Posts Tagged ‘Secularism’

Implicit or Explicit Self-glorification & Deification

Every form of modern secularism contains an implicit or explicit self-glorification and deification. Humanistic rationalism, forgetting that human reason as well as human physical existence is a derived, dependent, created, and finite reality, makes it into a principle of interpretation of the meaning of life; and believes that its gradual extension is the guarantee of the ultimate destruction of evil in history. It mistakes the image of God in man for God Himself. It does not realize that the freedom by which man is endowed in his rational nature is the occasion for his sin as well as the ground of morality. It does not understand that by this reason nature’s harmless will to live is transmuted into a sinful will to power. It is by this reason that men make pretentious claims for their partial and relative insights, falsely identifying them with absolute truth. Thus rationalism always involves itself in two descending scales of self-deification. What begins as the deification of humanity in abstract terms ends as the deification of a particular type of man, who supposedly possesses ultimate insights. – Reinhold Neibuhr, “The Christian Church in a Secular Age,” 1937

(Via: Lapham’s Quaterly)

Successive Christianizations

David Martin has intriguingly proposed that we may actually be witnessing a series of successive Christianizations rather than a history of secularization… Thus the Christian faith evangelizes, gains great influence, and falls into a terrible struggle (each time ensuring slippage)… However, the successive Christianizations solve different problems each time and may represent a form of progress toward something quite apart from secularization. Each time, however, the projection of faith results in recoil. Martin contends we may have been living in a period of recoil from Protestant advance. – Hunter Baker, The End of Secularism, 103-104

Though I found this quote fascinating, it probably bears a bit of explanation. Baker has been discussing various theories of secularization and how many fail to match reality. Often they perceive some “golden age” of religion and then progress into an age of reason where religion loses it’s place. Baker pointed out historians’ frustration with sociologists’ lack of awareness of history. In the quote above Baker turns to a theory that might actually fit the facts. Instead of a “golden age” of religion, David Martin turns the theory on its head. He sees a cycle where Christianity struggles and evangelizes. The faith then gains converts and begins to become prominent in society but soon has to wrestle with its new power. The question is how spiritual power works with and is reconciled to secular power. This results in a struggle between engagement and isolation which causes the faith to begin to lose its position. Soon there is a recoil in society against the faith which could result in secularism or compromise or isolation. But Martin points out that each time the faith moves forward like this, something is learned and gained even when some ground is lost.

The reason this was so appealing to me was because I think this may be the cycles of the church in the book of Revelation. Rather than presenting one linear timeline of faith in the world, it may be seven cycles of the struggle, rise and fall of the faith culminating with the final one followed by Jesus’ return. I don’t know, I haven’t really studied it and test to see if the cycles fit any pattern but having read through it a new of times it is just the impression I have. What was neat was to see someone find that cycle in the patter of history.

Modern Deism

Although there were [at the time of the American Revolution] varieties of deism, the typical beliefs encompassed a God who guarantees justice via the application of punishments and rewards in the afterlife. It is a distilled version of the Christian faith that avoids question of miracles, complicated doctrines such as the Trinity, and ritual disputes such as whether a person should be baptized via immersion or sprinkling and at what age. Although we do not discuss deism very often outside of historical surveys, the propositions are highly recognizable as representing the worldview of a great many people today. – The End of Secularism, Hunter Baker, page 68