Christianity and the Problem of History

By Roger Lincoln Shinn | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IV
THE IMPACT OF THE IDEA OF PROGRESS

CONTEMPORARY Christian interpretations of history develop in a different world from that of traditional Christianity. New ferments have been at work and have produced the variety of outlooks often labeled modern secularism. No contemporary interpreter of Christianity can ignore the challenge of these viewpoints, any more than Augustine could avoid meeting classicism and absorbing much of it even while he refuted it. Perhaps the contemporary Christian's task is more difficult, since the challenging viewpoints were born within Christendom and have there grown up to independence or rebellion. If they reject Christianity, it is not because they have never heard of it but because they disagree with it.

This chapter and the next will look at Christian thought as it has tried to come to terms with modern thought, particularly the dominant idea of progress and its most important variant, Marxism. Here Christian interpreters have modified or forsaken their traditional views to accept much of the new, sometimes taking the new as the real fulfillment of the old. Two more chapters will then look at contemporary Christianity, in revised Catholic and Protestant forms, reasserting itself against weaknesses in modern thought and laying down again the challenge of the faith of its fathers.


I. THE IDEA OF PROGRESS IN SECULAR THOUGHT

In modern Western civilization the idea of progress has taken the place of Christian eschatology. The ethos of progress has

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