The Quest for Cultural Re-enchantment

by Daisy Erwin (Colorado)

Dr. Paul Gould told us often that teaching makes his heart sing, and I felt that from the first lecture he gave.

It was evident in both his actions and attitude. Every time he stood in front of us to lecture and even at meal times he was perpetually indicating the glorious wonder in the world around us and helping us study it.

Dr. Gould’s greatest wish was that we would cause Christ to appear desirable again.

To our culture, Jesus is not desirable because, among other reasons, he is outside the knowledge of science or what is real. Many things cannot be known by science, but to the worldview called Materialism, only those things that can be known by science are real. When Materialism erases the distinctions between right and wrong and aesthetic beauty becomes a childish fantasy from ages past, the world is suddenly emptied of transcendence. It becomes disenchanted. The great marvels of this world which are so well portrayed in fictional books become meaningless. Culture as a whole suppresses the innate desire for God and the beauty that comes from him.

The over-arching theme of Paul Gould’s lectures and his book was that we should be striving to do what we can to re-enchant the culture, and we should be seeking to become re-enchanted ourselves.

First, we need to rebaptize the Christian imagination by realizing that imagination is not just for children but can be used by adults to create meaning. As an example of how we can use imagination to create meaning, we can create dialogue in our minds with a person in authority and rehearse with them so that the meaning of our words can be transmitted properly. Our imagination leads us on in the quest for re-enchantment by helping us imagine objective beauty by allowing us to visualize what a perfect version of anything would be before we see it. So to rejuvenate our Christian imagination we should practice looking at aesthetically beautiful things and try to see how God has inspired them. In sharing this view of reality with the world, we may work towards re-enchantment by show glimpses of heaven to the world.

Reasoning with non-Christians is part of re-enchanting the world, but Paul Gould said we should interact with culture on all levels.

In the universities and on the streets we are called to awake longing for the new heaven and earth through our art, music, books, and theological debates. The way we debate with others should be full of grace and attentiveness to their individual problems. If we are just pulling out our ready argument for “The Blob of Everything” and the existence of God to respond to an objection that is based on some other emotional problem they are having, our evangelism is not useful.

I am thankful that Professor Gould taught us on re-enchantment of the culture so I have a better defense for my Christian worldview and so that I may be on the front lines in the effort to re-enchant the world.