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Understanding Our Cultural Story: Our Life Through a Lens Michael W. Goheen Vancouver, B.C.

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Presentation on theme: "Understanding Our Cultural Story: Our Life Through a Lens Michael W. Goheen Vancouver, B.C."— Presentation transcript:

1 Understanding Our Cultural Story: Our Life Through a Lens Michael W. Goheen Vancouver, B.C.

2 Romans 12.1-2 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of Gods mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to Godthis is true worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what Gods will is--his good, pleasing, and perfect will.

3 Living at the Crossroads

4 Incomparably the most urgent missionary task for the next few decades is the mission to modernity... It calls for the use of sharp intellectual tools, to probe behind the unquestioned assumptions of modernity and uncover the hidden credo which supports them... - Lesslie Newbigin

5 Culture Common way of life rooted in a shared core religious beliefs in form of story.

6 Overview of Western Story Last 200 years or so Western culture shaped by modern humanism (modernity) Recent developments: Challenged by postmodern humanism (postmodernity) Modern humanism as global phenomenon (globalization) Cultural centre: Consumerism

7 Overview of three sessions: Trace modern humanist story Sketch contemporary situation Ask: How do we live at the crossroads?

8 Where did these terms come from? Middle ages (5 th -14 th century) Renaissance (14 th century) Enlightenment (18 th century) What is the hero of the story?

9 What? Rationalistic humanism

10 Eras of Western story 7 th c. BC - 5 th c. AD5 th -14 th c. AD14 th c.-todayEmerged 20 th c.

11 Dictionary definitions: Positive or negative designations? Classic: of the highest class; most representative of the excellence of its kind; having recognized worth Modern: up to date; not old fashioned, antiquated, obsolete Medieval: historical era; outdated

12 Another way to designate eras: What if the gospel were the hero of the story?

13 Humanist Credo: Must we ourselves not become gods? Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) Chilling parable: The Madman We have killed God–you and I! We are his murderers!... How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?

14 Humanist Credo: Must we not ourselves become gods? Humanist Manifesto: Man... alone is responsible for the realization of the world of his dreams, [and] has within himself the power for its achievement. Corliss Lamont: Humanism assigns us nothing less than the task of being our own saviour and redeemer.

15 Western Faith: Rationalistic (Modern) Humanism Autonomous man is capable of defining the world (Creator) and solving problems of world and bring about a new world of freedom, prosperity, justice, and truth (Redeemer) with his own rational resources.

16 Historical Development of Rationalistic Humanism Roots in pagan/classical period (to 5th c.) Preserved in medieval synthesis (5th-14th c.) Re-emerged at Renaissance (14th-15th c.) Salted by gospel at Reformation (15th c.) Given tremendous thrust forward in Scientific Revolution (16th-17th c.) Came to mature expression in Enlightenment (18th c.) Given social embodiment in social, industrial, and political revolutions (19th, 20th c.) Under attack today (late 20th, 21st c.)

17 Origins of Modern Humanism Roots in pagan-classical period (up to 5 th c.) Preserved and Christianized in medieval-synthesis period (5 th -14 th c.)

18 Renaissance (14th-15th c.) Hinge into modernity: Humanism begins to dissociate itself from Christian connection Seeds of secularism: Change from otherworldly to this-worldly orientation Autonomy of humanity and nature Human beings orient lives toward mastery of nature

19 Life oriented toward nature This clearly entails a spiritual choice as to cultural direction, namely, that mans destiny is realized primarily in his relation to the natural things of this world and not in relation to his fellowmen.... The centrality of the relationship of man with nature, however, is one of the most characteristic features of western culture since the Renaissance.... We distinguish ourselves as human beings primarily by the shape we give to this world through human thought and creative ability rather than by the meaning of our lives to other persons (Bob Goudzwaard).

20 Scientific Revolution (16th-17th c) Christian and humanist vision Humanist vision to dominate nature: Scientific method gave Western society means Humanist vision expressed by René Descartes (1596-1650) and Francis Bacon (1561-1626)

21 Descartes and Bacon express modern vision Knowledge is power: Scientific knowledge of world enables humankind to build better world Scientific knowledge of natures laws enables humanity to predict how nature will respond This gives power to control Nature can be manipulated in a quest for a secular paradise Need for a new method to get scientific knowledge

22 Methodological Reason

23 Scientific Revolution (16th-17th c) Christian and humanist vision Humanist vision to dominate nature Triumph of humanist visionwhy? Conflict with church

24 He sets the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved (Ps. 104:5). O sun, stand still... so the sun stood still (Josh. 10:12f.). The earth remains forever. The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises (Eccl. 1:4f.).

25 People give ear to an upstart astrologer who strove to show that the earth revolves, not the heavens or the firmament, the sun and the moon. Whosoever wishes to appear clever must devise some new system which of all systems, of course, is the best. This fool wishes to reverse the entire science of astronomy; but Sacred Scripture tells us that Joshua commanded the sun to stand still, and not the earth. -Martin Luther

26 Scientific Revolution (16th-17th c) Christian and humanist vision Humanist vision to dominate nature Triumph of humanist visionwhy? Conflict with church Religious wars

27 Triumph of humanist vision

28 Conversion of West in wake of scientific revolution

29 Enlightenment (18th c.) Scientific humanism becomes dominant religious vision (faith) Enlightenment faith

30 Faith in progress Paradise images: Secularized vision of biblical story Progress identified primarily with economic growth... the greatest happiness possible for us consists in the greatest possible abundance of objects suitable for our enjoyment and in the greatest liberty to profit by them (Mercier de la Riviere, 1767).

31 Enlightenment faith Faith in progress Propelled by reason and science

32 ...the conviction that man was steadily and inevitably approaching entrance into a better world, that man himself was being progressively improved and perfected through his own efforts, constituted one of the most characteristic, deep-seated, and consequential principles of the modern sensibility. Christianity no longer seemed to be the driving force of the human enterprise. For the robust civilization of the West at the high noon of modernity, it was science and reason, not religion and belief, which propelled that progress. Mans will, not Gods, was the acknowledged source of the worlds betterment and humanitys advancing liberation. -Richard Tarnas

33 Enlightenment faith Faith in progress Propelled by reason and science Scientific reason translated into technology Scientific reason translated into societal organisation Progress comes by the application of reason to both technical and social issues (Plumb).

34 Enlightenment (18th c.) Scientific humanism: dominant religious vision (faith) Enlightenment faith Conflict with the Christian faith

35 Narrowing of gospel The early Christian belief that the Fall and Redemption pertained not just to man but to the entire cosmos, a doctrine already fading after the Reformation, now disappeared altogether; the process of salvation, if it had any meaning at all, pertained solely to the personal relation between God and man (Tarnas).

36 Age of Revolution (19 th -20th c.) Bringing society into conformity with Enlightenment faith French, Industrial, Democratic, Marxist, American revolutions If the Enlightenment vision is true then the establishment of new social institutions is not a tedious incidental task, but a dire necessity and a highly ethical imperative. In that case, the narrow way to the lost paradise can only be the way of social revolution (Goudzwaard).

37 Danger of humanist social structures The problem of leading a Christian life in a non- Christian society is now very present to us. It is not merely the problem of a minority in a society of individuals holding an alien belief. It is the problem constituted by our implication in a network of institutions from which we cannot dissociate ourselves; institutions the operation of which appears no longer neutral, but non-Christian; and as for the Christian who is not conscious of his dilemmaand he is in the majorityhe is becoming more and more de- Christianized by all sorts of unconscious pressures; paganism now holding all the most valuable advertising space (T.S. Eliot, The Idea of a Christian Society, 1946)

38 Two dominant forms of scientific humanism in 20 th century Communist: Throughout Soviet Union and Eastern Europe Liberal: Throughout North America and Western Europe

39 Development in 19th and 20th Centuries

40 Counterculture of the 1960s: Growing Despair Rock music, drug culture, hippie movement, student uprisings, etc. Challenge to light of science and technology The youthful counter-culture have, in a variety of ways, called into question the validity of the conventional scientific worldview, and in so doing have set about the undermining the foundations of the technocracy (Theodore Roszak in Making of a Counterculture).

41 Western Idols in Modern Humanism Humanism: Humans replace God as creator and saviour Rationalism: Capability of reason alone to know the truth Scientism: Only science can verify true knowledge; enables us to control world to save us Technicism: Technology can save us from our problems Economism: All other aspects of human life serve the economic dimension Secularism: Material world is all that exists Individualism: Individual is the primary unit of reality and the ultimate standard of value

42 Western Confession of Faith I believe in Science Almighty. I believe in the power of human reason disciplined by the scientific method to understand, control, and change our world. I believe in Technology and a Rational Society, its only begotten Sons which have the power to renew our world.

43 Western Confession of Faith (cont…) I believe in the spirit of Progress. I believe that a science based technology and a rationally organized society will enable me to realize my ultimate human goalsfreedom, happiness, and the comforts of material abundance. I believe in economism. I believe that the abundance of consumer goods and experiences and the leisure time and freedom to consume them will make me happy. To this I commit myself with all my money, time, energy, and resources. Amen.

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