The truth is that the spirit of the world, the secular, cannot be defeated, except in the hearts of individuals, and even then it can be defeated only by the grace of God…
Dr. Turley’s most recent contribution, “President Trump and Our Post-Secular Future,” brims over with a degree of penetrating insight and wisdom which is all too rare in these troublous times. There is little point in merely summarizing and reiterating the highlights of Dr. Turley’s arguments, of which there are many, because the time reading such a summary would be better spent reading Dr. Turley’s original article. I am, however, going to take issue with one aspect of his analysis. His discussion of a “post-secular future” is not helpful because there can be and will be no such future. To be fair, Dr. Turley clarifies what he means, defining his terms as a good scholar should. “We are now entering into what scholars call a post-secular society age,” Dr. Turley writes. ”As the name implies, a post-secular society is one that no longer subscribes to the two fundamental commitments of secularism: scientific rationalism and personal autonomy of lifestyle values.”
Had Dr. Turley referenced a “post-secularist society,” as distinct from a “post-secular society,” defining secularism in the terms he employs, there would have been less of which we could complain, though it is naïve to believe that the recent reaction against secularism in the US election signifies that the beast is slain. Rationalism, which is not “scientific” and should not be afforded the dignity of such a prefix, has a bloody nose but it is not dead. The hubris of those advocating “personal autonomy of lifestyles values” has led to their falling flat on their supercilious faces, pride preceding a fall, but they will pick themselves up, will dust themselves down and will come out fighting with renewed self-righteous vigour. Secularism is not dead and it is dangerous on the evidence of current trends to presume that it is.
What we are witnessing is only the latest chapter in the ongoing war between the culture of life and the culture of death. Insofar as the advocates of infanticide were defeated in the US election, the culture of life won a historic victory. It is, however, the winning of one battle in a very long war. It is not the winning of the war and it is dangerous to act as though it were.
Furthermore, should the war against secularism, as defined by Dr. Turley, eventually be won, the secularism thus defeated will morph into another manifestation of the secularist spirit. It was only the day before yesterday that the culture of life was fighting against the dogmatic secularism of communism, which certainly did not believe in personal autonomy but in collectivist conformity. There was no “doing your own thing” under the secularism of the communists or the secularism of the Nazis.
The truth is that the spirit of the world, the secular, cannot be defeated, except in the hearts of individuals, and even then it can be defeated only by the grace of God. Caesar, like the poor, is always with us and it’s naïve to believe that he can be overthrown. If we kill one Caesar, he is replaced by another in his own image. If one Caesar, by the grace of God, is converted, he will be succeeded by a new Caesar who will restore the status quo ante.
Christ is uttering a timeless and therefore timely truth when he tells us to render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s and unto God that which is God’s. Since secularism demands that we render unto Caesar that which is God’s it has to be resisted. This is easy to fathom and easy to understand. We need to remember, however, that Caesar comes in many shapes and sizes, and in many political guises, on the so-called left and on the so-called right.
It remains to be seen whether the President-elect will deliver on his promises to enable the godly to render unto God the things that are not Caesar’s, and whether he will take from Caesar the things that are God’s, not least of which is the so-called “right” to take the lives of unborn children. If he does so, he will be on the side of the angels. If he doesn’t, he will be yet another Caesar in the long line of Caesars. Time will tell.
One thing is, however, certain. There will be no post-secular future. This world will remain under the sway of the Prince of this World, who can be recognized by the lies that he tells. History, as Tolkien reminds us, is the Long Defeat with only occasional glimpses of Final Victory. The gates of hell will not prevail. The victory will be won. But it will only be won at the World’s End, with the long-awaited Return of the King. Until that time, whenever that might be, the war with secularism will continue. Let’s brace ourselves for the long haul.
Books by Joseph Pearce may be found in The Imaginative Conservative Bookstore.