Postchristianity

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Postchristianity[1] is the belief that the loss of the Christian monopoly in political affairs, especially in the Global North where Christianity had previously flourished, will eventually lead its demise in favour of secular nationalism.[2] It includes personal world views, ideologies, religious movements or societies that are no longer rooted in the language and assumptions of Christianity, at least explicitly, although they had previously been in an environment of ubiquitous Christianity, i.e. Christendom.

Other scholars have disputed the global decline of Christianity, and instead hypothesized of an evolution of Christianity which allows it to not only survive, but actively expand its influence in contemporary societies.

The decline of Christianity[edit]

Until recently, the overwhelming majority of Christians have lived in White nations, allowing theorists to speak of an "European Christian" civilization; conversely, radical writers have seen Christianity as an ideological arm of Western imperialism.[3] As a result, the loss of Christian influence in the West has led to beliefs of inevitable global decline of Christianity.

Thus defined, a post-Christian world is one in which Christianity is no longer the dominant civil religion, but that has gradually assumed values, culture, and worldviews that are not necessarily Christian (and further may not necessarily reflect any world religion's standpoint, or may represent a combination of either several religions or none). Generally, therefore, post-Christian tends to refer to the loss of Christianity's monopoly, if not its followers, in historically Christian societies. For instance, according to the 2005 Eurobarameter survey, the majority of Europeans (in general) hold some form of belief in a higher power, although relatively fewer point explicitly to the Christian God.

In his 1961 The Death of God, the French theologian Gabriel Vahanian argued that modern secular culture in most of Western Civilization had lost all sense of the sacred, lacked any sacramental meaning, and disdained any transcendental purpose or sense of providence, bringing him to the conclusion that for the modern mind, "God is dead".

Thomas J. J. Altizer and William Hamilton of Emory University, drew upon a variety of sources, including the aphorisms of Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Letters and Papers from Prison, and brought this line of thought to public attention in a short-lived intellectual movement of the mid-to-late-1960s among Protestant theologians and ministerial students. Conservative reaction on the right and social-advocacy efforts on the left blunted its impact, however, and it was quickly overlooked in favor of more ethically-oriented movements such as the Social Gospel and feminist theologies, within mainline Protestantism.

Alternative perspectives[edit]

Other scholars have disputed the global decline of Christianity, and instead hypothesized of an evolution of Christianity which allows it to not only survive, but actively expand its influence in contemporary societies.

Philip Jenkins hypothesized a "Christian Revolution" in the Southern nations, such as Africa, Asia and Latin America, where instead of facing decline, Christianity is actively expanding. The relevance of Christian teachings in the global South will allow the Christian population in these areas to continually increase, and together with the shrinking of the Western Christian population, will form a "new Christendom" in which the majority of the world's Christian population can be found in the South.[4]

Charles Taylor, meanwhile, disputes the "God is Dead" thesis by arguing that the practices and understandings of faith changed long before the late 20th century, along with secularism itself. In A Secular Age Taylor argues that being "free from Christendom" has allowed Christianity to endure and express itself in various ways, particularly in Western society; he notes that otherwise secular ideas were, and continue to be, formed in light of some manner of faith. He stresses that "loss of faith" reflects simplistic notions on the nature of secularization, namely the idea of "subtraction." Thus "post-Christian" is, after a fashion, a product of Christianity itself.

Other uses[edit]

Some American Christians (primarily Protestants) also use this term in reference to the evangelism of unchurched individuals who may have grown up in a non-Christian culture where traditional Biblical references may be unfamiliar concepts. This perspective argues that, among previous generations in the United States, such concepts and other artifacts of Christianese would have been common cultural knowledge and that it would not have been necessary to teach this language to adult converts to Christianity. In this sense, post-Christian is not used pejoratively, but is intended to describe the special remediative care that would be needed to introduce new Christians to the nuances of Christian life and practice.[citation needed]

Some groups use the term "post-Christian" as a self-description. Dana McLean Greeley, the first president of the Unitarian Universalist Association, described Unitarian Universalism as postchristian, insofar as Christians no longer considered it Christian, while persons of other religions would likely describe it as Christian, at least historically.[5]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ G.C. Oosthuizen. Postchristianity in Africa. C Hurst & Co Publishers Ltd (December 31, 1968). ISBN 0-903983-05-2
  2. ^ Philip Jenkins, from "The Christian Revolution," in The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity, Oxford University Press, 2002.
  3. ^ Philip Jenkins, from "The Christian Revolution," in The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity, Oxford University Press, 2002.
  4. ^ Philip Jenkins, from "The Christian Revolution," in The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity, Oxford University Press, 2002.
  5. ^ Daniel Harper. "What is a 'post-Christian'?"

References[edit]

  • Liberal Religion in the Post Christian Era, Edward A. Cahill, 1974
  • The Post Christian Mind: Exposing Its Destructive Agenda, Harry Blamires, Vine, 1999 (ISBN 1-56955-142-1).
  • "The Death of God: The Culture of Our Post-Christian Era", Gabriel Vahanian, George Braziller, NY, 1961
  • Dana MacLean Greeley, 25 Beacon Street, and Other Recollections (Boston: Beacon Press, 1971), pp. 11–12.
  • Thomas J. J. Altizer, The Gospel of Christian Atheism (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1966).
  • Thomas J. J. Altizer and William Hamilton, Radical Theology and the Death of God (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1966).
  • Bernard Murchland, ed., The Meaning of the Death of God (New York: Random House, 1967)
  • Phillip Jenkins, God's Continent: Christianity, Islam and Europe's Religious Crisis (Oxford: University Press, 2005)
  • Phillip Jenkins, The Christian Revolution in The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity, Oxford University Press, 2002.
  • Charles Taylor, A Secular Age(Harvard: Belknap Press, 2007).