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Islam, Secularism and the Gospel - Part II

September 29, 2008
S. Michael Craven
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In last week’s article, I pointed out how Great Britain, through incremental concessions to Muslim demands, is sowing the seeds of its own subjugation. As to the cause of this civilizational suicide, Europe rendered itself impotent long ago when it traded its Christian philosophical foundations for that of secularism.

The roots of modern secularism began in the Renaissance, which marked the transition from the medieval to modern era. From the fourteenth to sixteenth century, Renaissance scholars and artists began to oppose the ever more oppressive church-state hegemony that Rome had come to represent. In reaction, old and new ideas alike were kindled, ideas that sought to “liberate” humanity from the oppressive bonds of ecclesiastical authority and religious dogma. (How unfortunate that the church was largely responsible for its own removal from public life.) The Renaissance purposed to elevate man and eliminate God.

Faithful Christians also reacted to the corrupt and hegemonic church leading to the sixteenth century Reformation, recovering old ideas in the form of historic orthodoxy and producing new ideas that would positively shape much of Western cultural and social life, including everything from politics and philosophy to science and the arts.

These two worldviews—Renaissance secularism and Reformed Christianity—offered competing interpretations of the world until the eighteenth century when the Enlightenment, buoyed by the rapid advances of science and technology and coupled with a growing spirit of anti-intellectualism within the church, finally began to succeed in shifting the public trust from the God of Scripture to human reason. The sacred-secular split was complete and what followed was a diminution of all things religious. The only meaningful knowledge was now scientific; religious thought was relegated to a secondary and subservient category of knowledge that would increasingly find itself excluded from public life.

Because this sacred-secular split was also accepted among many Christians, Western institutions, once dominated by the Christian interpretation of reality, gradually began to fall under the influence of secular humanism.

In Europe where this shift occurred first, the belief that the universe was the creation of an infinite and personal God, that mankind rebelled against its Creator (thus bringing death and evil into the world), and that our only hope is in Jesus Christ who is making all things new was rejected. Instead, Europeans came to accept that the world and everything in it is the product of time and chance, that evil is only ignorance, and that our hope is to be found in education and enlightenment, which will bring about an earthly utopia. In essence, the secularizing process was complete—and this is why Europe is now so impotent in its ability to resist the increasing domination by Islam.

Because secularism ignores those fields of human experience that science cannot address—such as religion, philosophy, ethics, and the other metaphysical questions of life—secularism fails as a worldview. It doesn’t deal with reality because science cannot explain everything; it cannot enlighten countless areas that touch human lives, nor can it define what it means to be human or answer our most fundamental questions of meaning and purpose. By ignoring these vital areas, secularism is unable to offer any cogent basis from which one can analyze and critique the varied interpretations of life and reality. Tolerance becomes the only virtue and belief in anything and everything follows.

Once this is achieved, you essentially believe in nothing. There is no consensus view of life and reality and no overarching truth awaiting discovery. We are each allowed our own interpretation, regardless of how unreasonable it may be. This philosophical ambivalence doesn’t know how to respond to the Islamic interpretation of reality, no matter how violent or bizarre, for fear of appearing intolerant. Secularism’s blind belief in human goodness, despite all evidence to the contrary, has led its adherents to hope that by being “nice,” Islamic terrorists will stop blowing up themselves and others. Europeans engage in philosophical hand-wringing and self-condemnatory statements that ask “Oh my, what have we done to incite such anger?” The idea that Islam as an ideology may be the source of this evil never occurs to them.

Furthermore, reliant upon the assumption of evolutionary progress, secular Europe’s utopian hopes were decisively shattered in the twentieth century. The First World War, which suffered over 40 million casualties, was closely followed by the worst pandemic in recorded history: the Spanish flu, which killed roughly another 1.7 million Europeans (between 50 to 100 million people worldwide). Then came the Great Depression, followed by the atrocities of World War II, which claimed more than 50 million lives. With the jettisoning of religion and the destruction of their utopian hopes, Europeans no longer know what to believe in. They are powerless in the face of unwavering convictions, zealous devotion, and the cosmic purpose of the faithful Muslim. Also, by not taking religion seriously the secularized culture fails to recognize the implications of religion in general and Islam in particular. And not taking Islam seriously has proven deadly.

Next week, I will compare the cosmic dimensions of the Islamic narrative with those of the gospel, demonstrating that the American church must recover and once again convey the full gospel story, which includes creation, the fall, redemption, and re-creation. I will argue that the privatized gospel, which has come to dominate much of American evangelicalism, is—similar to secularism—inadequate to inoculate America against the domination of radical Islam.

© 2008 by S. Michael Craven

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Response from : Kathy Hinson  

September 29, 2008 9:34 AM

I really appreciate your articles. I consider myself an "evangelical" Christian, and am a little confused and disturbed by a couple of your statements. Could you explain your statement, "the privatized gospel, which has come to dominate much of American evangelicalism, is—similar to secularism." I'm not sure what you mean by "privatized gospel." Also, "American evangelicalism, with its emphasis on personal experience and therapy, has produced a narcissistic faith that centers on self rather than Christ and the redemptive mission of God—and this has rendered the Christian story of the world shallow and irrelevant." I thought that "evangelicalism" centered on Christ and His redemptive mission and sharing these truths with others. Maybe I'm confused about the definition. Thank you!

Response from : Walter A. Long  

September 29, 2008 10:17 AM

Thank you once again Michael, i really am glad i found your articles. You are finally pointing out the fall of Europe and if we do not follow what history did there here in America we well be waking up some day and it will be too late by then to why we have failed as a country because of what is going on now with our main purpose in religion is that Christ is our savior and why he came about to be our savior. Thank you and i cannot wait until the next one.

Response from : David  

September 29, 2008 11:56 AM

I thought that secularism was chosen in order to prevent dangerous religious dogma (translation: dogma different from my Christian beliefs) from entering the legal system, such as when a Western-leaning Muslim country tries voting and an extreme Islamic leadership gets elected and promptly begins enforcing Sharia law.

Response from : linda  

September 29, 2008 1:11 PM

A wonderful article. But let's not forget that early religion was science and that this early science/religion played a part, as it should, in the politics of the era. How could it not? As the shift in defining or distinguishing experimental science from religion/science took hold, the belief in new science by experiment had the appearance of contradicting Bible beliefs. But experimental science merely looks for secrets in nature (as did early religion/science), and dismisses the supernatural while also confusing supernatural with superstition. Modern science is no different from early science/religion but in its arrogance it claims to be modern and different and new. While seeking Truth in nature using modern scientific experimentation, it actually reveals Truths contained in the Bible. So where are the contradictions? We go from religion/science (based on nature), to modern experimental science, and back again to nature. We continue to disregard the supernatural, or that early religion that endeavored to understand and seek Truth in everything.


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