Leslie Williams’ latest book, WHEN ANYTHING GOES: BEING CHRISTIAN IN A POST-CHRISTIAN WORLD (Abingdon Press, 2016) is a bold affirmation of meaning and purpose in a world that loudly proclaims that all is meaningless. It is particularly suited for the thinking Christian layperson who is attempting to live as a Christian in a cultural environment that is increasingly hostile to Christianity.
The intellectual and cultural life of America during its first two hundred years was shaped by the Judeo-Christian worldview. Western Civilization, of which the United States is but one small part, resulted from a synthesis of classical humanism and the Judeo-Christian religious tradition, what historians refer to as the Medieval synthesis.
The Medieval synthesis, or “pre-modernity,” understood reality as an orderly universe created by a personal infinite God who created all that exist from nothing and is not, himself, a part of his creation. Thus there was meaning and purpose for both the individual and history.
The Scientific Revolution of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries discovered that the universe was a kind of machine, or clock, which operated according to cause-and-effect natural laws. The eighteenth-century Enlightenment relegated God to the role of “clock maker,” or architect of the universe. The Enlightenment’s understanding of reality, “modernity,” was a secularized version of the Judeo-Christian worldview.
Both pre-modernity and modernity held that there was meaning and purpose for both the individual and history. Because human beings were rational, they could unlock the secrets of the universe, and with the knowledge gained through the application of reason, they could build a better world. There was a basis for faith in progress and optimism about the future.
The Christian living in America today is “swimming against the post-Christian American cultural currents. . .” The assumptions that in the past formed the basis of the cultural consensus have been removed. The Bible and Christianity no longer have any authority in contemporary American culture. If there is no God as post-modernity asserts, there is no reference point, no hope for meaning.
Williams: “I can’t even toss around the words soul or truth because post-modernism has claimed there is no absolute truth, that all ‘truth’ is relative. Objectivity is obsolete. And we have no soul, no center, no self, but are made up of mere echoes from tradition, from brain chemistry, and from our past experience.”
Using her own life experiences, Ms. Williams provides the Christian reader with a guide to making sense of, and living in, a post-modern, post-Christian America. Unlike our non-Christian fellow travelers along the road to Damascus, we Christians are not adrift in a fog. Our worldview affirms that we are living in a world of hope, a world in which the future is brighter than the past.
If you, reader, are among those experiencing the loneliness of the Christian mind, Leslie Williams’ WHEN ANYTHING GOES: BEING CHRISTIAN IN A POST-CHRISTIAN WORLD will help you make sense out of what many are convinced makes no sense.
Until next time, be good to all God’s creatures, and always walk under the mercy.
Good review, Paul,
I like that Schaefferian sound in the first two or three paragraphs.