In the world, but not of the world: The prospects of Christianity in the modern world

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    In this article, I discuss the prospects of Christianity in the modern world from a philosophical perspective (section 1). In order to do so, I analyse in the second section Gianni Vattimo’s and Charles Taylor’s views of the problems of modernity. They interpret modern civilisation as being threatened by the violence of instrumental (technological and political) reason (Vattimo), and by the impasse of subjectivism (Taylor). In the third section, I query Vattimo’s answers to the question of how to overcome the problems of modernity. From a philosophical perspective Vattimo focuses on the idea of weak thinking and the historicity of the subject in order to counter the violence of objectifying reason. From a religious point of view, he refers to the idea of a completely secularised Christianity, with the notion of love as its essential characteristic. But these answers do not put an end to the violence of instrumental reason, since they are based upon the identification of this violence with objectification and do not take into account the possibility of a violence of subjectivist reason. Moreover, the commandment of love as the essence of Christianity is of no help to confine secularisation and subjectification, and the violence they produce. The categorical status of this commandment is at odds with Vattimo’s view of the hypothetical, historical and subjectivist character of humankind. Therefore, every appeal to this commandment is but an arbitrary choice, and can by no means put an end to the violence of the finite, historical subject. As a conclusion (section 4), I discuss an alternative answer to question whether Christianity can contribute to the solution of the problems of modern civilisation. I present the Christian view of God’s transcendence as a way of stressing the substantiality of the true and the good, without thereby falling back into a metaphysics of objectivity and violence.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)370-389
    Number of pages20
    JournalBijdragen: International Journal for Philosophy and Theology
    Publication statusPublished - 2000


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