Saturday, May 23, 2009

Christ & Culture Revisited: Cultural Forces – The Lure of Secularization

The third chapter discusses four cultural “forces” that affect Christ and culture and how they should be challenged or accommodated. We’ll do a post for each. The first is the rise of secularization. This is the goal to push religion to the periphery of life, not having any bearing on public life and it is considered intolerant if it does. It is most prevalent in the universities where it should be so private as to become invisible. Secularism can end up being “religious” in its own right, according to Carson. He says, “It strongly advocates its own view of the ultimate good, it articulates its own belief system, it establishes its own code of ethics” (p. 117).

There are three “seductive subtleties” to secularization, according to Carson, that Christians need to be wary of. Secularism is thought to be an inevitable advancement in the wake of the Enlightenment. This is not a given, according to Carson. There is also a pressure to drift toward a cultural Deism or civil religion. This is what Jefferson and Paine hoped for and Carson contends the loss of this civil religion is not a loss of Christian commitment. Rather, it is a form of secularism itself. Finally, there is a strong divide that limits “meaningful interaction” between Christians and secularists. They may have much in common, but if they do, it is for different reasons. Carson says this is an inevitable divergence in worldviews. Christ and culture are heading in different directions in this context.

Carson doesn’t comment any further, but I think that Christians still need to contend for the public good in culture as an aspect of loving their neighbor – even if the neighbor disagrees it is a good thing. This is contrasted, however, to contending to hold onto a golden age of the past.

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