The Second Reformation: A Continued Vision

Jeremy Sig

untitledWhen the question is asked as to whether or not we are entering a second reformation, it must be considered that we have never finished the first. In order to grasp the entirety of this issue one must be willing to step outside of the four walls of the church for the answers. Luther’s reformation, as it has been coined, was simply a jumping off point for a struggle that would envelope centuries. Luther came on the scene in a world that was quickly losing its identity. From very early on the world had been seen as interplay between mythos and logos, with mythos being primary. Logos represented the rationale and pragmatic thought that allowed man to function in society. Mythos represented the timeless truths that guided mankind, such as man’s origins and the deepest recesses of the human mind. Each had their role in society, but it was through the lens of mythos that the world was seen. The world was seen as one in which everything revolved around man, and the answers to most questions lie in the mystical unknown.

 However with advent of modernism came a slow but sure wave of certainty. The answers to the unknown questions of the universe were within man’s grasp. Steadily the logos lens began to replace that of mythos as the primary lens from which to see truth. This caused many to lament the loss of their faith. A conservative spirit swept over the church, guided by brilliant thinkers like Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli. Theologians began to fight to hold onto their faith in a new rational world. In order to do this God was pushed farther and farther away to keep his mysteries out of the grasp of science and reason. Some were forcefully protective while others tried to synthesize God and reason. Church history from that point until now has been the interplay of these attempts.

As modern men began to fill the pews of the church and the classrooms of seminaries, the attempts became more and more logos oriented. The church was holding onto a mythical God only in name not in practice. The church became obsessed with providing logical proof for a mystical narrative. This has brought us to today. We are now on the opposite side of the argument, trying to fight for a logical God against the societal trends toward a mythical truth. It is the natural progression of things that both logos and mythos reunite and balance each other. The coin has flipped. Unlike ancient times when the world was seen through a mythical lens and reason supported these beliefs, now the world is seen through a logical lens and is fighting towards finding the place where myth supports it.  There is no better evidence for this than to watch the development of Eastern societies. As reason continues to increase its hold on Eastern minds, they too find themselves in the middle of a struggle between a progressive wave and the rising up of conservative parties to combat that wave.

So where are we today? I believe that we are at the next great turning point of this movement. The church is redefining how it talks about and knows truth and God. We are not so much seeing the demise of logos, but rather the reprising of mythos. The church is realizing that truth and God must be both pragmatic and timeless. God cannot be simply pushed out of our world beyond the grasp of the on charging rational mind. Conversely, he cannot simply become a rationalized position within humanism. God must be mystically in all things, and yet remain pragmatically useful.

This is why I believe we are seeing such an emphasis on humanity within the world’s great faiths. It is not enough to simply rationalize why God wants us to care for the poor. It is also not enough to ignore them because God is not of this world. Instead, we must see God in everything including ourselves. God must be both mystically in all and thus pragmatically for all. How this will affect the various aspects of practical and religious life remains to be seen. As was the case with this movement in the past, I am sure there will continue to be new forms of the conservative spirit which will rise up and lay claim to the foundations of the faith. These, however, will only serve to clarify the need for change.

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5 Comments

  1. Jeremy, this is by far my favorite post of yours on this site. I can not find much to say that either disagrees with or compliments what you’ve written here.

    I have always marveled at the faith you put in the process of humanity. The question I would pose to you is the same I am posing for myself these days: Where does the higher power that I call God intersect human history?

    Reply

  2. I was wondering if we should view the great Greek philophers as predominately “mythos” oriented. As far as I have learned, they poured scorn on the “gods” of Homer and similar mythology. And even their belief in a “one god” seemed to be at least tentative, as they doubted even that had a firm foundation.

    Again, I am no ancient near-east expert (yet!), but as far as I know, even many of the ancients wrestled with the purely rational. Even in the Bible we see this in books like Job and Ecclesiastes, where the ability of Israel’s God to do what he “promised,” or to be what he was said to be, is put into question because of the lived reality of the people.

    And I feel as if the cutting-edge theology is not running from the logos, but really taking on board in a huge way. The work of Wolfhart Pannenberg, LeRon Schultz, and John Polkinghorne seem to indicate the fusing of the two.

    What do you think? Again, I really liked this post

    Reply

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