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God and our new Selves

God and our new Selves

Why the Church needs to be reformed in our time

A paper presented by John Wijngaards on March 7 1998 in Vienna during a consulation regarding ‘Sects and Fringe Religious Groups in Europe’, convoked by the Council of European Bishops Conferences. The paper was published first in Religioni e Sette del Mondo 4 (1998) pp. 172 - 193. Copyright belongs to John Wijngaards.

At the height of the French Revolution, on November 10 1793, a festival of liberation from God was celebrated in the Notre Dame of Paris. God was dethroned. A naked woman was installed as the symbol of the goddess of Reason. All churches in Paris were closed. It led a German novelist to announce the end of God. He presented Jesus Christ, after his crucifixion, as reporting to the dead: "I have traversed the worlds, climbed the suns and milky ways, but found no God!" (1)

Friedrich Nietzsche took up the same theme in his well publicised essay on Gods death. Nietzsche's `madman sought God with a lantern by open daylight.

"Where is God gone?”, the man called out.

“We have killed God, you and I. But how have we done it? How were we able to drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the whole horizon? What did we do when we loosened this earth from its sun?”(2)

Nietzsche went on to conclude that the only way out is for ourselves to become Gods.

In Section One I will show that trends in Europe would seem to support the claim that we ourselves are progressively occupying the place traditionally attributed to God:

  • God is disappearing from our everyday spheres of life.
  • We live in a mixed, pluriform, fragmented society.
  • Our own autonomy is taking over from traditional morality.
  • We are becoming fulfilment seekers.

In Section Two I will discuss the three main options facing believers:

A. Fundamentalism.

B. New Age compromise.

C. The Search for the Integration of Christian Faith and our newly found Human Identity.

Section One

Religious Trends in Europe

The purpose of this section is to remind ourselves of some of the major religious trends in Europe. It does not present a full picture of what is obviously a very complex situation. I present no more than a sketch.

1. God is disappearing from everyday life.

In the Middle Ages the world, as people knew it, was incredibly small. The earth was believed to be a flat disk, about the size of Europe. The sky was like a huge dome, with the sun and the stars gliding along it almost within human reach. Travel being as slow as the pace of a horse, the distances in the known world were large enough to impress people; yet from another point of view the ends of the earth were reasonably near. God, enthroned in his heavenly palace just above the sky, could be imagined to keep everything under close surveillance.

God was thought to be directly involved in everything that went on in his creation. The sun, the moon and the stars were pushed along by angels specially appointed to that task. The weather belonged to God's own portfolio, and he guided the seasons from month to month. At times he might send a frost or a drought to punish a sinful nation; then their repentance and insistent pleas might make him relent so as to avert total disaster. Every single human being owed his or her life to God's specific decision to infuse a human soul into the embryo. Everything important that happened to an individual came directly from God's hand: health or sickness, failure or good fortune, one's marriage partner, one's children, the moment of death. God was terribly close, for not only was he the Creator, he was imagined to be like a puppet master holding every creature on a string.

This image of God shattered into a thousand pieces with the increase of our knowledge of the universe.

Science, not God seems in control!

Fig. 1. The advance of science is perceived as a retreat by God from areas he was supposed to control.

We realize now that our earth is but a speck in an immensely vast system of millions of galaxies and clusters of galaxies. Some of the light we capture in our telescopes has travelled twelve billion light years to reach us - a distance completely beyond our imagination, if we remember that light covers 300,000 km in just one second! Since the traditional image placed God outside the universe, God has been pushed further and further away with every new awareness of cosmic size.

God's direct causality in every-day events underwent a similar fate. In every sphere of life God's intervention has been shown to be unnecessary. The weather, for instance, is entirely dominated by natural forces: the turning of the globe, the processing of the sun, currents of water and air caused by variations in temperature and pressure. Life itself holds no secrets. The origin of a child can be followed from the moment of conception, the formation of the first cell by the cohesion of the father's and mother's chromosomes, to delivery and birth. Disease, we know, is due to natural disorders: to microbes, viruses, cancer or malnutrition. God, the Puppet Master, the Stage Manager, the Organizer, seems no longer to be required to explain the events that touch us more directly. In this respect God has been pushed away out of our view.

The larger the universe is and the more complicated in its structure, the more it requires a Creator, theologians will tell us. Right. But what we are discussing now is the image of God as the day-to-day Creator. That image, whatever our philosophical reasonings may tell us, fails us, for God has become so far and distant as to be virtually non-existent in people's perception.

The perceived conflict between science and faith, though it began four centuries ago, has not been resolved. Last year I conducted a workshop for pastoral leaders. Among the participants was an intelligent young man, a student in biology, who helps prepare children for First Communion. He told me that he was reading Richard Dawkins' The Blind Watchmaker with great interest. The book, for those who do not know it, is a brilliant and well-argued treatise on evolution which, among other things, demolishes the need for any involvement of God in the universe (3). While our younger generation are studying militant atheists like Richard Dawkins, for whom God is no more than `a virus in our collective thought', what coherent, logical, rational and convincing view do we supply to show that God is real?

On the other hand, since revealed truth cannot contradict truth found in nature, the younger generation studying evolution with Richard Dawkins may well be closer to God in some respects. Like the Cardinals of the Inquisition who condemned Galileo Galilei but refused to look at the planets through Galileo's telescope, it is we who may be obscuring God by hanging on to outdated concepts and images.

2. We live in a mixed, pluriform, fragmented society.

Until the Second World War, believers were generally protected by their belonging to close-knit religious communities. Contact with outsiders was reduced to a minimum. Catholic doctrine was taught and accepted as a closed system of thought. Other religions and world views were judged from within ones own, well-defined Christian point of view.

Political and social re-structuring has thoroughly changed this situation. Most Europeans now live in a metropolis - which reduces community to a network of functional relationships. Contact with others mainly happens through the mass media. We create small islands of friendship within impersonal, urban settings. Survival demands a hectic pace of life, mobility and achieving success.

More importantly perhaps, the former closed system of Christian thought has crumbled. Through the thorough mix of Catholics and Protestants, and through more frequent contact with Muslims, Hindus and other minorities, religious tolerance is valued by most Europeans. In 1990, 75% ranked broad-mindedness as the most necessary civic virtue among a list of eleven.

God is no longer so well defined

Fig. 2. In the secular metropolis closed systems of thought break down.

The predominantly Catholic country Belgium may serve as an example. In 1981, 25% still subscribed to the statement: There is only one true religion. In 1996, that figure dropped to a mere 15%, and as many as 62% believe that all religions have something to contribute (4).

Though religious tolerance is a value which the Church itself promotes, pluralism is perceived by many people as a concession forced upon the Church. The unique salvific role of Jesus Christ seems compromised. The ancient monopoly on truth and its certainties have been shaken.

"What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this stony rubbish? Son of Man,
You cannot say or guess, for you know only
A broken heap of images. Where the sun beats
The dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,
And the dry stone no sound of water . . . ."

T.S.ELIOT, in The Waste Land

3. Our own autonomy is taking over from traditional morality.

Many processes in our time help to put the emphasis on the central role of the individual in society. Better education, a growing awareness of ones democratic rights, enlightened discussion in the media, a rising living standard: all conspire to make the individual the focus of society (5).

We fix our own goals in life

Fig.3. Ever more people base moral decisions on their own needs and personal convictions.

One element of the indiviualisation process is a slow de-coupling between morality and religion. It does not mean the end of morality, but a change in its underpinnings (6). The same separation between religion and morality is found among some Christians (7).

Theologians have justified this separation by proposing an autonomous morality. Concrete moral rules of conduct, they say, cannot be derived directly from religion. Religion only has an indirect link, namely through its providing a referential set of norms that inspire, guide, criticise and coordinate (8).

The Catholic Church is perceived to take an ambivalent attitude towards individual moral autonomy. On the one hand the Church applauds the growing discovery and vindication of peoples personal rights and endorses the dignity of conscience, freedom of choice, the liberty of the children of God and the rightful autonomy of every creature, obviously under responsibility to the Creator and the Gospel (9). On the other hand, the official Church lays down detailed norms of sexual morality that are felt by many to contradict a valid personal autonomy.

The sociologist Andrew Greeley maintains that since the Encyclical Humanae Vitae (1968), the Vatican has lost its credibility as a teacher of sexual ethics. Many have left the Church. No one takes it seriously on sexual matters anymore, not even its own members, not even devout ones. He cites data from the USA showing that ever more Catholics practise articifical birth control, live together outside marriage and condone pre-marital sex. In 1963, 88% of Catholics believed pre-martital sex was always wrong; in 1988 that number had fallen to 18% (10). A similar situation exists in Europe. "Europeans are comfortable about the Church speaking out on questions of human rights, much less comfortable about public pronouncements on ethical issues which affect their intimate personal lives or encroach on their moral autonomy" (11).

It is obvious that we Europeans are re-discovering ourselves. Social research provides some details.

4. We are becoming ‘fulfilment seekers’.

The European Values Studies of 1981 and 1990 have documented a steady shift in basic motivations. From having been security seekers, people are gradually becoming fulfilment seekers (12). The term should not be interpreted in the negative sense it has acquired.

The older generations in Europe are security seekers. Having experienced the uncertainties surrounding the Second World War, they are chiefly motivated by the need of economic and physical security. They cling to traditional certainties in the family, at work, in ethics and religious practice.

The younger generations become progressively more fulfilment seekers in the sense of being motivated more strongly by the needs of self--realisation, belonging and quality of life. One consequence is a growing resistance to religious creeds or organisations that impose restrictions on one's views or personal behaviour.

There are marked differences in attitudes. Within a family context, security seekers stress marriage stability and the traditional role of women; fulfilment seekers stress a woman's right to work even if she is a mother, and prefer divorce to an unhappy relationship. In their job, security seekers give priority to hard work, good manners and obedience; fulfilment seekers want interesting jobs. They rate imagination, creativity, independence and tolerance.

Security seekers tend to be traditional in their religious convictions. They believe in a personal God, adhere to orthodox doctrine regarding heaven, hell, sin and the devil, and are committed to traditional moral standards.

Fulfilment seekers on the other hand are more likely to see God as a Life Force, to have doubts on orthodox doctrines, to be more permissive in morality and to be more critical of the Church.

Our values have shifted!

Fig. 4. In 1981, 33% of Europeans were outright security seekers, 14 % outright fulfilment seekers, and 53% mixed. In 1990, the outright security seekers were down to 21%. Outright fulfilment seekers were up to 21%, mixed fulfilment seekers to 58%. That makes the total of fulfilment seekers 79%.

A large proportion of the Churches' core members (weekly church attendance) are security seekers. The unchurched are predominantly fulfilment seekers. The intermediate group of marginal Christians (the 41% who occasionally attend a service) are also mainly fulfilment seekers. Indications are that people in this middle group are aware of their religious needs, but feel out of tune with institutional Christianity.

At first sight, we might have the impression that security seekers make the best Christians. Researchers, however, tell us otherwise. Fulfilment seekers are potentially more religious than traditional Christians.

* "The data that are available suggest that a major intergenerational shift in religious orientations is occurring. It would be a serious oversimplification to describe this process as the decline of religion. In some respects, the emerging generation seems to have a heightened sensitivity to spiritual concerns, by comparison with older groups. But the world view espoused by most of the established religious denominations seems increasingly out of touch with the perceptions and priorities of the younger generation" (13).

** "The linkage between the rise of Postmaterialism (fulfilment seeking) and the decline of religious orientations more generally, is conditional, not inherent. As we have noted, despite their detachment from traditional religion, Postmaterialists (fulfilment seekers) are significantly more likely than Materialists (security seekers) to spend time thinking about the meaning and purpose of life. In this respect, Postmaterialists may have more potential interest in religion than Materialists. A religious message based on economic and physical insecurity finds little resonance among Postmaterialists -- but one that conveyed a sense of meaning and purpose in contemporary society might fill a need that is becoming increasingly widespread. If a decline of religion is taking place, it is not necessarily built into the conditions of advanced industrial society: the established religions may be losing a growing and potentially mobilisable constituency, by default" (14).

*** "Despite their semi-detachment from the institutional churches the intermediates show many desirable qualities. More than core members they value bold action and independence .... They are more likely than others to be alive, excited, proud of an achievement and on top of the world .... There is a healthy tendency for drive, dynamism, forceful presentation and a corresponding capacity to get results .... The Churches have not found a `rhetoric' to win the assent and confidence of many who are at the leading edge of change and prosperity."

Summing up

A tremendous challenge lies before Christianity in Europe. Secularisation, pluralism, moral autonomy and personal ambition have created a new spiritual environment. Individuals are confused. The Churches have slipped into a deep crisis, with dwindling membership and diminishing credibility. Splinter groups and marginal movements are proposing their own bewildering solutions. There are also new opportunities. The situation is ambivalent, offering without any doubt numerous hazards and perils, but also chances and advantages (16).

It might look as if Nietzsche's prophecy is coming true: Europe's citizens reject the ancient God and are setting themselves up as new Gods. But then, did the Son of God not become human so that we might take part in his divinity?

Section Two

The options facing Believers

The religious crisis in Europe has encouraged a good many people to abandon religion altogether. They have become atheists, agnostics or humanists on principle. Elsewhere I have pleaded for a new apologetics to address the needs of this ever larger group which at present claims a quarter of the population of Europe (17).

Another proportion of Europeans is in the grip of practical unbelief through consumerism and hedonism. The high standard of personal comfort and the leisure industries facilitate a self-centered narcissism that focuses on physical health and the pursuit of pleasure. It has been characterised as: "I must pamper myself in such a way that I do not need anyone else to make me happy" (18).

In this section we will focus on believers, on those for whom religion and the Church still have meaning. According to 1990 statistics, three-fifths of Europeans regard themselves as religious (59%). They express belief in God (69%). They occasionally take time to pray or meditate (59%). They say that they gain comfort and strength from religion (45%).

Only about a third of Europeans hold on to the core of Christian beliefs. They believe in a personal God (36%), in heaven (40%) and the resurrection of the dead (33%). They profess that life is only meaningful because God exists (32%) and death only meaningful when one believes in God (33%). They attend services on a Sunday (29%) (19).

We will consider the three main options facing believers within the European religious scene.

A. Fundamentalism

Whereas conservatives allow themselves to be passively guided by their traditional convictions, fundamentalists hold and promote these convictions as a deliberate and active choice. Fundamentalists consciously organise themselves to protect a tradition that is seen by them as being absolute (20).

The fundamentalist option arises in situations of social and religious crisis. Unavoidable changes conflict with ones deep-seated need of security (21). The tradition at risk, which is unconsciously perceived as part of one's own identity, is then identified with something sacred (the Bible, Church dogma, etc.) and made absolute. Fundamentalism is thus a defence mechanism that enables a person to reconquer a lost world, to retake charge over one's own life (22).

Fundamentalist groups tend to exercise forms of mind control over their followers, by encouraging ones own training institutes and means of communication. Members interact mainly with each other. Towards outsiders, a deliberate strategy of opposition is maintained. Dialogue, pluriformity and compromise are decried as betrayal.

At present there are a number of organised fundamentalist movements in the Church, prominent among them: Communio e Liberazione, Opus Dei, the Pius X Association, and the "Engelwerk". But each country has its own smaller groups, often organised around a library, a periodical, an apparition of Our Lady or a cell of charismatic prayer (23).

Fundamentalism is also a temptation within the body of the Church itself (24). From ordinary parish priests up to bishops and authorities in the Vatican, some pastoral leaders speak and act in fundamentalist-style ways. The outside world is characterised as the reign of Satan and the culture of death. True dialogue and ecumenism are paralysed on the excuse of loyalty to the one and only truth. A responsible Christian autonomy and freedom of conscience are undermined by insistence on blind obedience to Church decrees. The temptation is understandable, given the fact that conservative and fundamentalist believers exert pressure on Church leaders. Moreover, many Church-goers belong to the older age group and are security seekers. It is tempting to think that their needs should come first.

The fundamentalist option is not only doomed to failure; it is theologically wrong. It contradicts the tradition of the Church which has always sought to keep the balance between preserving its own identity and openness to an ever changing world (25). It also contradicts the Church's belief that Revelation is not, first and foremost, a one-sided intellectual message from God, but a meeting between God as personal and human beings as persons (26).

Knowing and reflecting on Revelation, on Gods meeting us, will therefore always remain a human endeavour, partial and incomplete ( 1 Cor 13,12), what St. Thomas Aquinas called: "a perception of truth that only approaches that truth" (27). God himself remains always greater, remains a transcendent mystery. Believers must therefore always remain open: Gods message may be different from what they imagine it to be (28).

B. NEW AGE Syncreticism

Since the Churches are perceived by many as having failed to give a satisfactory solution to the challenges of the modern world, a large proportion of Europeans (about 25%) are taking matters into their own hands. They are concocting their own personalised religion as a mix of Christian ideas, new science, magic, oriental mysticism, and esoteric practices. As Andr Couture has pointed out, people replace the old common salvation history with a history of salvation tailor made for their individual selves.

This trend has become known under the vague umbrella description: New Age. Characteristic features are the following:

¨ The emphasis lies on the spiritual as opposed to the material; on a belief in soul; on the spiritual world which is `out there', which can be communicated with directly, through a channelling of spirit guides, through trances and mediums.

¨ The individual has the right and the ability to select from all that is on offer whatever the spiritual or secular source. You create your own reality is a New Age slogan. ".... If we all create our own reality, we can together create something entirely new, that will be better than what has gone before". It raises questions of good and evil, of right and wrong behaviour. Evil is an illusion, so there are only alternative ways of reaction: what counts is that one is properly attuned to the cosmic forces.

¨ New Age is amorphous and eclectic in nature, drawing into itself so many of the new movements and developments, like particle physics and alternative medicine, as well as a range of ancient patterns of thought and belief: Anything and everything that has potential for promoting a change of thinking among the world's people should be utilized as we move relentlessly towards the Age of Aquarius. Reincarnation has become a fashionable belief, out-of-body and near-death experiences are openly spoken of, past lives are recalled. There has been a steadily growing interest in the subtleties of Eastern faiths, practices and mysticism, and there has been increasing involvement in the occult.

¨ New Age has no institutional authority. It is a leaderless but powerful network. It does not profess an established set of doctrines which can be set down and examined by those who might consider 'joining' it - in fact, any thought of dogma is anathema to it.

¨ New Age has great respect for the Earth and nature. The universe is the scene of great forces which can influence people's lives if only they are harnessed and directed through such things as crystals and pyramids, or discerned through astrology. Mother Earth is seen as a living entity that carefully nurtures the total world environment and maintains a stability if humankind will only attune to its needs.

¨ There is also a shift towards female rather than male values and thought. Men are often viewed as brutalizing women through sexual violence and pornographic exploitation, and dominating them through a stern, overbearing, male `sky-god'. There has also been a growth of interest in witchcraft.

¨ Harmony, unity and wholeness figure prominently in the New Age: "This wholeness encompasses self, others, ideas .... You are joined to a great Self ... And because that Self is inclusive, you are joined to all others". Health is wholeness, a oneness with the universal spiritual energy, which can be achieved through meditation, though the use of such practices as aroma, colour or cymatic therapy, through iridology, reflexology and essential oils, through acupuncture and acupressure which restore balance to the forces within the body.

¨ The New Age lookes forward to a Post-Christian future. The current astrological age, the Age of Pisces, is coming to an end. This age of the fish was inaugurated by the coming of Jesus Christ and has been characterised by division, conflict, war, injustice, hatred, bigotry and mistrust, all of which are seen to be related to the division between divine energy and humankind demanded by organised religion. Approaching is the age of Aquarius, the age of the water-bearer, a figure who symbolises healing and restoration (29).

Though the New Age does possess some attractive elements, it is obviously not the solution for Christian believers. Crucial parts of the Christian faith are lost. Pantheism underlies much of New Age thought, the conviction that All is One. We are all One. All is God. And we are God.

Like in their dealings with other religions, Christians will need to both enter into dialogue with New Age seekers and protect its own integrity. New Age ideas are widely diffused on the Internet. The non-authoritarian structure of the Internet suits it to perfection (30).

Integration of Old and New

The lasting solution to the present religious crisis in Europe lies neither in the outright rejection of the newly discovered values, nor in a compromise that would water down our Christian faith. The answer lies in true integration: in allowing the salvific words and deeds of Jesus Christ to take root once more in the new European realities and to transform them from within.

It should be recognised that the new scientifically-minded, autonomous and fulfilment-seeking culture in Europe is a distinct new culture, like cultures met in any other missionary situation. Here, like elsewhere in the world, the Word of God needs to be incarnated, with a preservation of all that is good in our culture.

"The seed which is the Word of God grows out of good soil, watered by the divine dew. From this soil the seed draws nourishing elements which it transforms and assimilates into itself. Finally it bears much fruit. So too indeed, just as happened in the economy of the Incarnation, missionary churches take to themselves all the riches of their own people, while remaining rooted in Christ and built up on the foundation of the apostles. For all the nations have been given to Christ as an inheritance."

"From the customs and traditions of their people, from their wisdom and their learning, from their arts and sciences, these churches borrow all those things which can add to the glory of their Creator, manifest the grace of the Saviour or contribute to the right ordering of Christian life." (31)

We as a Church need to shed unnecessary past accretions and adapt ourselves to the new world in which we find ourselves, as we as a Church have done during other crucial periods in our history. Evangelisation means continuous incarnation, in which the Word can only become new flesh by taking that flesh seriously. We as a Church will have to test everything and retain whatever is good.

It is impossible to precisely foresee what this integration of the old belief and the new European world will lead to. However, it will certainly require the following:

© We as a Church will need to gratefully and happily accept all the new sure facts established by modern science. This calls for a new theology. The recognition that the universe and life came about through evolution, has far reaching consequences for the way salvation comes to us. We need a refined image of God, an understanding of salvation history that incorporates evolution, a reformulation of the Incarnation as happening "from the Beyond within", a discarding of two-tier supernaturalism without discarding the reality of God, and much more. A massive task needs to be done to ensure that Christian faith is a rationale obsequium, a reasonable proposition, also for our contemporaries.

© We as a Church will need to recognise the value of human and Christian autonomy. Moral theology needs to be reformulated to do justice both to the demands of Gospel morality and the genuine adult responsibility of each individual. The official church bodies will need to change their image as paternalistic, male-dominated, autocratic bodies.

© We as a Church need to reform the pastoral structures of our organisation as a Church, to faithfully implement the principle of co-responsibility laid down by Vatican II. Lay people need to be given room to exercise their role as responsible members of the community, without minimising the specific mandate given to priests and pastors.

© We as a Church will need to work out more sensitively our place in a pluriform society. While proclaiming the unique mediation of Jesus Christ in the universal salvation of humankind, the positive contribution of other religious traditions needs to be assessed and incorporated into our Church's own heritage whenever this is helpful.

© We as a Church will need to accept the modern media of communication, christianising them for the good of humankind while respecting the media's own specific nature.

© On grass roots level, we as a Church need to form new communities of faith that will make it easier for families and natural groupings to experience their belonging to Christ and to celebrate the Christian mysteries meaningfully. This will require the scaling down and modification of the parish structure and the introduction of new ministries.

© We as a Church will need to stimulate new spiritualities that can express our Christian beliefs within the secular, cosmopolitan world.

The above is not meant to present a detailed blueprint for change, but rather just a sketch of what we need to do. As an official Church we have begun this process of integration through the vision enshrined in Vatican II. That vision now needs to be implemented and worked out in detail. The many good initiatives in the right direction which have been taken up on parish, diocesan and national levels in many European countries, need to be strongly encouraged and promoted.

Friedrick Nietzsche, that enfant terrible of the new Europe, stated that, since God is dead, we will all have to be like gods. In a paradoxical way he may have expressed a deep truth. We Christians believe that we have been created in God's image and that we have been given responsibility over our world as God's governors. Through Jesus Christ, who was God's only Son, those of us who believe, become God's children in a special way. The new awareness of human dignity and autonomy in Europe presents a marvellous opportunity for our Christian divine sonship and divine daughterhood to be realised in a new way. It opens the way to a new enrichment of our Christian faith and a new christianisation of secular Europe.

God has not changed, and God is not the problem. It is we who are the problem. We have changed and, with us, our images of God have changed. We, the new generations of fulfilment-seeking Europeans, need to rediscover God while testing and refining our new identity. We need to allow Jesus Christ, the Lord, to radiate within our new selves and turn us into his own likeness.

"The Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. We, with our unveiled faces, reflect like mirrors the brightness of the Lord. We grow brighter and brighter as we are turned into the image that we reflect. This is the work of the Lord who is the Spirit" (32).

John Wijngaards



Jean Paul (Johann Paul Friedrich RICHTER), "Rede des toten Christus vom Weltgebäude herab, dass kein Gott sei" (1796), in Siebenkäs, Werke, vol. II, ed. G.LOHMANN, Munich 1959, pp. 266-271.


F.NIETZSCHE, Die Fröhliche Wissenschaft, vol.V, 1882; English translation: The Gay Science, Random House, New York 1974, p. 181.


R.DAWKINS, The Blind Watchmaker, Penguin, Harmondsworth 1991; see also "Is God a computer virus?", New Statesman & Society, 1 January 1993, pp. 42-45.


J.KERKHOFS, "Flamands et Wallons, différents?", in Il est une foi. Valeurs et croyances des Belges, ed. CH.DELHEZ et R.REZSOHAZY, Racine, Namur-Bruxelles 1996, pp. 51-67; "Hoe pluralistisch zijn wij eigenlijk in Europa?", in Religieus Pluralisme, ed. K.W.MERKS en H.L.BECK, Ambo, Amsterdam 1997, pp. 31-41.


P.ESTER, L.HALMAN and R.de MOOR (eds), The Individualising Society. Value Change in Europe and North America, Tilburg University Press, Tilburg 1994.


B.GROETHUYSEN, Die Entstehung der bürgerlichen Welt und Lebensanschauung in Frankreich, I-II, Halle 1930.


L.HALMAN et alii, Traditie, secularisatie en individualisering. Een studie naar de waarden van de Nederlanders in een Europese context, Tilburg 1987, pp. 24-26.


A.AUER, Autonome Moral und christlicher Glaube, Düsseldorf 1971; also "Die Bedeutung des Christlichen bei der Normfindung" in Normen im Konflikt, Freiburg 1977, pp. 29-55; "Die Autonomie des Sittlichen nach Thomas von Aquin", in Christlich Glauben und Handeln, Düsseldorf 1977, pp. 31-54.


VATICAN II, Gaudium et Spes, no 41; Edition W.M.ABBOTT, New York 1966, pp. 240-241.


A.GREELEY, The Catholic Myth. The Behaviour and Belief of American Catholics, New York 1990, esp. pp. 90-105.


D.G.BARKER et alii, The European Values Study. A presentation to the European People’s Party Summit, Leicester 1992, pp. 35-36.


For this analysis I am endebted to Ronald Inglehart and his writings. He uses the terms materialists and post-materialists, but as these terms are liable to be misunderstood especially in a theological context, I use the more expressive terms security seekers and fulfilment seekers. See RONALD INGLEHART, 'The Rise of Postmaterialist Values and Changing Religious Orientations, Gender Roles and Sexual Norms', International Journal of Public Opinion Research 1 (1989) 45--74. ID., Culture Shift in Advanced Industrial Society, Princeton 1990.


R.INGLEHART, International Journal of Public Opinion Research, ibid. p. 45.


R.INGLEHART, ib. , p. 74.


J.FOGARTY, "European Values", Mss pp. 9-11.


H.KÜNG, "Die Frage nach dem christlichen Europa, nach Lebensinn und ethischen Mass-stäben", lecture at the Symposium on the Future of Christian Democracy, the Hague 1995, mss. p.4.


J.WIJNGAARDS, How to Make Sense of God, Housetop, London 1995; Geloven is zo gek nog niet, Kok, Kampen 1997.


C.LASCH, The Culture of Narcissism, New York 1979; G.LIPOVETSKY, L’ère de Vide, Paris 1983; M.GAUCHET, Le désenchantement du monde, une histoire politique de la religion, Paris 1985.


S.ASHFORD and N.TIMMS, What Europe Thinks. A Study of Western European Values, Dartmouth 1992, esp. pp. 33-47.


M.E.MARTY, "Wat is fundamentalisme? Theologische Perspektieven", Concilium 28 (1992) p. 14; see also N.T.AMMERMAN, "North American Protestant Fundamentalism" in M.E.MARTY and R.SCOTT APPLEBY (eds.), Fundamentalisms Observed, London 1991, pp.1-65, esp. P. 14.


D.FUNKE, "Das halbierte Selbst. Psychische Aspekte des Fundamentalismus", in H.KOCHANEK (ed.), Die verdrängte Freiheit. Fundamentalismus in den Kirchen, Freiburg/Basel/Wien 1991, pp. 83-93; W.BEINERT, "Der `katholische’ Fundamentalismus und die Freiheitsbotschaft der Kirche", in W.BEINERT (ed.), `Katholischer’ Fundamentalismus, Häretische Gruppen in der Kirche?, Regensburg 1991, pp. 63-66.


H.SCHäFFER, "Religiöser Fundamentalismus als Ermächtigungsstrategie", Ökumenische Rundschau 41 (1992) pp. 434-448.


J.NIEWIADOMSKY (ed.), Eindeutige Antworten? FundamentalistischeVersuchung in Religion und Gesellschaft, Thaur 1988, esp. pp. 164-167 "Fundamentalistische katholische Gruppierungen"; K.WALF, "Fundamentalistische Strömungen in der katholischen Kirche", in TH.MEYER (ed.), Fundamentalismus in der modernen Welt, Frankfurt 1989, pp. 248-262; P.B. Van HENSBROEK et alii (eds.), Naar de letter. Beschouwingen over fundamentalisme, Utrecht 1991; H.L.BECK en K.W.MERKS, Fundamentalisme, Baarn 1994.


M.N.EBERTZ, "Treue zur einzigen Wahrheit. Religionsinterner Fundamentalismus im Katholizismus", in H.KOCHANEK (ed.), Die verdrängte Freiheit, etc., ib. Pp. 30-52.


J.A.BORNEWASSER, Katholieke Kerk en Restauratie, Tilburg 1989.


VATICAN II, Dei Verbum, no 2 - 6; edition W.M.ABBOTT, pp. 112-114.


"Perceptio veritatis tendens in ipsam"; S.Th. II, II. Q.1, a.2.


P.EICHER, Offenbarung Prinzip neuzeitlicher Theologie, Munich 1977, esp. pp. 483-543; see also H.WITTE, "Zondebokken gezocht! Afgrenzen als fundamentalistische overlevingsstrategie", in H.L.BECK et al. (Eds.), Fundamentalisme, ib. Pp. 13-27.


P.SEDDON, The New Age - An Assessment, Grove, London 1980; R.CHANDLER, Understanding the New Age, Ward, London 1988; J.DRANE, What is the New Age saying to the Church?, Marshall Pickering, London 1991; M.Fox, Creation Spirituality: Liberating Gifts for the Peoples of the Earth, Harper, New York 1991; K.LOGAN, Close Encounters with the New Age, Kingsway, Edinburgh 1991; L.OSBORN, Angels of Light: the Challenge of the New Age, Daybreak, London 1992; M.FORWARD, "The New Age Movement", Methodist/Faith & Order, London 1995.


I have recently set up a "New Age Catholic" Web Site specifically designed for dialogue with New Age seekers. It will also try to correct the many factual misrepresentations offered on the Internet. Visit www.spiritual-wholeness.org.


Ad Gentes, no 22; W.M.ABBOTT, The Documents of Vatican II, Guild Press, New York 1966, p. 612; see also A.SHORTER, Towards a Theology of Inculturation, Chapman, London 1988, esp. pp. 191-205.


2 Corinthians 3,17-18.

John Wijngaards

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