The Gates of Hell Cannot Prevail

henri-de-lubacAlthough the Church faces many enemies today, this state of affairs is not unique in her history. Ever since Christ founded his Church, the Church which the gates of hell cannot prevail, she has ever been assailed by those who fear her mission of transmitting the Gospel to all people and baptizing the nations in the name of the Blessed and Holy Trinity.

I would like to share this long passage from Henri de Lubac’s book, The Drama of Atheist Humanism, because it beautifully captures what the Church has overcome in the past and what she is facing today. This is a lengthy quotation, but I recommend taking time to read it.

“Every age has its heresies. Every age also sees a renewal of the general rule that faith must be attacked. For a long time now – ever since its foundation – Christianity has never ceased to be assailed; but not always from the same quarter, nor by the same type of adversary, nor the same weapons. Sometimes it is the historical substructure of our beliefs that seems shaken: biblical criticism and exegesis or the history of Christian origins or of the Church’s dogmas and institutions provides the battleground. Sometimes this is shifted to the metaphysical field. The very existence of a reality higher than the things of this world is then denied or declared unknowable; thought falls back upon immanent positions. Or else, taking the opposite course, it seeks to invade the whole field of being and to leave nothing outside the clutches of a reason that insists on understanding everything; and that means (without prejudice to more specific objections against such and such a dogma) the disappearance of the very idea of a mystery to believe in. Often the politicians take over from the historians and metaphysicians or work side by side with them: the political attacks are directed against the Church, against what is termed her thirst for earthly domination; many politicians, not content with opposing any meddling by the Church with the State, are also out to destroy all Christian influence on the course of human affairs; and the most ambitious go so far as to reject, in the State’s favor, that distinction between temporal and spiritual that the world owes to the Gospel. Lastly, there are the objections of a social character, objections so strong and so insistent that they have more than once seemed preponderant. Has it not been, latterly, the chief concern of a number of apostles to prove, by an exposition of Catholic Social doctrine and by an endeavor to achieve material results in the social field, that religion is not the “opium of the people”, that the Church is not indifferent to man’s lot on earth and that, as mother of all, she is not by any means in league with the rich and the mighty?”

He continues,

“None of these objections is obsolete today. In none of these different sectors can we afford to relax our vigilance. Yet the principal attack comes from elsewhere. What is in the foreground – in reality, if not always in appearance – is no longer an historical, metaphysical political or social problem. It is a spiritual problem. It is the human problem as a whole. Today it is not one of the bases or one of the consequences of Christianity that is exposed to attack: the stroke is aimed directly at her heart. The Christian conception of life, Christian spirituality, the inward attitude which, more than any particular act or outward gesture, bespeaks the Christian – that is what is at stake. How timid those men now seem who, for instance, fought against the Church but wanted to keep the Gospel! Or those who, while claiming to be released from all authority and all faith, still invoked principles derived from a Christian source! They had persuaded themselves that ‘it was possible to preserve the benefits of Christianity while ceasing to be Christians.’ ‘Free thinkers’, but not very bold and not very ‘free’ as yet! Those who have come after them deride their illogicality as much as their impotence and lump them together with believers in a common reprobation. Those of the new generation do not intend to be satisfied with the ‘shadow of a shadow’. They have no desire to live upon the perfume of an empty vase. They are pouring quite a different fluid into it. It is the whole of Christianity that they are setting aside – and replacing.”

– Henri de Lubac, The Drama of Atheist Humanism – 


– Lucas G. Westman

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