Friday, August 13, 2004

How to Think About Secularism

by Wolfhart Pannenberg, (First Things 64 (June/July 1996): 27-32)

"Whatever is meant by secularization, few will dispute that in this century the public culture has become less religious. This is not, as some suggest, simply the result of the separation of church and state that first happened some two centuries earlier. Such separation did not then entail the alienation of culture from its religious roots. In America, for instance, the end of state-established religion did not mean the end of the predominantly Christian and Protestant character of American culture. In other Western societies, the linkage between the state and one or another Christian church continued to be effective well into this century. Yet in these societies, too, we see evidence of secularization, typically much further advanced than in the United States. Secularization is not caused by the separation of church and state. The roots of the process of secularization, resulting in the present alienation of public culture from religion, and especially from Christianity, are planted in the seventeenth century...

...Christianity proposed as an alternative or complement to life in a secularist society must be both vibrant and plausible. Above all, it must be substantively different and propose a difference in how people live. When message and ritual are accommodated, when the offending edges are removed, people are invited to suspect that the clergy do not really believe anything so very distinctive. The plausible and persuasive presentation of Christian distinctives is not a matter of marketing. It is a matter of what the churches owe to people in our secularist societies: the proclamation of the risen Christ, the joyful evidence of new life in Christ, of life that overcomes death..."

(To read Pannenberg's full article click here.)

No comments: