The course of history, contrary to the claims of so many philosophers and sociologists, is not traced exclusively or preponderantly by the dictates of matter over men. Without a doubt these have their influence in human action but the direction of history belongs to men, endowed as they are with free and rational souls. In other words, it is they who direct the course of events, acting more or less profoundly over the circumstances in which they find themselves, and receiving in variable measure, the influences of these same circumstances.
Now, human action normally takes place in accordance with man’s view of the universe, of himself and of life. That amounts to saying that religious and philosophical doctrines dominate history, which the most dynamic nucleus of the factors that transform history is found in the successive attitudes of the human spirit in face of religion and philosophy.
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Both the Old and New Laws contain the precepts by which man should model his soul in order to become like unto God, thus preparing himself for the beatific vision. They also contain the fundamental norms of human conduct in conformity with the natural order of things.
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Thus, while man advances in the life of grace by the practice of virtue, at the same time he elaborates a culture — a political, social and economic order — in entire consonance with the basic and perennial principles of Natural Law. This is what we call Christian civilization.
The preceding article is taken from an informal lecture given by Professor Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira. It has been translated and adapted for publication without his revision. —Ed.