Written by T. M. Suffield |
Saturday, October 21, 2023
We could do with being a lot more like him: not naïve, not living on the clouds, or ignorant of the deep scarring pains of existence on the face of the earth; rather embracing joy such that temptation does not touch us. It will be harder for us to be led astray by the strange lies of the modern age if we live in reality and participate in God in Christ.
We live in a strange moment of time and cultural winds that gets called all sorts of different names, but we can all agree its ‘modernity.’
Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing, how concerned we are by it, and what features it has that we should embrace or push against are all tendentious topics. Of the writing of many essays there is no end.
It won’t surprise regular readers that I am not sanguine about modernity. I don’t think it’s been a good thing for the world or the church. Some of you may instantly want to quip that I should try living in the Middle Ages without anaesthetic, so for the sake of clarity I am not simplistically suggesting that everything was better six hundred years ago. It self-evidently wasn’t, and I’m as much a child of modernity as any of the rest of you reading this; even if it was better, it would seem confusing, strange, and worse to me.
We live in a moment that many would call ‘late modernity’ which does rather assume we know the future, but has replaced ‘postmodernity’ at least among thinkers who are not keen on the postmodern. The implication being that over five hundred years into modernity (when it starts could be argued but we’re probably talking about the Tudors, which might surprise some of you. We could also pick the Reformation, the English Civil War, or the American Revolutionary War.) we’re seeing features that feel like it’s end-stage. The promise of liberalism is falling apart. What was called postmodernism twenty years ago is now largely regarded as a natural development of what came before, it’s just being modern writ large.
Why should we care in the church? We and everyone we know for generations backward have been swimming in waters and telling stories that have been tweaked and moulded by these philosophical currents. This is true of previous eras too, but it’s more difficult to see the winds that still surround us.
The modern age gifted us wonders, like Protestantism, and terrors, like the separation of symbol from thing. We lack a sense that one thing has much meaning or connection to another thing. The world is made of atoms, right? So, each thing is just a thing and their baring on each other exists in the form of the gravitational attraction of atoms towards atoms but not beyond that. Each thing is therefore what we say it is.
But the world isn’t made of atoms, it’s made of stories.
This thinking is a feature in many of the ways that the modern world pushes against Christianity, whether we think of gender ideology or a memorialist view of the Lord’s Supper (sort of the same thing).