Tudor Farms and Charles Taylor


The Headscarf and the Immanent Frame

The New Yorker: The Headscarf

It is also true — and this you can see in TMF too — that the advance of technology and the growth of markets was bound to upset the settled medieval consensus. This is what I mean by consequences having ideas: that ideas are seeds that only grow in fertile ground. Political and economic transformations underway in late medieval Europe moved the people’s imaginary, making the ideas of the Reformers more plausible than they would have been otherwise. It doesn’t make the Reformers right (nor does it make them wrong!), but it does explain why things worked out the way they did. What’s more, according to Gregory, the constant warring between Protestants and Catholics in the wake of the Reformation, and the impossibility of resolving theological disputes in the absence of common authority, exhausted Europeans, who began searching for a way to live that bracketed off religion from “real life” for the sake of peace. In other words, Christians brought a lot of this onto themselves by their bloody feuding.

There is no clearly demonstrable reason why the medievals were wrong to sacralize time, or to believe that they lived in an enchanted world. The key thing to take from this, though, is that we moderns live in a different plausibility structure than they did. This means that efforts to re-inhabit the medieval worldview cannot succeed, because we can’t un-learn from our experience. For Taylor, “a secular age” means not strictly an age in which religion has been walled off from the common experience. It means primarily an age in which we all know that belief in God, or unbelief in God, is a choice. The fact that belief in God is not taken for granted is what makes this a secular age. Even communities that fervently believe in God live in a secular age, because they are surrounded with evidence, as the medievals were not, that it is possible to live without strong belief, or to live with believing in God in a different way … or not at all.

About PaulVK

Husband, Father of 5, Pastor
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