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DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Going to Hell in a Handbasket

Written by: on January 18, 2018

The church is different but not all is lost.

               

Historical Church – London                               Modern Church- USA

The church architect has changed over the years, and so have people’s views about God.

Charles Taylor shares his revelation of how God is viewed in this secular age (West). In his book, Secular Age, he covered several areas including in years past, people believed in God and the supernatural, God’s presence was more visible in the beginning, for example, appointing Kings and prophets, the enchanted world believing in supernatural beings, and how people view God now.

This book of 900plus pages is full of many thoughts and theories. Reading James Smith book, How (Not) to be Secular, helps one to focus on which Taylor theories you want to read. I chose the “immanent frame.”  Taylor wrote “the buffered identity of the disciplined individual moves in a constructed social space, where instrumental rationality is a key value and time is pervasively secular. This is understood as ‘natural’, order, contrasted to a ‘supernatural’ on, an ‘immanent’ world, over against a possible ‘transcendent’ one.”  (542) He further says that “the immanent frame can be open, allowing for the possibility of the transcendent, or closed.” (551) He references these closures as “Closed World Structures”. He identifies two points:  “the rational agent of modern epistemology and religion is childish.  An unbeliever dares to take up an adult stance and face reality.” (562)  It is difficult for some to understand how people believe in a God they cannot see. Smith points out that “God is reduced to a Creator and religion is reduced to morality.” [1]

Taylor believes that people are leaning more to their inner goodness than to a supernatural being guiding them. This is not new. Taylor wrote, “First, the social order is a blueprint for how things worked together to our mutual benefit and identified with the plan of Providence, what God asks us to realize. The nature of a self-sufficient immanent order without reference to God, a proper blueprint is attributed to Nature.”  (543) God is our creator, and he developed the plan of humanity’s existence. God created the earth, and all are inhabitants. With science interjections of theories, it has sometimes removed the view of God as creator, and it looks towards a natural evolution. Some people don’t believe in the spiritual world of demons and spiritual warfare. There are Christians that are skeptical about spiritual warfare. Miracles are not viewed as such due to the advancement of science and healthy eating of natural products.

Dr. Taylor delivered the Gifford Lectures, entitled “Living in a Secular Age,” at the University of Edinburgh in 1998–1999. The Gifford Lecture website summarized the book by chapters. On chapter five it wrote that “Taylor sees two major dilemmas confronting both faith and unbelief. The first, how to define moral and spiritual aspirations for human beings while showing a path to transformation which does not crush, mutilate or deny what is essential to our humanity…The second, violence was pointing to the deep metaphysical roots of violence in human nature. The dilemma facing both religious and nonreligious positions is that the struggle against evil can itself generate evil so that the goodness of the final goal is itself undone in the process of trying to reach it. The only escape from this spiral of violence is the path of renunciation, seen supremely in Christ but also with its definite nonreligious analogues. Forgiveness and reconciliation can actually be achieved by transcending the natural impulse for violent retaliation. This challenge faces all of humanity, whether believing or unbelieving.” [2] This statement is truly reflected in the political times of America. Political differences have always fueled arguments between people’s belief, but this current environment has become violent verbally and physically. For example, People fighting at campaign rallies, Christians fighting against selected White Evangelical Christians,  fighting within the Republican camps, and international allies fighting America. Forgiveness and reconciliation seem inevitable. This is where those who believe in God must be the first to forgive yet it’s not in existence.

Doubters of God and Jesus Christ is centuries old. Matthew 16:13-20The Voice says, 13 Jesus then went to Caesarea Philippi.Jesus (to His disciples): Who do people say the Son of Man is? Disciples: 14 Some say John the Baptist.[a] And some say, Elijah. And some say Jeremiah or one of the other prophets. Jesus: 15 And you? Who do you say that I am? Peter: 16 You are the Anointed One. You are the Son of the living God.  The Pharisees, Christian leaders, did not believe Jesus was the Messiah. For hundreds of years, some people have sought for other theories about life rather than the theory of God. To understand the transcendence of God, one must have a relationship with him through experience. It not an introduction as one human to another, it’s an experience.

Taylor, although he paints at times a bleak future, he does speak of hope. “The secular ‘’wasteland’… young people will begin again to explore beyond the boundaries.’ (770)  He believes there will be a move away from ‘excarnation’, the disembodying of spiritual life, and from homogenization in a single principle, to celebrate the ‘integrity of different ways of life.’ (772)” [3]

Young people are realizing there is a spiritual connection but seeking a new way to worship. The young experience through different music. Thir new worship is not so different when I was growing up and gospel music came into worship.  The guitars and drums were essential to ensure the beat and loud sound. It rocked the core of the old saints. Today, churches sing little to no hymn and have praise groups, lights, and videos similar to a rock concert according to some conservative church leaders. As Christians, to help people recognize God we need to be confident in the characteristics of God and move on God’s call and not our own when sharing the Gospel.

 

[1] James K A Smith, How (Not) To Be Secular: Reading Charles Taylor, Grand Rapids: Wm B Eerdmanns Publishing Co., 2014, p51.

[2] The Gifford Lectures, accessed 01/8/2018, https://www.giffordlectures.org/books/secular-age.

[3] Ibid

About the Author

Lynda Gittens

4 responses to “Going to Hell in a Handbasket”

  1. mm Jennifer Dean-Hill says:

    Nice job Lynda making this complex book relevant and comprehensible to today’s church and culture.
    I liked this: “As Christians, to help people recognize God we need to be confident in the characteristics of God and move on God’s call and not our own when sharing the Gospel.” So true! Instead of emulating other churches, it is important for churches to hear God’s voice and to create a community relevant to their city. Great reminder.

  2. Mary says:

    “The only escape from this spiral of violence is the path of renunciation, seen supremely in Christ but also with its definite nonreligious analogues. Forgiveness and reconciliation can actually be achieved by transcending the natural impulse for violent retaliation.”
    Lynda, this to me is the proof that there is a God. Churchgoer or not, people all seem to feel healing when someone says, “I’m sorry”.
    (I’m not sure Andy Savage counts)
    But retaliation is the human response without God and the Holy Spirit giving us the courage to repent and really change and even make restitution to the victim.
    Good summary of one of the most important themes in Taylor.

  3. Jim Sabella says:

    Lynda, you make an excellent point about forgiveness and the need for it in our time. It is the Christians who should be leading the way in forgiveness, but as you stated this is not always the case. On the other hand, I know many Christians who live and practice what they believe in a way that is making a huge impact. It’s often practiced at work, at home, when shopping, walking, driving an uber or simply living one’s life. It’s often done quietly, without fanfare, spotlights or the applause of millions of people. These are the people making the difference in our world and they are the ones I admire the most. Thank you for the call to repentance and the call to practice it. Great post, Lynda.

  4. Kristin Hamilton says:

    “Forgiveness and reconciliation can actually be achieved by transcending the natural impulse for violent retaliation.”
    This is such an interesting statement, Lynda, because it is similar to what I hear from my Buddhist and Wiccan friends, as well as a few agnostics. I think that is what secularism is all about. Those things that you and I would attribute to the transcendence of God and the process of spiritual formation, these people attribute to the goodness of their humanity, the approach of nirvana, or oneness with nature. To them, God is just another option. How do we help people then make the connection with God?

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