Ministries in Post-Enlightenment Europe

By Lodberg, Peter | International Review of Mission, July-October 2006 | Go to article overview

Ministries in Post-Enlightenment Europe

Lodberg, Peter, International Review of Mission

It is debatable how strong secularization is in Europe, and how important its consequences are for the European churches. Peter L. Berger has introduced the idea of Europe being the exception to the rule that modernization means more secularization. Berger thinks the only major part of the world in which the old secularization theory continues to be empirically tenable is western and central Europe. The single most interesting question for the sociology of religion today is, according to Berger, 'Is Europe religiously different, and if so why?'

I agree with Peter L. Berger that we are experiencing in Europe what could be called a distinctive Euro-secularity that is part and parcel of a cross-national European culture. This Euro-secularity is characterized by a plurality of reasons why people still belong to the Christian church in a situation where they could choose something else. Grace Davie has tried to catch this new situation of the church by suggesting the term, "believing without belonging". Jose Casanova has turned the phrase around and speaks of a situation that he describes as "belonging without believing". Thus, the church is still a privileged institution even though Europeans do not attend church services. Some Europeans look to the church as if to an insurance company, where it is good to be member if at last it will show that Jesus is the way, truth and life. I would call this last perspective "believing in belonging".

Alongside the changing attitude to membership of organized religion there is a shift in religious faith. It is becoming much more individualistic, fluid and changeable. The result is that faith becomes part of a personal project of self-realization. In the process, bits and pieces from different religions are mixed in order to help deal with the question of personal identity in a situation where work-related pressures create stress and erupt the old patterns of family life. Globalization changes all aspects of life, including the religious life.

As a result of secularization, globalization, and ideological and religious pluralism the ordained ministry has lost its old authority. The pastor is no longer the only religious or educated expert in the local arena or in the public discourse. Media-people have taken over his/her position as an authoritative public voice. The pulpit has lost to television. What is left to the minister is authenticity. In all that he/she does, the pastor is negotiating and legitimizing the Christian gospel as the way of life for post-enlightenment Europeans. The minister's personal faith and authenticity become the primary examples of the content and wisdom of the Christian message because he/she has to accept the rule in the post-modern media society that the media are the message. Many young pastors especially find it difficult to deal with this reality, which is a reality that in my Lutheran tradition and theology is far away from the basic idea of the Lutheran ministry.

In post-enlightenment Europe the minister becomes a witness to the gospel and its meaning among people who have a very distanced awareness of Christian faith and tradition. He/she becomes a missionary in a society that is multicultural, multi-religious and a secularized liberal democracy, where modernity pluralizes the worlds of individuals, and undermines all certainties that are taken for granted. In this situation the pastor must know the mechanisms of his/her culture, politics and religions so that he/she is in accordance with the present. However, she/he cannot accommodate herself/himself to culture and society. A critical orientation towards culture and politics must be preserved based on the theological insight that we meet Jesus Christ in the middle of our lives and societies. In this respect, John A. T. Robinson's insights from his books Honest to God and The Hoist to God Debate still remain to be dealt with:

   My book seems to have touched people at a point where truth really
   matters to them. … 

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)


1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Cited article

Ministries in Post-Enlightenment Europe


Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.