The Spirit of Secularization

Liza Lansang Espinoza shares her reading of The Secularization of Science by Herman Dooyeweerd, which will be the focus of the first All of Life Redeemed webinars on 4 and 11 June.  (See this post for the flyer, including the email address for signing up.)

Dooyeweerd begins by stating his belief that religion (true or apostate) is the centre of human existence and influences all aspects of life. In modern, differentiated society, however, religion is separated from science and this results in the disintegration of society if there is no total integration of life through religion once again.

The secularization of science began with Catholic Scholasticism’s religious motive of nature and grace. The Scholastic thinkers, with their dualistic motive, held that natural reason could attain metaphysical knowledge. This ultimately derived from a much older religious idea, the Platonic Theory of Forms, where the form, when grasped by reason, gives metaphysical knowledge; while matter experienced by the senses, which is in flux, is not connected to true knowledge. The culmination of the secularization of science came with the end of Scholasticism when all science was relegated to the sphere of natural reason and theology was no longer seen as sacred science or science in the true sense of the word.

Starting with the Renaissance, modern humanism eventually dominated the conception of science as autonomous with regard to religion. The religious dialectical motive of nature and freedom came to control scientific thought. The domination of nature is now seen as the ideal of mechanical and mechanistic science, while the experience of freedom is the ideal of the free autonomous personality. The former progressed to determinism and the latter to the absolutization of self-realization – and both of these have resulted in the loss of meaning in life.

Dooyeweerd asserts that this spirit of secularization (the belief that there is autonomy of science with regard to religion) must be resisted. And that this religious dialectical motive of nature and freedom must be replaced with the inner reformation of the spirit of science and its theoretical conception of reality with the biblical motive. The latter is the motive of creation, fall and redemption in Jesus Christ and the communion of the Holy Spirit. Revealing Himself as creator, God at the same time reveals to man the meaning of his existence which finds unity in man's heart. With the fall of man came also the fall of the whole creation and so only through the redemption of man through Jesus Christ will the redemption of the rest of creation come about. This radical and integral nature of creation being redeemed is in opposition to the dialectical conception of reality in modern society.

Reflection

Radical and integral is how I would describe the perspective of Dooyeweerd regarding religion and science, and it is precisely how he describes the Biblical motive. For him true religion influences all aspects of our life. Hence there is no autonomous reason; it will always be influenced by religious motives whether biblical, dual (nature and grace) or dialectical (nature and freedom). The fact that each one of us will wonder at one point or another in life – Who am I? Where did I come from? What am I here on earth for? - I think validates Dooyeweerd’s perspective that we are all driven by religious motives. Our answers to these questions will determine our philosophy and colour our science. The autonomy of modern science with regard to religion is only an illusion. When we realize this, that there is an inner point of contact where religious motives control theoretical thought, then we can affirm that there is no autonomous theoretical reason and unmask all such claims. The Biblical motive is a radical view of reality, but it is also an integral one with meaning, whereas the other religious motives of nature and grace, and of nature and freedom, have resulted in dualistic or dialectal conceptions of reality devoid of meaning.

Liza Lansang Espinoza is studying for a PhD at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam while living in Busan, South Korea.  She previously taught in the Faculty of Political Science at the University of the Philippines.

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