In the comments of the last post, someone brought up the question of whether or not a good way to describe modernity is as a “Christian heresy.” I don’t think this is a good way to describe modernity. The notion of modernity as heresy is just too easy. It places “Christianity” safely insulated from the horrors of modernity under critique, even as it give a nod to modernity’s roots in Christianity. By rendering modernity as a Christian heresy we acknowledge the (undeniable) historical link between Christianity and modernity while simultaneously saying that true, orthodox Christianity (i.e. those who think and act like us) really had nothing to do with it. Like saying, “Well yes, the Crusades sure were awful, but after all none of those participating in it were real Christians.”
The problem is not that modernity is a Christian heresy, it is rather that it is precisely the outworking of Christian orthodoxy. This is an important point. Modernity does not stem from an aberration within orthodox Christianity, but from the triumph of Christian orthodoxy itself (i.e. Christendom).
The problem with labeling a modernity a heresy is that it renders Christianity entirely innocent by defining Christianity in an ahistorical and ideological way. “True Christian orthodoxy” is just never to blame for anything and anything that is bad in the world has to be some deviation from this pristine (Platonic?) Christian ideal. If we take the history of Christianity seriously, however, we have to say that modernity does not arise from the denial or mutilation of Christianity, but rather from orthodox Christianity itself. This is why the more fruitful way to critique the ideologies of modernity is not to strive to go back to some premodern past when things were allegedly still orthodox wonderful. Rather it is to look back to the very particular reality of Jesus of Nazareth, whose life, death, and resurrection stands in perpetual judgment of all ideologies. And all orthodoxies.