Jürgen Habermas is a key voice in social, political and cultural debate. Probably one of the most interesting ideas he has discussed in the more recent years, is that the secular west is developing a post-secular consciousness. Despite the predictions that accompanied the so called secularisation thesis, that science and human progress would cause the demise of a religious and spiritual consciousness in the west, the opposite is taking place. Although western society is still secular in its government, politics and social structures, it has not been possible to quiet the human spirit’s search for meaning. Christianity is still very much alive. Moreover, other world faiths like Islam, or other migrant Christian ethnic diaspora have brought the question of faith back to the table. Furthermore, late modern youth and young adults are showing signs of interest in the spiritual dimensions of life, although not in our churches but through popular TV programs as well as on the global web.
A key issue that Lesslie Newbigin raised, following David Polanyi, was the need for the west to return to God for the renewal of its powers. Modernity arose in the context of the Christian worldview and its sense of a world that was based on a discernible purpose. Having lost sight of God these benefits are threatened by postmodern relativism and a loss of meaning. This proved to be somewhat prophetic of Newbigin. As mentioned, late modern youth and young adults (known as Gen Y and Z) are open to explore what seem to be genuine spiritual and non-spiritual experiences (‘experiences’ is the operative terminology here). And this is where we need to ask ourselves, how can Christians meaningfully interact with them in light of their questing?
In research for a book to be published soon, ‘Missional Discipleship After Christendom,’ it has been exciting to identify some of the ways that these generations are being successfully engaged. One way is through worship events, such as through Hillsong. Worship music, and the experience of events like this, connect Gen Y’s and Z’s desire to experience their beliefs as part of large groups that share in the common desire to feel a passion for life and God together. Another interesting outcome from some of the key market research into Gen Z (those born 1995 – 2008), is that they are much more interested in volunteering and caring for others and the world they inhabit compared to Gen Y. They seek to align their passion for the world with those who share it and can provide them a chance to significantly contribute in an activist manner to improve their society. Newbigin called the church to follow the guidance of the sovereign Spirit of God, to participate in what he is doing ahead of the church in broader society. Might there be evidence of the stirrings of the Spirit in this new spiritual questing, which Habermas has termed post-secular consciousness?
Undergraduate Programme Director