Western society is in crisis
I am neither an historian nor a sociologist. Before becoming a Christian I was a Marxist. I have always had a certain interest and concern about intellectual issues related to the spiritual world and Christianity.
For the Christian life to be relevant, it cannot be limited only to the purely religious aspect, although the spiritual dimension is fundamental. As those working in the field of arts and culture, we try to apply biblical insight to the real nature of the creative gifts God gives. Why did God give creativity to mankind? What is its purpose in human life and society? How are these gifts to be used in today’s post-Christian, postmodern environment?
Throughout history, various ideologies have tried to change the structure of society with the aim of providing man with a more prosperous, just and pleasant life. For example, capitalism, Marxism, liberalism, fascism, etc. But all of them, regardless of whether they are good or bad, have tried to change social structures, the economy, the class system, production systems, political structures, and so on.
However, as to the crisis facing western society today, its seriousness lies in the fact that this crisis does not only affect production systems, economics or the class system, but the very nature of human beings as such. In recent years there has been talk about posthumanism, post-truth, transsexualism, transgender, transspecies and even, as described by Israeli writer Yuval Noah Hararie in his 2015 book with the revealing title Homo Deus, man becoming and adopting the position of a god.
If gender identity is defined by what the person feels at any given time, regardless of what they are in reality, why could a person not also feel that they are a dog or a cat, trapped in a human body, as they say?
The new paradigm of the 21st century
Some of these things seem either laughable, absurd or insane, but they are happening right now in the supposedly educated, advanced and civilized world of Western society. The 21st century is the time of everything post and trans, the time when man begins to reinterpret himself (and everything else, for that matter), from his autonomous and purely materialistic perspective. And this, even to the point of refusing to accept and recognize the very laws of nature.
We are witnessing a new anthropological conception of the human being, a change in paradigm, something completely new which had never happened in the history of humanity.
We have delved into these fundamental issues in order to be able to carry out our work and ministry in Spain. As the years have gone by, a place has gradually been formed which encourages interaction, dialogue, reflection and debate on issues related to culture, society, education, aesthetics, and ethics. The school is a place where we are in constant contact and relationship with non-Christian students and teachers, and where we have gradually been carrying out a task that we could call pre-evangelization.
We have also developed a series of talks in order to help others understand the nature of the ministry, and help provide insight into the arts and culture where a Christian presence is vital.
A quick diagnosis
Many voices have risen in the secular sphere, both in academia and in the artistic and cultural fields, wondering whether there is a conspiracy against common sense in this modern society. I have a publication in four fairly large volumes entitled, Forgers of the Contemporary World. To forge means to form, to influence, to condition. The publishers define the work in this way: “We understand forgers to mean the personalities who, through their thought or action, through their scientific, literary, artistic, social or political work, contributed in a decisive way to the contemporary world being as it is, in any of its aspects.”
The word “crisis” serves to illustrate our current situation. The word has become taboo in recent years by some politicians who have simply decided not to use it to avoid frightening people. Others have turned it into a sort of missile word the use against their opponents.
According to several authors, believers and non-believers, since 1918 at the end of the First World War, the West has been going through the most serious crisis it has ever experienced.
Heidegger, the German philosopher, believed that the crisis of European society was so serious that he said, in a 1966 interview, that neither philosophy nor culture could offer a correct response to this serious problem and therefore, “Only a god can save us.”
The three major crises of the West
Ortega y Gasset, one of the most important Spanish philosophers, in his book About Galileo, says that the West has experienced three major crises in the last 2,000 years.
First was the crisis of the 1st century which brought about the advent of Christianity. Second, that of the 15th century that resulted in the emergence of the new humanism with a decidedly rationalist and secularizing emphasis, as well as the Protestant Reformation; this movement then gave rise to what has been called Modernity.
Finally, Gasset identifies the crisis of the modern era, first called post-Christianity and later postmodernism, which begins to be clearly discerned in the first decades of the 20th century and is fully established by the mid-20th century. We are still immersed in this crisis and the West has failed to find a definitive response to it.
If the response to the two previous crises was Christianity (although, again, the Renaissance also gave birth to rationalist humanism), what will be the response to today’s crisis? Obviously, as Christians we know that there is no other solution but the Gospel.
Nevertheless, the contemporary, post-Christian West no longer considers this a valid response. The West continues its confused and disoriented march without recognizing the ultimate solution for its most pressing problem. The crisis generation uproots itself, like a tree unearthing its roots and launching out in search of another land in which to take root. This is precisely the seriousness of our present situation.
The West in dangerous confusion
This is why, in our current historical moment, we hear many new ideas and opinions. Today a child in Europe grows up listening to their parents or their teachers or seeing on TV that gender or rather, sex, is not something you are born with, and therefore if he wants to be a girl although he was born a boy, he can be so, without any difficulty.
Such ideas would have seemed far-fetched only 25 or 30 years ago, even though it was also a licentious and libertine generation at that time. But these are the ideas in Europe today.
Many contemporary art movements give aesthetic expression to this disoriented and confused modern man: the theatre of the absurd of Samuel Beckett and Ionesco; writers like Kafka, Albert Camus and others; artists such as Egon Schiele, Picasso or Edvard Munch. Some critics consider Munch’s famous work, “The Scream,” depicting anguish, despair and confusion, one of the best allegories for androgyny (the combination of masculine and feminine characteristics into an ambiguous form).
Conclusion and ministry foundations
The Christian artist in today’s world must have a clear grasp of four subjects:
- The biblical perspective of art,
- The biblical worldview which encompasses all of life,
- The distinctives of postmodernism,
- Finally, and most importantly, the role of prayer, intercession and spiritual warfare.
This last point includes an understanding of the biblical language about the Antichrist. Even Nietzsche talked about “an unprecedented battle of spirits such as the world had never known.” We are faced with a spiritual warfare for which, indeed, we need intellectual tools, but which we cannot address with these alone. Because as the word of God exhorts us: “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds,” 2 Corinthians 10:4 (NKJV).
Applying the whole counsel of God
Related to the third subject above is what Nietzsche called the genealogy of ideas. Some of the Apostles and early Christians who transformed their world in 300 years were simple people without much education, but they were not ignorant of the society. They understood the historic moment in which they lived.
So must today’s Christian. We must grasp what the apostle Paul called the whole counsel of God. Just before He ascended to heaven, the Lord commissioned his disciples, “teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.” This refers, of course, to aspects such as Christian discipleship, prayer and intercession, communion with God and the devotional life, spiritual warfare, evangelization, God’s character, the meaning of calling in the Christian life, the orders or estates established by God for the operation and development of fallen man’s life on the planet, understanding the false dichotomy that has been established between the secular and the religious.
This catechumen, as the early church called it, took a process of three years for new Christians. By this means the early church knew and understood quite well not only their Christianity but also their society. We cannot say the same about the historical moment in which we find ourselves. We are aptly described in Giovanni Sartori’s book, Homo Videns. Sartori, after studying the impact of television and media in society, designated contemporary man as “the creature that looks but does not think, sees but does not understand.”
One of the essential and fundamental features of the postmodern mentality is irrationality, that is, the denial of reason and thus the negation of history. A child born in the midst of this society is launched into a state of confusion and disorientation within which they will have to learn how to make their way by themselves.
The Christian’s proper relation to the world
The Word of God repeatedly exhorts us not to ignore the world, not to be deceived by it or absorbed by it.
Then the Pharisees and the Sadducees came, and testing him asked that he would show them a sign from heaven … ‘You know to discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times,’ Matthew 16:1,3.
My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I will also reject you from being priest for Me, Hosea 4:6.
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, Romans 12:2.
And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, Philippians 1:9.
You search (examine, inquire and find out carefully) the Scriptures; because you think that in them you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of me, John 5:39-40.
More than ever, we as believers need to have a comprehensive and clear view of the relevance of the Word of God and its application to the entire life of the individual, and how it affects the rest of society.
– Hector J. Ramirez M.