Dominus Historiae: Conclusion

The younger Daniélou

Continuing my review of Jean Daniélou’s The Lord of History from here.

Before I get into the meat of this conclusion, comparing Daniélou’s views of history to those of other recent Christian thinkers, I would like to contrast him with someone whose views were opposite in just about every respect: his brother.

The spiritual trajectory of Jean Daniélou’s younger brother, Alain, was a great influence on Jean. The Daniélou family was, to put it mildly, religiously conflicted. Whereas Jean took the faith of his devout mother (while rejecting her harsh moral vision—she was considered a fanatic even among Catholics), Alain was closer to his radically anticlerical father, and in his teens repudiated Christianity altogether. Jean joined the Jesuit order at the age of twenty-four, with numerous academic honors behind and before him, but Alain was more interested in the arts, especially dance, photography, and music.

Alain was a homosexual, and identified as such from a young age. His first sexual experiences at university also marked a religious awakening; thereafter, he regarded his sexuality and spirituality as inextricable. Accompanied by a gay lover, Alain studied music and philosophy in India and eventually converted to Shaivite Hinduism. He believed that Shaivism represented a primitive, erotic, Dionysian spirituality that organized religions have by and large destroyed. He wrote prolifically, both as a polemical opponent of monotheism and a scholar of Indian history and religion.

Despite their deep differences, the famous brothers remained affectionate throughout their lives. They were, indeed, very different; Alain characterized Jean as “nervous, frail, and agitated,” whereas he regarded himself as “virile,” adventurous, and supremely confident. Alain further believed that the Catholic Church to which Jean was devoted had viciously suppressed the pure, original faith of Jesus; he seems to have regarded Catholicism as the most antihuman and masochistic institution on earth, despite his respect for certain Catholic mystics, not to mention his own brother, a cardinal.

When Jean died in a house of ill repute and the press was full of the scandal, Alain wrote a defense of his older brother, insisting that Jean’s character was saintly and humble and incapable of hypocrisy, and that Jean’s life was dedicated to the service of social outcasts (though Alain could not resist adding that he would have been very happy had his brother experienced the joys of sex before his death). Alain Daniélou continued to publish until his death in 1994 and remains esteemed in his field.

As fascinating as it would be to produce an extended comparison between the works of these brothers, I must restrict myself (partly through lack of adequate reading) to the themes raised by Jean in The Lord of History. First, however, it would be best to offer a more complete description of Alain’s position.

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Atheist Delusions and God and Philosophy: Two Reviews

David Bentley Hart, Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies (2009)

From the title, one might assume this award-winning apologetics book from Yale UP is a polemic against prominent atheists. The title, no doubt, is a reference to Richard Dawkins’s bestselling The God Delusion. If one is at all familiar with Hart, one might further guess that it is a work of philosophy (Hart has his own following as a talented Orthodox philosopher and social critic). Actually, the title is misleading. It is not a rebuttal of any particular work or works by the New Atheists. It does not directly address popular arguments against the existence of God. It is not an academic tome (like some of Hart’s work). Hart himself characterizes it as an “historical essay,” a deliberately provocative retelling of Christian history that places itself in opposition to popular misconceptions exploited by New Atheists such as Dawkins, Harris, and Dennett.

Hart’s intended audience, therefore, is not chiefly atheists as such, but those who are swayed or simply disturbed by common historical critiques of Christianity. He is on the defensive, in the sense that he is not actively trying to convert anyone, but rather to defend the faith from popular calumnies.[1] His tone ranges from biting satire to almost poetic delineation of the meaning of the Christian Revolution in history. His praise for this quiet, slow, and momentous Revolution is often qualified, but will doubtless inspire many Christians to new appreciation of their religious heritage.

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