Year

1988

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Department of History and Politics

Abstract

Secularized religion within the Christian tradition is a response to an holistic theological interpretation and to a perceived need to be socially significant. Although it tends to reflect social progress rather than promote social change, there have been instances of social responses and social change which were actually initiated by ministers within the New South Wales Methodist tradition who were committed to the presentation of secularized religion.

There is an increasing tendency to differentiate secularization from secularism. Historically, secularism denies belief in God and spiritual values, especially in relation to the Christian faith. Secularization, however, is a process which derives its meaning from the Latin, saecularis, meaning belonging to the particular time or age. It has come to denote involvement with 'this present age' or 'this world1, as opposed to the emphasis on a supernatural 'other world'. Although Warren Wagar acknowledged the potential of secularization to threaten religion, he also claimed that logically it can signify bringing religion itself into the world.

Religion which is intrinsically involved with the world qualifies as authentic secularized religion. Belief in the intrinsic involvement of religion with the world has its basis in an holistic theological interpretation which views God as immanent in the whole of creation, totally involved in every aspect of the human situation, and supremely incarnate in Jesus who ministered compassionately to the whole person. This interpretation contrasts with a dualist theological interpretation, generally associated with traditional Western theism, which emphasizes belief in a supernatural God, and can, though it need not, separate religion from involvement with the world.

Although most New South Wales Methodist ministries have been committed to the theology of traditional Western theism with a tendency towards dualism, there have been, within the Methodist tradition, examples of ministries which belong to the category of authentic secularized religion. They generally have accepted modern liberal views, and in several instances have been perceived as heretical. The exemplar for their secularized ministries has been the ministry of Jesus, which they interpreted as essentially the love and care for all humanity in its total need within this present world situation.

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