Leithart's future-end of Protestantism VII: Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy...

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If you want to be mesmerized, keep your eyes on the magician's hands as they flit here and there, over and under, up and down before the rabbit pops out of the hat. That's Dr. Leithart's technique: he flits here and there, over and under, up and down across history, marshalling "each" part of it in an effort to get people on board his Train called Hopeful riding the tracks called Ever Better headed toward the destination of One Church. To help us choose to board his train, Dr. Leithart shows us where the train has been in the past and how clear the progress has been prior to our place in salvation history. "Something better" is the "pattern of God's creativity" and that "something better" viewed back through history to the first day of Creation is inexorable progress toward unity. So Dr. Leithart's hands flit here and there, mesmerizing us with "tearings" and "scatterings" until we're ready for...

The End of Protestantism.

"Each (tearing and scattering) bringing good brighter than the good that preceded it" as Dr. Leithart softens us up for the union of Rome, Constantinople, and Geneva. Yet there are some obstructionists along this glorious path, so Dr. Leithart pauses to rebuke them:

Paragraph Five, "The Future-End of Protestantism":

We do not like this. We do not want our world shattered, even if God rebuilds from the rubble. We do not want to die. As Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy put it, "Christianity and future are synonymous" because Christians confess that the world ends and begins again and again. Christianity and future are synonymous because resurrection faith alone enables us to meet the world's end and "to die to our old habits and ideals, get out of our old ruts, leave our dead selves behind and take the first step into a genuine future."

Dr. Leithart stops for a moment to deal with the grumbling of the Sons of Israel. We want off his train. Where's our food? Where's our meat? Where's our water? And who does Dr. Leithart think he is, anyway, telling us what to do and where to go? We are well-off in Egypt,1 content in Constantinople, Rome, and Geneva. As Dr. Leithart puts it, "we do not want to die."

Here is the moment for the understudy to call his master—Houdini himself—to the stage. Dr. Leithart has not quoted anyone yet, but the time has arrived and the man he turns to is The Great Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy...

Forget the quote—it's just an occasion to trot out the name of his hero. And speaking of names, if the name of the man is longer than his quote, the name is primary and the quote is secondary. This is clearly the case with this appearance of Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy.

And speaking of names once again, how did Rosenstock-Huessy get his name? Back in the beginning of the twentieth century, Dr. Rosenstock-Huessy repudiated the historic Christian confession of faith in God's Order of Creation practiced for centuries by Christian wives taking the last names of their husbands by himself taking the last name of his wife and clomping it on his own last name. Dr. and Mrs. Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy were the advanced guard of feminist naming conventions, so Rosenstock-Huessy it became.

Yes, there's no command in Scripture that wives take their husbands' last names, I suppose, but you have to pity the poor son of Dr. and Mrs. Rosenstock-Huessy who might fall in love with a woman whose parents were just as progressive as his. In such a case, you might wind up with Gruffydd Rosenstock-Huessy engaged to Gwenfair Walters-Adams wondering what on earth to tell the minister to say at the conclusion of their wedding? Will it be "I now have the honor of presenting to you Mr. and Mrs. Gruffydd Walters-Adams-Rosenstock-Huessy? 

But what if Gruffydd Rosenstock-Huessy chose this Hawaiian woman named Janice Keihanaikukauakahihuliheekahaunaele to be his wife? Utterly hopeless.

Back to The Great Professor Dr. Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy; how do we know he's The Great?

Well, for starters, he taught at both Harvard and Dartmouth. In other words, this is a man with academic credentials worthy of the Federal Visionistas. It's not quite Dr. Leithart's Oxford, but it's close.

Beyond the greatness of Harvard and Dartmouth, though, I know Dr. Rosenstock-Huessy is a great man because his publisher, Argo Books, has a web page telling us so. He is singularly great. His prescience is astounding. His insight is uber-great. His immense stature extends far beyond his own age, into the ages to come. Thus this introduction of The Great Professor Doctor Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy from Argos:

Rosenstock-Huessy has variably been described as an “original thinker,” a “Christian social thinker,” and someone who possessed an “original mind” and “dazzling and unique insights.” Despite these epithets, he has eluded lasting classification in a world dominated by academic, theological, and mass market conventions that have no room for an intellect that flowered generations, if not centuries, ahead of its time. In fact, it is the originality of his thought, his unique approaches to illuminating the progress of historic upheavals, and his understanding of the role of language in sociological processes that might eventually lead to a new name for his contributions to historical, sociological, and theological thought.

Yup, that's exactly what they wrote. My own fave is 'epithets.' It reminds me of the Indiana newscaster back in the mid-nineties who explained a prison riot in northern Indiana reporting the cause to be nasty prison guards who made a habit of "hurling racial epitaphs" at the inmates.

So now we know why Dr. Leithart puts such great stock in The Great Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy. What an incredible dude! The mind boggles. The heart palpitates. The upper back regions shiver and tremble. The eyelashes flutter. The cheeks break out in flushdom. I strike my forehead and wonder how on earth I have managed to remain ignorant of The Great Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy until this blessed day?

Let us redouble our devotion to the wonderful Visionista cognoscenti and ask what it was The Great Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy said that his understudy wanted us to hear?

Christianity and future are synonymous.

Ahhh. very deep. But haven't other great ones said similar things? The Great Moody Blues, for instance, said, "days of future passed." And didn't the Great Dr. Emmett Brown say "back to the future?" Victor Hugo once uttered the profundity, "dawn and resurrection are synonymous." 

And yet, there's also Pierre Chomat with his wet blanket. In his work, The Delusion of Progress: A Fallacy of Western Society, Chomat characterizes Drs. Leithart and Rosenstock-Huessy well in this critique of Western Society's delusional commitment to progress: "We prefer to deny that the Train of Progress could ever slow down. It is unimaginable to us. Progress is synonymous with the future; and the future, like time, is something that never stops."

Look, I've taken Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy seriously, spending a number of hours reading his work. And trust me, Dr. Leithart has summed that work up well with his chosen quote, "Christianity is synonymous with the future." So what's the point?

The point is what I've been saying all along, that Dr. Leithart wants you on his Train called Hopeful riding the tracks called Ever Better headed toward the destination of One Church. And at the center of his One Church project is his proposal that we accede to his pitch for "The End of Protestantism." That's what we must keep in mind.

No Biblical Christian would argue with the statements Dr. Leithart makes above, that "resurrection faith alone enables us to meet the world's end," nor with Rosenstock-Huessy's truism that we must "die to our old habits and ideals, get out of our old ruts, leave our dead selves behind and take the first step into a genuine future."

The question is whether Reformed worship, liturgy, ecclesiology, and theology is an old habit, an old rut, and a dead self to be left behind to the end that Protestant church may reunite with Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism? Eastern Orthodoxy's denial that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son as well as Roman Catholicism's denial of faith alone, Scripture alone, Christ alone, and grace alone with glory to God Alone are not old and in the way.

They are the heart of true Biblical faith.

  • 1. Numbers 11:18
Tim Bayly

Tim serves Clearnote Church, Bloomington, Indiana. He and Mary Lee have five children and big lots of grandchildren.

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