"The World and the Prophets:

A Religious Response to Secularism "

James E. Faulconer

SquareTwo, Vol. 2 No. 1 (Spring 2009)





Note: The author holds the Richard L. Evans Chair of Religious Understanding at Brigham Young University. This work was originally presented at Utah Valley University as part of a conference, “The Concept of Secularism,” 3 February 2009.

            Hearing my title, Mormon listeners are likely to recognize that it repeats the title of a popular book from 1954 by Hugh Nibley, The World and the Prophets. [1] Nibley argued that the world can only understand the prophets on the prophets’ terms, not on the terms of the world. Though I do not here share Nibley’s apologetic and evangelizing purposes, I want to make a related argument: we are shortchanged if secularism is not augmented by the “prophets,” by those through whom at least the sacred, if not also the holy [2], is revealed, but secularism cannot understand the prophets. Prophets are prior, but it does not follow that secularism is undesirable. Indeed, without secularism the prophets cannot be assured of either the right to reveal or the place from which they can reveal what is sacred.

            To make that argument let me first give some attention to what we mean by “secularism,” a word used in several ways. As I understand “secular,” a secular state is one in which the institutions of government are independent from the institutions of religion, and secularism is the belief that the best forms of government are secular. Secularism is what the French call laïcité and Americans call “separation of church and state.” Obviously, as I understand the term “secularism” it is not a term of opprobrium. We live in a secular society and ought to be very happy to do so.

            Etymologically, the word “secular” refers to the laity rather than the clergy, to that which belongs to and in the world rather than to and in the monastery, the saecularis. But the idea of the secular is much older even than the medieval Catholic Church. We find its beginnings in ancient Israel, which had both a king and a prophet. We find it implicit in Jesus’ command, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” [3] Secularism was given us by religion. Understood in that way, the religious response to secularism ought to be a glad “Welcome!” As the history of democracy has shown, religious freedom is only really possible in a secular state. There is nothing like an exposure to a little late medieval history, say Barbara Tuchman’s A Distant Mirror [4], to convince a person of the horrors that can be wrought under nonsecular governments. [5] Indeed, the myth of the American founding has at its heart that our earliest European settlers were seeking religious freedom, freedom from the oppression of nonsecular governments.

            But, of course, there is another, newer understanding of secularism, one that has both proponents and enemies and that often gets the spotlight (either as hero or villain) in today’s story of who we are and where we are headed. This newer understanding of secularism says that religion is inherently divisive and anti-democratic and, so, ought to be banished from the state except insofar as it remains a merely private matter. For those who understand secularism this way, individual conscience ought not to be trampled on, so of course a person may believe privately whatever she wishes, but her beliefs ought to have no relevance outside the sphere of her personal life. Often this kind of secularism is a result of taking religion to be essentially fideistic, assuming that reason and faith are mutually exclusive, an assumption found both among the religious and the irreligious. For example, Simon Blackburn makes this assumption when he tells us that religious faith amounts to nothing but “arbitrary stabs of confidence in things for which there is no evidence.” [6] For Blackburn—and, ironically, for many who are religious—there is little or no difference between faith and superstition. Each believes without external evidence.

            It is not unusual to anachronistically read fideism, the belief that religious experience is essentially nonrational and, therefore, cannot be explained, back into the history of philosophy, finding it for example in Tertullian’s response to Marcion, “It is to be believed because it is absurd.” [7] In spite of that, the actual history of fideism is much shorter. Perhaps it began in full force in the fifteenth century; perhaps it began as late as the nineteenth. In any case, fideism is the direct descendant of the thirteenth- and fourteenth-century thought of people like John Duns Scotus and William of Ockham, whose thinking eventually fell victim to unintended consequences.

            In order to differentiate fully the human from the divine, these late medieval philosophers attributed unrestricted power to God and thereby weakened the intelligibility of the Creator, though of course that was not what they intended, nor did they even see that consequence during their own life times. [8] However, once the Creator was no longer thought to be intelligible, the only possible relation to him was an unmediated, personal one: pure relation apart from reason. And, after the loss of the intelligibility of the Creator, we lost also the meaningfulness of the universe. If the Creator is no longer intelligible, then neither is his Creation intelligible as creation, and at least at first there was no other way to understand it. As William J. Bousma says, “Alone in an ultimately unintelligible universe [. . .] man could no longer count on the mediation either of reason or of other men in closer contact with the divine than himself.” [9] The only options left were meaninglessness or meaning given in inner experience apart from reason.

            The appeal of fideism grew as the understanding of human existence changed, as we moved to a world constituted by subjects and objects. That view of the world has become “common sense” among us, so let me briefly argue that there is more to the world than thinking in terms of subjects and objects will allow. Start with the word “object.” An object is something present before a subject, apprehended by a subject. “Object” and “thing” do not mean the same thing here, though the two are often used as synonyms in ordinary language. So, not all things are objects. In contrast, a subject is an apprehending consciousness. Subjects and objects are necessarily related to one another: to be a subject is to have one’s consciousness directed at an object; to be an object is to be the object of some consciousness. Objectivity is the knowledge of objects. Presumably—but not necessarily—the objects of consciousness closely represent the things that we encounter when we apprehend them as objects, but objectivity is the knowledge of the objects of consciousness rather than of those things themselves.

            Objectivity, an invention of the modern age, was a great boon to the development of science. Modernism has given us much by asking what we discover when we turn consciousness toward the world, making things present to us and investigating them. Without that turn, without objectivity, we would continue not to understand that which the sciences so spectacularly open for us, and we would not benefit from the technologies that have come to us with the growth of science. Objectivity has saved countless lives and made daily life immeasurably better. Only a demented person would reject objectivity wholesale. We must take it seriously. Nevertheless, objectivity leaves something out, and that omission is problematic.

            In objectivity the world of our objects, the living and lived world in which those objects appear, disappears—except when it becomes one more object of our investigation appearing against the backdrop of its own invisible world. If we think of the world as context (though it is much more than that), we can understand why this is a problem: When I try to look at the context of something that I have taken as an object of my consciousness, the context itself becomes an object, and as an object it appears within some temporal-spatial context that is not itself an object of my consciousness. If I try to look at that context, it appears within still another context that is not my object. And so on ad infinitum. The world within which an object appears cannot be known as an object—but it does not follow that it cannot be known at all.

            Nevertheless, as noted, the subject-object relation is a particular and important way in which we are, one way of being among other ways. When René Descartes says “I think, therefore I am,” he speaks truly. But at the same time he overlooks what makes possible the first part of that claim, “I think.” Descartes finds his being in thought, in the subject that directs itself toward objects, in the first place himself as an object. As I said, he is right: the being of the ego, the “I” that says “I think” is the being of thought. But Descartes neglects to consider that his conscious directedness toward himself occurs within a material, social, linguistic world without which he could not say “I think,” and could not direct his thought toward itself, and without which his consciousness would be meaningless. He at least overlooks that he cannot have an experience of thinking that is not an experience of embodied thinking. As is true for everyone, Descartes’s being in the world precedes and makes possible his being as a conscious subject. Though the world itself is not something that we can observe as an object, we are always part of it. It creates the conditions that make our observations possible. We are, therefore, in the world, not apart from it. It is not an object of our experience, but the ground for our experience.

            This problem is further complicated by the fact that the world which precedes consciousness, with its interests and projects and values, does not—cannot—appear as one of the objects present to Descartes’s thinking thing. In principle such things as value that transcends the values of the individual, such things as transcendent value, cannot be objects of conscious investigation for a Cartesian subject. That, however, leaves such a subject in difficulty. That value had previously been understood to be given by God and, therefore, to be had by an understanding of God. Nietzsche is right: prior to the modern period, the world had meaning and value because it was the creation of God. Medieval philosophy had various ways of understanding what it meant to speak of God’s creation of the world, but none of them did so by making God’s realm and the realm of nature two distinct metaphysical orders, as came to be true in modernism. [10] With modernism, however, God became irrelevant to understanding the world because that world exists in a metaphysically separate realm. On the modern view, the natural and the supernatural are distinct, so we can investigate the natural without recourse to the supernatural. To use Nietzsche’s term, God died.

When the subject-object relation became the way of understanding human existence, God disappeared from our apprehension and understanding, except in internal experience: He could not be an object of consciousness, like a rock or tree. In other words, he could not be known objectively. The only other possibility, however, given the understanding of knowledge as objectivity, was that he could be known subjectively, as an affect of the subject. In other words, given the assumption that knowledge is either subjective or objective—an assumption made only because it was already also assumed that human existence is best understood in terms of the subject-object relation—that meant that, if God could be known, he could be known only subjectively, as inner experience. In other words, fideism follows once the metaphysical priority of the subject-object relation is assumed.

            But the death of God was not merely the impossibility any longer of making rational or communal sense of God’s existence. With the death of God and the retreat of believers to fideism came also the death of meaning. For if the only meanings possible are found in the subject and the effects of the subject (as is ultimately the case in modernism [11]), then in one way or another meaning and value are ultimately subjective. In spite of Kant’s valiant attempt to save morality, history shows that meaning and morality cannot be both subjective and universal. [12] Since morality cannot be subjective and universal (and the latter is understood to be inextricably linked to objectivity), and it cannot be objective, then it must be merely subjective or at best intersubjective—given the way that modernism understands the world. Some form or another of nihilism is the legitimate offspring of modernist thought. Modernism gives us the choice of fideism or nihilism, and it gives us no possibility of another alternative.

            Prior to Scotus and Ockham there were other options than subject-object epistemology for understanding the human relation to God, options that do not understand all things in turns of subject and objects and so devolve, at best, into the alternative of fideism and nihilism. However, those other options all include creation ex nihilo, which is unlikely to be philosophically acceptable in the wake of modernism. Theologians may continue to assume creation ex nihilo, but to ask most contemporary thinkers to understand human being from a position that begins with that assumption is to doom oneself to failure. More acceptable, perhaps, is the understanding of human being that begins in the work of the early twentieth-century German philosopher, Martin Heidegger.

            Heidegger makes the point that we made earlier when speaking of Descartes: our being in the world precedes and makes possible our being as a conscious subject. Though Heidegger seems almost incapable of writing sentences that one can read easily (sentences made even worse by some translators), his beginning point is straightforward [13]: If I reflect carefully on human being, I see that understanding is not first of all a process of cognition. Rather, before we understand cognitively, we understand our “place” in the world in terms of projects: I know what I can do in these circumstances with my present goals. I understand the world in terms of possibilities. Among those possibilities is reflection on what I can do. I can “interpret,” to use Heidegger’s term. Understanding and reflexive understanding, or interpretation, have a variety of modes, but that does not concern us here. The point is simply that we are understanding beings before we are interpretive ones. Because the relation of a conscious subject to its object is an interpretive relation and because that interpretive relation presupposes what Heidegger calls “being-in-the-world,” an understanding, engaged living among things and with other people, Heidegger turns the modern view on its head.

            Interpretation is the way we appropriate our understanding: we work out the possibilities that we discover in our understanding through interpretation. Interpretation is how we see something as the thing that it is. Using Heidegger’s most famous example, were I a carpenter in my shop, I would first of all understand the hammer by the way in which it is part of a totality of equipment and practices and projects. Then, as I entered into some particular task that required nailing, I would understand the hammer by picking it up and using it, which I could do while I was talking with a friend or looking at the head of the nail explicitly conscious of it, or perhaps both. I need not take the hammer as an explicit object of consciousness to understand it. Indeed, Heidegger argues that I cannot take anything as an object of consciousness unless I already understand it as something within the world. As I use the hammer, it is not merely one piece of equipment in a totality, but it is nevertheless defined by its use as equipment. In using the hammer, I understand it as a hammer. I interpret it, though I probably do so without ever representing it to myself, without ever making it the object of my consciousness. I do not need to have a conscious image in my mind of a hammer. I do not need to say “hammer” to myself in order to nail things.

            Of course, I could speak about the hammer. Perhaps the hammer breaks and I look about trying to find something else that I can use as a hammer, saying “Hand me that pipe.” Perhaps I cannot use the hammer as I wish and I say, “This hammer is too heavy. I need the other one.” My first assertions about the world are assertions about the relations of things to each other in my projects. And each of these assertions involves some interruption within the project, some hesitation that requires me to interpret the things that are at hand in terms of the project in which I am involved. Of course my assertions could go further. I could say, “Hammers have the property of heaviness.” But to do that would require that I step back even further from the project in which I was engaged. Beware should your carpenter begin to speak that way while at work. He is unlikely to produce good cabinets. Theoretical reflection comes after practical understanding, and it requires a disruption of some kind in practical understanding, even if only the disruption of stepping away from the practice in question.

            You are probably of course saying, “Of course. Who would think otherwise?” And the answer would be, “Western philosophy has thought otherwise for the last five hundred years, and, under its spell, you think otherwise if you are asked without being prepared for the question.” Heidegger himself would probably have thought otherwise if he were caught off guard while adjusting the antenna for his television before the next soccer match or eyeing the pretty new graduate student from his morning lecture course. Interpretation is sufficiently important to the way we live in the world, that it is easy for us mistakenly to believe that it is the fundamental way in which we understand the world. By definition, interpretation is certainly the first way we encounter things explicitly, consciously. That is what makes the mistake of thinking that it is the fundamental mode of our relation to the world so easy. Once we have made that mistake, it is not difficult for us to assume that we are, first of all, consciousness directed at an object of consciousness, rather than persons engaged in practical activities among things with other persons.

            The first step, then, in recuperating meaning and truth—and a workable relationship between the secular and the religious—is to recognize that as human beings we are first of all being-in-the-world rather than being-as-individual-consciousness. The next step is to recognize that being-in-the-world is always oriented, that it always has what Heidegger calls, perhaps somewhat misleadingly, mood. [14] I am in the world which I inhabit in a particular way. That way may be what we ordinarily think of as a mood: joy, grumpiness, anger, boredom, worry. Or it may be something less obviously a mood: perhaps I am intent on finishing on time, or concerned that I will be understood properly, or anticipating lunch. For Heidegger, these too are moods. They describe the way I have taken up the projects in which I am engaged. And we can understand mood even more broadly. Epoches, for example, can have a mood, a fundamental orientation toward the world that determines people’s experience of the world. The mood of our epoche is that of objectivity and science. The mood of the medieval period was religious, a fundamental understanding that the world is the creation of an absolute God. Hegel argued that the mood of Hellenism was an aesthetic one, though I am not sure I agree with him. We can argue about how to characterize the mood of an epoche, but I think it is difficult to argue that epoche’s do not have mood.

            Heidegger’s argument is that mood determines the way in which the world I inhabit will be disclosed. Perhaps ordinary moods best show what he means, though the argument applies also to the mood of an epoche: If I am grumpy, things show up before me differently than they do when I am joyous. Grumpy, I bump my leg on the table as I walk through the room, and I find it irritating and out of place. Joyous at seeing my beloved after a long absence, the same bump is at worst a minor distraction. I may not notice the table at all, in spite of the bump. The point is that our way of being in the world is not neutral. We can achieve certain kinds of neutrality. If we are doing science, for example, we ought to be neutral about the outcome of our experiments, ready to accept the results whether they are what we hoped for or not. Presumably we learn to be so. If we are serving on a jury, we ought to be neutral about the guilt of the accused until we have listened neutrally to the arguments of both the prosecution and the defense. But those kinds of neutrality are learned. They do not represent a natural state to which moods are then added. In fact, even such supposed neutrality of mood is itself a mood, an orientation of the person to the project at hand, a way of understanding the actions one is about and the expectations, practices and equipment that are part of that action. We cannot be without mood.

            Similarly, though the point is not Heidegger’s and religion is not simply a mood [15], religion is a way of being-in-the-world. It is being-in-the-world “toward God.” Like mood, faith puts the believer in the world differently, revealing both the things in the world and the world as a whole differently. When, in Mormon scripture, Alma says “All things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator" [16], he is not making what has come to be called the cosmological argument. Rather, he is telling us what the believer sees, how the world reveals itself to one who lives before God. [17] Religion is transformative: the world that the believer experiences is not the same as the world of the secularist. Of course, it does not contain any object that we will not find in the secularist’s world. Alma and the twentieth-century scientist see the same rocks, trees, and squirrels. But to see those things as gifts of God’s grace that entail our responsibility is to see different objects than the scientist sees. It is to see objects that the scientist, qua scientist, cannot see. Objectivity cannot see the world of the believer, much less explain it, yet the believer’s world is not reducible to something merely subjective for religion is not merely subjective.

            Perhaps the best evidence that religion is not merely subjective is that it so often occurs in a social context. Religion is not merely private experience. It is, instead, something that happens in a space of common experience. Christians recognize this when they pray “our Father” rather than “my Father”: we do not pray alone. [18] One of the conundra of philosophy has been how we know other persons. Heidegger’s answer is that we know them from the beginning: being-with-other-persons (Mitsein) is part of being-in-the-world. We do not come to the conclusion that we know others, we know them from the beginning. The world in which we live is a shared world. We do not begin as subjects and then come to the concluson that we share a world. Rather, we begin in a shared world and then become subjects. Sharing the world is part of the ground for the possibility of subjectivity. Language is one of the best examples of this share, for we do not invent it or discover it. It is ours because we share our world. The question “How do I know that there are other persons in the world?” therefore is a false question. Of course, that does not mean that we cannot take the other person as an object. We often do, and there is not necessarily any harm or immorality in doing so. We want our doctor to look at us objectively. There is nothing wrong with seeing the person walking down the other side of street as an object in one’s line of vision. Objectivity of both things and persons is possible and often desirable, but it is only possible on the basis of a prior being-with that is not objective. I am sure that there are other experiences of our original being-with-others, but one of the most obvious is religious experience, particularly the experience of liturgy, ordinance, and rite, the experience of formal worship in a congregation.

            In religious rite, we experience our own being as something other than a subject, and we experience the being of others as something other than an object. [19] In such experiences, others are neither instruments for our use, nor objects for our interpretation, and we are not observers directing our knowing gaze at them. Indeed, were we to take our relation to them to be one of subject and object or even worker and instrument, we would have removed ourselves at least temporarily from participation in the rite, whatever the objective movement of our bodies and tongues. We would no longer share the world of those participating because we would be sociological observers or appreciative aesthetes or engaged artisans rather than communicants. We would not be among those who form the community of believers by our action together. In religious worship, I do not perform a work, the work of directing of my consciousness. Instead, I am directed consciously and otherwise by words and things. Raiment, hymns, icons, pictures, symbols direct my consciousness. Taking part in worship, I am an actor in a drama whose meaning is only found in the drama as a whole, and those with whom I worship are actors in the same drama, a drama with no audience but God.

            If Emmanuel Levinas is right that the other person is the origin of ethics, then in our being-with-others in religious worship we encounter that origin. We encounter another person, someone who cannot be reduced to us and, therefore, is wholly other than us. We encounter the what Rudolf Otto calls “the holy.” But we encounter that person as with us before God rather than as standing over against us as an object. We encounter the other person as one with whom we are joined in service, as one whose consciousness is also directed by the symbolic order in which he or she takes part.

            In the preface to Totality and Infinity, Levinas argues that if Hobbes, whom Levinas does not name, but whose presence cannot be avoided in the book, is right about human relationship (namely, that it is, first of all, total war) then we are duped by morality. [20] If our relation is a war of all against all, then morality is nothing but a means for keeping strife at a minimum. It is not that which makes us better people or points the way toward what is good. The war between anti-religious secularism and religion shows us one version of the Hobbesian way of understanding human being. With Hobbes in the back of their minds, when anti-religious secularists encounter at least one religion that does not seek to overcome, a religion that understands the world in terms other than those of battle and power and, therefore, winning, they cannot understand religion as anything but irrationality. However, in religious worship, the worshiper finds himself in relations with other people that cannot be understood in terms of war, that can only be understood in terms of the holy, in terms of what is shared. Of course, that is not to say that religious people have not failed to understand and live the deep contradiction between the relations that religion creates and war upon those inside the religious community, as well as outside. It is to say that those who have not understood that contradiction have denied what is basic to the Abrahamic religions and particularly to Christianity.

            Finding myself worshiping with others, if I am in some sense at war with another communicant, then I must either overcome or bracket that estrangement or I will not really be a communicant. Being-with others in religious communion is not pure peace, but it is at least the affective desire for peace, a yearning and first taste of it. Christian theologians say that the peace of worship is eschatological, anticipating the pure peace of Christ. And, though the religious experience of anticipated peace cannot be given an objective content, it transcends the merely subjective and, therefore, has evidence that it is other than irrational or merely private. With others in worship, I am no longer alone, confined to my subjectivity; no longer alone, I have assurance of my experience. Worship gives me a ground, a reason, for what might otherwise seem like it is merely private. [21] Outside of worship, we can speak of it and understand it. We are saved from fideism by our worship together, by our joint experience of the sacred and the holy.

            Objective analysis will find it tempting to reduce this experience of being-with-others in worship to the consequence of a certain number of people being gathered together at the same place and time, or merely to the perception that I am with others. [22] But that analysis does not reach the experience itself. It merely describes what an observer sees. Part and parcel of the experience of worship is the peace with others I have just mentioned: reconciliation is our mutually felt goal if not yet our achieved reality. And that goal is part of worship whether or not we know the people with whom we worship, however many their number, and it is only possible because I do not perceive them as objects in my gaze. The desire for peace that comes in worship is not created by our personal good feelings for the other communicants. Religious experience opens us to the possibility of relations with others that do not amount to war by other means, to relations that are ethical yet irreducible to subjective values and emotions. Religious experience is the experience of the hope for future peace rather than an affirmation of present perfection.

            This ethical character of religious experience makes prophecy (with a lower case “p”) possible. If we take the word at its face value, in terms of its etymological roots, prophecy is not the foretelling of the future, it is speaking forth: pro-phasis. Those who have experienced the peace of worship can testify of its reality, and anyone who does so, who speaks forth, testifying that we must direct ourselves toward reconciliation and peace is a prophet. That person testifies of the truth of something that cannot be known objectively but—like other phenomena, such as the world of work or the presence of another human being—is nonetheless known. The prophet testifies of what transcends the objective in this world. The prophet testifies of an immanent transcendent, of holiness in this world rather than of it, transcendence that makes possible something other than nihilism and subjectivism.

            The prophet testifies of truth, and that truth that there is something intelligible which cannot be reduced to either subjectivity or objectivity, the truth of our being-with others before God in eschatological peace, can serve as a call to correction in the civil order. Abolitionists, women’s suffragettes, and leaders of the civil rights movements, they and many others, all have been prophets calling those in the civil sphere to live differently, to repent. Without them our secular institutions would have foundered in injustice. With them, we have had a clearer vision of what justice—mishpat in the Old Testament, dikaiosunë in the New—requires of us.

            Secularism needs prophets if its institutions are to survive as just. [23] As I argued earlier, a secular society with no resources outside itself, with no access to holiness and truth, is doomed to nihilism and subjectivity. However, though secular society needs prophets, it can neither expect nor allow its prophets to make the corrections for which they call. Presumably a plurality of prophets from a plurality of religions will make it more likely that the repentance preached will genuinely direct us toward justice for all. Secularism entails not only that the institutions of religion are not comingled with the institutions of government, but also that there is freedom of religion, that no religion receives preference above another in speaking the truth. There cannot be a plurality of prophets and a plurality of religions except in a secular society, and a secular society needs that plurality.

            The world needs the prophets in order to have justice. The prophets need the world in order to avoid injustice. A secularism, therefore, which reduces religion to what is merely private and assumes it to be irrational courts injustice. But the solution to that possible injustice is not the replacement of secular society by a religion or a coalition of religions. The solution is to injustice is genuine freedom of religion in a secular state.



[1] Salt Lake City: Deseret, 1954. [Back to manuscript]

[2] Durkheim defines the sacred as that which is set apart or forbidden. The word “sacred” comes from the Latin sanctum, meaning the precincts of the temple. At least in the case of the Jewish temple and also in other cases, the temple precincts or parts of them were prohibited to certain people. The sacred contrasts with the profane, etymologically what is outside the temple. They come from different time periods, but profanum and saeculum have essentially the same meaning. In contrast with the sacred, Rudolf Otto defines the holy as what is wholly other: the God of the religions of the Book. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word “holy” comes from the Old English holegn, a holly bush (sacred to the Celts). Over time, it became conflated with hälig, meaning “wholeness, health.” The German word for holy, heilig is obviously a descendent of hälig, with no connection to the holly bush. [Back to manuscript]

[3] Mark 22:21; Matthew 22:21; Luke 20:25. [Back to manuscript]

[4] Barbara Tuchman, A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century (New York: Ballantine, 1978). [Back to manuscript]

[5] See also Charles Taylor, “A Catholic Modernity,” in James L. Heft, ed., A Catholic Modernity: Charles Taylor’s Marianist Award Lecture (Oxford: Oxford, 1999) 13-37, particularly 17-19. [Back to manuscript]

[6] Simon Blackburn, “Truth’s Caper,” a review of Alan Sokal’s Beyond the Hoax: Science, Philosophy and Culture, in The New Republic Online http://www.powells.com/review/2008_08_14.html (viewed: 17 August 2008). [Back to manuscript]

[7] Tertullian. “On Prescription Against Heretics” and “On the Flesh of Christ,” translated by Peter Holmes, in Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson (eds.), The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. III (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1989) 525. [Back to manuscript]

[8] Louis Dupré, Passage to Modernity: An Essay in the Hermeneutics of Nature and Culture (New Haven: Yale, 1993) 175. [Back to manuscript]

[9] William J. Bousma, “Renaissance and Reformation,” in Luther and the Dawn of the Modern Era, edited by Heiko A. Oberman (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1974) 136. Quoted in Dupré, Passage 174. [Back to manuscript]

[10] Dupré, Passage 167-74. [Back to manuscript]

[11] Recall that the object is not the thing in the world which the subject understands. It is the subject’s  apprehension of that thing. Objectivity is a methodical way of dealing with the apprehensions of subjects, which means that it is ultimately a form of subjectivity. [Back to manuscript]

[12] For an excellent investigation of this claim and its implications, see Alisdair MacIntyre, After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory, 3rd ed.(Notre Dame: Notre Dame U, 2007 (1981, 1984). [Back to manuscript]

[13] See sections 31-33 of Martin Heidegger, Gesamtausgabe 1. Abteilung: Veröffentlichte Schriften 1914-1970, vol. 2, Sein und Zeit, edited by Friedrich-Wilhelm von Herrmann (Frankfurt a.M.: Klostermann, 1977 (1926, 1976)) for the source of what follows. English translation: Being and Time, translated by John Macquarrie & Edward Robinson (San Francisco: Harper, 1962). [Back to manuscript]

[14] SeeSein und Zeit, §29. [Back to manuscript]

[15] Which does not mean, of course, that a person’s or a culture’s or an epoche’s mood cannot be religious. [Back to manuscript]

[16] Alma 30:44. [Back to manuscript]

[17] He speaks, after all, not to just anyone, but to someone who was also a believer. See verse 52. [Back to manuscript]

[18] Jean-Louis Chrétien, “The Wounded Word,” in Dominique Janicaud, Jean-François Courtine, Jean-Louis Chrétien, Jean-Luc Marion, Michel Henry, and Paul Ricoeur, Phenomenology & the “Theological Turn”: The French Debate, translated by Bernard G. Prusak, Jeffrey L. Kosky, and Thomas A. Carlson (New York: Fordham U, 2000) 147-175. See 155 in particular. [Back to manuscript]

[19] What follows relies on the analysis of Jean-Yves Lacoste, “Liturgy and Coaffection,” in Kevin Hart, ed., Experience of God: A Postmodern Response (New York: Fordham U, 2005), 93-103; and Experience and the Absolute: Disputed Questions on the Humanity of Man, translated by Mark Raftery-Skehan (New York: Fordham U, 2004). [Back to manuscript]

[20] Immanuel Levinas,Totalitè et infini, essai sur l’extériorité (The Hague: Nijhoff, 1961) ix. English translation: Totality and Infinity: An Essay on Exteriority, translated by Alphonso Lingis (Pittsburgh: Duquesne, 1969) 21. Levinas has in mind Hobbes’s claim that in the state of nature human relation “is called ‘war’; and such a war as is of every man against every man” (Leviathan, chapter 13). [Back to manuscript]

[21] In religion experience that might otherwise seem merely idiosyncratic, a psychological aberration, encounters that which gives substance to our experience as something shared, as something that transcends my individuality. [Back to manuscript]

[22] Lacoste, “Liturgy & Coaffection” 100. [Back to manuscript]

[23] In the sense in which I use the word here, perhaps not all prophets are religious prophets. I am not arguing that only religion can provide the truth that secularism needs. I am arguing that it has been and continues to be an important source of truth. [Back to manuscript]


Full Citation for This Article: Faulconer, James E. (2009) "The World and the Prophets: A Religious Response to Secularism," SquareTwo, Vol. 2 No. 1 (Spring), http://squaretwo.org/Sq2ArticleFaulconerSecularism.html, accessed [give access date].

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