With the rise of science and the discovery of other civilizations came a new way of thinking about “God, man, and the world.” Let’s look at these briefly. had come to terms with modernity and had refitted belief to sail in its waters. In this article we’ll take a look at the era known as the Enlightenment, that period in the history of the West extending from the late 17th through the 18th centuries. The use of science soon became a phenomenally popular apologetic tool.”{37}. As Lehner writes, “if only anti-religious thinkers were enlightened, then there could not be a Catholic Enlightenment.” Yet, as he proceeds to show in 250 pages of readable and well-paced prose, there were plenty of Catholic enlighteners. In the early 17th century, French philosopher René Descartes (1596-1650) formulated a very rationalistic philosophy. In this way religion, for Kant, was a matter of practical reason, concerned with what people ought to do, rather than of theoretical reason, concerned with what people have good reason to think is true (see below Religion and morality). 17. Europeans knew little about other cultures. Furthermore, if other civilizations were able to function without Christian beliefs, maybe Christianity itself wasn’t so significant, at least on the cultural level. As a result, contemporary philosophy of religion, certainly in the English-speaking world, has much more in common with medieval philosophy than it does with the philosophy of the 19th century. Enlightenment era religious commentary was a response to the preceding century of religious conflict in Europe, especially the Thirty Years' War. 1. Ibid., 104. as participation in devotion, particularly communal ritual. It is the opium of the people.” Along with those who viewed the idea of God as projection were thinkers, sometimes under the influence of modern science, who neither accepted nor rejected God’s existence. . 31. Enlightenment is the "full comprehension of a situation". What makes for the unity of such tremendously diverse thinkers under the label of Enlightenment? He treated “the Old Testament as a document with a history, put together over time by a variety of authors with a variety of motives and interests, rather than a divinely-revealed unity.”{21} Although his work was condemned across many Christian denominations, the die was cast, and others continued the same kind of analysis. A notable and influential example of this approach is that of Karl Marx, who saw religion as “the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world and the soul of soulless conditions. Growing vegetation, intellectual coherence, the orbits of the planets, the existence of life itself, morality–these and other issues all found their roots in God. This new way of looking at the world, of listening first to experience rather than to tradition and the church, was a major characteristic of the Enlightenment. 8. Knowledge increased rapidly, and from it followed major changes in life. The new intellectual mood called for individuals to think matters through for themselves, and as a result, people began to divide over doctrinal differences. As James Turner says, “The church’s words, though still formidable, competed with a widening range of alluring voices that . Before joining Probe Ministries, Rick worked in the ship repair industry in Norfolk, VA. through the marks that Deity had left in this world, ready for reason and observation to discover. 34. Is Theistic Evolution the Only Viable Answer for Thinking Christians? Ibid., 38. Probe fulfills this mission through our Mind Games conferences for youth and adults, our 3-minute daily radio program, and our extensive Web site at www.probe.org. The Protestant Reformation played a major role in the fracturing of the Church and its loss of power. According to Norman Hampson, rival claims to leadership in the Church contributed most to the decline of its intellectual authority in society. The Enlightenment and Religion: The Myths of Modernity. . Prior to the Enlightenment, believing in God in the West was like believing in the sunrise; the answer to all the big questions of life was God (whether a given individual was inclined to obey God was another matter). . If “enlightenment” automatically led to the loss of religion, then one would expect to find the highest rates of churchgoing among uneducated people today. They saw religion as compensation for, and therefore an escape from, unhappy aspects of the human condition. Other more primitive societies presented their own difficulties. Rick Wade served as a Probe research associate for 17 years. There can be no knowledge of matters allegedly existing beyond these categories; thus, there can be no knowledge of God and, hence, no theological knowledge. Second, since scriptural teachings were no longer to be accepted simply on the basis of authority, specific matters were brought up for debate — for example, the matter of the reality of hell. Philosophy of religion since the 19th century. . . They looked to nature to explain itself.{27}. The term represents a phase in the intellectual history of Europe, but it also serves to define programs of reform in which influential literati, inspired by a common faith in the possibility of a better world, outlined specific targets for criticism and proposals for action. {12} He rejected the theory of innate ideas taught by Descartes, believing instead that our minds begin as blank slates to which is added knowledge by experience. Probe Ministries is a non-profit ministry whose mission is to assist the church in renewing the minds of believers with a Christian worldview and to equip the church to engage the world for Christ. Religion now came under the same scrutiny as other areas of thought. With much of the incomprehensibility and mysterious taken out of it, belief in God was now based more solidly in morality and rationality; that is, in tangible human experience and demonstrable human knowledge. As temporal rulers consolidated their power in Europe, the political power of the Church waned. 24. Enlightenment ideals of rationalism and intellectual and religious freedom pervaded the American colonial religious landscape, and these values were instrumental in the American Revolution and the creation of a nation without an established religion. And China wasn’t Christian! There have been periods of skepticism throughout the history of the West. Although the various major landmasses of the earth were known, other civilizations were not. The enlightenment was a time in the 1700's in Europe when people began to question old ideas and search for knowledge. James Turner, Without God, Without Creed: The Origins of Unbelief in America (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1985), 14. Navigate parenthood with the help of the Raising Curious Learners podcast. . Ibid., 35. We are often tempted to think of our own day as truly unique, as presenting challenges that others have not known. Thus, the discoveries of science and of voyages first disrupted Europeans’ orderly world, and then made people doubt the significance of their religion itself. 33. Locke, quoted in Hampson, 40. {39}, This attitude shaped the thinking of subsequent generations of apologists. Forms of religion based on idealism (a philosophical movement that stressed the spiritual or ideational in the interpretation of experience) abandoned the idea of a transcendent God and identified the divine with wholly immanent attitudes or processes. The various strands of change merged in the Enlightenment, culminating in a new way of looking at the world.A major shift took place in the world of science with the development of the ideas of such people as Francis Bacon (1561-1627). Historian Norman Hampson says, “the new currents of thought all seemed to flow together in [him]”. 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