Thornbury advocates reenchanting our culture with Christianity
by: University Relations
How did Christianity lose its influence in the West, and what are Christians going to do about it? This is the problem Dr. Gregory Thornbury, president of The King’s College in New York City, presented during Charleston Southern University’s annual Staley Lecture series.
Thornbury delivered three lectures: Eclipses of Christianity in the Past, The Recent Eclipse of Christianity in the United States and Response of the Church and Christians in the Academy.
According to Thornbury, the West (Europe and the United States) has seen the decline of the influence of Christianity as a result of secularism becoming plausible in the West. In short, it comes down to a dispute over who has the right to define what culture is.
Thornbury said culture is formed from the top down. “One of my themes, as president of King’s College, is everything flows downstream from philosophy and ideology. To understand the mood of the world in which we live in the U.S., we must understand the ideas that shaped who we are.”
The response of the church should be one of reenchantment. “We have to help people see a world in which there is real meaning and transcendence in this age of nothingness,” said Thornbury. “One of the things we have got to do is reexplain the contributions of the Christian community to the commonplace, the things that actually give life, enjoyment and meaning to contemporary society as we find it.”
Thornbury lists some of the contributions of the Christian community on the West:
- Whole notion of constitutionalism and limited powers in government
- Sanctity of human life, creation of orphanages
- Idea that human beings should never be regarded as chattel
- Dignity of women, the balance of manhood and womanhood
- Racial and class equality
- Economic innovation and freedom
- Education and the university system
- Modern science
- Notion of charity
He said, “We must reenchant the next generation and respond to people freaked out by God references. In love, we have to say here are all the things that you love and want to aspire to, the positives in our culture are majorly a part of the story of our faith, the Hebrew and Christian tradition.”
Thornbury said even ardent atheists are now saying that the world shouldn’t be so hasty in saying goodbye to Christianity. He quoted an atheist as saying, “Christianity will triumph in the end because it explains everything.”
This reenchantment involves explaining how Christianity got us to where we are. It is a topic by topic examination of the positives that Christianity has brought to society. Many of these topics may be found in an article Thornbury and his colleagues wrote for Kairos Journal, “Legatees of a Great Inheritance: How the Judeo-Christian Tradition Has Shaped the West.”