How We Ended Up Making God About a Personal Inward Experience

I’ve been studying the Trinity in my early morning readings at McDonalds. You’ll have noticed this theme in my morning tweets if you follow me. One of the books I’m reading is An Introduction to the Trinity by  Declan Marmion & Rik Van Nieuwenhove. Below they offer a brilliant summary of their take on modernity and what it did to the formation of our relation to God as modern Enlightenment people. As a result, we focus on inward experience (we’re narccissitic in our relation with God). Oprah is the paradym for the way we think of religion and God. We have a separation of sacred and secular, something unthinkable before the Enlightenment. We, as moderns, do not come naturally to seeing all of creation, work, family, etc. as the arena of the glory of God. Read it will you? And then tell me if this helps explain where evangelicalism has become trapped within modernity. All comments welcome.

The emphasis on religious subjectivity (begun by Descartes) continued throughout the Enlightenement period  and its religious counterpart the Pietist and Puritan movements, taking the form of of an analysis of consciousness or a focus of the believer’s faith experience. At the same time, there emerged a scientific worldview that posited an underlying intelligible structure in nature which could be studied, that is observed and measured without reference to God. David Hume’s (1711-76) naturalistic view of the world would effectively eliminate God from a world that no longer reflected its divine ground. Instead, the locus for God was restricted to the inner self, preoccupied with personal conversion and sanctification. The emerging worldview, exemplified in the discoveries of Kepler (1571-1630), Galileo (1564-1642) and above all Isaac Newton (1643-1727), culminated in a deistic ‘colckmaker’ God, who set the universe in motion, but who did not otherwise intervene. Immanuel Kant (1724-84) ultimately selaed the fate of natural theology when he limited human cognition to the phenomenal realm. We can have no knowledge of ‘noumena’ – objects lying beyond experience – by way of pure reason. Philosophers and theologians would subsequently find it difficult to argue from sense experience to transcendent reality such as God. religion was in danger of being reduced to morality and God to a guarentor of happiness for the religiously virtuous. p. 9 An IntroductionThe Tinity


P.S. I took the post down on “On Not Giving The Finger to Your Local Church” because I was concerned it might be misunderstood in some conversations we’re having at our own local church. Not wanting to give anyone the finger unawares, I took it down and maybe will post it at a later time when more appropriate.


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