A Secular Age, Chapter 1, Section 5

Secular Age

numbers indicate paras

  1. (Pg. 54). Phase four: Time. Time works differently in the medieval world of hills and valley, kairos ‘fullness’ and parousia. But in the modern world it is homogenous and empty.
  2. In the modern world, we do have moments we believe to be ‘kairotic’ and historically significant. We see these in social revolutions and nationalist history-tellings, but in the modern world these moments well up from within nature and the world; we create them by ourselves. In the pre-modern world, kairotic moments were intrusions of a heavenly and transcendent order into our world.
  3. One way to say this is that the pre-modern world’s kairotic moments were regarded as intrusions of eternity.
  4. These eternal moments helped to reorder how we understood ordinary (secular) time.
  5. Another use of secular is to distinguish ordinary time from eternal time; this is a more Christian and historical use of the term.
  6. (pg. 55) Thus, even pre-moderns had a kind of ‘secular’ in their social conditions.
  7. Secular is, to us, ordinary time. Not kairos, but chronos.
  8. Higher times re-order secular time, by introducing “warps” in time. Think of the types and shadows of the Old Testament that are “fulfilled” in Christ.
  9. Taylor says that in view of these warps, in some sense Good Friday in 1998 stands closer to the ordinary day of Crucifixion than mid-summer’s day in 1997.
  10. Why are higher times higher? For medieval Europe, inheriting its concepts of time from Plato, it’s because they are outside of time.
  11. For Aristotle, life is in change and in some state of imperfection moving towards its true nature.
  12. In this view, the universe is always changing with no beginning or end. But true eternity was beyond this and was fixed and unvaried.
  13. This eternal realm was called the realm of Ideas, and beneath them is our world where there are imperfect expressions of those Ideas.
  14. (pg. 56) What happens in time is less real than the timeless and eternal realm, and eventually circles back to repeat itself again.
  15. Christianity draws upon the notion of the eternal, but not in quite the same way as one finds in Platonism. This is because, in Christianity, events of history are of the utmost importance (creation, crucifixion, resurrection, etc).
  16. Rather than pagan cycles beneath an impassible disengaged eternity, Christianity speaks of eternity as a gathering up of time.
  17. Augustine teaches this view in Confessions XI, the past shapes the present as the present looks to and works to bring about the future.
  18. This knits actions together into one, past, present, and future.
  19. There is a simultaneity of them all and what they constitute together, but they also must happen in the correct order to make sense to the other. Thus time is not a destroyer of the past, but lays out the order for how it is all gathered together in the present.
  20. (pg. 57) The order (of time) is not wasted, it is of the essence, like a conversation.
  21. This is how eternal God relates to time, present to all of it instantaneously.
  22. So participating in eternity is participating in God’s instant.
  23. In ordinary secular time, Augustine says, we feel cut off and dislocated, and so we have a craving for eternity.
  24. The Middle Ages had both platos’ concept of eternity and Augustine’s.
  25. There is a third kind of eternity, which comes from Eliade, a “time of origins.” It is a folk tradition.
  26. In this view there was a Great Time of great men in a great world, but this great time is lost to us now, and we live in a smaller, secular, weaker time. The Great Time is our example, but it is irretrievable.
  27. (pg. 58) These concepts of time shaped medieval thought. It produces the concept of horizontal secular time, vertical eternal time, and warps that connected the present to significant moments in time.
  28. Even the three kinds of eternity (Plato, Time of Origins, Augustinian) could blend together well in medieval thought.
  29. And the church experiences the ‘warps’ of time, by re-enacting Christ’s life on earth, every year, through the church calendar.
  30. These warps colored secular time, so that even it was not “homogeneous” and meaningless (as some have called modern time).
  31. Though such a description of modern/secular time as “meaningless,” probably is mistaken, time bears relevance to other things.
  32. However, in the modern world the entire cosmos, time and space, are homogeneous and empty.
  33. This differs from secular time in the medieval world which had significance because it stood in relation to eternity, and could be evaluated based on whether it was drawing closer to God, or falling away from him.
  34. There are still forms of “narrativity” and significance in modern history/time, but they but relative to the medieval world, our sense of time is “homogeneous and indifferent to content.”
  35. (pg. 59) This modern homogeneity of time is due to us only seeing the horizontal component of time. People may believe in God, but they don’t really believe in eternal time breaking into our world.
  36. The shift in understanding time is one major difference from the medieval world, we have it because of the growth of modern science and a 17th century mechanistic view of the universe.
  37. But even more than science, a number of other considerations have shaped modern secular time, like: the commodification of time in the secular calendar.

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