Listen: Nick Spencer in conversation with Stephen O’Doherty
The Enlightenment, also known as the Age of reason, is a period in 16th and 17th century Europe which saw great progress in science and philosophy.
The Enlightenment and Scientific Revolution are widely thought of as eras when reason and secularism came to the fore at the expense of spirituality and Christian religion, but is that really the case?
Nicholas Spencer, Research Director of ecumenical UK think tank, Theos, was recently in Australia to deliver the annual Richard Johnson for the Centre for Public Christianity.
Spencer’s topic was ‘Where did I come from? Christianity, Secularism, and the Individual’. He agrees there were undoubted achievements in philosophy and science during the Enlightenment. However, he argues that the basic ideas of Western society like the separation of church and state, the rule of law, tolerance and respect for humanity come from Christianity and the Bible.
He points out the progress of the enlightenment and advance of science which led to the industrial revolution and society today was not a neat series of events or discoveries but was a bit like a jigsaw of ideas.
He says it is important for Christians to be realistic and to recognise the failures of religion as well as success. When arguing issues of secularism and religion he urges people to educate themselves about Christian apologetics. He says the progress of ideas was not straightforward and that many of the factors leading to the enlightenment actually came from Christianity.
He urges people to and get their “ducks in a row’ so they can present a well-organised argument to people who think everything good is due to the power of secularism.