A French philosopher wonders: will Christianity end up in the dustbin of history?

The End of Christianity (The End of Christianity)
By Chantal Delsol. STAG. 2021. 171 pages. In French.

Is Christianity Dead? Is it dying? Chantal Delsol, French philosopher, novelist and columnist for Le Figarotries to answer these crucial questions by The end of Christianity. Although only available in French at the moment, it received a favorable review from the New York Times.

First and foremost, it distinguishes between Christian civilization (Christendom) and Christian faith (Christianity). The Christian faith, she argues, will survive forever. She argues this not on the basis of Christians’ supernatural belief in the eternity of revealed truth, but rather on the sociological premise that as long as there is one Christian on earth, the Christian faith will survive.

On the other hand, the phenomenon of Christian civilization had a clear beginning (it does not identify it with the year 1 AD, but rather with the battle of Frigidus in 394 AD) and a clear end (that she interprets as the legislative success of abortion on demand in the second half of the 20th century).

The author is a practicing Christian and has been at the forefront of The strike for alla French movement in favor of the traditional vision of marriage between a man and a woman.

However, a confusing aspect of his book is that his personal perspective only becomes clear in the very last chapter. Previously, his description of sociological and philosophical phenomena had been very balanced (always a plus!) but also disconcertingly disengaged.

She identifies a religious paradigm shift that has led to a transformation of the West’s moral code. Moral behavior seems to possess greater inertia than the religious principles that generated it, so that today’s culture is still, on the whole, steeped in pseudo-Christian morality.

While many aspects of traditional Christian morality (notably those concerning sexuality) have been rejected by many in Western countries, remnants of the old code survive (eg solidarity). However, there has been a paradigm shift: what governed life, habits, beliefs and ethics for the past 1,500 years has been turned upside down in recent decades.

The void left by a declining Christian faith, according to Delsol, is not filled by atheism (as many Christians believe or fear), but rather by what she calls pantheism. She points to the growing and widespread “worship” of nature and the strict demands of ecological morality.

It’s not convincing. First, what she calls pantheism should rather be called, in my opinion, panentheism. It is not that our contemporaries worship the Sun or the Moon or the Wind. Many of them cherish a concept of ecology that deifies thisrather than Mother Earth.

If it is a pantheism, it is a pantheism without gods, a religion without God. There is no worship, although there are liturgical rites conducted by groups like Extinction Rebellion. Even the youth climate change movement led by Greta Thunberg is sorely lacking in enthusiasm for the beauties of nature. Its limbs seem primarily driven by fear, not joy or enchantment.

Another puzzling feature of Delsol’s discussion is his treatment of pedophilia scandals. More than any other failure of Christianity, these succeeded in discrediting Christianity.

She rightly notes that moral outrage over pedophilia is a relatively recent phenomenon; in the past, it was mostly ignored or silenced. Thus, she believes, we expose crimes that were almost considered acceptable in the not so distant past.

It was true for the ancient Greeks, but it was not true for the Christians. Just read the Liber Gomorrhianustract denouncing pedophilia and other sexual sins written by Saint Peter Damian in 1051. Pedophilia has always been considered a sin by the Catholic Church, like all other forms of “disordered” sexual behavior.

Delsol seems to argue (but I may have misinterpreted it) that it is unfair to condemn past failures by contemporary moral standards.

There is some truth in this. For example, as a professional musician, I’m not going to refuse to listen to Wagner’s music because of its anti-Semitism (although Wagner would have been horrified by Auschwitz). But Wagner’s position deserves censure because it is always wrong to look down on someone for racial reasons.

Pedophilia has been condemned as an evil in the past. Not enough, alas; and therefore it is right and just for the Churches to investigate the behavior of their clergy and apologize to the victims (without a witch hunt).

I also disagree with Delsol on some points regarding abortion.

The widespread acceptance of abortion, even in the legal systems of most Western countries, denotes a major shift in social morality. But I am surprised by his argument that the United States is exceptional among Western countries in its respect for unborn life.

As readers of MercatorNet To know well, some States protect the unborn child, but deer vs. Wade and Casey vs. Planned parenthood established a so-called right to abortion and made possible the extermination of millions of children. Moreover, in some “pro-choice” states, abortion can be performed until the fetus is fully developed – which is just disguised infanticide.

More importantly, I disagree with Delsol when she argues that there is no point in championing the pro-life cause until Christian principles are more widely accepted. She writes that the struggles of Christians “have no chance of succeeding” without a prior spiritual revolution: “Convert people to Christianity, to the intrinsic dignity of each embryo, and you can abolish abortion”.

This is, in my view, a very disturbing position. In my opinion, the pro-life cause can, should and must be argued Human and scientist terms: today’s technologies fully demonstrate the humanity of the unborn baby. And unless society is ready to accept that each and any human life can be interrupted at will by another human being, she must accept that abortion is wrong.

On the other hand, I think that Delsol is right to call for a change of mentality in the Christian Churches. Instead of lamenting lost privileges and prestige, they should accept what is happening as a grace, allowing them to find a more humble way to witness to the gospel.

Perhaps his opinions are too strongly conditioned by his position – writing from old Europe and secularized France. Christianity is alive and well in many countries in Eastern Europe and in many countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

Who knows: maybe the end of Christianity is not as close as it seems.

Dr. Chiara Bertoglio is a musician and theologian moonlighting as a journalist. She writes from Turin in Italy. Visit her website at www.chiarabertoglio.com More by Chiara Bertoglio

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