Skip to comments.The challenge of modernity: Os Guinness on the church and civilization
Posted on 06/25/2018 5:24:34 PM PDT by CondoleezzaProtege
In a recent talk for the C.S. Lewis Institute, Os Guinness laments, "It isnt ideas which have caused the main damage to the church, Guinness says. Modernity itself has done more damage to the church than all the persecutors put together..."
The Chinese church survived the most brutal, vicious, systematic persecution any church has probably ever faced under Mao Ze Dung. And yet now, when theyre not persecuted so visiously .as theyre moving to big cities like Shanghai, Beijing, Nanjing, the challenge of the church negotiating these big modern cities is actually causing many to fall away.
The challenge of negotiating modern life is even harder than surviving persecution.
If youre following things like singularity or the effects of artificial intelligence, or transhumanism, you know that there are visions of tomorrow that are unlike anything humanitys ever seen, and many of the faiths, worldviews, and philosophies of the world have no answer at all. But we cannot sit back and say "Jesus is the answer without articulating that answer into the thick of the grand philosophical, ethical, medical, scientific challenges that are coming in the future. And I hope particularly the millennial generation will take it as a calling to engage that world and be there in the thick of those discussions.
Instead of the doom and gloom or the alarmism
we should be thinking of winning back our part of the world for our Lord...in each of the callings God has given us..
(Excerpt) Read more at blog.acton.org ...
I dislike this line of reasoning because it suggests that as a rule of sorts, Christian faith evaporates when it confronts modernity. Thus one must conclude that education and freedom of choice lead to the falling away of Christians from their faith. To accept such a premise is to regard Christianity as a proposition mostly suited for the ignorant and backward.
Interesting point Rockingham. I can see why it comes off that way, but I think he is actually calling on Christians to engage more fully with modernity and to integrate faith with one’s profession or expertise. So that we as Christians can contribute to the cultural dialogue about all these complex subjects and have informed arguments to make.
The Chinese Christian situation is more complicated...Here is an article about why Chinese Christians who converted to faith out West (with all its modernity), find it difficult to cope at home:
In my view the two major challenges that modernity presents are distractions and peer pressure.
Prior to the modern era most of ones time was taken up by task that contributed to continued survival what little time was left one used to procreate or pray for Gods aid in ones continued survival. Faith was a help to keep ones spirits which was necessary to overcome the challenges that life presented.
For us living in the industrial world life is much easier than those who lived in the age of Christendom. Modern life also offers a cornucopia of entertainment diversions with which to occupy the ample free time that living in the modern age provides.
Death is no longer the constant threat that it once was. Modern sanitary systems and practices make food borne diseases relatively rare. Broken bones are not the threat to life that they once were. Most of the common diseases that were frequent killers in the 18th century and now rarely deadly.
The causes of death in the age of Christendom were mysteries. That uncertainty drove the mind to God. The community sought the face of God and those that openly doubted Gods existence were pushed out of the community or were shunned.
Most of the hard facts of life that once drove the mind to God are no longer the hard facts of life and have been replaced by cheap entertainment.
Today in a large part the table has turned, and Gods existence is openly challenged and dismissed. To openly profess Gods existence and omnipresence is to be considered odd, eccentric or maybe dangerous.
Peer pressure in modern life is on the side of the adversary. All of the distractions of life are on the side of the adversary. Politics is on the side of the adversary. In my estimation even the Pope is on the side of the adversary.
The Church is on the ropes and needs to punch its way out.
Is there a Christian way to fly an airliner? Or a Christian way to build a house? Not really. These are technical skills requiring both expertise and some theoretical knowledge but no application of Christian faith.
There is a Christian way to live though, offering a path through the difficulties and existential uncertainties of life. I think that has more substantial appeal.
No matter how comfortable, prosperous, lucky, and secure we are these days, our lives have a beginning and an end, with beyond that being a cloud of mystery. At its best, Christianity offers answers based on both faith and reason and can be reconciled with modern science.
“The Church is on the ropes and needs to punch its way out.”
Agreed - but how, exactly? I think that’s what Os Guinness is grappling with. This issue needs to be dealt with. The church, for the most part, seems to be striving for relevance by compromise - and has become the Church of Laodicea (Jesus’s letters to the churches in Revelation). He said it was lukewarm and he would rather it was cold or hot.
Which leads to an interesting question: what does that mean? Why would cold, specifically, be preferable? Cold Christians vs. lukewarm Christians. We probably understand the idea of hot, or fervent Chritsianity. Maybe cold refers to fierce determination in the face of such moral anarchy?
How should the church deal with this insane, utterly immoral, trivial information overloaded, technological age?
Jesus was a carpenter to the glory of God, but think of fields like Medicine, Bioethics, Pharmaceuticals (especially in the way of mental health.)
On that note: Psychology/Psychiatry...If there is a such thing as a “soul” — then secular psychiatry can be rather simplistic.
Law. On what reality or truths do we base concepts of right and wrong?
The study of History.
- If Jesus was a real person who truly died, truly rose, and truly will come again — then all history truly is divided into B.C. and A.D. and our entire understanding of the world from Creation forward should be shaped in light that reality.
One God who created all peoples, rules over all nations, and personally entered the human story 2,000 years ago.
Most classics of Western Literature are impossible to grasp without Biblical literacy. As are most works of Western art throughout history.
On that note: the Arts. What does it mean to be a Christian storyteller. How can a Christian make good films that even a non-believer will find compelling and moving?
Science, Geology, Astronomy, Biology, Paleontology — is Darwinism and Evolution a safe basis from which to base these fields?
Those and other modern disciplines are organized on secular lines because competing Christian sects and ancillary faiths prevent agreement on a theological framework. Indeed, assuming that only material causes exist or need be considered simplifies the organization of modern life. Yet people rebel at the sterility of life purged of its spiritual dimension, and so Christianity and other faiths persist. Literature of course often addresses this point.
Reason tells us that our lives have a beginning and an end. But reason is but a small part of our thought process.
The Liberals in the Democrat Party long ago learned this and set out to exploit the fact that in the vast majority of people emotion overwhelms reason. Emotion frames our experiences, colors them and makes them real.
Death has been far removed from the daily life of most people in the modern world. We rarely ever experience death in our daily lives. We die in hospitals and nursing homes for the most part. Often alone. Our families too busy to attend to the needs of a sick parent or child they are in the hospital cared for by professional care givers.
My mother as a child watched her grandfather be consumed by cancer in her parents home. She helped care for him until she watched him take his last breath. His funeral was in that same house.
Death was real, and it was personal. In the modern world death has been removed from our daily lives and has been farmed out to professionals.
Death is a concept that most do not deal with until it comes knocking at our own door.
With out the emotions of dealing with death we do not truly recognize its reality.
In the past every person who reached the age of 12 had watched several close relatives die. Death was always near and personal.
It is easy to discount an afterlife because people emotionally do not experience the end of this life.
No afterlife, no God.
Which is why theology should be mandatory field of study. Part of basic universal academic curriculum. Theological illiteracy even among so-called Christians is another great travesty of our time. Even the current events of today have theological foundations. Conflicts rooted in theological differences...
People should know why a Calvinist and a Catholic may have conflicting views on art for example. (To be fair this does get touched on in secular Art History courses.) Or why Eastern Orthodox political culture developed differently from Western Christian world etc...Or how Muslims view the concept of a Judgment Day as opposed to Jews etc...
Back in the day, *basic* scholarship required the study of Greek, Latin, sometimes Hebrew -- and literacy in the great classics...
Oxford, Cambridge, and the American Ivy League (sans Cornell) were founded under Christian auspices...varying denominations to be sure, but still.
I do not think that we are unaware of death. Even as children, we see many deaths every year on TV. The problem is that the materialistic assumptions of modern science and philosophy resist serious consideration of the evidence of an afterlife.
Theology has fallen out of intellectual favor.
The truth the left hates is that Christianity inspired and informed Western Civilization: philosophy, literature, painting, music, and science.
The Hannibal-like elephant in the European living room is that over 400 years of Muslim invasions are primarily responsible for the Dark Ages, not Christianity.
The current situation philosophically is the result of the successful century-long usurpation of public education by the Frankfurt School.
I now include private education, including seminaries - starting with Fuller Theological. They are heresy factories promulgating human hubris, not humility. I have met too many heretical seminarians in my life to think otherwise.
Further, so-called Christian colleges and universities are now adopting communist propaganda on illegal aliens, environmental issues, and homoerotic lifestyles. They are veritably tripping over themselves to seem modern (read: leftist).
finally, so-called Christian charities are almost all Marxist organizations aimed at destroying America from within by flooding it with aliens who reject Western Civilization.
I do not argue that people are not aware of death but that it is not real to them.
Consider a toddler. You tell the child not to touch the stove its HOT.
The child does not understand hot until it touches the stove and gets burned. Pain is a teacher.
Modern man does not understand death any longer because the pain of death has been removed from the common experience.
Think of the public schools today where if a student suddenly dies in a car accident or some other unnatural death. The school brings out the Grief Councilors.
When in the past would this have ever been considered necessary? It would not because grief was a common emotion for everyone.
People know that they will die but it is not real to them because the emotional pain of death has never been there for them personally.
It has become common for doctors to prescribe anti-depressants for those who experience the death of a child or spouse. Grief has become such an uncommon occurrence that people dont know how to deal with it and neither do their circle of friends and relatives so they of no help.
When these now rare tragedies happen people no longer know how to turn to God in prayer. No one tells the survivor to turn to God in prayer.
People are so removed from their mortality that they have forgotten that it is a fact and that eventually they will stand before God after death.
I think the deaths on TV can only further remove death from reality for people. More frequently than not TV writers do not deal with the personal pain the relatives of victim experience. Even if they do it is brief and shallow because of the necessities of time. If the victims family is ever shown again they are emotionally recovered.
Modern man for the most part is a stranger to the pain of death and this has permitted him to estrange himself from God.
Yes, materialism, science and nihilistic philosophy has given modern man excuses to not believe in God but I dont believe it would be possible with out the removal of the direct experience of the emotional pain of death.
If you mean, among so-called intellectuals in general, I agree. Theology itself, however, is self-consciously intellectual - and not in a good way.
Personally, I have lost most of my interest in theology, precisely because it has become hubristic intellectualism. It lacks a spiritual core.
I am neither inherently anti-intellectual nor anti-theological (although I have unjustly been accused of both): I garnered math and science awards in school, was an honor graduate, am a member of Mensa, was debating theologians at 16 (at a private Christian prep school), and attending pastoral conferences at 19 (by special invitation).
I saw too much of the spiritual vacuum at its core - and saw how Christian friends changed by far for the worse after attending seminary. They became arrogant and secular, adopting Marxist concepts, and denying Biblical truths - even including the Resurrection. I ultimately lost my longtime best friend to such apostasy: He became an ordained minister, but preached a false Gospel.
I was in lay ministry in my 20s, and being groomed for seminary. I decided not to go. I did not want to become like that. I wanted wisdom, not just knowledge.
The Apostles were not seminarians, not theologians; they were disciples of Jesus Christ: They knew him, and walked with him. The closest one to a theologian was the one born out of time, the chief of sinners, the one consenting to murder.
I would rather read the Bible than Christian Dogmatics. If I have to read human philosophy, then I glean more edification from Tree and Leaf by JRR Tolkien, or Mere Christianity (or God in the Dock, or Screwtape letters, or any of the others) by CS Lewis, than from formal theology.
To paraphrase someone I once heard: I am not very interested in what Man has to say about God; I am much more interested in what God has to say about Man.
“Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.” [Acts 4:13]
The Sanhedrin in the main rejected Jesus.
More even than the Frankfurt school, Christianity was weakened by sectarian divisions, its difficulty in reconciling faith with modern science, and its inability to restrain mankind's tendency toward increasingly destructive wars.
Of course, the great wars of the 20th Century were not religious wars but wars spurred by the ideologies of Nazism and Communism. Mankind's accomplishments in the fields of science and technology have brought not just a better life in a material sense but also a new potency to our destructive impulses.
You are sadly correct about most Christian colleges and charities. They have embraced the supposed Christian social gospel to the point of jettisoning Christianity itself. Most social gospel adherents though do not realize that its teaching makes little sense except as an adjunct to genuine Christian faith. Ominously, under Pope Francis, the Vatican seems to now be more of social gospel belief than Catholicism. It is harder than ever to discern any near term hope for a Christian revival.
Catholicism too is increasingly eaten up with various forms of apostasy. Like C.S. Lewis, we must be cheerful even in the face of adversity. We know that however bad things may become, the truth and power of Christ remains, to one day be revealed in glory, to us individually and for all mankind.
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