In Season 1 Episode 6 of The Eudo Podcast, Dr. Paul M. Gould discusses the “gods” of a disenchanted age and how cultural apologists can help others turn from their idols and see Christianity as reasonable and desirable.
We are told by the intelligentsia within the leading institutions of learning and entertainment that all of reality can be captured by science: the material cosmos is all there was, is, and ever will be.
The problem with this mindset is twofold.
- It is simply false. God—a spiritual being—exists, is the source of all material reality, and there are plenty of excellent arguments to show that God exists.
- Man is inherently religious and so, you just can’t rub out the religious impulse like you rub grease out of a pan. Humans are created by God to worship. This means that our lives will be oriented either to worship and serve God or to actively or passively worship and serve some other (creaturely) being.
The question then isn’t “Will humans’ worship?” Rather, the question is:
“What or who will humans’ worship, given disenchantment?”
Today, happiness is no longer understood in terms of union with a transcendent God. Rather, happiness is widely thought to consist in the satisfaction of unfettered desire.
Given the shifting conception of happiness, it is little wonder that two now dominant idols of a disenchanted age are sex and technology.
We live in a highly-sexualized culture. As Philip Rieff describes, “Sexual hunger . . . is the storm that drives in a major way third culture [i.e., disenchanted] imaginative energies.” Sex offers this-worldly bliss.
Technology promises the eradication of pain in this life and the possibility of a trans- or post-human existence in the next. Rod Dreher warns us:
[T]echnology as a worldview [i.e., as an idol] trains us to privilege what is new and innovative over what is old and familiar and to valorize the future uncritically. It destroys tradition because it refuses any limits on its creativity. Technological Man says, “If we can do it, we must be free to do it.”
Sex and technology are good things. They are, in fact, gifts from God. But they make poor idols.
How can we help those captured in the idolatry of sex and technology see the Christian God as their highest good and greatest need?
The answer is not to simply shout louder or more often against the wrongness of pornography or the hookup culture or the alarming amount of time we spend staring at our smart phones. We must show others that there is a divine order to things and that sex and technology find their true meaning and purpose embedded within that sacred order.
As cultural apologists, we do this in two ways.
- We must live whole lives under the banner of Christ. Our culture has become “a warring series of fragments” without a unifying motif. Wholeness can only be found in Jesus and the gospel story.
- We must learn to see and delight in reality as Jesus does. Reality is enchanted, sacred, gift.
Do you want to help others see Christianity as reasonable and desirable?Then resist, on the one hand, the temptation to idolize sex and technology, and on the other hand, the temptation to demonize sex and technology. They are both gifts meant to be enjoyed in creaturely response as we find our place within the sacred order of things.
- Dreher, Rod. The Benedict Option. New York, NY: Sentinel, 2017.
- Keller, Timothy. Counterfeit Gods. New York, NY: Dutton, 2009.
- Lewis, C.S. The Problem of Pain. New York, NY: HarperCollins, 2001.
- Rieff, Philip. My Life among the Deathworks. Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia Press, 2006.
- Volf, Miroslav. Flourishing. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2015.