In today’s installment of the New York Times‘ philosophy column, written this time by the chair of Harvard University’s philosophy department, we learn that most Christians are engaged in what the professor calls a “happy suburban religious pursuit.” We may find genuine happiness and fulfillment in doing so, by all means. But according to the professor, this religious pursuit comes through
self-deception at best and fanaticism at worst. For it stands in constant tension with the demand in the culture to recognize that those who don’t share your religious commitments might nevertheless be living admirable lives. There is therefore a kind of happiness in a suburban life like this. But its continuation depends upon deceiving oneself about the role that any kind of religious commitment can now play in grounding the meanings for a life.
We’re “self-deceived” because we apparently don’t know that following Jesus is necessarily in tension with our anything-goes culture. And we are “fanatical” because we believe that what God desires for us, God desires for everyone.
If he’s read the New Testament, Dr. Kelly should know that standing against culture—any culture—is the nature of what it means to “take up our cross” and follow Jesus. That’s been true from the beginning. There is a worm at the root of human nature, and this world—while essentially good (a word, by the way, which has no meaning apart from some commitment to an absolute)—is waiting to be re-created and renewed by God. We Christians have a role to play now in this renewal and re-creation. If we’re living our lives properly, there’s no way we won’t be in tension with culture.
As for being “fanatical,” if that’s how he wants to define it, guilty as charged.