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History and Place, Historiogenesis and Geogenesis

History and Place, Historiogenesis and Geogenesis

 We have seen how our contemporary cross-cultural, global horizon has introduced some new challenges to Christian faith, some of which are not resolvable, but matters to be left to the mystic’s ability to humbly live with paradox.  We have attempted to bring forth some reasons for showing that these paradoxes are not irrational, but neither are they matters which reason can penetrate with much adequacy.  At this point, it is appropriate to reconnect with our earlier thoughts on space and time, place and history, in the light of our intensified global stretching of horizons.

With respect to time and history, the Christian experiences have generated a new sense of epoch, with a new before and a new after.  We are living now in the “fullness of time” (Gal 4.4), writes Paul.  This is the new epochal breakthrough.  From its vantage point, the past looks different:  “In former generations this mystery was not made known to humankind . . .” (Eph 3.5).  So, too, does the future reveal a new telos: Christ is “our peace . . . [who will create] in himself one new humanity . . .” (Eph 2.14-15).  Among many others, we will cite here the seventeenth century mystic Cardinal Bérulle, who is eloquently expressive of the historical realignment believed to be brought about by Christ: “God wished to bring his creation to a close with him as his masterwork . . . and bring to fulfillment . . . his goodness and the unspeakable communication of himself.”[1]

Space, we noted, underwent a realignment too.  The new space is now the “place” of the personal encounter with Jesus.  Or rather, the encounter with him has the ability to transfigure space into place, that is, a home where we belong and are loved.  This makes it difficult to speak and write about space, for now the Christian imagination must work its way through to new language symbols which are expressive of this new personalizing of space.  The Letter to the  Hebrews, for example, writes of the ancestral heroes of faith, starting with Abraham, “called to set out for a place,” but “not knowing where” (11.8).  The destination was “the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (11.10), a city into which we are brought by the High Priest Jesus, who “entered once for all into the Holy Place” (9.12) of his own sacrifice of death in the cause of love on our behalf.  The new space is the place in which we participate in this love.

Hebrews is a good letter to read, because it illustrates how old symbols are being stretched to express the new, epochal insights.  The “holy place” is not the earthly temple, but the sacrificial love of Christ.  The city is not the earthly Jerusalem, or any other earthly city, but a different kind of city, a mystical city.  The danger, naturally, is that this city will be so etherealized and transcendentalized that it virtually disappears from history.  When terms are not used in their ordinary, earthly sense, one tends to think of a purely non-earthly meaning.  Hebrews is trying to say something different, it seems, even if the language is sometimes stretched to near breaking point.  Apparently we are now participating in this new city, for we “have come . . . to the city of the living God” (12.22); so we can “lift [our] drooping hands and strengthen [our] weak knees, and make straight paths for [our] feet . . .” (12.12).  Living in this city is simply a matter of expressing the new kind of love brought us by Christ.  This is why Hebrews ends with the admonitions: “Let mutual love continue.  Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it” (13.1-2).

So space, at its Christian optimal best, does not disappear.  But it does become a place of love and hospitality.  Since we cited Cardinal Bérulle above on the theme of time and history, it will be appropriate to cite him once again.  This particular text is perhaps his most celebrated one, expressing his modern awareness of the Copernican revolution and his creative use of it:

“An excellent mind of the age claimed that the sun and not the earth is at the center of the world.  He maintained that it is stationary and that the earth, in conformity with its round shape, moves in relation to the sun.  This position goes against all appearances, which constrain our senses to believe that the sun is in continuous movement around the earth.  This new opinion, which has little following in the science of the stars, is useful and should be followed in the science of salvation.”

“For Jesus is the sun that is immovable in his greatness and that moves all other things.  Jesus is like his Father.  Seated at his right hand, he is immovable like him and moves all things.  Jesus is the true center of the world and the world should be in continuous movement toward him.  Jesus is the sun of our souls and from him we receive every grace, every light and every effect of his power.  The earth of our hearts should be in continuous movement toward him, so that we might welcome, with all its powers and components, the favorable aspects and benign influences of this great star.”[2]

The geographical play of images is expressive of the new Christian geography.

Our global stretching of horizons finds these sentiments challenging, to put it in Christian-friendly terms, or imperialistic, in the terms favored by some others.  Should history be epochalized by “b.c.” and “a.d.,” or “b.c.e.” and “c.e.”?  We have argued, in mystical tolerance and just so impatience, for a both/and.  But if we make this argument, we must endeavor to do so with eyes wide open.  If you want, a Christocentrism of a second naivete is perhaps what we are after.

Christian epochalism, as we find it in Paul and Bérulle, is traditionally thought of as a form of linearism, that is, history is moving on a time line, by divine providence and grace, toward the specified goal of Christ.  Voegelin, in his own rethinking of his masterwork, Order and History, had originally sketched a unilinear view of the historical process, on his own accounting, but later broke with that, in favor of a more pluriform view of history.  He expressed his revised view about history in something of a dialectical expression: History “was a movement through a web of meaning with a plurality of nodal points.

Still, certain dominant lines of meaning became visible while moving through the web.”[3]  These lines of meaning were ultimately rooted, Voegelin came to believe, in an eschatological orientation to the divine Ground, whose reality and effects have become varyingly luminous through multiple differentiations of consciousness and symbolism.[4]  The earlier linear view of the historical process he now, from the later, revisionist perspective, considered a form of “historiogenesis.”  This is one of those technical terms to which Voegelin’s imagination found its way, as it struggled to understand with a second naivete the historical process in the light of expanded materials, among which was clearly our larger global horizon.  A brief dialogue with historiogenesis, we believe, will help us in our efforts toward a view of Christ with a second naivete as well.  At the very least it will challenge the traditional understanding of Christian linearism.  It may also problematize it.  And finally, it may move us toward a revisionist perspective.

Historiogenesis is a “unilinear construction of history,” which “implacably places events on the line of irreversible time” in such a way that the “author’s present” is the everlasting end point of a movement whose origins are located in the absolute cosmic origins of time.  As such, it is a form of mytho-speculation, one abolishing other “historical” accounts, so that nothing can get in its way.  For example, Voegelin refers to the Sumerian King List (c. 2050 b.c.), which “conveniently” abolished other accounts of how history and its competing dynasties should unfold in the other Sumerian city-dynasties.  The restored empire of Utu-hegal of Uruk became the irreversible end of time.  This “convenient” eclipsing of the historical field is basically “an act of violence against historical reality,” however well-intentioned might be the author’s beliefs or the underlying fears and consequent appetite for divine legitimation.[5]

This particular example shows, incidentally, that it is too simple to characterize early, mytho-cosmological cultures as cyclical.  For right here, in the midst of the so-called cyclical mindset, we find a unilinear construction.  But, of course, it is not really adequately historical either, for it represents a distortion of history. The perplexing thing is that it occurs, if Voegelin is correct, in allegedly historical societies as well, like the Israelite, the Christian, and the modern.  In fact, Voegelin came to the conclusion that a unilinear view of history was simply a form of historiogenesis.  History was simply too complicated for that.  Thus, it was too simple to refer to the Jewish and Christian societies, along with their later medieval and modern mutations, as simply the historical societies.

In a sense, then, we might say that historiogenesis is an inadequately differentiated historical consciousness, or that it is a form of quasi-historical consciousness.  It succumbs to the “temptation to hypostatize historically passing societies into ultimate subjects of history.”  Voegelin suggests that at “its core there lies the tension, emotionally difficult to bear, between the meaning a society has in historical existence and the never quite repressible knowledge that all things that come into being will come to an end.”[6]

Is, then, the Christocentrism with which we opened this study inevitably a form of historiogenesis?  When Paul writes of Jesus as the fullness of time, when Hebrews writes of Jesus as the High Priest entering once for all into the Holy Place, when Cardinal Bérulle writes of the incarnate Word Jesus as bringing creation to a close and as the sun around whom the universe revolves: Are all these so many forms of Christian historiogenesis?

Let us try to be as non-defensive as possible.  Voegelin certainly thought that historiogenetic speculation was widespread and globally found.  With respect to Christianity, he found touches of it, along with other historical deformations, in the Bible. Augustine he holds in very high regard, but thought that he succumbed, on this matter of history, to “a historiogenetic pattern whose unilinear history came to its meaningful end in the dual ecumenism of Church and Roman Empire.”  Later history, for Augustine, “had no meaning but the waiting for the eschatological events.”[7]  If Voegelin’s view of Augustine on this matter is controversial, and perhaps we should delay on it somewhat[8], aspects of his controversial analysis of St. Paul’s historical thought are even more so.  A look at this will bring us a little more deeply onto the terrain we need to walk.

Briefly Voegelin credits Paul with “a superior degree of differentiation” of dimensions of history vis-à-vis, for example, that of the Classical philosophers.  Paul’s vision of the resurrected Christ, first, convinced him that reality’s source is “God and his Agape”; secondly, that the historical process has a goal, namely, the “return of creation to its imperishable glory”; and finally, that the human being is “the site where the movement of reality becomes luminous in its actual occurrence.”  In these ways, “Paul’s exegesis of his vision [of the resurrected Christ], with its concentration on the dynamics of the theophany, brings the historicity of existential truth into sharper focus,” in comparison with the accomplishments of the Classical philosophers.  This brings “a new accent [onto] the area of ‘history’ and its rank in the whole of reality.”[9]  The Christian fascination with history, and Christianity’s historical consciousness, is, Voegelin is arguing along with many others, linked to the incarnation of Jesus and its culmination in the resurrection.

If Voegelin can credit Paul with such a superior differentiation of the historical process, then why do we find his analysis relevant to our discussion of historiogenesis, which is rather more of a deformation of historical understanding?  The chapter in which this analysis occurs is opaque, but in the end Voegelin detects an early form of what he diagnosed as “metastasis” in some aspects of the Pauline analysis here.  Metastasis embraces a wide spectrum of types, but at its core it claims a premature understanding of the divine Beyond and its transcendent purposes within the historical process.  In other words, it pretends to more knowledge of the “end of the story” than is truly available to it.  Voegelin tended to think of metastatic forms of speculation of all types as forms of alienation from the historical process, but the degree of alienation could embrace a wide range of intensities.  The precise connection between historiogenesis and metastasis is unclear in Voegelin’s thought, and we do not really need to enter into the question here.  What seems relevant to our discussion is whether Paul, in the aspects to be noted here, somehow eclipsed the historical field as a result of his Christian experiences.[10]

Our earlier analysis in a previous chapter would indicate that Paul was guilty of some historical eclipsing, namely, on the question of the timing of the return of Christ.  And Paul himself admitted this, and came to a change of mind on the matter.  We recall, for example, his declaration to the effect that “we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with [the dead] to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever” (1 Thes 4.17); and then his later revision: “As to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we beg you . . . not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed . . . to the effect that the day of the Lord is already here . . . that day will not come unless the rebellion comes first and the lawless one is revealed . . .” (2 Thes 2.1-3).  Paul seems to be returning back to the in-between of the historical process, where the “end” remains appropriately a matter of the divine Mystery.

Paul’s revision of the timing of his eschatology is not Voegelin’s particular focus here.[11]  My impression is that he is more concerned with what he detects as an almost gnostic exchange of faith with intellectual knowledge of the kind that claims to transcend the humility of faith, in Paul’s experience.  Voegelin is grappling with aspects of Paul’s experience of participation in the resurrected Christ as opened up to us through Pauline language symbols.  Voegelin is not necessarily claiming that Paul has worked out an entire system of thought, nor is Voegelin necessarily offering an analysis of any such system.[12]  Voegelin is exegeting an experience of participation in theophanic experiences, and the dynamics and turbulences therein involved, and as such, the analysis is quite relevant to our own concerns.

Voegelin concentrates on passages in First Corinthians, a letter about which, when reading, Voegelin comments, “I have always the feeling of traveling, with Paul, from phthora [perishing] to aphtharsia [imperishing] in a homogeneous medium of reality, from existence in the [in-between of history] as a way station to immortality as a goal, with death as a minor incident on the road.”  There is something of a switch of focus “from imperfection to perfection,” from history’s in-between process to its final goal.[13]  A Christian might respond: What is so surprising in this?  A lover looks forward to the marriage’s consummation, and is not content with the engagement.  In the Christian experience, the relationship with God is not unlike lovers’ intimate exchanges.  It may be that Voegelin does not adequately attend to this, given his political concerns about life in the in-between of history.  After all, he knew firsthand the problems of massive destruction coming from Nazi and Communist visionaries who were caught up in their allegedly history-transcending experiences.

It is not, it seems, precisely Paul’s imaginative extrapolation to history’s goal, coming from his experience of the Christ, that is the problem, but the problems coming from that imagination’s domination by the extrapolated goal.  For example, he finds in the following outburst “the key to the understanding of Paul’s experience of reality”: “If we have no more than hope in Christ in this life, then we are of all men the most pitiful” (1 Cor 15.9).  Voegelin’s gloss is that our “hope in this life . . . not only is not enough, it is worse than nothing, unless this hope is embedded in the assurance that derives from the vision [of the resurrected].”  My impression is that he thinks Paul is claiming a greater intellectual clarity than history offers, for he seems, ambiguously, to argue for an assurance that goes beyond “the symbolic form of the myth.”  Voegelin provocatively notes a “restlessness” in Paul, particularly appealing to Paul’s famous self-analysis in Romans 7.  And in a sentence guaranteed to provoke, and one which equivalently seems to accuse Paul at least of a strand of historiogenesis, Voegelin writes: “The classic meaning in history can be opposed by Paul with a meaning of history, because he knows the end of the story in the transfiguration that begins with the Resurrection.”[14]

If I read this correctly, and I may not, the problem is more precisely one of claiming to transcend faith (the pneumatic myth) by way of a derailment into an almost gnostic certitude.  Voegelin also notes an insufficient appreciation of the theophanic experiences of other traditions in Paul – our more “global” sensitivity today, perhaps – but this is somewhat to be expected.[15]  However, it is precisely this global horizon that challenges us anew to raise the question of historiogenesis and its possible presence in Christianity.  That is, is our Christian awareness of history’s telos intrinsically a historical deformation?

Whether Voegelin’s analysis of Paul is precisely correct deserves, by appropriate scholars, a serious response.  I am inclined to think it has merit, as long as we are speaking of a strand in Paul’s experience, and not offering an analysis of his experience and thought as a whole.  For there are corrective strands elsewhere in Paul’s writings.  For example, if the charge is that Paul thinks hope in this life is a rather puny thing, compared with its foundation in a “knowledge” of the resurrection telos awaiting us, basing his suggestion on First Corinthians 15.19, we might derive an opposed view from Romans 8.24-25: “For in hope we were saved.  Now hope that is seen is not hope.  For who hopes for what is seen?  But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”  The great theophanic experiences bring their oscillations, as all lovers know.  It is not uncommon to be in and out of reflective lucidity on these occasions.

But whether Voegelin’s analysis of Paul is precisely correct or not is not our focal concern here.  I am rather appealing to it as a cautionary tale for us Christians.  It can be a maieutic for us, guiding us away from historiogenetic inclinations. We can derive something of a consolation from Voegelin’s view that an imaginative extrapolation to history’s goal from the experience of the Christ has its validity.  But such an extrapolation does not annul the dynamics of the faith and reason tension within history which we noted at this book’s beginning.  As long as we live within history, we will remain creatures of faith.[16]  This does not mean that our faith is groundless or irrational.  But it cannot simply be exchanged for a “reason alone” perspective.  To the extent that we attend to this, we will avoid eclipsing the historical field.

Today, not eclipsing the historical field means recognizing its intensively pluralistic makeup, given our global horizon.  Actually it is even more complex than our global horizon, for it extends unto all creation, past, present, and future.  No living person or concrete society can quite encompass this whole reality and elucidate its full dimensions.  At most, by attending to the epochal breakthroughs, the revelatory experiences, and by carefully and imaginatively extrapolating therefrom, under grace, we may validly glimpse something of the telos toward which we are moving.[17]  We Christians do believe in faith that history has undergone a pleromatic breakthrough in Jesus the Christ, and yet, if we look back to our earlier discussion of our cross-cultural experience, we would seem to need to move to some degree in the direction noted by Voegelin in his break away from linearism, at least as earlier understood.

This is why we noted, at the beginning of this discussion, that we have opted for a both/and in mystical tolerance and just so impatience on the question of our Christian view of epochalism or historical periodization.  Somehow the others must be included in our periodization, and we trust that they are, on the grounds given earlier, but we do not quite see how this more precisely takes form.  But at least we would seem to be committed to the view that the event of Jesus and his movement represents one of those dominant lines of meaning which pleromatically lights up and even constitutes history’s telos, although it is a telos which needs to be understood in a more globally complexified manner.  At the same time, we of course recognize that, besides the more linear-like lines of direction moving in a forward direction, there are stases and regressions, coming from human error, sin, and evil.  This, too, is a part of Christian epochalism, which means that our directional movement is flawed, wounded, and interrupted.  This is another reason for not claiming to transcend faith, and hope, and love, which provide us with the basis of our trust that these regressions and stases are never final.[18]

Because time and space, history and place, always go together, might we imaginatively ponder a form of geogenesis corresponding to Voegelin’s historiogenesis?  Obviously Voegelin was aware of this link, for his studies on historiogenesis were concerned with why societies, or forms of political order, engage in acts of historical mutilation.  The motive was, he suggested, one of endowing concrete societies with an absolute legitimation.  Concrete societies are forms of “place,” of varying levels of quality, ways in which humankind has attempted to transform space into place.  In his first volume of his magnum opus, Order and History, namely, Israel and Revelation, he had in fact written of the “terrible truth,” glimpsed particularly by the prophet Jeremiah: “that the existence of a concrete society in a definite form will not resolve the problem of order in history, that no Chosen People in any form will be the ultimate omphalos of the true order of [human]kind.”[19]  The choice of the words “terrible truth” is somewhat intriguing, because Nietzsche had used it to refer to his “revaluation of all values.”[20]  Was Voegelin knowingly opposing his own terrible truth to Nietzsche’s?

Christian experience is always somewhat on the edge, because of its tension-like witness to the “hypostatic unity” of Jesus the Christ’s divinity and humanity, transcendence and immanence.  This would seem to be its peculiar glory, and yet its perilous mission.  Perilous, because the unity between them can end up in a monophysitic blending.  Historiogenesis and geogenesis would then become forms of monophysitism, ways of endowing human history and human places with an absoluteness which they do not by right possess.  They are also further forms of the soteriological problem, forms of evil which we need to diagnose and heal.

It is therapeutic for us to ponder representative forms of geogenesis, which would be drawing a unilinear line from absolute cosmic origins down to a particular place[21] in some way or another.  Christians do believe that there is an omphalos, so to speak, but it is a transcendent reality, the heavenly city, in which we do indeed participate now, but in that peculiarly already/not yet, here/there tension-laden mode, with a Christological kairos and quality.  Other traditions have equivalently but analogically, which is not to say identically in all respects, experienced and symbolized this transcendent omphalos.  “[T]he city . . . [whose] pattern . . . is laid up in heaven for him who wishes to contemplate it and so beholding to constitute himself its citizen,” noted by Plato, would be one such equivalent symbolism.  Confucius, by way of representation of the Far Eastern traditions, offers us another: “What a great ruler Yao was!  How sublime!  Heaven alone is great, and Yao followed its model.”[22]

Yet it is not infrequently that we can plausibly point to instances in all these traditions of confusing one’s own concrete society (including ecclesial societies) with the transcendent city, in which we participate here below, but whose modalities and possibilities of participation do not seem exhaustible by any one concrete society.  This is one of the master themes of Voegelin’s The Ecumenic Age, which led him to offer the distinction between ecumenicity and universality, the former tending to collapse the transcendent into the immanent city of which one is a citizen, the latter recognizing the difference.[23]  Voegelin’s terms here echo Augustine’s distinctions between the earthly and the heavenly city, but with a more global broadening, and a recognition of the fact that the universal transcends all finitude, embracing all humans, of past, present, and future, and of course grounded finally in the world-transcendent God.[24]

In a way, we are speaking of forms of colonialism, secular and ecclesial, which absolutize their own claims to space and their own configurations of it into “their places,” with the accompanying assumption that this annuls appropriate claims on the part of others to this space.  The trail of tears experienced by the natives of the Americas is one such example pertinent to us Christians, although the issue is global in its extensions.[25]  Here we need to link up with our earlier observations on mystical tolerance and its inner impulse beyond tolerance to mutuality of a deeper sort.

At the same time, this question of geogenesis (along with historiogenesis) inevitably brings us into the deep waters of the the soteriological problem.  For when has there not been a history of significant migrations of peoples?  And when has this not been accompanied by such disasters as horrible devastation, confiscation of territories, inferiorization of others’ place, plagues and diseases, enslavement, etc.?  And yet, simultaneously, such has been accompanied, at times, by certain advancements in human well being, religiously, culturally, intellectually, etc.  To some extent, this surplus of misery exceeds our understanding and must be put as one of those Job-like questions to God.  The Christian belief in the divine kenosis of a humble God incarnately with us, taking on this suffering from the inside, deepens our hope that a divine answer will be forthcoming.  At the same time, it intensifies our obligations to alleviate this suffering as much as possible.



[1] Bérulle, Discourse on the State and Grandeurs of Jesus, 1.6 (Bérulle and the French School, ed. Thompson, 113).  See John Saward, Christ Is the Answer: The Christ-Centered Teaching of Pope John Paul II (New York: Alba House, 1995), for an eloquent expression of this traditional Christocentrism.

[2] Bérulle, Discourse on the State and Grandeurs of Jesus, 2.2 (Bérulle and the French School, ed. Thompson, 116-17).

[3] Voegelin, The Ecumenic Age, 106.

[4] Ibid., 372-75.

[5] Ibid., 114-15; see Hughes, Transcendence and History, index, s.v., “Historiogenesis,” for a fine and convenient elucidation of Voegelin on this.  On the notion of “epoch,” also see Voegelin, The Ecumenic Age, index, s.v. “Epoch.”

[6] Voegelin, The Ecumenic Age, 231.

[7] Ibid., 230.  This is a contentious view of Augustine; for another perspective, see von Heyking, Augustine and Politics as Longing in the World.

[8] The reader may want to consult our earlier analysis of Augustine on eschatology in the supplement to chapter three; this forms something of a further clarification of the issues, which Voegelin would find congenial, I believe.

[9] Voegelin, The Ecumenic Age, 315-16; see the entire chap. 5, “The Pauline Vision of the Resurrected.”

[10] See Voegelin, In Search of Order, 47-48; Hughes, Transcendence and History, 84-105.

[11] He had considered the matter in his early, but only posthumously published, History of Political Ideas, vol. 19, Hellenism, Rome, and Early Christianity, 163-72.

[12] A conversation with Paul Caringella has influenced this way of putting the matter.  For a thoughtful analysis of some of the dynamics involved, see Paul Caringella, “Voegelin: Philosopher of the Divine Presence,” in Ellis Sandoz, ed., Eric Voegelin’s Significance for the Modern Mind (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1991), 174-205.

[13] Voegelin, The Ecumenic Age, 312.

[14] Ibid., 312-13, 324.

[15] Ibid., 337.

[16] A further issue would be, by way of imaginative extrapolation, whether not only love, but also faith and hope in some sense, remain permanent features of our eternal beyond.  Paul would seem to say yes (1 Cor 13.13, on one possible reading).

[17] Day, Voegelin, Schelling, and the Philosophy of Historical Existence, 264-66, raises the interesting question of how we can know that the epochal breakthroughs, such as those of a Plato or Jesus, “have [not] arisen many times in the prehistorical consciousness of humanity” (265), although we have no records of such, pace Voegelin and others.  In other words, perhaps reality is even more pluralistic than we have so far indicated.  Granted, our historical records are testimony, but how do we know such records really encompass all possible cases?

This question deserves a fuller response than can be given here, but one might begin by arguing in response that the epochal breakthroughs noted by Voegelin are intrinsically public by nature, their varying recognitions of transcendence requiring a movement beyond the local and toward the universal.  It seems unlikely that they would remain “locked up” in the interior recesses of some forgotten sages.  Of course, this is intensively true of the Christian claims for Jesus; if indeed he is the Savior as understood in this book, this would necessarily entail his uniquely public role in history.  Ancillary considerations would also be relevant; for example, it seems unlikely that prehistoric humanity would have been sufficiently developed in terms of human consciousness and symbol to have been able to generate the epochal breakthroughs.  Correspondingly, the audiences of such breakthroughs would also have to have achieved a minimal level of somewhat more differentiated consciousness and language in order to adequately respond to the breakthrough sages and in order to become their historical carriers for later generations.

[18] I do not claim that our approach is that which Voegelin would accept; that is not precisely our concern here.  See his The Ecumenic Age, 372-75, for statements which might be taken to imply agreement with our perspective.  However, others have drawn different conclusions.  See Michael P. Morrissey, Consciousness and Transcendence: The Theology of Eric Voegelin (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1994), 227-54, for a range of views.  Voegelin, The Ecumenic Age, 106, is quite attentive to the regressive factor in history.  This attentiveness was also present in his more “unilinear” days; see, for example, Israel and Revelation, 19.

[19] Voegelin, Israel and Revelation, 545.

[20] Friedrich Nietzsche, Ecce Homo, 1, in On the Genealogy of Morals and Ecce Homo, trans. Walter Kaufmann (New York: Vintage, 1967), 326.

[21] Recall that “place” is a particular configuration of space by individuals, social fields, and societies.

[22] Plato, Republic, 592b (The Collected Dialogues of Plato, ed. Hamilton and Cairns, 819); The Analects of Confucius, 8.19, trans. Simon Leys (New York: Norton, 1997), 37.

[23] Voegelin, The Ecumenic Age, 192; 117, for comments on historiogenesis (and geogenesis by implication) in Hellenism (the imperial expansion of Alexander, for example), in China, India, and elsewhere; 340-70, for the Chinese materials, interpretations which are admittedly controversial.

[24] Ibid., 387; somehow the cosmic dimension is involved in this as well; of course, Augustine’s symbol of the “earthly city” is much more negative than Voegelin’s view of the ecumene/ecumenicity.

[25] See, for example, Clara Sue Kidwell, Homer Noley, and George E. “Tink” Tinker, A Native American Theology (Maryknoll: Orbis, 2001). Also see Kwok Pui-Lan, Postcolonial Imagination and Feminist Theology (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2005); Joerg Rieger, Christ & Empire: From Paul to Postcolonial Times (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2007); and Daniel F. Pilario, “Mapping Postcolonial Theory: Appropriations into Contemporary Theology,” Asian Christian Review 1 (2007): 48-78.


This excerpt is from Jesus and the Gospel Movement: Not Afraid to be Partners (University of Missouri, 2006). Also see Eugene Webb’s review of “Your Kin-dom Come” and William Thompson-Uberuaga’s “Interview,” “Being, Becoming, and Metaphysics,” “Mapping the Different Approaches,” “Participation and Interpretation Theory,” “Eschatology, Geography, and the Advancing Jesus Movement,” and Craig Baron’s “The Postmodern “Christian” Theology of William Thompson-Uberuaga.”

William Thompson-Uberuaga

William Thompson-Uberuaga is an Emeritus Professor of Theology at Duquesne University and past president of the Catholic Theological Society of America. He is author of eight books and a co-editor, with David L. Morse, of Eric Voegelin's Collected Works Volume 22: History of Political Ideas - Renaissance and Reformation.

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