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Praise of the Secular

Gabriel Vahanian
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BUY Cloth · 176 pp. · 6 × 9 · ISBN 9780813927015 · $38.50 · Apr 2008

Conservative religious figures routinely warn against the dangers of secularization, just as proponents of the modern secular state decry the theocratic tendencies of religion. Both sides assume that the sacred and the secular are diametrically opposed. Gabriel Vahanian rightly calls such misbegotten assumptions into question. The problem lies elsewhere. In the light of the biblical dialectic of holiness and the secular, Praise of the Secular deftly "vindicates" the secular, weaving together philosophy, history, and theology in fine Derridean, yet reinforced, deconstructionist fashion.

Vahanian argues that religion, far from being opposed to the secular, finds its fulfillment in the secular world. Armed with a compelling interpretation of Christ's incarnation, he claims that "we have not grasped John's notion of the word become flesh, even of God as wording, until or unless we realize it must so expand as to demand the worlding of that very word, extending it into secular relevance." In other words the holy, if not the sacred, demands its own secularization.

In this poetically written and profoundly life-affirming work, Vahanian reinvigorates the secular against the claims of fundamentalism, which makes the relative absolute, and against the ideology of a kind of atheism ("secularism" is his term), which makes the absolute relative.

Reviews:


The quality of mind which enters this book is unique and fascinating....Vahanian...is a fierce but eloquent prophet of the Lord, and, with his sense of high drama, worth the watching and the hearing.

New York Times Book Review

Sharp, jolting...marked by responsibility and clarity...this volume is penetrating, fog-eradicating, astringent. And its level of thought insures us, too, that whatever construction is offered will not be anlgesic in intent or papier-mâché in substance.

Christian Scholar

About the Author(s): 

One of the original Death-of-God theologians, Gabriel Vahanian established his international reputation as a theologian of culture with such early books as The Death of God: The Culture of Our Post-Christian Era, Wait without Idols, and No Other God. In the four decades since the advent of the Death-of-God movement, he has continued writing, lecturing, and publishing such books as God and Utopia, Anonymous God: An Essay on Not Dreading Words, and Tillich and the New Religious Paradigm. Since 1995 he has been Professor Emeritus at the University of Strasbourg.

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