12.6 Renaissance and Reformation in the Fourth Civilization

It has been noted already that information paradigms will have a tendency to break down the rigid barriers that delineated narrow specialities and compartments of the industrial age. At the same time, people will have more time for, and be better educated to consider ideas, and they would also be better equipped to communicate their own with a wide variety of people. The Metalibrary could break down some of the authoritarianism and insularity inherent in the present academic system and throw open the examination and discussion of ideas to a far wider constituency than ever before. The result is likely to be as great a turmoil, and as intellectually stimulating an atmosphere as that which resulted from the infusion of Arabic and Chinese ideas into Europe after the fourteenth century.

A New Renaissance

It is not therefore difficult to dip into history and predict a time of great flowering of the arts and an infusion of new life into the collective human spirit. In such an atmosphere, new forms of music are being generated, many of them synergistically with new types of machines. Indeed, most music is now composed with synthesizers driven by computers. The flexibility of this form of composition means that music is no longer limited to "real" instruments or even to major variations on the traditional ones. Any sound can be generated electronically, regardless of whether there has ever been a stringed or wind device that could duplicate it. The result is an ever broadening experimentation with sound effects in a search for new styles of music. This activity may be so intense and so diverse that music appears to be chaotic, but some forms will surely seem more aesthetically pleasing than others and will be added to or modify the traditional ones. It should be noted, however, that much of this experimentation thus far is individualistic; for the large symphony, there may be considerable difficulty attracting customers. In fact, the better the home entertainment facilities offered by the Metalibrary, the more difficult it could become for theaters and concert halls to attract customers to live performances. A few of the very best orchestras may come to dominate the "sensorium" that television becomes, making things very difficult for smaller groups. It may even become possible to synthesize an orchestra of choice (both sight and sound) from stored recordings of individual musicians--without physically assembling them. On the other hand, there will be a demand for social events to offset extreme individualization prevalent in the late industrial age, and this could translate into renewed life for venerable old artistic institutions at a local and community level. For instance, theatre chains have been quick to seize upon such trends and reconceptualize large movie houses as complexes of smaller, more intimate entertainment experiences.

New multimedia art forms will continue to proliferate, particularly as the resolution of video and graphics displays improves, and holographic image storage and retrieval become refined. The full Metalibrary could be an artistic medium of major importance, for works could be rented from it for display in individual homes and offices. More adventuresome artists might perhaps experiment with sculptures in orbit that would be visible from the Earth's surface, or attempt to transform large landmasses in an artistic fashion for viewing from space. All this soft high-touch counteraction to hard high technology may also encourage the dance medium both to revive ancient forms and to produce new ones.

Electronic publishing will continue to make it much easier to express oneself in writing as well. It is more difficult for a new writer to gain a conventional mass audience than in the past, for there is far more material for editors to consider. However, electronic distribution will become simpler and the collection of royalties more efficient. Publishing houses can work through the Metalibrary facilities to conduct the editing and approval (publishing) functions and collect a royalty for their efforts on the author's behalf--but in the electronic medium at least it is the artist who is the cornerstone of the whole endeavour, not the editor. Printed paper editions may still be made on a one-off or print-on-demand (POD) basis, but perhaps more for collectors than for the general trade.

The visual media will be much improved as well, so drama could take on new life. While live theater will probably not vanish altogether, the quality and quantity of dramatic presentation available through the Metalibrary will be very much greater than that on today's television, and this too will mean many more opportunities for writers, producers, media technicians, and actors. The number of channels available is increasing in order to provide a greater diversity of material, and this could reduce the current reliance on the old networks, on formula writing, and on the faddism that have dominated television in the past. What is said above about the potential for live music performances to become important social events applies here as well. This will not necessarily be manifested in better opportunities for well-known national and international troupes; it may simply mean that more people participate in and watch local and amateur theater. This would also imply a continuing growth in the number and variety of athletic events and team sports, as available time and money for such activities also increase.

It was noted earlier that a new civilization needs a new economics and politics. It will also need a new sociology, a new psychology, a new anthropology, and a new way to integrate these disciplines to gain insights from all of them and bring their ideas to bear on the problems of people. Although the beginning of this new Renaissance of the arts, fine arts, humanities, and social sciences is only just being seen, the intellectual turmoil and excitement will surely be as great as in the first Renaissance. For the first time in over a century, ideas about the human condition, knowledge, thinking, and the human spirit are available to be freely and widely discussed in a cross-disciplinary fashion. It would be far too speculative to suggest what specifics might emerge from this ferment, but not at all speculative to predict that it will continue to take place, for such activity is a necessary part of reconciling the academic world with the new culture and developing a new world view to match the new civilization. The intellectual fragments of the machine age will surely be carefully and thoughtfully picked over before being pieced into a new coherence.

The duration of the new Renaissance is also uncertain. Despite that an important feature of the new civilization will be continuing rapid changes in economic, social, and political systems, history suggests that its peoples' world views will crystallize on a new set of paradigms, and that once this has been done, the culture will view itself through that new filter and stabilize around it. These are conflicting suggestions, to be sure; perhaps a way will be found to make rapid change and healthy conflict part of a new world view.

An important part of such a world view is a meaning framework, or religious system. If there will be a great increase in interest in ideas, a more integrative world view, and a renaissance of the human spirit, then there will be a new view of religion as well. There are, at this point, three major groups of candidates to capture the religious loyalties of the men and women of the fourth civilization; these will be considered in the remainder of this section.

A New Religion

There is no shortage of new candidates to move into the vacuum left by Christianity's retreat and scientism's shortcomings, and to claim the heart-allegiances of information-oriented peoples. More than one pundit has remarked that starting a new religion is a good way to become rich, famous, or both. Some have gone on to do so. New groups that have attracted the greatest attention thus far have been those with mystical overtones and connections to the religions of the Far East. The leaders of such groups have not been hesitant to give themselves the titles of guru, blessed teacher, or holy one, or to claim to be Christ re-incarnate and God himself. Apart from devotion to the group--love manifest in a variety of ways--and to the leader, the teachings of such groups tend to be theologically and morally vague. There is not always agreement, even among their members, on whether such systems are religions. For instance, on the one hand, L. Ron Hubbard's Scientology group lost a court case whose decision stripped it of tax-exempt church status, and on the other, Transcendental Meditationists have sometimes had their teachings declared in court to be religious against their will and so forbidden from public schools. Again, not all followers of the very diverse group known as the "new-age movement" would characterize their belief system as religious, despite its Hindu mysticism and reincarnation, its pantheism and its search for the God-in-the-self, in the manner of Buddhism. It is a blend of all these with elements of scientism in a mixture that appeals to the intellectual who wishes to engage in spiritual experimentation without accepting the accountability demanded by a personally theistic religion like Christianity. It also seems to be highly commercialized, and constitutes an excellent example of a modern religion as a marketplace commodity, for many of its entrepreneurs have garnered great wealth by manufacturing new religious ideas and re-packaging old ones--not as whole systems, but in typical late-industrial age specialized fragments for the modern shopper at the religious market.

Such movements are a natural outgrowth of the specialization and fragmentation of the late machine age peoples. They are the ultimate in designer philosophy, for each individual can create a personal religion with whatever gods are desired--self included. This makes such Hindu/Buddhist mysticism an ideal religious form for an individualistic time. It also fits in well with some elements of scientism such as humanism and materialism, though it conflicts with others by being somewhat fatalistic, and indifferent to both progress and evolution. But mysticism is most sharply antithetical to both science and Christianity in the rationality that they share and it does not, and in treating experience as an end in itself when they both regard it as a means to other ends. Thus, it is difficult to assess whether the "new age" movements in the West are only late-industrial fragments, whether they constitute the nascent form of a significant new religion that, when matured, integrated and organized will become a major force in the next civilization, or whether they will be simply be incorporated into a new versions of both science and Christianity.

Indeed, the latter has happened to at least some extent, as many ostensible Christians have shopped the marketplace of ideas and put together a stew of ideas that bear little resemblance to any taught in the several churches they attend, as the need and whim strike them.

For the new movements that have formally organized themselves as religions, few have thus far sustained memberships of more than a hundred thousand at any one time, and fewer still have survived long after the death of their founder. Among the groups using some Christian vocabulary, if not its doctrines, and that are sometimes termed "cults" there have been some major scandals involving tax avoidance, the sexual proclivities of leaders, and of course the beat known of several mass suicide/murder pacts, such as the Jonestown massacre. These have taken their toll on some of the new religions, and it is not clear whether any of them, even the new-age groups, have a sufficient following to substantially influence the next civilization.

The reason why some of them have failed to make a great impact is the same as that for the decline of statism. They are often arbitrary and autocratic, and are run for the benefit of charismatic individuals who convince people salvation entails following and serving those superiors. The information age being what it is, it is impossible for leaders to hide either the wealth they thereby accumulate, or the inconsistencies between their lives and their teachings. It is also harder for followers to fail to notice the radical doctrinal changes commonly made by arbitrary leaders. Thus the new religions, especially those of the very exposed religious entertainment industry, often have a very high turnover, for people make and keep long term commitments in the information age only to those organizations in which they can be a part of the decision-making process, and within which they can be kept fully informed. Such commitments also imply consistency in their agreement with the religion, that is hard to achieve in an arbitrary organization.

It is a telling commentary on the current fragmented state of religious belief and practice that the diverse and unorganized New Age movement has been more successful than many of the other new groups that have organized themselves. Were one to suppose that cultural fragmentation were to continue, it would be the best contender. However, the supposition here is that it will not and that integrative paradigms will rule instead. If so, a more cohesive religious view may turn out to be more successful.

In the interim and out of the fragments, there is also a potential opening for a new fanaticism based on some of the old hatreds to arise, and certain European Fascist political movements must in this context be viewed with great alarm. Religious-like allegiances are sufficiently open as the millennium approaches that a suitably charismatic leader could well lead them captive once again into the darkness of racial and religious hatred, or even a new large-scale war. Even though this kind of gathering of the fragments might seem counterproductive and contradictory to information age paradigms, the religious vacuum does exist, and could well be occupied by such passions. This result too, however unlikely it may seem, would constitute a new religion, or at least a new manifestation of an old one. What is more, universal information in this case, means that such religio-political movements can spread rapidly and unpredictably, and therefore are even more dangerous. They can also brook no critics nor competitors, whether those critics may bear the name "North American" or "scientist" or "Christian". It is also of little utility to enquire whether the passionate advocates of such movements are politically on the left or of the right, for there is little difference in the effects upon people of either extreme.

The prospects for the continuing expansion of Islam are also difficult to assess, because it has not yet come to grips with modern science or technology. It is becoming more difficult all the time to read modern scientific advances into the Koran and yet Islam has always held it to be potentially dangerous to know anything that is not in the book. Neither is it unaffected by superstition, materialism, and a nominalism of its own, even in professedly Islamic nations. Meanwhile, education and modern communications chip away at the often monolithic Eastern states and introduce ideas from the West. The tentative alliances of some such nations with the former Soviet Union were seriously undermined by the invasion of Afghanistan, as Islamic unity was by the Iran/Iraq war and then the Gulf war. Indeed, about the only thing that unites the Islamic states of the Middle East is their desire to annihilate Israel, and that kind of unity is scarcely encouraging for world peace. Neither is the newfound willingness to engage in suicide bombing, either with a vest full of explosives, or at the controls of a passenger jet. Thus, despite earlier successes in the North American marketplace, Islam appears to have enough internal problems and difficulties left over from the current age to raise serious questions about its ability to maintain its influence in the next, and this is particularly so when one considers that the oil money will not last long into, nor much influence the fourth civilization. Moreover, even though the World Trade Center incident was engineered by a small group of fanatics, there will undoubtedly be a backlash against all adherents of Islam as a result.

A New Philosophy for Science

Many of the shifts in thinking that are taking place in the move to a new civilization mentioned in this book have been noted by others as well, and there has been no shortage of technical writers pointing out the new paradigms to the scientific and technical community. Moreover, science and other techniques will continue to be of great importance in the information age; its very existence depends on them--both in the heritage of the last age and in their new developments. The hold of the tenants of materialism, humanism and progress (collectively called scientism here) on the hearts of Westerners has been shaken, however by its failure to deliver on the promise of a better humankind to wield all the new high technology toys.

At the same time, a new society has by definition a new world view, breaking with the past on the transcendental issues along with everything else. It is much easier to pass technique along from one generation to the next than it is world view, cultural assumptions, or religion.

Indeed, history would suggest that world leadership tends to pass to those nations that undergo revitalization in both technology and religion at the same time. This was certainly true in the industrial revolution, and there is every reason to suppose that it may be true in the information age as well. The changes, when they come, may well be more rapid and more dramatic than the last time, just as will the technological and other societal ones.

There are some signs of a revitalization in the world view of many modern scientists. The old insistence upon empiricism and rationalism tended to exclude ethics, and therefore to allow only an agnostic antinomianism in science. But the old assertions that technology is ethically neutral are being replaced by an increasing caution, and by a willingness to consider carefully the effects of new techniques on real peoples in real societies. Moreover, the populace at large is demanding such caution, and greater accountability as well, as it learns more about the activities and potential dangers of certain types of scientific research or technologies. Indeed, it was precisely such greater awareness of the potential environmental consequences that effectively killed off any possibility of building more nuclear power plants in the United States.

More people now realize that technological solutions to problems are not the only ones possible, and that they are not necessarily the best. Certainly, there are always trade-offs to consider with the solutions not pursued. Part of this caution stems from the experiences of scientists who worked on nuclear energy before 1945 and must still live under the shadow of the bomb. Thus, anti-nuclear protests in the 1990s were not just anti-technology; they were sometimes being led by scientists themselves--ones who were trying to find and express new forms of social responsibility. Moreover, there is a new and growing concern for the doing of ethical science and for the wielding of ethical techniques over the broad range of both science and technology. A number of books have appeared that examine the ethical side of specific professions or of science and technique in general. Most of these would not even have been contemplated, much less have been published, as recently as 1980, but today's teachers and students have already been sensitized by the scandals and conflicts brought their way courtesy of universal information, and they are anxious to study what they can of ethical behaviour. While much of this material is still the product of a relativistic and individualistic age, and while many of these books consider ethical systems uncritically, describe case studies without guidance, or ask questions without suggesting answers, the very fact that such issues are being discussed represents a substantial change.

The message of Snow about the danger of living in two isolated cultures (or many fragments of one) is also being listened to. In the future, there will be more time to listen, to learn, and to integrate what were disparate fields, because a scientific education and career will not need to be so narrowly specialized as in the past; it will have to include a substantial general education as well. This seems likely to generate a great influx of ideas from the arts and humanities into the formerly isolated scientific community. The exact effect this will have is uncertain, but it is sure to cause some softening in the exclusivity of the scientific world view, and a greater acceptance of the notion that knowledge can legitimately come from other sources than rationalism and empiricism. This would make scientific debates much broader, much deeper, less dogmatic and far more interesting. There could be a return to fundamentals, with theories and models being seen once again as the abstractions for reality that they are; this would allow evolutionists, for example, to debate easily with creationists, (and vice versa) without feeling that their whole persons, livelihoods and spiritual beings are under attack.

In short, information paradigms ought to force openness and destroy narrow exclusiveness. Ideas are put out onto the open marketplace to compete for the hearts of people. If the paradigms of science can be modified accordingly, the new ones will form an important part of the basis for the religious-like attachments of the men and women of the next era. Scientism as it has been known may have passed however; those who dogmatically cling to it may find it to be as relevant to the information age as Medieval scholasticism was by the nineteenth century--an honoured, but no longer believed spiritual ancestor.

A new scientism could recognize and integrate into its structure an understanding and appreciation of the human spirit and in particular of the role of belief systems and world views. It could employ itself as a meta-technique to criticize its own basic assumptions and world view. It could employ models and paradigms without supposing that either constitute ultimate reality. If it answered meaning questions it could acknowledge openly and frankly their religious nature. It could freely debate its own meaning and that of other systems without either fear or aggression. It could accept that there are things beyond itself, that ethical considerations can shape it, and that it has a total societal responsibility, and it takes these mutual effects seriously. It could recognize that its own technique is one of many possible, and is not the generator of all possible knowledge. A scientism less confident of its own invincibility and inevitability is not as aggressive a religious force as in the past, but a frank, responsible one that knows its limitations may be one that more ordinary people will believe in, trust, and follow in the future.

This scenario is like that of Wilson's consilience in seeing the need for and inevitability of a new assembly of all the intellectual fragments; it differs from his in suggesting that whatever integration may come about, it will not be by a total intellectual takeover by empiricism--a new triumph for hard, exclusive logical positivism and the complete expunging of supernatural ideas from society seems extremely improbable.

If the reviews for the newly-minted religions are mixed, and the prospects for a modified scientism depend on it muting its religious force (rather than per Wilson, increasing it), it is also important to consider the potential for a Western revival of Christianity.

A New Reformation

First of all, it is worth repeating that the historical conjunction of religious revitalization and great social and cultural dynamism is no mere coincidence. Neither are the great technical revolutions conducted by those whose spirits are bound to the paradigms of old cultures; the re-awakening and re-focusing of the human spirit in the transcendental sense--a new renaissance--seems to be a necessary factor in the building of a new civilization. The powerful dynamic that causes people to break decisively with the past and stride forth confidently to fashion new ways of thinking, experiencing, and transforming, is not technical alone, as some scientists believe, nor is it only the result of inevitable social and historical forces, as, for instance, Marxists aver. It is partly both of these, but a motivator is also required, a spiritual awakening that re-focuses people in large numbers to strive toward new goals and re-energizes them to achieve things previously thought impossible.

For millennia, the spiritual ancestors of modern Western society defined their responsibilities to each other in terms of their responsibilities to an almighty God. The fact that they generally do so no longer has led some twentieth century intellectuals to think that religion has been forever banished from the mainstream of society and to suppose that a new order could be ushered in on the basis of technique alone. Was Ellul's despairing concession of apparently inevitable loss by a weakened Christianity the last word?

However, the effect so far has been a dehumanization and depersonalization, an emptiness reflected in a nihilistic philosophy, a modern literature of pessimism and despair, and a hope focused only on economic advantage. Living under the shadow of nuclear extinction, pollution and a multitude of social problems that new technologies seem only to exacerbate, the people of the Western nations may well be ready for a swing of the religious pendulum back from the secularism of the first half of this century. The very extremes to which the fragmentation of culture and religion have gone would seem to reinforce this view. There certainly appears to be a spiritual vacuum into which some religious system has an opportunity to step and to re-unite the pieces into an integrated whole.

There is no obvious prospect for this among new religions, though the high level of experimentation with them is indicative of the strong undercurrent of religious interest. It is important therefore to consider the prospects for a greatly revived and energetic Christianity to become the spiritual galvanizing factor in the West. These are mixed, depending on how they are viewed. After all, the Christian response to culture in the past has ranged from radical rejection, such as in the monastic or ascetic life-style, to near total identification with and assimilation as in the last culture. Any Christian revival in the West would have to forge a new place in society based on an open, energetic and critical participation that engaged the culture at all its important points. To do this it would need to develop or rediscover several characteristics:

First, it would need a new sense of being, that is, a new sense of commitment. Part of this is a rediscovery of its ancient doctrine that moral goodness is an all-encompassing character quality, not something that is just done. Nominalism may suffice for a declining organization to survive through a single generation, but not beyond. If Christianity (or any other religion) is to mean anything to the fourth civilization, it will have to reflect total commitments, faith-assertions sufficiently broad to encompass the whole person, and sufficiently deep to stand up to testing. Generalization and integration rather than specialization and fragmentation will be important in the future; the organizations that have diversified and fragmented and lost all their distinctives may vanish from the scene in a single generation. Successful religions for the future would, therefore, have coherent beliefs and confident, comprehensive faiths. Their world view will of necessity contain filters for understanding the physical world, but these will be general assertions and, if they are to learn from the lessons of history, will not stray far into the territory of science or adopt its tentative conclusions as inflexible dogma. Most important of all, they will have a definitive and transcendent view of God that makes them distinct alternatives to humanist and pantheist philosophies. Without this, all else is wasted, for religion without transcendence, and a clear view of God lacks any meaning, and if it cannot answer meaning questions about itself, it certainly cannot for its people.

Second, a renewed Christianity would require a new intellectual discipline, aggressiveness, and willingness to debate the ideas it holds to be truths in an open and free-wheeling fashion. If its doctrines are indeed self-evident, or rationally supportable, and were actually historically revealed by God, they can stand up to scrutiny in the open marketplace of ideas, and Christian intellectuals need not be afraid to pedal their wares outside the ghetto's dark corners. As part of any intellectual revival Christianity will have to come to terms with a response to evolution in particular, for it cannot sacrifice its general assertion that God created the known physical universe and its specific claim that He created man, without losing its whole reason for being. Without the real first Adam and a literal fall from grace, Christ, the second Adam is simply irrelevant--it makes no difference whether He came if there was no reason for Him to have died for sin. The aggressive assertiveness of the ultra-conservatives is one way to reclaim intellectual territory here. An understanding of Genesis as literally true but undetailed as to time, order and mechanism could be another. However, the liberal assertion that such things do not matter is cowardly and tantamount to intellectual suicide; issues like this one have to be faced, not defined out of existence by wilful ignorance.

There is also in this category the problem of what to say about miracles. Should they be regarded as a result of the work of God who invented all the physical processes and can therefore set them aside as He wishes? Or, should God be regarded as employing as-yet-unknown techniques that are in accord with the physical laws of the universe, but that humanity does not yet possess paradigms to understand? Whatever its response to challenges of this nature, Christianity must end its century-long retreat from the mainstream of academia, for religion that is anti-intellectual has little relevance or foundation even in a fragmented intellectual landscape--and none at all in an integrative one. It is important to note, however, that taking the conservative and even literal ground on such matters as creation is not in itself anti-intellectual. Rather that term describes those who cannot or will not debate their ideas openly. It is also not wrong to assert a specific interpretation of the Christian Scriptures as literally true. After all, they either have no meaning at all or some specific one; it is a cop-out to assert that they may have many possible meanings and turn one's back on debate.

Third, such a revival would need to have a new excitement, a new sense that its doctrines are not musty things for theologians to argue about, but part of an encounter with the power of the living God. There is some evidence this is happening, because for some time, there has also been an increased emphasis on experience in some Christian churches. This emphasis is roughly termed the charismatic movement, and is at least some indication of a return to the experiential aspects of Christianity. This particular manifestation is as yet immature and intellectually incomplete, and its consequences are as yet unknown. However, religion that fails to touch the emotions or to explain the experiences may be an interesting philosophy, but has no humanity. Moreover, an experience grounded in a success philosophy is a fleeting one, good only for today. The authentic and orthodox experience of Christianity was not just emotionalism or success, but both within a context of faithfulness in social action and intellectual vigour; to be revived, it would have to be so again.

Fourth, it would have to regain its power to change both people and society. Its claims to be able to do so are both radical and comprehensive; if these are to have any credibility they must be seen in action. That is, it must rediscover that moral goodness is a character quality that leads to things that ought to be done, rather than things not to be done. At the same time, there is a large collection of activities that Christians have no conceivable motivation to pursue, which many of them do now in the name of sophistication, but ought to desist from--more to regain their distinctiveness and voice over culture than for the sake of legalism. Unfortunately, there is little evidence at the present time of the transformational aspect of Christianity in Western society. Nominalism, and the confining of Christian life to a single day of the week are the rule rather than the exception. It is worth noting that the objections of outsiders to Christianity are seldom intellectually grounded; they are nearly always morally based. Yet, the actual morality practised by those who profess to be Christians is often not especially different from that of anyone else. But, if it is impossible to tell by observing a radically transformed life morally--in priorities, life-style, and relationships--that people are Christians, then they may as well not claim to be. Religion that lacks effective, practical, transforming compassion is not only useless; it is misleadingly dangerous. Faith, knowledge, and experience with no consequences in human relationships are not just dead, they are counterfeits.

Fifth, these four aspects cannot exist alone and entire unto themselves; they have to be integrated into a unified and whole people in order to become the galvanizing factor in the intellectual life and experiences of the broader society and play a role in transforming it. Some denominations emphasize one aspect of the four, and some another, but there is little effective and comprehensive integration that can be pointed to. Progress has been made by many Christian academics seeking to integrate their faith and discipline, but the radical integration of these two with experience and relationships to demonstrate the concinnity of God's design has not yet overcome the fragmentation that has been going the opposite way.

One church may pride itself on doctrinal correctness, another on its faith, a third on its emotional experiences and a fourth on its program of social works. All four are out of balance, so all these organizations are impotent in an age that demands comprehensive integration and generalization for relevance. Nominalism and fragmentation go hand in hand and so do commitment and integration to see God's concinnity. The former are safe, because they are defined and sanctified by the old culture; but the latter are dangerous, because they come out of a claim to stand above culture and to have the authority not only to critique it, but even to rule on the legitimacy of many of its elements.

Thus, sixth, any revival of Christianity from its present state will require a catalyst, a rallying point, and leadership. If the fourth civilization is to see Christianity as a religious force, it will require visionaries such as were Luther and Calvin in another age to refocus nominal, existential, and fragmented Christians, rally them behind a comprehensive view of their faith, and restore the dynamic and missionary force.

There is not much evidence that any of this is happening in the West. But, there are indications that such a radical reformation is taking place elsewhere--in China, Korea, and Africa. The historical record would also seem to suggest that Christianity may rise elsewhere even as it continues to die in the West. After all, it began in the Middle East, where today it scarcely exists. It flourished for centuries in Europe, where it had its most glorious successes, but where it is today quite indiscernible. It was exported to the Americas, where it is still visible, but socially and culturally ineffective, and where it has lost its transformational aspect and its ability to dynamically criticize and interact with society.

It must be concluded, therefore, that the question of spiritual leadership in the fourth civilization, and with it the energizing of political and economic leadership, is very much open. A modified scientism will play an important role; whether it will have a corresponding religious partner remains to be seen. Both the New Age movement and the remnant of Christianity seem to be too fragmented as they currently are to provide a general spiritual dynamic in the West, but there is an interesting possibility that the latter may do so elsewhere. There may be reasons to suspect that a revival of Christianity could supply the spiritually galvanizing force to complement the enabling technology and transform civilization into a new form, but there are few reasons to suppose that this new energizing will take place in North America, and even fewer to offer Europe as a candidate. If it takes place anywhere, it might be in China, for that nation has both the technical momentum and the openness to a new spiritual paradigm required to assume the leadership role.

Moreover, the comments made in this section can be applied, with suitable modifications to religions other than Christianity; it has been used for illustrative purposes because of its past role in the development of the technological society; but the possibility cannot be discounted that some entirely unrelated religion might arise to play the role of spiritual motivator to the fourth civilization (this both in negative and positive senses.)

The Fourth Civilization Table of Contents
Copyright © 1988-2002 by Rick Sutcliffe
Published by Arjay Books division of Arjay Enterprises