Though there’s so much more to be said, unpacked, nuanced, and qualified, this post still gets at something very important about what is often called “modernity.” Without glibly embracing the total package, mature Christian thinkers still ought to be grateful for much of what falls under the heading of “modernity,” and here’s why:
Once this has been said, does it tell us something that these devices—the scientific method, political liberalism and free market capitalism—have been so successful? Note that if we recognize this success first at reaching its stated goal it does not entail a value judgement or eschewing a moral critique. Independently of moral judgment, we can recognize that the scientific method is much better than any other alternative that has been tried at producing reliable non-obvious predictions; that free markets are much better than any other alternative that has been tried at efficiently allocating resources, etc.
What can we see that these approaches share in common?
As I have said, they share in common a recognition of human limitedness.
Which is why I would define Modernity theologically as a collective recognition of original sin.
Each of those three items would have to be carefully defined and scrutinized, and my own contention is that they are only good insofar as they can properly identify a prior foundation– something they basically have failed to do. Still, they each did have Christian principles at their inception, and to simply reject them because they have largely departed from those principles would be a mistake.
Steven Wedgeworth is the pastor of Christ Church in Lakeland, Florida. He writes about theology, history, and political theory, and he has taught Jr. High and High School. He is the founder and general editor of The Calvinist International, an online journal of Christian Humanism and political theology, and a Director for the Davenant Trust. A graduate of Reformed Theological Seminary (Jackson, MS), Steven lives in Lakeland, FL with his wife, son, daughter, and two terriers.
The Calvinist International is a forum for research, resourcement, and renewal of Christian wisdom.