10 March 2014

The Heresy of Secularism

Father Alexander of blessed memory, says:
What we have to understand first of all, is that the problem under discussion is complicated by something our well-intentioned “conservatives” do not comprehend, in spite of all their denouncing and condemning of secularism. It is the fact of the very real connection between secularism—its origin and its development—and Christianity. Secularism—we must again and again stress this—is a “stepchild” of Christianity, as are, in the last analysis, all secular ideologies which today dominate the world—not, as is claimed by the Western apostles of a Christian acceptance of secularism, a legitimate child, but a heresy. Heresy, however, is always the distortion, the exaggeration, and therefore the mutilation of something true, the affirmation of one “choice” (aizesis means choice in Greek), one element at the expense of the others, the breaking up of the catholicity of Truth. But then heresy is also always a question addressed to the Church, and which requires, in order to be answered, an effort of Christian thought and conscience. To condemn heresy is relatively easy. What is much more difficult is to detect the question it implies, and to give this question an adequate answer. Such, however, was always the Church’s dealing with “heresies”—they always provoked an effort of creativity within the church so that the condemnation became ultimately a widening and deepening of Christian faith itself. To fight Arianism St. Athanasius advocated the term consubstantial, which earlier, and within a different theological context, was condemned as heretical. Because of this he was violently opposed, not only by Arians but by “conservatives,” who saw in him an innovator and a “modernist.” Ultimately, however, it became clear that it was he who saved Orthodoxy, and that the blind “conservatives” consciously or unconsciously helped the Arians. Thus, if secularism is, as I’m convinced, the great heresy of our own time, it requires from the church not mere anathemas, and certainly not compromises, but above an effort of understanding so it may ultimately be overcome by truth.
From “Worship in a Secular Age,” For the Life of the World, pages 127-128