in Genesis is very straightforward.  There is great wickedness in the earth, wickedness such that God regrets having ever created man, wickedness such that God decides to destroy the human race.  But Noah found favor.  So we get the building of the great chest, the entry of the animals, the opening of the floodgates of heaven and the bursting of the fountains of the earth.  The remnant survives, and God gives Noah a special sign, placing his bow in the heavens,a sign that he will never again destroy the human race.

Anyone familiar with fairy tales or fables knows that it's that last section that lays out the meaning of the story--the lesson or the moral.  It's not subtle or hidden.  The Sunday School take is that God will not destroy us, for all our faults.  It's a message of comfort.

Now that's a reading I don't typically come across when the story  of Noah comes up.  At best there is the picturesque saving-the-animals angle, or the related picturing of Noah as conservationist or environmentalist.  

And then there is the more contemptuous, contemporary "new atheist" take:  There are no waters above the heavens!  God is a genocidal  monster!  This polemical, more literal reading has the rhetorical advantage of making the story look like an assault both on science and humanity.  What fools believe in a God, in a world, like this?

It's the literalism that leads them astray, I think.  Keeping in mind the limits on what we can say with complete certainty about the past (as I tried to say some few posts back), there's no indication, in human or natural history, that a flood ever actually covered the surface of the earth or destroyed all terrestrial life apart from the pairs marched into an ark.  So if it's not history, what is it?

Over the years you pick things up.  So I've come across Utnapishtum's flood in the Gilgamesh Epic, and the Greek flood.  It's a common ancient story motif, and that shouldn't surprise us, given our ancestors' absolute dependence on the harvest, and the deadly destructive power of even small floods.  So the story was out there, to be put to use.

And I've picked up enough Hebrew to make a nine-year journey through the Tanakh.  And there I noticed, as is often the case, that the Hebrew name has a meaning.  Noah. נֹחַ "Comfort."  The form appears again at the beginning of the fortieth chapter of the book of Isaiah, where a shift in tone is so marked that many scholars consider it a new work:

נַחֲמוּ נַחֲמוּ, עַמִּי

"Comfort, comfort, my people."

Which of course brings me back to my old Sunday School take on the thing.



 וְזָכַרְתִּי אֶת-בְּרִיתִי, אֲשֶׁר בֵּינִי וּבֵינֵיכֶם, וּבֵין כָּל-נֶפֶשׁ חַיָּה, בְּכָל-בָּשָׂר; וְלֹא-יִהְיֶה עוֹד הַמַּיִם לְמַבּוּל, לְשַׁחֵת כָּל-בָּשָׂר.   וְהָיְתָה הַקֶּשֶׁת, בֶּעָנָן



"And I will remember the covenant between myself and you, the covenant with all living souls, with all flesh, and I will never yet again bring death with a flood, to destroy all flesh.  And I set my bow in the clouds...." 

It is a comfort, undoubtedly, a promise to never yet again punish the wicked by death with a flood.  And if we moderns can't help but think that there never was a flood at all, the message, the moral, becomes even more comfortable:  I haven't, I won't.

Because it is an important point, and properly belongs here at the beginning of the great story of humanity.  What to do about human evil?  Our first impulse is always to kill it.  Just kill the bad people, the troublesome people.  How many revolutions and movements, even in the last century, rested on just such a terrible cutting of the Gordian knot?  Kill the bad, leave the good, and the earth will be paradise again.

So that's what God, in the story, does.  But that's what God, by the end of the story, promises never to do again.  Or, for us sceptical moderns, what he never did, and never will do.  Because, in a real sense, that's the whole point of the biblical project.  For Jews, the story of Noah, in rejecting any wholesale killing of the wicked, sets the stage for the Abrahamic covenant, for the Mosaic law, for the ethical demands of the prophets.  For Christians, the story of Noah similarly rejects the darkest solution, and, incorporating the law and the prophets, sets out an alternative scheme, not to kill, but to redeem the wicked.  In both cases the point is not to purify the earth by the death of the wicked, but to redeem the wicked themselves, to save both the world and human beings from human evil.

So that's why I say the Sunday School version turned out to be essentially correct.  The story of Noah is one of comfort, a preliminary rejection of an easy, a tempting approach to human evil, to which God said "never again"--or even, "not then, not now, not ever."  The bow is not in our hands, nor even in God's; it is set in the clouds.  



Friday, November 28, 2014

If you find yourself in Ashgabat this week...


An artist friend in Albuquerque, Diana Stetson, has been in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, this last week curating a show titled "The Spirit of Two Deserts"  at the Museum of Fine Arts.  Diana, whose work we have known and admired for almost twenty years, has made earlier trips to Turkmenistan as a cultural liaison.  Reproduced above is a painting that my wife Jeanine contributed to the show at Diana's request.

We could not, unfortunately, attend the opening.  But I am happy to add this to the "shameless plug" category.       

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

On the Day of the Armistice

Today is Veteran's Day, once observed as Armistice Day, commemorating the end of what now is called the First World War, when, at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, the guns fell silent.

This year is also the centennial of the outbreak of what contemporaries called the Great War.  For many historians it marks a major turning point in modern history, the end of the "long nineteenth century," (conventionally beginning with the French Revolution), and marks a particular end to a liberal vision of economic progress and the limitation of war through diplomacy.

On this day I usually re-read the last few paragraphs of Erich Maria Remarque's Im Westen nichts Neues (All Quiet on the Western Front).  Here they are in German.  I don't know where else in literature the unheralded change from first person to third is so poignant.

Ich stehe auf.

Ich bin sehr ruhig. Mögen die Monate and Jahre kommen, sie nehmen mir nichtes mehr, sie könnon mir nichts mehr nehmen.  Ich bin so allein und so ohne Erwartung, daß ich ihnen entgegensehen kann ohne Furcht. Das Leben, das mich durch diese Jahre trug, ist noch in meinen Händen und Augen. Ob ich es überwunden habe, weiß ich nicht.  Aber solange es da ist, wird es sich seinen Weg suchen, mag dieses, das in mir "Ich" sagt, wollen oder nicht.


Er fiel im Oktober 1918, an einem Tage, der so ruhig und still war an der ganzen Front, daß der Heeresbericht sich nur auf den Satz beschränkte, im Westen sei nichts Neues zu melden.

Er war vorübergesunken und lag wie schlafend an der Erde. Als man ihn umdrehte, sah man, daß er sich nicht lange gequält haben konnte; - sein Gesicht hatte einen so gefaßten Ausdruck, als wäre er beinahe zufrieden damit, daß es so gekommen war.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Pericles' Funeral Oration, paragraph 2

'῎Αρξομαι δὲ ἀπὸ τῶν προγόνων πρῶτον· δίκαιον γὰρ αὐτοῖς καὶ πρέπον δὲ ἅμα ἐν τῷ τοιῷδε τὴν τιμὴν ταύτην τῆς μνήμης δίδοσθαι. τὴν γὰρ χώραν οἱ αὐτοὶ αἰεὶ οἰκοῦντες διαδοχῇ τῶν ἐπιγιγνομένων μέχρι τοῦδε ἐλευθέραν δι' ἀρετὴν παρέδοσαν. καὶ ἐκεῖνοί τε ἄξιοι ἐπαίνου καὶ ἔτι μᾶλλον οἱ πατέρες ἡμῶν· κτησάμενοι γὰρ πρὸς οἷς ἐδέξαντο ὅσην ἔχομεν ἀρχὴν οὐκ ἀπόνως ἡμῖν τοῖς νῦν προσκατέλιπον. τὰ δὲ πλείω αὐτῆς αὐτοὶ ἡμεῖς οἵδε οἱ νῦν ἔτι ὄντες μάλιστα ἐν τῇ καθεστηκυίᾳ ἡλικίᾳ ἐπηυξήσαμεν καὶ τὴν πόλιν τοῖς πᾶσι παρεσκευάσαμεν καὶ ἐς πόλεμον καὶ ἐς εἰρήνην αὐταρκεστάτην. ὧν ἐγὼ τὰ μὲν κατὰ πολέμους ἔργα, οἷς ἕκαστα ἐκτήθη, ἢ εἴ τι αὐτοὶ ἢ οἱ πατέρες ἡμῶν βάρβαρον ἢ ῞Ελληνα πολέμιον ἐπιόντα προθύμως ἠμυνάμεθα, μακρηγορεῖν ἐν εἰδόσιν οὐ βουλόμενος ἐάσω· ἀπὸ δὲ οἵας τε ἐπιτηδεύσεως ἤλθομεν ἐπ' αὐτὰ καὶ μεθ' οἵας πολιτείας καὶ τρόπων ἐξ οἵων μεγάλα ἐγένετο, ταῦτα δηλώσας πρῶτον εἶμι καὶ ἐπὶ τὸν τῶνδε ἔπαινον, νομίζων ἐπί τε τῷ παρόντι οὐκ ἂν ἀπρεπῆ λεχθῆναι αὐτὰ καὶ τὸν πάντα ὅμιλον καὶ ἀστῶν καὶ ξένων ξύμφορον εἶναι ἐπακοῦσαι αὐτῶν.

"I shall begin with our ancestors: it is both just and proper that they should have the honour of the first mention on an occasion like the present. They dwelt in the country without break in the succession from generation to generation, and handed it down free to the present time by their valour. And if our more remote ancestors deserve praise, much more do our own fathers, who added to their inheritance the empire which we now possess, and spared no pains to be able to leave their acquisitions to us of the present generation. Lastly, there are few parts of our dominions that have not been augmented by those of us here, who are still more or less in the vigour of life; while the mother country has been furnished by us with everything that can enable her to depend on her own resources whether for war or for peace. That part of our history which tells of the military achievements which gave us our several possessions, or of the ready valour with which either we or our fathers stemmed the tide of Hellenic or foreign aggression, is a theme too familiar to my hearers for me to dilate on, and I shall therefore pass it by. But what was the road by which we reached our position, what the form of government under which our greatness grew, what the national habits out of which it sprang; these are questions which I may try to solve before I proceed to my panegyric upon these men; since I think this to be a subject upon which on the present occasion a speaker may properly dwell, and to which the whole assemblage, whether citizens or foreigners, may listen with advantage."

Here Pericles veers toward what he suggests is conventionality, the praise of the ancestors.  Again there is some parallel in our own pre-eminent funeral oration:  "Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers...."

The reference to ancestors living in the land without any break ("αἰεὶ οἰκοῦντες," "ever living") has a significance that may not be readily apparent.  A.R. Burn, in The Classical Age (op. cit.) notes that this claim is made, not only by Pericles here in the funeral oration, but also by Thucydides himself in the first pages of his history, and that there was, among the Greeks a certain prestige to being a "native," to being "earth-born" from a particular location, from time immemorial, and that it was a claim that the Spartans, specifically, as Dorians, could not make.

Pericles significantly begins by praising the "ancestors, "προγόνων", but reserves even greater praise for "our own fathers, "οἱ πατέρες ἡμῶν."  The ancestors are to be praised for founding the city, but the achievement of the fathers, which here receives grater praise, is the "empire which we now possess," "ὅσην ἔχομεν ἀρχὴν."

"Empire" is not quite the right word, I think, for "arche," "ἀρχὴ," though it is the conventional one.  Empire conveys an impression of hugeness, the modern empires on which the sun never set, or the ancient empires, Rome or China, which dominated their own known worlds.  There is another connotation of the word, an assemblage of diverse nations, such as the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  And a third connotation, the notion in certain manifestations of Christendom that secular power was best unified in a Christian emperor set over other Christian rulers.

Obviously the Athenian "empire" was none of these things.  In size it was modest, and indeed dwarfed by the next-door Persian Empire.  It was an assemblage of Greek-only polities.  But it was this achievement of "arche" which Pericles most praises as the achievement of the fathers--not the ancestors.  There is a certain pride in the mere domination of other Greeks, and anyone having read the previous pages of the history will have known that it was this growing power of Athens that most disturbed the generally slow-to-act Spartans.

Nevertheless, he will "pass by" their recent history, for reason of everyone's familiarity with Athens' military valor.  Rather, he will concentrate on the unmilitary, the "unvalorous" causes of Athens' dominance,  "what the form of government ("ἐπιτηδεύσεως") under which our greatness grew, what the national habits ("τρόπων") out of which it sprang."

Sunday, November 9, 2014

More on Rahner

I am continuing to read Karl Rahner's Grundkurs des Glaubens, a little over three quarters of the way through.  As I think I might have said in a earlier post, there's a dilemma in choosing whether to read a text like this in German or in translation.  My intermediate grasp of German makes my understanding undeniably inept at times, but at least I'm conscious of the uncertainly, which the reading of an expert translator might conceal.

Be that at it may, as I go through Rahner I start to get the impression that in some sense his method is a detailed, twentieth century application of the well-known aphorism from the first book of St. Augustine's Confessions:

et tamen laudare te vult homo, aliqua portio creaturae tuae. tu excitas ut laudare te delectet, quia fecisti nos ad te et inquietum est cor nostrum donec requiescat in te.

God has "made us for himself," and we cannot rest apart from him.  In my last post on Rahner I had descibed his initial analysis of human existence and transcendence as a philosophical application of the thought of Kant and Heidegger to the relation of God and man, his initial portrait of God being thereby the quintessential "God of the philosophers," not yet the "God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob."

But in another sense Rahner's analysis, though philosophical in form, seeks to give a rigorous exposition to something which, if not universal, is certainly widespread:  the feeling of God, the intuition of God, that conception of transcendence that comes, not from Kantian analysis, but but from the mere everyday experience of human life, human freedom, human wonder at the world.  Religion, in fact, is not some hobbyhorse of the leisured.  For rich and poor, ruler and ruled, sophisticated and naive, the sense that the world is filled with God (or gods) runs throughout history and around the globe.

So, though Rahner indeed takes as his starting point some rather daunting analyses from technical Western philosophy, in language that few have the training to understand comfortably, he uses those categories to try to express an experience that is almost universally human.  In that sense his "God of the Philosophers" intends to capture, not just the sense of the "God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob," but the divine sense wherever human beings may locate it.

That wideness is his starting point, not the realm of the Christian faith, or the Catholic Church.  As a Christian, though, and as a Catholic, he has to then bring that general sense back to the Faith, so that his analysis indeed leads to what he aims for in his subtitle, "An Introduction to the Concept of Christianity," not simply an introduction to the concept of religious transcendence.

So his method aims to connects up the general to the particular.  If the sense of the transcendent indeed comes into history, it does so in terms of the Christian concept of God.  If that historical breakthrough is to achieve full concreteness in some form of "Heilbringer," savior or bringer of holiness, we can find such a historical fulfillment uniquely in the life and work of the man Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ.

The course of the argument is from the concept to the historical object, from the general idea to the particular manifestation.  But that connection, from universal to particular, works both ways.  If the general sense is identified with the particular Catholic faith, then the Catholic faith must necessarily in some sense be identified with that general human sense of the historically present sense of the divine.

"Wir haben sehr oft im Lauf unsere Überlegungen zu betonen gehabt, dass es durchaus eine gewissermassen anonyme and doch wirkliche Beziehung des einzelnen Menschen zur Konkretheit der Heilsgeschichte and somit auch zu Jesus Christus in demjenigen gebt and geben musss, der die ganze konkrete geschichtliche and dabei ausdrücklich reflektierte Erfahrung in Wort and Sakrament mit dieser heilsgeschichtlichen Wirklichkeit noch nicht gemacht hat, sondern die existenziell reale Beziehung bloss implizit hat im Gehorsam gegenüber seiner gnadenhaften Verwiesenheit auf den Gott der absolute, geschichtlich daseienden Selbstmitteilung, indem dieser Mensch sein eigenese Dasin vorbehaltlos annimmt, and zwar gerade in dem, was darin in Wagnis dieser Freiheit nicht übersehen and verwaltet werden kann."

This is the concept of the "anonymous Christian" popularly identified with Rahner.  The felt transcendental relationships are in fact relationships to the Trinity and the incarnate Son, whether acknowledged or not.  Whether those relationships are ever explicitly realized by the individual is a separate question from whether they exist, whether they are real, whether they are salvific.  Here we come back to St. Augustine.  It is not simply the Catholic who is made for God.  It is not only the Christian who cannot find rest outside of God.   And this sense of recognized devotion to the unknown (or denied) God relates and is affirmed by the important, if not novel, assertion of Vatican II, in Lumen Gentium, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church:

"Qui enim Evangelium Christi Eiusque Ecclesiam sine culpa ignorantes, Deum tamen sincero corde quaerunt, Eiusque voluntatem per conscientiae dictamen agnitam, operibus adimplere, sub gratiae influxu, conantur, aeternam salutem consequi possunt. Nec divina Providentia auxilia ad salutem necessaria denegat his qui sine culpa ad expressam agnitionem Dei nondum pervenerunt et rectam vitam non sine divina gratia assequi nituntur."