zaterdag 10 januari 2015

What happened in the West?

I’d like to figure out that in an exact way some time. Because thát in Western Europe over the last three or four centuries a particular development has taken place, I am quite sure thereabout.

By which I mean the fact that the two religious currents that Western Europe knew during that period – Christianity and (at a distance) Judaism – fundamentally changed character during that period.

For both religions applies that they started out on the basis of axioms which could not be doubted. For Judaism, for example, those were the teachings that the Torah is the literal text of God’s word to Moses, and that the Jewish people is chosen. For, Christianity, for example, that Jesus is God’s son and that his death on the cross redeemed the world.

And for both religious traditions it holds that large groups within each tradition exchanged the idea of axioms (indubitable truths) for the idea of hypotheses. That is, for concepts that provide orientation but can be adjusted according to progressive insight.

How revolutionary this development has been, can be read on the fate of those who cling to the axioms. Within the Jewish community in Europe, Orthodoxy has a big problem with its intellectual credibility, and they find it hard to keep up numbers.

Within the Christian community, I came across recently a telling example of axioms that have become obsolete. Namely in the person of Joseph van den Berg, a former puppeteer who has experienced an iconic Christian conversion. Iconic in the sense of old-fashioned axiomatic: he discovered Jesus as the truth, left his wife and children, became a hermit and from that moment knew inwardly only one desire, namely “to learn the other, who says it’s not true, that he is wrong”.

As classic as can be, and Van den Berg enjoys great public interest. Yet he had to join the Eastern Orthodox Church. In the West, people prefer hypotheses.

Also see Mission Completed