Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Secularisation

Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Secularisation

Article excerpt

Secularisation. By Edward Norman. New Century Theology Series. London and New York: Continuum, 2002. xiv + 159 pp. $24.95 (paper).

In the last thirty years, a number of notable books concerning the topic of the increasingly secular face of European and North American culture have appeared. Among them, Owen Chadwick's The Secularization of the European Mind in the Nineteenth Century is perhaps the most comprehensive account of the reduced influence of a distinctively Christian worldview on Western society. Additionally, studies such as Rowan Williams's Lost Icons and John Atherton's Marginalization describe the important cultural deficits that this decline of religious knowledge and practice entails. The authors of these volumes argue their respective theses persuasively, supporting their claims with reference to the work of other scholars in theology, history, and the social sciences. Edward Norman's Secularisation, although attempting to articulate the challenge of this phenomenon for the future of the chtirch, does not rise to the level of the aforementioned works.

Norman assumes that the reader will not only be familiar with and "perplexed and saddened by the decline of institutional religion in England" (p. vii), but will share his open hostility to it. The author argues that the Church of England has no place endorsing the values of a plural society because an established church is "a provision by the state for the teaching of Christian truth" (p. 36) and therefore should impose Christian belief and values on all residents. To respect the convictions of persons and the integrity of nonChristian traditions is mere political correctness and an embrace of secular ethics. Furthermore, Normans view of authentic Christianity is that it is merely concerned with "the demands of God and the obligations which are owed to him by his creatures: it is not about the emotional satisfaction of men and women" (p. …

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