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Immanuel Kant and Charismatic Christianity

Postmodern Charismatic Christianity is a phenomena of despair.  By “despair,” however, I do not mean “gloom” or “dejection,” but rather an absurdist anti-intellectualism that derived from the loss of hope regarding obtaining real knowledge about the world. In popular culture, we see that this despair arose just after WWI (in the USA, earlier in Europe), though its roots trace back to the anti-philosophy of the German philosopher Immanuel Kant (1784-1804).

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Kant posited “limits” to the mind’s ability to know reality by defining a chasm between appearance (phenomena) and reality (noumena).  The realm of phenomena was open to inspection using the methods of reason, science, etc.  The realm of the numinous, however, was only “managed” by positing transcendental “categories” to help lend order to the unknown. Perhaps unwittingly, Kant’s doctrine opened the door to various forms of irrationalism, since all the meaningful aspects of life (human love, semantic meaning, hope in afterlife, freedom, the existence of God, etc.) were relegated to the murky world of the numinous, leaving us with only a world of “managed appearances” to traffic in as human beings in the world.

GW Hegel (1770-1831) took the next step and speculated wildly above Kant’s uncrossable line.  The phenomenal world (Zeitgeist) was “really” a manifestation of Absolute Spirit working its way out through “dialectic” in the space-time world.  Later Karl Marx (1818-1883) rejected the idea of Spirit and substituted material forces (i.e., economics) as the engine that drove historical processes.  Nietzsche (and his odious spawn, Hitler (y’sh)) soon became “true believers” of such irrationalism. 

How does this relate to Charismatic Christianity, then?  The division of rational and irrational modes of encountering reality opened the door for absurdist encounters with the spirit realm.  Since God cannot be understood using the mindset of reason, He is known only through the experience of mystery.  Faith is expressed by actually contemning rationality and embracing the ludicrous (for an example of this, see the video link above).

I don’t have time to develop this presently, but perhaps I will revisit this issue later.  Suffice it to say that Charismatic Christianity is generally an abberation that is symptomatic of a “post-modern” age.

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