modernism didn't have to be this way!?
Saturday 15th May 2010 @ 12:00 am / what I'm learning
A couple of months ago I began a Doctorate of Ministry (DMin) through Fuller seminary in USA (California - yippeeee!) ... it is a distance study course & should take four years ... long time. I go to US for one week of intensive study every year - which should be fun.
From time to time I should post some of the interesting things I'm reading - so here is a start ... one of sociologist Stephen Toulmin's theories concerning the rise of radical scientific rationalism in the 17th C ...
His basic thesis is that the Modern world did not grow from one single intellectual origin, but from two distinct phases. Firstly, 16th C Renaissance humanism developed from humanist skeptics (eg Erasmus and Michel de Montaigne.) The western world at this time had a culture of relative prosperity, and exhibited a reasonableness of religious toleration. However, the second stream of Modernism, 17th C Rationalism (leading to logical positivism) arrived centrally (acc to Toulmin) through the work of René Descartes and Issac Newton. In contrast to the promise and practice of the previous century, this strand of modern thought evolved in a world of economic crisis, where religious toleration had proved a failure. These circumstances helped bring about a search for neutral certainty that was aimed at universal knowledge and progress. And thus, "Cartesian philosophy swept aside the reasonable uncertainties and hesitations of the 16th C skeptics in favour of a new, mathematical kind of rational certainty and proof."
Why did this happen? This I find the interesting bit, Toulmin gives a huge credence to the aftermath of the assassination of Henri IV
of France - the ensuing turmoil changed the political and cultural landscape
of Europe considerably.
Henri had been a conciliating figure (one of the first ecumenicists?), a tolerant stabilizer. And his murder therefore carried the message, “A policy of religious toleration has tried and failed.”
Europe moved into thirty
years of war from 1618. Bloodshed, and geographical and political destabilizing
became the norm. And, “during
Rene’s (Descarte) formative years at La Fleche, Henri’s assassination was not just a fact
of common knowledge, but a preoccupation of the college community”
In this context of upheaval and uncertainty people needed to cling to something; “It was not obvious what one was to be certain about - but uncertainty had become unacceptable.”
Interestingly, some historians blame the Jesuits for the assassination of Henri - bringing the ironic possibility that religious hardliners, aiming to hold their own influence & security, through their actions helped create an atmosphere where secular scientific rationalism could flourish.
We've come a long way eh? Violence & war & religious extremism may have been instrumental in creating what the Modern world became ... gut-wrenchingly for me, as we now have the chance to shape what the postmodern world will become we currently look around and see violence & war & religious extremism that leads to division and fear.
Can we, in churches, get a hold of the opportunities that exist for such a time as this, and move beyond those things that produce a reaction of safety, stretching on toward the things of the Kingdom?
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