Secularism—The Theological Challenge -- By: E. Herbert Nygren

Journal: Ashland Theological Journal
Volume: ATJ 04:0 (NA 1971)
Article: Secularism—The Theological Challenge
Author: E. Herbert Nygren


Secularism—The Theological Challenge

E. Herbert Nygren

Emily Brunner, some years ago, in his book Revelation and Reason wrote: “The most characteristic element of the present age, and that which distinguishes it…is the almost complete disappearance of the sense of transcendence, and the consciousness of revelation.”1

The disappearance of transcendence—this can take us in either of two directions: the total abandonment of God in favor of a secular society or the total involvement of God within the secular society.

The former—the abandonment of God in favor of the secular conceded to the physical world the right to exert a controlling force over life. Several distinguishable corollaries are illustrative of this mood. There is a persistent appeal to physical accomplishments, minimizing or even neglecting human needs and values. Very often this implies the organization of personal and social life apart from any type of spiritual values. The thoroughgoing secularist operates as if there is no supernatural God whose existence would make any difference to life on this planet. It denies any validity to words and deeds not dealing with the objects which can be measured.

An illustration is the general attitude of twentieth-century man as he stands aghast at the towering buildings, the arching bridges, the stretching highways, declaring that here indeed is the strength of the nation. (Indeed, it might be said that such a secular emphasis can be found even within the church as it tends to glory in architecture and stone, in statistics and charts, while neglecting the weightier matters of human lives.)

Another general feature of Godless secularism is an emphasis upon the pleasures of life. Such a hedonistic trend makes possession of the “finer things of life” the major criterion for happiness. It implies a measurement by virtue of the significance to the self. This subtle suggestion often comes deluging its way into the homes of the modern world often by means of television and radio. Through the voices of the announcers come the claims that the “good life” requires a newer and better automobile, more and finer electric appliances, or more expensive decorative jewelry.

A further illustration of pervading secularism is an exceedingly high regard for the accomplishments of scientific inquiry. There is a tendency to believe that because the physicist has produced rockets capable of propelling capsules into space, and the medical technician has prepared antibiotics capable of speeding the cure of infections, science is potentially capable of producing all that human life needs for survival. This prevailing thought has been referr...

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