Temporal Values, Theology of
TEMPORAL VALUES, THEOLOGY OF
A theological orientation based on the acceptance of the temporal order as the relatively permanent and congenial condition for the fulfillment of the Christian vocation rather than as the condition of absolute transience and exile. In the history of Christian theology there have appeared two valid emphases regarding the relationship of the Christian to the world: the eschatalogical emphasis, characterized by a preoccupation with the eternal order and a relative indifference toward the temporal, and the incarnational emphasis, with its stress on the value of the temporal order itself because of its elevation by Christ's entrance into it.
Eschatalogical Emphasis. The doctrine of the New Testament regarding the relationship of man to the world was so dominated by the expectation of the parousia that it tended to draw attention away from a consideration of the Christian in the world and even from the immediate aftermath of the individual's death. In the apostolic and postapostolic period, the Christian community expected the Parousia imminently (Mk 13.30; Mt 24.3–51). Christ was to come again (Acts 1.11) so that His followers could save themselves from "this perverse generation" (Acts2.40). They sold their goods and possessions and gave to the needy, spending their days in prayer and the breaking of Bread (Acts 2.42–47). God made the wisdom of the world foolish (1 Cor 1.20); Christ gave Himself for man's sins that He might deliver man from the wickedness of this present world (Gal 1.4); a condition of pure and undefiled religion before God the Father was to keep oneself unspotted from this world (Jas 1.27).
In the Didache [Syria (?) between 100 and 150] there was a heavy emphasis on the Parousia and its imminence (16.1; Ancient Christian Writers, ed. J. Quasten et al. [Westminster, MD 1946–] 6.24), but no mention of the beginnings of a structural hierarchy or a monarchical episcopate. It was typical of these writings of the Apostolic Fathers that they were eschatological in character and regarded the Second Coming of Christ as imminent. With the passing of the second generation of Christians and the failure of the Parousia to occur, thought was given to the fate of the Christian after death and before the "last day." Chiliastic elements developed among the Greek Apologists (Justin, Dial. 5, 80; Patrologia Graeca, ed J. P. Migne [Paris 1857–66] 6:485–489, 664–668), as well as untraditional assertions that immortality is not natural to the soul, but is a reward for its having kept the commandments of God (Justin, Dial. 5, Patrologia Graeca, 6:485–489; Irenaeus, Adv. haer. 4.4.3, Patrologia Graeca, 7:982–983; Theophilus of Antioch, Ad Autolycum 2.27, Patrologia Graeca, 6:1094–95). The Epistle to Diognetus (5–6; Patrologia Graeca, 2:1173–76) goes beyond the anticipation of the Parousia to describe the task of Christians in the world.
The same current of thought can be found in later Fathers, with chiliasm appearing in the writings of some of the Alexandrians, in Palestine, among the Romans, in Tertullian, in Lactantius, and in other writers of the West, until it was dealt a death blow by the work of Origen. Coupled with a preoccupation with the last things was a disregard and even disdain for the world. Movements of Christians to segregate themselves from the world contributed to the rise of monasticism and to the separatism of cenobitism and the life of the stylites. Quite early the excess of utter disdain for the world resulted in heterodox doctrinal formulations, such as Montanism, and their convulsionary variations through the centuries.
Kept within orthodox limits, the emphasis on the last things is a salutary and necessary spiritual orientation; it helps Christians to avoid attachments that draw them away from God and from each other. In this sense, eschatology has benefited Christian spirituality and in part characterized its history.
Incarnational Emphasis. The origins of the incarnational emphasis in theology are vague, but it surely began to arise in the postapostolic period when the Parousia that was expected imminently failed to occur. With the interpretation of Christianity to the emperors by the Apologists and its remarkable expansion, especially at the time of Constantine, it was necessary for Christianity to reevaluate the role of temporal values. By the time of Augustine (see The City of God ) much thought had gone into the formulation of a doctrine of man's relatively permanent place in the world as a Christian. With the rise of the papacy as an institution and the subsequent building up of a temporal empire, the culmination of its power being in the late 11th and early 12th centuries, when it was landlord of one-third of the tillable land of Europe, not to speak of Eastern holdings, there was articulated, at least implicitly, the doctrine of definite acceptance of and appreciation for worldly goods and temporal values. The impressive intellectual, artistic, economic, political, and religio-institutional structures of the flowering of the Middle Ages would have been neither possible nor desirable if the Christian's role in the world was absolutely transient and a form of exile. The Renaissance papacy indicated an overemphasis on the value of the temporal to the neglect of the eternal and contributed in large measure to the rupture of Christendom and the rise of Protestantism.
Tridentine and post-Tridentine theology, which followed so crucial an event as the Protestant Reformation, was preoccupied with reevaluations and reforms. More recently, in an atmosphere of comparative religious peace and ecumenical security, theologians have again turned to the question of the Christian and the world; and although there were to be found among prominent 20th–century theologians representatives of both emphases, the eschatological (J. daniÉlou and L. bouyer) and the incarnational (G. Thils, Y. M. J. congar, J. C. mur ray, and P. teilhard de chardin), the incarnational seemed to have been predominant. It holds that the Christian should not withdraw from the world to save himself from it so much as to enter into the world to save it from itself. The dangers involved need not be feared exceedingly, since Christ became man in the world to elevate man, his institutions, and his culture. There are positive human values to be recognized and preserved, including those of labor (Rerum novarum, Quadragesimo anno ), of education (Divini illius magistri ), of marriage (Casti connubii ), of the rights of individuals within the state (Mit brennender Sorge ), of nations themselves and their social institutions (Mater et magistra ), of international order (Pacem in terris ), and throughout all of these, the value of religious liberty (Dignitatis humanae, Gaudium et spes ).
A solid theology of temporal values is based on the incarnation; those who study it and promote it are motivated by the desire to restore all things in Christ (a theme of Pius X related to Irenaeus's recapitulation of all in Christ). It is frequently conceptualized in the terms of recent anthropological, phenomenological, and technological advances. Its influences are being felt in a restudy of the relationships between grace and nature [K. Rahner, Theological Investigations, v.1, tr. C. Ernst (Baltimore 1961) 297–317], of the ecclesiology that emerged from Vatican II (especially with a view to expanding the role of the bishops and the laity in the life of the Church), of the structure of moral theology [B. Häring, The Law of Christ, v.1–2, tr. E. G. Kaiser (Westminster, Md. 1961)], and especially of the role of the Church in a pluralistic society [J. C. Murray, We Hold These Truths (New York 1960)] and its relationships with other Christian churches [Vatican II, Decree on Ecumenism, Unitatis redintegratio; Acta Apostolicae Sedis 57 (1965) 90–112].
See Also: elevation of man; eschatologism; eschatology (in theology); man, 3; supernatural; supernatural existential.
Bibliography: y. m. j. congar, Laity, Church, and World, tr. d. attwater (Baltimore 1960); Lay People in the Church, tr. d. attwater (Westminster, Md. 1957). j. daniÉlou, The Lord of History, tr. n. abercrombie (Chicago 1958). h. de lubac, Catholicism, tr. l. c. sheppard (New York 1950; repr. 1958); Surnaturel: Études historiques (Paris 1946). l. hamain, Réalités terrestres et vie chrétienne, 2 v. (Lille 1959). g. thils, Théologie des réalités terrestres, 2 v. (Bruges 1946–49).
[j. p. whalen]