Immanentism

“If there is an intellectual direction in the culture that has developed over the last few centuries it is that which
is rather barbarously labelled ‘immanentism’. That is to say, the phenomenon which at once characterises a culture and sets for Christian theology its central problem is the widely accepted belief that the world can be understood from within itself, and not from any being or principle supposed to operate from without. Examples are to be found everywhere, from the characteristic modern ‘experience’ of being alone in the universe to the brash technocratic optimism that sees in modern knowledge the key to the solution of all problems.” (Colin Gunton, Yesterday and Today, 2-3)

I generally hate generalisations about anything, especially about cultures. But I also (evidently) don’t have a problem with being slightly contrary, so I’ll come out with it and say, I think Our Colin has nailed the cockroach to the wall with this one.
I just wish ‘immanentism’ was slightly easier to pronounce, then I could start accusing all sorts of people of being it.
It certainly seems influential in many Christian attempts to rethink the presentation of the Gospel to our culture (think emergent church), and in the prevalence and brand of eschatology fashionable in theology (think ‘new creation’ rather than ‘heaven’).
You might have to think a while to join the dotted lines, but they are there, and they aren’t that dotty.

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4 thoughts on “Immanentism

  1. Hey Dan,
    Nice theme! I don't generally check it out now that I'm in RSS-feed-land…. I'm really impressed. Do I get a show bag if I log-in?

    I like what you (and Colin – can I call him that?? (…. hey)) say about immanentism but I want some balance. It can be overdone, but you'd have to agree that the other extreme is unhelpful. But then I'd agree that it's a cockroach that has been nailed so many times that you wonder if there's more nail than cockroach, I guess. Maybe 'dualist' is a bit easier to say??

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  2. Balance! Ha!
    balance is for wusses…
    I just think you're a closet immanentist.

    I don't want to be a dualist – I think that is the intellectual direction that shaped our culture before the advent of modern immanentism. I want to be a synthetic transcendentalist.
    I might invent my own form of meditation.

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  3. Let me know how you go with the meditation.

    I'm not sure I really get what you're talking about here, but what I want to know is: does the second sentence in that quote not make sense to anyone else or have I just gone stupid?

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  4. I think it makes sense, but now I'm worried that my experience of reading is just me projecting my meaning onto the text…

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