maandag 16 juli 2007

Mark Vernon on the growth of conservative religion

Mark Vernon places some pessimistic footnotes to a WSJ article detailing a possible reversion in the European trend towards increased secularization, noting that, while religion may well be on the rise again in Europe, the kind of religion that is on the rise is of a rather conservative (and market-savvy) kind.

It struck me some time ago as well that the kind of christian writers and intellectuals who still "do" apologetics, and who answer the challenges posed to them by their atheist critics, are all of a rather conservative bent. Alvin Plantinga is a conservative protestant, Alister McGrath an evangelical, and then there was of course C.S. Lewis half a century ago. I don't necessarily like the theology they represent (I think there are problems with the classical theology of, say, Plantinga; and I find Lewis rather bleak, though still refreshing with his emphasis that Christianity isn't necessarily fun fun fun) but they do provide clear and occasionally strong arguments. I think that arguments such as those relating to reason and morality in Lewis' writings are as strong as apologetic arguments go (meaning, they serve as a rational "scaffolding" of faith).

A philosophical proposition cannot of course be a substitute for the God of religion - but apologetic arguments, even if they are ultimately not very compelling in and of themselves (I don't think philosophical arguments can be: their acceptability relates rather to how they fit within a worldview as a whole) do give the atheist critic something to bite in. And they might help setting a process of thought in motion. I fear that the much more subtle and abstract ideas of God as the condition for existence, the ground of being, etc.; or those of reason and faith as relating to different domains are much more dependent on background suppositions concerning us, the universe and our place in it. And they can be very difficult to understand. They demand a mindset tolerant of ideas which are hazy, at the edge of our knowing, and never quite completely formed.

So I'm not sure whether the ascent of evangelical protestantism and conservative catholicism over their more liberal counterparts in Europe can be stemmed. The evangelicals and conservatives reach out. They, well, evangelize. Look for a Christian study group on a university campus and you'll meet them. Nothing wrong with that, mind you (I have my disagreements but also agreements with evangelicals, and the ones I've met are very pleasant people). And I guess I'm slightly more optimistic than Mark Vernon. If the evangelical movement is set to grow, I think it also might be set to become broader (see RightReason on the issue here.)

Geen opmerkingen: