Those who marry the spirit of this age will find themselves widows in the next.
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Above (left) is a reproduction of a painting by Vincent Van Gogh, which he composed in 1885. You will notice that there are two books. The larger of the two is the Bible. The other book is entitled: La joie de vivre (Joy of Life) by Emile Zola. Zola was the leading French novelist in the latter part of the 19th century. In 1884 he wrote La Joie De Vivre. It was part of a series of twenty novels he wrote rooted in a philosophical school called Naturalism. Zola helped establish this school.
In summary naturalism taught:
Individual characters were seen as helpless products of heredity and environment, motivated by strong instinctual drives from within and harassed by social and economic pressures from without. As such, they had little will or responsibility for their fates, and the prognosis for their “cases” was pessimistic at the outset.
What do you think Van Gogh was attempting to do by juxtaposing the Bible with Zola’s La Joie de Vivre? I think he was illustrating what was happening in late 19th century intellectual thought. Although the Bible was still open, it was no longer being illuminated. You will notice that the candle is not burning. Rather than the teaching of the Bible guiding life, it was now philosophies, like naturalism, that were in the foreground of intellectual thought.
Well if that was the case in 1885, I would suggest that in our own day we are facing something similar within the Anglican Church of Canada. Philosophies like naturalism are shaping our theological thought and moral conduct. And it is for this reason that our Communion is currently in crisis.
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