Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Romans 13, Again

Every fall, graduate students who work in Lonergan studies gather at Marquette University for a conference named Lonergan on the Edge. This year, the graduate students have chosen as their theme "The Problem of Liberation." This is, I think, very timely, not just with respect to Lonergan studies but also with respect to the growing global fascination with authoritarianism. In this spirit, I want to continue thinking about Romans 13, now within the context of liberation theology and exegesis.

For those unfamiliar with the term, "liberation theology" refers to a fluorescence of theological thought in the post-war era that has focused upon the question of social, economic, and political liberation. If I might sum it up in a single sentence, the foundational premise of liberation theology is that if Jesus came to save humanity then that must entail saving humanity from unjust conditions. From this, liberation theologians argue that Christians have a duty in the concrete here and now to work towards constructing an equitable world in which all are free to become the best version of themselves. Liberation theology has made significant and enduring contributions to Christian thought, not least because it represents a decentring from the theological hegemony of white, male-identified, straight-identified, cis persons hailing from western Europe and its more privileged colonies, in order to create space for persons of various backgrounds and experiences to speak from their reality and to their world.

Liberation theology has wrestled significantly with the Christian scriptures. Some of these scriptures are easy to deal with if one is a liberation theologian. For instance, the story of the exodus has become a central leitmotif in much liberation thought. But it must also deal with narratives and passages that prima facie do not proclaim liberation but rather submission to authorities. Romans 13:1-7 is an example of such a passage. Liberation theologians and exegetes influenced by liberation theology have often attempted to neutralize this passage by saying that of course Paul understood that not all authorities pursue the good, and that in those cases they must be resisted. I find myself generally unpersuaded by these arguments. That they are on shaky empirical ground seems evident when they must resort to arguing that this or that passage in Paul implies that Christians should resist the empire and the emperor, and that of course Paul couldn't come right out and say it, because of fear of the imperial authorities. I am not as convinced as such exegetical colleagues that we can know what Paul meant to but did not say. I just don't think that we can turn Paul into a liberation theologian avant la lettre. Paul must be read in his own place, at the level of his time. And that place and time was one in which those persons with relative privilege thought that the Pax Romana was a largely unmitigated good; that slavery was a necessity and even a good; that the subordination of female persons to male was just the natural order of things; etc. In such areas, Paul frankly gives nary a hint of breaking with his apparently affluent upbringing, and in fact the classicist G.E.M. de Ste. Croix has cogently argued that in some regards Paul was even less "progressive" than his fellows.

If liberation theology--or any Christian who desires a Christianity that uplifts rather than tramples down the marginalized--is to flourish, it must come to terms with Paul on a level other than exegesis. One can pretend that Paul says the opposite of what he says, but that would constitute a failure to be attentive, intelligent, reasonable, and responsible. One must simply accept that Paul was, at best, indifferent to imperial rule. We never read in him anything negative about the empire or the emperor, and in his earliest biography he does not hesitate to take advantage of his privileges as a citizen. The question cannot be "Given that Paul opposed the empire, how can Christians resist oppressive state regimes today?" but rather "Despite the fact that Paul failed to oppose the empire, how can Christians resist oppressive state regimes today?" Here some of the work of liberation-oriented exegetes can be retrieved. No, we cannot state that when Paul says that there is one lord, namely Jesus, he must have considered this to be a challenge to Caesar's legitimacy to rule. There is simply no evidence that Paul drew this conclusion, and it is bad exegesis to suppose that authors are always aware of the necessary corollaries of their own statements. But we can state that this is indeed a necessary corollary of Jesus' lordship as conceived by Paul, and with that insight build towards a theological argument for resisting oppressive regimes. Paul need not have drawn the necessary corollaries of his own statements for the contemporary Christian to do so. Put otherwise, we must remember that the work of theology includes but is not exhausted by or completed with scriptural exegesis.

Sunday, 17 June 2018

Jesus the Sinner: On the Theology of Jeff Sessions

Jesus is a sinner. Such, at least is the position of US Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Consider.

Mr. Sessions holds that Romans 13:1-2 necessitates unqualified obedience to governing authorities. And with this we can agree: a prima facie reading of these passages suggests exactly that. But as anyone with a basic theological education knows, the prima facie reading of Rom. 13:1-7 is one of the most contested in the history of Christianity. Part of the reason for such contest is that we simply know from experience that governing authorities sometimes act in ways that are utterly at variance with the highest aspirations of Christian values. To select a random instance, they sometimes pursue policies that entail separating children from their parents and crowding them into giant kennels barely fit for stray dogs. But even beyond that experiential aspect, Romans 13 itself gives us good reason to rethink the prima facie reading, for if we read vv. 1-2 as does Sessions then we must conclude from v. 3-4 that Jesus was an wrongdoer.

This will be obvious if we look at Rom. 13:1-4 in full, quoted from the NRSV:

13:1 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists authority resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Do you wish to have no fear of the authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive its approval; 4 for it is God’s servant for your good. But if you do what is wrong, you should be afraid, for the authority does not bear the sword in vain! It is the servant of God to execute wrath on the wrongdoer.

Vv. 1-2 indeed say that all should be subject to the governing authorities, as Sessions argues, and it indeed provides no qualification on this. V. 3 gives the reason for the position taken in vv. 1-2: "rulers are not a terror to good, but to bad." The passage further explains that if one does what is good, one will win the authority's approval, and that if one does what is wrong one should fear violence from the authority. On a "hard reading," Paul does not allow for the possibility that the authority might execute wrath on good people. On a hard reading, Paul states that anyone who experiences the wrath of the authorities must be a wrongdoer.

And of course, as we all know, Jesus experienced the wrath of the authorities. That in fact is how he died. As such, if Sessions is correct in his reading of Romans 13:1-2, Jesus must be a wrongdoer. Jesus must be a sinner. So Jeff Sessions.

Put otherwise, Jeff Sessions is a heretic who has radically departed from the fundamental tenets of the very Christian faith by which he tries to justify the administration's policies. He presents a litmus test not just for whether or not American society has sufficient decency to be morally shocked and outraged by this intentional attack upon children and families, but also whether or not self-proclaimed Christians have sufficient commitment to their religion so as to reject rank heresy.

Returning to the man Paul, I don't think that he thought that Jesus was a sinner. That is too clearly excluded from his writings more generally. As such, I think that there are two possibilities in thinking about Romans 13 from the perspective of the author. First possibility: Paul supposes but does not say that there are authorities that act in ways contrary to the good. Second possibility: Paul has not thought through the implications of his position as articulated in 13:1-4, as it pertains to Jesus' death. I rather suspect that the latter is more likely the case. Remember that Paul is writing to Christians in Rome, Acts shows a pattern of conduct on his part of turning to Roman authorities for aid. I think it entirely plausible that as someone who (I suspect) grew up in relative comfort, born a citizen in a time when citizenship still entailed a decent amount of privileges, Paul's experience of the Roman authorities was largely positive. (I've often wondered if he would write Romans 13 exactly the same the day after his execution by Roman authorities). I suspect that he has not yet reflected upon the fact that it was specifically the Roman authorities who ordered his Lord's death. I further suspect that if confronted with the fact that his words in Romans 13:3-4 necessarily entail that said Lord was a sinner, he'd say "Heaven forbid!" and rethink the matter.

In either case, the use of scripture in a contemporary context is informed but not dictated by what the scriptural writers intended. Christian theology must always remember that all persons operate at the level of their time, including the persons responsible for producing sacred scripture. As such, as much as one might recognize that the scriptural writers were inspired so as to reveal divine truth in a peculiar fashion, they did so as persons embedded in particular contexts. As we translate their insights into our contexts, with our own horizons, some things will inevitably be lost and some things inevitably be gained. Lost will be an immediate, direct connection with their horizons. Gained will be two to three millennia of historical experience and more crucially reflection upon the very words of scripture that we are reading.

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

We're all sick

Speaking about the development of values in the early modern period, Erich Fromm in Escape from Freedom writes that "The individualistic relationship to God was the psychological preparation for the individualistic character of man's secular activities." Obviously, there are shades of Weber's The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism here, and not surprisingly Fromm cites Weber with sympathy (although he is more fully dependent upon Tawney's Religion and the Rise of Capitalism, but that said it is perhaps worth mentioning that Tawney himself was quite rightly cognizant that the whole discussion was labouring in Weber's shadow). But what interests me more than the Weberian resonances and the ongoing questions about Protestant Ethic is that Fromm explicitly apprehends two distinct domains of human experience, what we might call the psychological ("the individualistic relationship to God") and the social ("the individualistic character of man's secular activities"). But I would in fact argue that Fromm implicitly apprehends three distinct domains in this quotation and certainly throughout Escape from Freedom, with "the individualistic relationship to God" properly defined as cultural and "psychological preparation" as a distinct matter of psychological appropriation. Put otherwise, I think that Fromm in 1941 apprehended at least in part the insight that Doran would make explicit in 1990's Theology and the Dialectics of History: that culture serves as the domain mutually mediating between the personal and the social.

If Doran is correct, then we should not be surprised by Fromm's argument that the psychological and the social are essentially isomorphic, and I would again make explicit the implicit presence of the cultural. Socially, the human animal under capitalism--arguably "late capitalism" all the more so than early modern)--is an atom, defined not by the force it exerts upon or experiences from other such atoms but rather by its wholly autonomous self; this can only be sustained of course if persons living under such an social regime psychologically adapt by accepting themselves as such atoms; and such widespread adaptation can only be achieved if a culture emerges that presents the person as standing in such an atomistic relationship with foundational reality. Only persons who believe themselves to be atoms because everything around them tells them that they are atoms can function fully as an atomistic social regime needs if it is to sustain itself. Isomorphism between society, culture, and person seems necessary for any community--from the smallest units up to the largest states and institutions--to sustain itself long-term.

This insight has tremendous value for those of us whose primary research interest is in a period other than the modern, for if such isomorphism is necessary to sustain any community then we now have the basis for a powerful set of analytical tools. When we see long-term sustainability of a given social arrangement, we have reason to suspect that such isomorphism existed. Perhaps the best example of this from the ancient world is ancient Egypt, whose pharaonic model of government survived in its broad outlines for three millennia; even in the interregnums between the Old, Middle, and New Kingdoms, it seems that in general this pharaonic model of government persisted, albeit less effective at meeting its own intended ends than at other times in Egyptian history. We might also cite the endurance of the Confucian model in East Asia up until modern times, or perhaps the Indian caste system. Conversely, when we see a community rapidly disintegrate, we have reason to suspect that isomorphism has not been sustained or alternatively has not been maintained. This probably helps in part to account for the collapse of various twentieth-century communist regimes: never able to develop communist cultures as deeply embedded as the capitalist culture of "the west," these regimes were plagued by various instabilities as person's psychic lives were seriously out of step with their social lives. (By contrast, capitalism's capacity to sustain itself despite the clear evidence that it is facilitating gross inequality unparalleled in human history, and that--by reducing the nature upon which we depend to a set of resources that we might pillage for profit--it has in fact become an existential threat to the human species, can probably only be explained by the high degree of isomorphism between society, culture, and person that it has managed to achieve. The problem is that in the face of these clear dysfunctions such isomorphism is itself dysfunctional: a fact that no doubt helps in no small part to explain the deepening mental health crisis. One rather suspects that much--one also suspects far from all--that we define as mental illness is the normative response of healthy psyches to profoundly unhealthy situations).

Saturday, 21 April 2018

Inter-traditional Antagonism

I've been reading Kieran Allen's excellent little book, Weber: Sociologist of Empire. Allen rightly addresses Weber's antagonistic relationship towards Marxism, an antagonism generally reciprocated by Marxist scholars. This intersects quite neatly with David Pavón-Cuéllar's Marxism and Psychoanalysis, which more extensively treats the at times mutually ambivalent relationship between Marxist and psychoanalytic thought. I'm sure it wouldn't take much work to find tensions between Weberian and psychoanalytic thought also. Following upon my post of the other week, this raises a legitimate and urgent question: how can intellectual traditions that have often stood in tension be thought to mutually enrich one another?

Here I am reminded of the first pages of Lonergan's Method in Theology, in which Lonergan identifies three "channels" in which method can run. First, it can run in the channel of the Great Teacher: one finds a mentor and aims to more or less slavishly follow her or his example. This mentor might be a living person, in the case for instance of a doctoral supervisor, or it could be someone from the past, such as a Marx or a Weber or a Freud or an Aquinas or a Calvin. Frequently--but hardly always--this is the methodological channel followed by those most vigourously identify themselves as Marxist or Weberian or Freudian or Thomist or Calvinist. A second channel seeks to identify those disciplines or schools of thought that have been particularly successful in one's time, and again to more or less slavishly follow their example. This often takes the form of faddism. Whether it was imitating Wolf's Homeric source criticism in the formation of Pentateuchal and thus Synoptic, or folkloristics in the formation of form criticism, or the linguistic turn in the formation of (the new) literary criticism, or postmodern suspicion in the development of biblical minimalism, biblicists have long been inveterate band-wagon jumpers.

None of the above should be taken to deny that insights haven't emerged from (say) Marxist biblical scholarship or Pentateuchal source criticism. Quite the opposite is the case. It is to say that insights that emerge from work undertaken in the first two methodological channels will tend to suffer from a lack of coordination with insights that emerged from Great Teachers or various sciences. The above points us towards the need for a third methodological channel, which is precisely what Lonergan proposes. This is a transcendental channel, in that it aims to transcend both particular Great Thinkers and Great Traditions, and also particular sciences. This however is an inclusive transcendence: it does not dispense with these thinkers and traditions and sciences, but rather seeks to operate at a level that methodologically allows us to first identify genuine insights in their work, and to second integrate these insights into a coherent whole. The movement to the third methodological channel often consists in deciding that one aspect of our collective existence is particularly foundational. For instance, Marxist thought at its best has always aimed towards such a transcendence, and when people talk about "reductionism" in Marxism what they very often mean is that they object to the Marxist decision to foreground material conditions as the foundational principle of a transcendent view of human existence.  Likewise the psychoanalytical decision to foreground personality structures and unconscious impulses, often at the expense of material conditions, or the Weberian decision to foreground cultural values. Such decisions apprehend genuine albeit partial insights into reality, and properly objectified can open and facilitate discussions about the nature of transcendental method.

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

On Max Weber

This blog has been idle for a couple months. The reason is that towards the end of January, I accepted the executive directorship of the Lonergan Research Institute in Toronto, Ontario, and the work of transitioning from St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia to Regis College in Toronto has occupied more of my attention than I would have preferred. And I find myself increasingly thinking about how the LRI might contribute to developing and implementing Lonergan's thought, and this has me returning more and more to my first love: social and cultural theory. I find myself increasingly thinking about how Lonergan and those who have built upon his work can help us integrate the genuine insights achieved by what we might call the "great traditions" of the social sciences (a term somewhat misleading, as the social sciences deal not only with the social but also with the cultural and the personal, but we will work with what we have), which I would identify broadly as the Marxian, the Weberian, and the Freudian (or psychoanalytic).

In thinking about this, I have the good fortune of being able to build upon the work of one of my predecessors in the directorship of the LRI, Robert Doran, whose Theology and the Dialectics of History remains the most thorough synthesis of the social sciences from a Lonerganian perspective. As it is precisely synthesis with which I am concerned, this is a salutary contribution. The work is chock-full of insights, of which three are particularly relevant: culture is that which mediates between society and the person; the Marxian tradition speaks most fully to the matter of society; the psychoanalytic tradition speaks most fully to the matter of the person. There is much of value here, and I would affirm all these insights as necessary and indispensable for thinking synthetically about the social sciences. As a movement towards fuller synthesis in my own articulation, I would perhaps say that the Marxian tradition starts with the social and moves towards the personal; the psychoanalytic starts with the personal and moves towards the social; and the cultural is where they meet each other halfway. Articulated as such, we would very much want to complement the Marxian and the Freudian traditions with a third tradition that starts from culture and moves towards both the social and the personal. I would suggest that this is precisely what we find in the Weberian tradition.

Of course, Max Weber is not unproblematic: for instance, many of his particular historical arguments—advanced over a century ago, by a synthesizer often working outside his primary area of specialization—have hardly withstood the test of time, and his advocacy of empire raises legitimate questions about his morality. Yet, what interests me is the way in which Weber seeks precisely to account for the dynamic between economic development on the one hand and the person on the other. The best-known example of this is his justly famous The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, in which he argues that modern European capitalism emerged from a specifically Calvinist ethos that sought worldly affluence in order to demonstrate to self and other that one is among the elect of God. The pursuit of divine grace was translated into the pursuit of worldly goods. Although this is the best-known example, the dynamic between economic development and the person resounds throughout Weber's work. We see it in his subsequent studies of the relation between economics and world religion—The Religions of ChinaThe Religions of IndiaAncient Judaism (at the time of his premature death in 1920 from the Spanish flu--a belated and indirect casualty of the First World War--Weber planned to continue this series, with studies of early Christianity, rabbinic Judaism, and Islam, among others; one of the great tragedies of modern knowledge is that he never was able to produce these volumes)—and his unfinished Economy and Society (which includes the three or so hundred pages excerpted as the monograph known as Sociology of Religion). We can quibble about whether or not Weber’s interpretation of Calvinism, capitalism, and their relationships, or of other any particular, historical matter holds up empirically. What interests me is the way in which Weber situates culture at the centre of his analysis, rather than as the secondary consideration that it constitutes in both Marxian and psychoanalytic thought. Weber, I think, significantly contributes to thinking foundationally about the “third term” between society and the person, and more crucially about how that third term functions precisely as mediator. It allows us to adopt a multi-faceted strategy for building the synthesis of social-scientific insights: two flanks moving towards the middle, and a middle moving towards the flanks. The dynamic intersection of these movements moves the entire discussion to a new level, one where the seemingly intractable dispute about whether to foreground the personal or the social dissolves into the need to foreground precisely the relationship between the two.

Sunday, 11 February 2018

MeToo and Method

A couple weeks ago political scandal rocked my home province, Ontario. The leader of the Progressive Conservative Party (the name isn't as oxymoronic as it sounds, if one understands the history of Canadian conservatism) resigned in the wake of allegations of sexual misconduct, which of course he vehemently denies. As inevitably happens in such cases, everyone has an opinion, but most people I note do not know how to think systematically about forming their opinion. Since the question in these cases is fundamentally historically--what happened??--I rather suspect that historical method might aid us here.

Now, history as I conceive it proceeds by way of inference to the best explanation. What we seek to explain is human conduct: what scenario gives us an account in which all respective actors act in a maximally intelligible (which is not the same as rational or even intelligent; something can be intelligibly irrational) fashion. Towards this end, we first query the data. The data for us is not what happened; that is what we seek to know. Rather, the primary data is what is said about the case. The first significant set of data are the reports that two women have alleged that when they were eighteen Brown plied them with alcohol and they ended up alone with him in his bedroom. The first incident (involving whom we will call "Woman A") is alleged to have happened when Brown was in his late twenties and already working as a lawyer, the other (involving whom we will call "Woman B") when he was in his mid-thirties and a member of the Canadian federal parliament. The other significant set of data is what Brown himself says about the case. He acknowledges that he knew both women at the times of the alleged incidents. In response to the first allegation, Brown acknowledges that he was acquainted with Woman A at the time of the alleged event, but argues that her account is demonstrably false because she says that they ended up in his second-floor bedroom when he did not move into a residence with a second floor until shortly after the incident allegedly occurred. In response to the second, Brown acknowledges that he and Woman B kissed in his bedroom, but argues that not only was it consensual but she initiated it.

In thinking about the best explanation, I play with possibilities. I ask how I can account for this data if the women are telling the truth, and how I can account for it if Brown is. I will begin with Brown, as I think this will best elucidate the procedure. If Brown is telling the truth then on his own account we must believe that Woman B followed him into his bedroom, initiated intimate contact, and then years later decided to accuse him of assault. Moreover, we have to assume that Woman A wholly fabricated an account about Brown engaging in misconduct in order to support Woman B's allegation. We would have no evidence regarding their individual or collective motivations. At best, we'd have inchoate suspicious that they are part of some political conspiracy to bring down the leader of the official opposition. The women's actions are unintelligible. So too is Brown's, really, as one wonders how a thirty-something member of parliament who is wholly circumspect in his conduct with women ended up alone in his bedroom with an eighteen-year-old woman.

What happens if I flip the scenario around and ask how I can account for the data if the women are telling the truth? First, I can readily account for why they have brought forth the allegations: having been violated by a man who according to the polls was poised to become the next premiere of Canada's largest province in this spring's election, and at a time at which women are experiencing greater freedom in reporting sexual misconduct, they decided that they had to come forward and tell the world what happened to them. Their conduct now makes eminent sense. It also makes greater sense of Brown's: he would hardly be the first man guilty of sexual misconduct to accuse his victims of lying.  His admitted intimate contact with an eighteen-year-old woman alone in his bedroom now makes much better sense: he is simply a sexual predator who uses his power as a lawyer or member of parliament to take advantage of younger women. Again, there's sadly nothing too exceptional about that. Indeed, his overall conduct fits well with another set of data, namely the known tendency of abusers to deny, minimize, and blame; the denial is not itself particularly probative, as it could in principle speak equally to an innocent man defending himself against false accusations, and minimization ("it was consensual") and blame ("she initiated it") on their own might not be enough to conclude that he is lying, but it would tend to reinforce a judgment of guilt made on other grounds. Everyone's actions are now fully intelligible.

What about Brown's argument that Woman A's account must be false because he did not move into a residence with a second-floor bedroom until shortly after it is alleged to have happened? This too is readily intelligible. The report is that the incident happened when she was a high school student. His argument, as best I can tell, is that he did not have a second-floor bedroom until the summer of the year she graduated high school. An intelligible explanation is readily available: the report that she was a "high school student" at the time of the incident should be taken loosely to include the summer after she graduated. It doesn't strike me as a particularly significant imprecision in language to refer to someone as a "high school student" in the weeks immediately following the end of her grade twelve year. Alternatively, she herself might be remembering the exact timing of the event a bit inaccurately: perhaps she thought it was in, say, June of that year, when it was really in July. Combined with the other data, the timing of the alleged event and of his move into a residence that conforms to Woman A's description is sufficiently close that slight imprecision in language seems a better explanation than the idea that Woman A has fabricated her account, as is his attempt to use such slight imprecision to obviate the allegation.

My decision to believe the women here is not political. It's not ideological. It's rational, grounded in an attentive and intelligent working through of the relevant details of the case. Yes, of course, new data could alter my judgment. For instance, if evidence was found that both women received large and inexplicable payments from the Liberal Party just hours before the story was reported, then that could change things. But given the data currently available, there is no reason to anticipate such new data, and in the absence of such reason it would be unreasonable to substitute yarns about possible payments to interfere with good judgment on the basis of the extant data. Patrick Brown remains innocent in the eyes of the law, but in the eyes of any careful historian things look different.

Saturday, 27 January 2018

Voegelin and the Late Bronze Age

I haven't posted for awhile, in part because I've been working on a particularly challenging paper to be presented at a conference next month. It will be my first formal unveiling of the project I've tentatively titled Israel and the Dialectics of History, which aims to work out the theory of history developed by Lonergan and those who have built upon his work, especially but not exclusively Robert Doran. In a certain sense, this project entails that I return to much the beginning of such work, as Doran was deeply influenced by Eric Voegelin's Order and History, especially the first volume, Israel and Revelation. In particular, Doran drew upon Order and History to develop the notion that the dialectic of culture entails a dynamic relationship between what Voegelin called cosmology and anthropology, each of which has to do with where we locate the source of social order: cosmology locates it in the cosmos, anthropology in a world-transcendent source such as God or reason. One of Voegelin's arguments is that cosmologically-oriented cultures often transition to anthropologically-oriented cultures when social breakdown is so extreme that the cosmos can no longer function as a coherent model for social order. Voegelin (pp. 44-45 of Israel and Revelation) suggests that Israel appears to be historically unique in that it made the shift from a cosmological to an anthropological orientation without such a breakdown.

Part of what I am arguing in the paper mentioned above is that Voegelin is empirically mistaken. That he is should occasion little surprise. He was not a biblical scholar, and Israel and History is now more than sixty years old and thus not informed by more recent advances in our knowledge. But we now know that the earliest Israelite settlements in the Land were probably those that appear in the hill country towards the end of the Late Bronze Age, c. 1200 B.C.E. This period is a period of collapse throughout the eastern Mediterranean. This Late Bronze Age Collapse triggers the Greek Dark Age, and occasions a sharp decline in Egyptian control over Canaan. By c. 1150 Egyptian suzerainty over the region comes to a terminus, and the New Kingdom itself doesn't survive the next century. The Canaanite city-states largely disappear, and the Philistines (likely an Aegean people displaced by the fall of the Greek palatial system) appear on the Levantine coast. Such systems-wide collapse (for that is what we're dealing with here) does not occur overnight, and indeed there are signs throughout the 13th century of political disintegration and breakdown in the eastern Mediterranean. The Ramesside kings regularly campaign in Canaan, a fact typically taken as an indication of Egyptian strength but perhaps should be better seen as an empire that is having ever-greater difficulty to maintain control over its holdings. Likewise, the great Egyptian building projects of this century should perhaps be seen not as indications of a civilization at its zenith but rather of a faltering state increasingly dependent upon monumental works to give the symbolic illusion of continued greatness. It is precisely in this period that the majority of scholars who still believe in some sort of exodus would locate the event, and also at this time that Israel first emerges in the historical record.

Our knowledge of Israelite religion at this time is limited by the nature of the data. That's life when one does history. But the biblical conviction that Israel's foundation as a people in the Land correlates closely with a shift towards a more world-transcendent understanding of society makes very good sense within Voegelin's theory of history as developed in Order and History. In fact, I would argue that when we recognize that Israel seems to have emerged during a time of significant political breakdown, it perhaps makes even better sense than he himself realized.