The Christian Paradox
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)
It's been said that the most important event in human history was the birth of Christ. When you examine this claim with an open mind, there can be no denying it, as there is clearly no event that has reverberated throughout the world that affected so many for so long by altering the course of history forever.
In a book written by cultural historian Christopher Dawson, Christianity and the New Age, he examines how Christ and Christianity constitute the foundation of the modern era, that without Christianity there never would have been a Western civilization in the first place that led to life as we know it today in the western world: democratic, technological, scientific, and progressive (in the sense that everything is continuously being improved upon not just in material ways but also spiritually towards a predestined and perfect end of time).
Dawson also identifies a paradox of how Christianity in many ways led to its own downfall from medieval Christendom to the secular societies of today where atheism and agnosticism dominate public life where religious practice was once an around-the-clock everyday obligation. The Amish community that exists today is a good example of what life looked like before the modern era when everything revolved around the Bible and where being a better person or building a better life is intrinsic to faith, not something to be gained through the material world.
As the modern world evolved, Christianity and spirituality slowly receded and became secondary to the triumph of materialism and secularism throughout the western world as a result of the scientific and industrial revolutions. In another book by Brad Gregory, The Unintended Reformation: How a Religious Revolution Secularized Society, the beginning of the end of Christianity as first and foremost in everyone's life was the fracturing of a unified Christian world that was led by Catholic Rome and its popes when Martin Luther unknowingly helped pave the way to making religion secondary in people's lives. It was the Reformation that led to Christianity becoming just an optional lifestyle choice when the Church split with itself, then split again and again into multiple denominations, until it became so watered down and so many "flavors" to choose from no one bothered with it anymore. Everyone became more interested in pursuing the good things in this life and this world rather than the next life and the afterworld. From Christianity and the New Age:
"The western mind has turned away from the contemplation of the absolute and the eternal to the knowledge of the particular and the contingent. It has made man the measure of all things and has sought to emancipate life from its dependence on the supernatural. By the nineteenth century the forces of secularism and anti-clericalism were everywhere triumphant, and the new democracies seemed bent on the creation of a purely lay culture, which would eliminate the last traces of religious influence from the national life."
Dawson goes on to describe how the rational organization of modern life rooted in rationalism and materialism eventually became hostile to the spiritual values of Christianity that laid the foundations for modern society in the first place. Hence the paradox of the Judeo-Christian tradition became a victim of its own success as the centerpiece of daily life because of the long and winding road of historical evolution slowly but surely eroding it from everyday life. Beginning with the Renaissance to the Reformation through the Enlightenment all the way to the present when foundational Christian values have become almost entirely attenuated. The sovereignty that was once the transcendent God to whom even kings and queens deferred as the ultimate authority slowly gave way to the sovereignty of the individual that is the norm today. From How to pray to a dead God (Aeon.com):
At one point in Western history, people at all stations of society could access the sacred, which permeated all aspects of life, giving both purpose and meaning. During this premodern age, existence was charged with significance. At some point, the gates to this Eden were sutured shut. The condition of modernity is defined by the irrevocable loss of easy access to transcendence.
Lastly, Dawson describes throughout his book that what has been lost in the modern era that's at the root of so much discontent and division is this loss of the spiritual idea that Christ and his appearance on earth were to unify the temporal with the eternal and the material with the spiritual:
Christianity united a strong sense of transcendent character of Ultimate Reality with the belief that God had become man. This conception of the Incarnation as the bridge between God and Man, the marriage of Heaven and Earth, the channel through which the material world is spiritualized and brought back to unity.
In the end, the loss of Christian spirituality as a result of it being divorced from and given a back seat to the materialism of the modern era has been the disregard of the values that were first exemplified by the life and death of Christ: sacrifice, charity, and obligation. This has led directly to the plague of our time: self-love, greed, and hedonism. It's time to get back to basics to confront current problems. It's really not that hard to figure out the solutions. It's just that all of our leaders think that they are material in nature when they're really spiritual embodied by the birth, life, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
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