Why Western Intellectuals Are Dreaming Christian Dreams by JUSTIN BASS for The Gospel Coalition
As Christian belief continues to fade across Europe and America, many leading thinkers in the West are still dreaming Christian dreams. Why?
French philosopher Luc Ferry wrote an excellent book in 2011 called A Brief History of Thought. He divides the history of thought into three stages: Greek philosophy, Christianity, and secular humanism. Even though Ferry is an atheist and ends his book with a tepid endorsement of secular humanism, he’s clearly in awe of Christianity and its promises. He wishes Christianity were true:
If the promises made to me by Christ are genuine; and if divine providence takes me in hand as an individual, however humble, then my immortality will also, in turn, be personal. In which case, death itself is finally overcome, and not merely the fears it arouses in me. . . . I find the Christian proposition infinitely more tempting—except for the fact that I do not believe in it. But were it to be true I would certainly be a taker.
Ferry is an intellectual heir of the Enlightenment. Like a cut flower, French and European culture in general has been severed from its Christian roots for centuries. Ferry engaged with the glorious claims of Christ and the great thinkers of the Christian tradition—from Augustine to Aquinas to Roger Scruton—not in church, but in his specialized university studies. He discusses Christianity in A Brief History of Thought as if he’s rediscovered something long lost, a treasure hidden deep in the soil of Europe, and unimaginable promises that seem simply too good to be true. Ferry isn’t alone.
A rediscovery of the Christian roots of the West has, since 9/11, led numerous intellectuals from a wide range of disciplines to turn to Christianity for the fulfillment of their hopes and dreams. In most cases, their return to Christianity was not during Sunday school or inside a church; it was the result of rigorous research and immersion in the art, music, literature, and history of Western culture.