02 January 2011

One Kingdom or Two in "A Secular Age" Part 2

Several days ago I noted Charles Taylor's description of the four strands characterized the mobilized Christian response to the rise of secularism in the nineteenth century: spirituality, discipline, political identity, and an image of civilizational order.  Two and then a third fell by the wayside in the second half of the twentieth century.  Without these four strands, the single kingdom of God in Christ focused on large-scale social reorientation according to a Divine plan makes less sense now than it did for the the century and a-half ending in the 1960s.  The persuasiveness of such an approach like classical or even presuppositional apologetics has lost traction.

Let's start with the second strand, discipline. Taylor has taken the insights of Philip Gorski's "The Disciplinary Revolution: Calvinism and the Rise of the State in Early Modern Europe" (2003) (which I noted at some length here) and demonstrated, conclusively IMHO, that the heightened standards of the Christian life expected by the Reformational and Counter-Reformational elites slowly and then ever more quickly filtered down to the masses of European society in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.  Standards such as vocational diligence, thrift, literacy, etc. made possible the rise of mas market capitalism and were co-opted by the rising European states to provide the income and manpower for new, professionalized military prowess. 

In the nineteenth century mobilizing Christians focused on discipline with renewed vigor; in America overcoming the vice of demon rum was a key example.

Did the 1960s bring an end to the disciplined, orderly life?  Not at all.  A few hippies aside, American have never focused on rational maximization of wealth and the reordering of life to achieve such wealth more than they do now.  So what has changed between the Age of Mobilization and the Age of Authenticity?

Just this:  No longer do people believe that any transcendent power is necessary to achieve such an interior reordering.  Putting it theologically, we can now have sanctification without the Holy Spirit, or so we believe.  And so we do.  The disciplined life doesn't happen accidentally, course, but the tools by which to achieve it come from within (Deepak Chopra, anyone?) or without; just not above.

Thus, reorganizing society along Christian lines is superfluous.  Discipline, at least insofar as the modern moral order is concerned, is a purely immanent affair.

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