Lindbeck: Religion and Modernity

July 13, 2010

The mere idea that becoming religious might on occasion be rather like achieving competence in the totally nonoptional grammatical patters and lexical resources of a foreign tongue seems alienating and oppressive, an infringement of freedom and choice, a denial of creativity, and repugnant to all the most cherished values of modernity. It is much easier in our day for religious interests to take the experiential-expressive form of individual quests for personal meaning. This is true even among theological conservatives, as is illustrated by the stress placed on conversion experiences by the heirs of pietism and revivalism. The structures of modernity press individuals to meet God first in the depths of their souls and then, perhaps, if they find something personally congenial, to become part of a tradition or join a church. Their actual behavior may not conform to this model, but it is the way they experience themselves. Thus the traditions of religious thought and practice into which Westerners are most likely to be socialized conceals from them the social origins of their conviction that religions is a highly private and individual matter.

George Lindbeck, The Nature of Doctrine: Religion and Theology in a Postliberal Age (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1984), 22.

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