DO WE LIVE IN A SECULAR AGE?


Here’s an interesting one from Lee.  Enjoy!-anita

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I came across an article recently, penned by Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr., who heads up The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY. In his article, Dr. Mohler acknowledges that we live in a highly secularized world. He then goes on to quote extensively from a book by a Canadian philosopher, Dr. Charles Taylor, entitled A Secular Age. Taylor is a well-respected former Oxford Rhodes Scholar.

Taylor describes three sets of intellectual conditions that seem to fairly accurately define the world we have come to live in.

  • The first period Taylor describes is what he calls the “premodern age of antiquity” where it was impossible not to believe [in God]. “There was simply no intellectual alternative to theism in the West…no alternative set of explanations for the world and its operations….”
  • The 2nd period Taylor describes is the “age of modernity.” Here it became possible not to believe [in God]. “A secular alternative to Christian theism emerged as a real choice.”
  • A 3rd period now defines our current state, Taylor says, a state which he terms “late modernity.” In this state it is now impossible to believe. According to Taylor, this means that, for the intellectual elites and the culture-forming sectors of society, “theism is not an available worldview—if not personally, then at least culturally.”

Interestingly, Taylor’s philosophy then takes an unexpected turn to argue against a condition that some philosophers have called “Secularism,” which is a major thesis of his book, A Secular Age. In doing some more research on this topic, I found on Wikipedia (that sometimes maligned source of current information) this definition: “In rough form, the secularization thesis holds that as modernity (a bundle of phenomena including science, technology, and rational forms of authority) progresses, religion gradually diminishes in influence.”

Taylor offers this point of encouragement to those of us who live life in love for and obedience to the Almighty God:  “In fact, the modern world has not seen the disappearance of religion but rather its diversification and in many places its growth.” Taylor examines the development in “Western Christendom” of those aspects of modernity which we call secular. What he describes “is in fact not a single, continuous transformation, but a series of new departures, in which earlier forms of religious life have been dissolved or destabilized and new ones have been created.” Taylor concludes, sadly but correctly to some degree: “Today’s secular world is characterized not by an absence of religion–although in some societies religious belief and practice have markedly declined–but rather by the continuing multiplication of new options, religious, spiritual, and anti-religious, which individuals and groups seize on in order to make sense of their lives and give shape to their spiritual aspirations.” As Dr. Mohler puts it: “Christians are the intellectual outlaws under the current secular conditions.” And, of course, none of this should surprise us. The Lord Jesus told us Himself, “…you will be hated by all on account of My name, but the one who endures to the end, he shall be saved.”

We’ve talked about this before; that the world has bought into the humanistic ideal of self first, and embraces the condition of subjective truth (my truth is what I want to believe it is, there is no objective truth of God). According to Taylor, “Everything is now reduced to choice…” and that is the basis of his concept of “individual authenticity,” which is code-speak for the issue of binding authority: God is not the authority in my life, I am. Me, me, me.

But I actually am encouraged by something implicit in Taylor’s thesis. Even with these “new options” of which he speaks, he acknowledges these options are seized upon by mankind “to make sense of their lives and give shape to their spiritual aspirations.” As misdirected as many of these “late modern” ideas are, they still reflect the fact that mankind is a spiritual being—spirit breathed into us by God– and constantly seeks ways to give form to something (or Someone, if you are a practicing Christian) greater than ourselves.

By:  Lee Pierce

 

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