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by David Walsh




This provocative meditation on the turn of the millennium explores the significance that a celebration of Christ's birth can have beyond the Christian community.Writing from the perspective of Christian philosophy, David Walsh ponders the emergence of modern civilization from the medieval Christian past, concluding that Christian theology grounds the dominant ideas of modern society. He professes the importance and promise of Christianity while rejecting the Gnosticism, advocated by Harold Bloom and others, that places the divine within the self.Affirming Christ's place at the heart of civilization, Walsh argues that the Christian faith has relevance beyond its own boundaries for all traditions that find their common ground in reason. This contemplative book asserts that the Christian millennial jubilee has meaning for all and that it points the way toward the fullness of life in this world as well as in eternity.
Download The Third Millennium: Reflections on Faith and Reason epub
ISBN: 0878407553
ISBN13: 978-0878407552
Category: Other
Subcategory: Humanities
Author: David Walsh
Language: English
Publisher: Georgetown University Press (September 10, 1999)
Pages: 256 pages
ePUB size: 1736 kb
FB2 size: 1304 kb
Rating: 4.8
Votes: 869
Other Formats: lrf lrf txt mbr

Yellow Judge
This is a strange, vexing, and unnecessarily difficult book that is very different in style from Walsh's other writings. John von Heyking has suggested it is modeled on the meditative style of Eric Voegelin's Anamnesis, but the comparison is not favorable. I would describe Anamnesis as far more personal, alluring, and enigmatic -- as well as appropriately difficult, though less difficult than Walsh's Third Millennium. The problem posed by the Third Millenium -- our epoch and the book -- is the problem Walsh has taken up in most of his writing before and since: the lack of a common source of humane values to limit and direct human freedom within (or altogether without) a transcendent spiritual order in a post-foundationalist, post-modern world.

Surprisingly, Walsh does not bother to define his audience or his key terms. Since the latter are drawn heavily from Voegelin, it seems Walsh's intended audience is limited to others who have read Voegelin enough to be familiar with his unique philosophical jargon. I have read quite a bit of Voegelin's work since the 1990s, and most of The Third Millennium strikes me as a compressed, slightly modified composite of select material from Voegelin's historical and philosophical writings, including the History of Political Ideas, which Voegelin abandoned and never published. Walsh doesn't provide any commentary or notes to indicate how or why he is agreeing with or diverging from Voegelin, and why he selects the materials he does.

Walsh's reliance on Voegelin for so many subjects and the broad sweep of history -- let alone work Voegelin himself discarded -- is regrettable. Even within the confessional historiography of his day, the unpublished History of Political Ideas is a very uneven work with unbalanced (and sometimes unhinged) commentary on the early modern era. Voegelin often adopts a distinctly pro-Catholic/anti-Protestant position that is too interested and involved in its subject to muster a fair-minded and thorough analysis. Regrettably, Walsh has substantially recycled this outdated material in a marginally more generous and nuanced summary presentation of western philosophy from the Nominalists to Luther and beyond. On the one hand, Walsh tends to classify Protestant or Existentialist thought as "fideism" in a pejorative sense; on the other hand Walsh finds Nietzsche and insightful in Kierkegaardian ways I don't recall appearing in his earlier writing. (In this vein Walsh suggests that fundamentalist, biblical-literalist Christianity is at bottom atheistic and nihilistic.) Walsh acknowledges defects in Aristotle and Aquinas, but Luther and the Reformation are still treated to embarrassing polemical reductions (subjectivism, individualism) that are shamefully unscholarly even by the standards of 40-50 years ago. Walsh never -- and I do mean not once -- provides a concrete example to ground his many sweeping generalizations. He offers very few appropriate, up-to-date scholarly references to ground his plodding, repetitive, under-developed, and frequently oracular claims.

The Third Millennium moves in and out of historical and philosophical-theological discourse where frequent references to "Christianity" may refer to generally unspecified intellectual content or "Christendom," i.e. the pre-Reformation western church as a political-institutional culture. Even though Walsh describes modernity as a product and continuation of the Christian expansion of classical rationality and Christendom's inexorable collapse, Walsh mutes the tension between Christianity as an ethos and its institutional expression far more than Voegelin did. Walsh also seems to assume there was a substantial unity in "Christian civilization" from the end of the Roman empire to the sectarian confessionalization of Europe. There simply was not. Maybe with heavy qualification a point could be defended here, but Walsh seems to assume an idealized past. His approach to history is relentlessly focused on ideas and intellectual elites also; it is utterly disconnected from material and economic conditions -- far more so than one finds in Voegelin. The wars of religion and colonialism do not factor at all in Walsh's narrative; the violence of modernity is limited in Walsh's telling to the totalitarian regimes of the twentieth century.

Despite citing René Girard in the book and taking Nietzsche seriously, Walsh seems utterly disconnected from the complicating and complementary potential of Girardian insights. To be fair, some of the best material from Girard that directly corrects and complements Walsh's topics was written in the decade following The Third Millennium. In particular, Jean-Pierre Dupuy's The Mark of the Sacred (Stanford, 2013) makes a better but compatible argument about the religious rationalities at the heart of modernity in liberalism, science, and economics while also recognizing their dual nature as both ordering and disordering, salutary and violent. Like Walsh, especially in his work to follow The Third Millenium, Dupuy recognizes the dire need for a position of balance in self-limited freedom since the former limiting role of "the sacred" and a transcendent exteriority are no longer available to societies affected by modernity. Both scholars see modernity as Christian at its core for roughly the same reasons, so it's unfortunate there seems to have been no dialogue between them and other students of Voegelin and Girard.

In The Third Millennium Walsh seems to be genuinely trying to work through some of the uncritical prejudices I've noted, but he still takes repeated shots at contemporary Protestantism for its intellectual incoherence and subjectivity while describing the same lack of authoritative grounding as a pragmatic virtue in Liberalism. (Science gets a similar treatment.) Several notable historians have characterized American Evangelicalism similarly -- as having a pragmatic resilience and strength despite its lack of intellectual and institutional coherence, so Walsh's dismissal seems prejudicial and out of touch. A broader, more careful examination of these theoretically ungrounded but (perhaps) pragmatically resilient movements is needed. I wish Walsh had more openly explored his apparent ambivalence about them as well as his perception of a nihilistic motive behind the denial of "belief in belief" -- the willingness to cling to any belief rather than none at all.

At the end of this book, I can only make sense of it as a transitional meditation marking a pivot toward new paths for growth -- both for Walsh as a scholar and for Voegelinians in general who have long languished in a gulag archipelago of their own making on the fringes of academe. The Third Millennium makes sense to me as Walsh beginning to read Voegelin in ways he hopes will rescue him -- both Voegelin and Walsh -- from the irrelevance of the reactionary, anti-modernist "traditionalism" that appropriated Voegelin and his worst work in the 1960s and 1970s. Perhaps as a kind of dense, meditative series of notes, The Third Millennium presages Walsh's best, most ambitious, and mainstream monograph to date, The Modern Philosophical Revolution (Cambridge, 2008). In this later book Walsh deeply engages with major modern philosophers who typically have been dismissed by Voegelinians, if not Voegelin himself. Walsh, perhaps overcoming the anxiety of those limiting influences, makes revisionary readings of Derrida, Heidegger and others in MPR that reveal them as taking part in Voegelin's fundamental concerns. Walsh accomplishes this without really bringing up Voegelin at all or relying excessively on his technical jargon. If the influence of Voegelin's best ideas -- or simply his approach to history, politics, and philosophy -- are to grow in healthy and productive ways, this seems, appropriately, like the only way it will happen.
Kazracage
This is a strange, vexing, and unnecessarily difficult book that is very different in style from Walsh's other writings. John von Heyking has suggested it is modeled on the meditative style of Eric Voegelin's Anamnesis, but the comparison is not favorable. I would describe Anamnesis as far more personal, alluring, and enigmatic -- as well as appropriately difficult, though less difficult than Walsh's Third Millennium. The problem posed by the Third Millenium -- our epoch and the book -- is the problem Walsh has taken up in most of his writing before and since: the lack of a common source of humane values to limit and direct human freedom within (or altogether without) a transcendent spiritual order in a post-foundationalist, post-modern world.

Surprisingly, Walsh does not bother to define his audience or his key terms. Since the latter are drawn heavily from Voegelin, it seems Walsh's intended audience is limited to others who have read Voegelin enough to be familiar with his unique philosophical jargon. I have read quite a bit of Voegelin's work since the 1990s, and most of The Third Millennium strikes me as a compressed, slightly modified composite of select material from Voegelin's historical and philosophical writings, including the History of Political Ideas, which Voegelin abandoned and never published. Walsh doesn't provide any commentary or notes to indicate how or why he is agreeing with or diverging from Voegelin, and why he selects the materials he does.

Walsh's reliance on Voegelin for so many subjects and the broad sweep of history -- let alone work Voegelin himself discarded -- is regrettable. Even within the confessional historiography of his day, the unpublished History of Political Ideas is a very uneven work with unbalanced (and sometimes unhinged) commentary on the early modern era. Voegelin often adopts a distinctly pro-Catholic/anti-Protestant position that is too interested and involved in its subject to muster a fair-minded and thorough analysis. Regrettably, Walsh has substantially recycled this outdated material in a marginally more generous and nuanced summary presentation of western philosophy from the Nominalists to Luther and beyond. On the one hand, Walsh tends to classify Protestant or Existentialist thought as "fideism" in a pejorative sense; on the other hand Walsh finds Nietzsche and insightful in Kierkegaardian ways I don't recall appearing in his earlier writing. (In this vein Walsh suggests that fundamentalist, biblical-literalist Christianity is at bottom atheistic and nihilistic.) Walsh acknowledges defects in Aristotle and Aquinas, but Luther and the Reformation are still treated to embarrassing polemical reductions (subjectivism, individualism) that are shamefully unscholarly even by the standards of 40-50 years ago. Walsh never -- and I do mean not once -- provides a concrete example to ground his many sweeping generalizations. He offers very few appropriate, up-to-date scholarly references to ground his plodding, repetitive, under-developed, and frequently oracular claims.

The Third Millennium moves in and out of historical and philosophical-theological discourse where frequent references to "Christianity" may refer to generally unspecified intellectual content or "Christendom," i.e. the pre-Reformation western church as a political-institutional culture. Even though Walsh describes modernity as a product and continuation of the Christian expansion of classical rationality and Christendom's inexorable collapse, Walsh mutes the tension between Christianity as an ethos and its institutional expression far more than Voegelin did. Walsh also seems to assume there was a substantial unity in "Christian civilization" from the end of the Roman empire to the sectarian confessionalization of Europe. There simply was not. Maybe with heavy qualification a point could be defended here, but Walsh seems to assume an idealized past. His approach to history is relentlessly focused on ideas and intellectual elites also; it is utterly disconnected from material and economic conditions -- far more so than one finds in Voegelin. The wars of religion and colonialism do not factor at all in Walsh's narrative; the violence of modernity is limited in Walsh's telling to the totalitarian regimes of the twentieth century.

Despite citing René Girard in the book and taking Nietzsche seriously, Walsh seems utterly disconnected from the complicating and complementary potential of Girardian insights. To be fair, some of the best material from Girard that directly corrects and complements Walsh's topics was written in the decade following The Third Millennium. In particular, Jean-Pierre Dupuy's The Mark of the Sacred (Stanford, 2013) makes a better but compatible argument about the religious rationalities at the heart of modernity in liberalism, science, and economics while also recognizing their dual nature as both ordering and disordering, salutary and violent. Like Walsh, especially in his work to follow The Third Millenium, Dupuy recognizes the dire need for a position of balance in self-limited freedom since the former limiting role of "the sacred" and a transcendent exteriority are no longer available to societies affected by modernity. Both scholars see modernity as Christian at its core for roughly the same reasons, so it's unfortunate there seems to have been no dialogue between them and other students of Voegelin and Girard.

In The Third Millennium Walsh seems to be genuinely trying to work through some of the uncritical prejudices I've noted, but he still takes repeated shots at contemporary Protestantism for its intellectual incoherence and subjectivity while describing the same lack of authoritative grounding as a pragmatic virtue in Liberalism. (Science gets a similar treatment.) Several notable historians have characterized American Evangelicalism similarly -- as having a pragmatic resilience and strength despite its lack of intellectual and institutional coherence, so Walsh's dismissal seems prejudicial and out of touch. A broader, more careful examination of these theoretically ungrounded but (perhaps) pragmatically resilient movements is needed. I wish Walsh had more openly explored his apparent ambivalence about them as well as his perception of a nihilistic motive behind the denial of "belief in belief" -- the willingness to cling to any belief rather than none at all.

At the end of this book, I can only make sense of it as a transitional meditation marking a pivot toward new paths for growth -- both for Walsh as a scholar and for Voegelinians in general who have long languished in a gulag archipelago of their own making on the fringes of academe. The Third Millennium makes sense to me as Walsh beginning to read Voegelin in ways he hopes will rescue him -- both Voegelin and Walsh -- from the irrelevance of the reactionary, anti-modernist "traditionalism" that appropriated Voegelin and his worst work in the 1960s and 1970s. Perhaps as a kind of dense, meditative series of notes, The Third Millennium presages Walsh's best, most ambitious, and mainstream monograph to date, The Modern Philosophical Revolution (Cambridge, 2008). In this later book Walsh deeply engages with major modern philosophers who typically have been dismissed by Voegelinians, if not Voegelin himself. Walsh, perhaps overcoming the anxiety of those limiting influences, makes revisionary readings of Derrida, Heidegger and others in MPR that reveal them as taking part in Voegelin's fundamental concerns. Walsh accomplishes this without really bringing up Voegelin at all or relying excessively on his technical jargon. If the influence of Voegelin's best ideas -- or simply his approach to history, politics, and philosophy -- are to grow in healthy and productive ways, this seems, appropriately, like the only way it will happen.