Friday, April 11, 2008

Finished, and Huh?

So I've just now finished George Orwell's 1984 - good read.

And I'm all excited because I want to blog about some of the things I've kind of been thinking about, but then I began the afterword by a guy named Erich Fromm, and I'm already confused. You think you know a book until you begin reading criticisms...

Fromm says...

The Old Testament philosophy of history assumes that man grows and unfolds in history and eventually becomes what he potentially is. It assumes that he develops his powers of reason and love fully, and thus is enabled to grasp the world, being one with his fellow man and nature, at the same time preserving his individuality and his integrity. Universal peace and justice are the goals of man, and the prophets have faith that in spite of all errors and sins, eventually this "end of days" will arrive, symbolized by the figure of the Messiah.

This really doesn't make sense to me. I don't know if the problem is that this inaccurate or untrue, or if I just don't like the language he uses. This really doesn't have much to do with the book, it just stuck out to me as unusual. What do you think?

1 comment:

WES ELLIS said...

Of course, it's difficult to judge without a context, but some of this quote strikes me a probably wrong, and some of it strikes me as totally wrong.

It seems, at least, to represents a particular theological/philosophical perspective on history (I can't remember what it's called, I'm tempted to attribute it to Hegel). A view which, at least at some level, seems to suggest that we're getting better and better, closer and closer to the ideal throughout history. Theoretically if people just "eventually" become our full potential, there is no climactic redemptive eschatological action on God's part. I think most of the Biblical narrative suggests a climactic event. I realize that he's trying to represent the Old Testament only, so he can try to make a case for this (but not in the New Testament, there's definitely a climactic eschatological event there).

On the other hand, he wants to affirm Messianic tradition (suggesting a climax), about which there was no overarching, agreed-upon, Jewish, theological stance. But again, "end of days" doesn't seem to have one dramatic event (like the judgment of God), it simply arrives as though naturally. The eschaton, in Scripture, seems to be anything but gradual or natural. It's disruptive of the way things are going and it's surprising. In formulating his case he's wrong to suggest that "the prophets have faith that in spite of all errors and sins, eventually this 'end of days' will arrive." Which prophets? Few of the prophets seemed to talk about anything in eschatological terms (leave that to the apocalyptic tradition). The prophets were speaking only to God's response to very specific systemic situations. They did not talk about the end of history as we know it. They didn't talk about eschaton. When they talked about the "day of the LORD" they meant judgment upon a specific situation, not upon the whole world and all of history. We need to keep a distinction between apocalyptic lit and prophetic lit. Inferences between the two can be made but the prophets don't talk about full-fledged eschatology. I could be wrong.

Fromm probably just wasn't the best Biblical Scholar. Perhaps he should have stayed in psychology.

What's this got to do with 1984?