This is such a great overview of current modern Western culture with regard to morality and religion, how we arrived at this culture through liberal Protestantism and secular philosophy, and the need for a renewal of Christian ethics, devotion, and activism in the public sphere.
When Everything is Permitted
by Wolfhart Pannenberg
Copyright (c) 1998 First Things 80 (February 1998): 26-30.
It is a striking oddity of our modern circumstance that the subject of morality and ethics is assumed to be a matter of public significance, while the subject of God is thought to be an esoteric matter of interest to theologians and “people who go in for that sort of thing.” It was not always so, and it is very much worth asking how we arrived at this present circumstance, and what might be done about it.
Today’s public talk about moral values is usually framed in terms of a search for a moral consensus that is no longer self-evident-indeed that to many people is not evident at all. The search for a moral consensus based on a common human nature has, for some time now, replaced the social function of religious belief, which was long thought to be the indispensable foundation of social peace. For most of history, unity of religion was deemed essential to the unity of society and culture. That assumption was shattered in the religious wars in Europe of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. As a consequence of the wars of religion, precisely the opposite conclusion was drawn: Social peace requires that religious beliefs, and disagreements over religious beliefs, be determinedly disregarded. Although established religion continued for some time in most of Europe, religion no longer served its earlier function. In the place of religion, concepts of human nature became fundamental in theories of society and public culture.