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The ‘double truth’ of evangelical Christianity

Written by: on June 27, 2014

Terry Eagleton’ book titled “Culture and the death of God” picked my interested for particular reasons. From the onset, I was impressed by Eagleton’s evidently brilliant layout of the changing relationship in religious affairs, mythology and art during the enlightenment through modernity and in post modernity.  During the course of reading Eagleton’s literature, I found the familiarity with philosophers like Hume, Kant, Hegel, Nietzsche and Kierkegaard helpful in understanding certain aspects of Eagleton’s seminal work. The above scholars and great minds motivate my ears to want to listen and learn more about their different schools of thought. Especially as they interact with Christianity and religion.

Eagleton’s work challenged me to question certain assumptions. For example, in the past, I tended to link the secularizing effect of the enlightenment to some of the present forces that seem to challenge religion; but in fact I was intrigued by the impact of the political factor of the enlightenment’s era on Christianity and religion in general. Eagleton writes:

The Enlightenment’s assault on religion then was at root a political rather than theological affair. By and large, the project was not to replace the supernatural with the natural, but to oust a barbarous benighted faith in favor of a rational, civilized one.[1] Perhaps Eagleton’s presentation of Hume’ perspective on matter of religion stipulates more about the skepticism that engulfed matters of faith. According to Eagleton:

Hume considered that religion had much less of an everyday influence than was commonly assumed. He was not prepared to settle for a rational version of Christianity, trusting as he did neither in reason nor in Christianity. In fact, he regarded almost all religion as actively inimical to political virtue… Virtue must be autonomous not strategic. Religion corrupted morality by fostering self-interest (fear of punishment, the desire for immortality), as well as by eroding the natural sources of our passion for justice and sense of benevolence.[2]

I find that Christianity in our day and age still has to grapple with its relevance in the political arena. Could it be that the uncertainty about Christianity continues to press on the minds of people in society, thus the desire for rational and plausible surrogate alternative? Modern day evangelicalism sometime adds to the difficulty of finding meaning in Christianity because evangelical culture tends to resemble Eagleton’ notion of the “double truth”[3].

According to this doctrine, the skepticism of the education must learn not to unsettle the superstition of the populace. It must be sequestered from the common folk, for fear of the political unrest it might incite. There can be no common ground between the more rational and more barbarous species of religious faith… There must be one God for the rich and one for the poor. There is a genteel religion of love, justice and the adoration of the Supreme Being, and then there is the benighted, bloodthirsty cult of the priests. Orthodox religion is a matter of primitive terror and a priestly lust for power.[4]

Eagleton has compelled me to reflect on why Christianity seems to be commonly used for division and not unity in political spheres.

[1] Terry Eagleton, Culture and the Death of God (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2014), Loc. 204

[2] ibid., 393.

[3] ibid., 322.

[4] ibid., 332.

About the Author

Michael Badriaki

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