Modernity as Apocalypse: Sacred Nihilism and the Counterfeits of Logos

by Thaddeus H. Kozinski

Reviewed by Eileen Quinn Knight, Ph.D. Profiles in Catholicism


The author is profoundly sincere in investigating what it means to be a Catholic in our world today. He is relentless in trying to dig out those variables that make us less than we should be. The book poses the questions: “Where did the immanent frame and great separation come from, and what caused it? When did our condition supposedly definitely and irreversibly change,” and is this truly the case? How would one know? Is this change unprecedented? And if so why? And most importantly, should we be celebrating or repudiating our new situation, or should we be dispassionately neutral? Even with Charles Taylor’s exhaustively detailed and magisterial book treating these questions, A Secular Age, the questions remain---Taylor has made them more pressing and complex.” Kozinski relates the pain of the paradigm shift that is occurring: “When the trial of this shift is passed, a great power will flow from a more spiritualized and simplified Church. Men in a totally planned world will find themselves unspeakably lonely. If they have completely lost sight of God they will feel the whole horror as something wholly new. They will discover it as a hope that is meant for them, an answer for which they have always been searching in secret…And so it seems certain to me that the Church is facing very hard times. The real crisis has scarcely begun. We will have to count on terrific upheavals. But I am of the political cult, which is dead already, but the Church of faith. She may well no longer be the dominant social power to the extent that she was until recently, but she will enjoy a fresh blossoming and be seen as man’s home, where he will find life and hope beyond death.” The author has been working on these questions for over a decade.


According to the author “our enlightened, free-thinking age is, ironically, a culture of suffocating dogmatism, and so it becomes vitally important for us to take the great gift we have been given in these times, a heightened capacity for god-like freedom and use for others. But to give to others, the gift of ourselves, we must first have an intimate experience of what is not ourselves, for, as St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross taught, we can know ourselves adequately only through the eyes of others. All of this requires a willingness to expose ourselves to the other in the more vulnerable way, to ask to seek, to venture ours existentially in humble questioning of ourselves and all that is around us –even when we know the answers given to us by the gift of Faith.


Do we experience these true answers as answers to questions, to our questions/ Those who do not who believe themselves to have obtained all the answers without having first endured the existential agony of searching in the darkness whether because one has judged that there are no answers, or because one believes them to be already securely ‘possessed’ should recognize in such ab attitude neither a humble plea of ignorance nor a simple and pious submission to God’s word, but a type of idolatry.” The author is especially aware of the importance of the liberal arts and gives us the background to think about theology, philosophy, psychology, and philosophy so we may grapple with his questions in a way that is informed. He states: “A theologically informed tradition-constituted political philosophy all other things being equal, would be superior to a theologically uninformed one. Such a joint philosophical and theological inquiry could be vindicated against all rivals and would serve as the first step to solving the problems of the ‘non-theocratic’ regime that is not what it says it is. Providing a workable practical political model deriving from and justified by this philosophical-theological basis, as well as the political steps to eventually attaining it, would be the next step in the argument.”


The author ends the book with a quote from one of his humanities students who states: Living in the modern era is a gift. Despite the broken traditions, abolished communities, and a heap of worn-out philosophies, this era is still a gift. In one way a man can no longer distract himself with human constructs. They have all failed, and anyone who lives in denial of this failure will be forced to face tragedy at some point like the ‘grandmother’ (even if that point only comes at his or her death). In another way, man is called to even a more intimate encounter with God as a result of this Wasteland. Quite literally, we have been placed in a society that purges us of pride and confidence in human accomplishment. The disparity of the Wasteland calls for deeper love and communion, but God provides a more intimate way of encountering Himself to overshadow this disparity. And this a gift.” This a book that any person of Faith should seriously read and ingest.

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