By John Bowden 29/01/2004
French philosopher Voltaire, who wanted the church exterminated(écrasez l’infame!).

Abstract: For clarity, the author chooses to explore the process of secularisation by a specific example, namely the history of the university in the Western world.

From there he widens the picture to bring in other secularized areas of modern Western society and in the light of that he explores the terms secularisation and secularism. This involves revisiting the period of the major debate on secularization and the secular in Europe and America during the 1960s.

He goes on to discuss the formation of value judgments on secularisation, and ends the paper by demonstrating where views on secularisation and secular values have changed (or not changed) over the past generation.

  1. The secularisation of the university

Secularisation is best illustrated by tracing in detail the development over history of a particular institution. I have chosen the university, but as I shall indicate, the same pattern could be traced through the development of hospitals or schools.

Universities in Western Europe developed out of a concern to provide a better education than that given by the cathedral and monastic schools, not least by including scholars from foreign countries among their members[1]. The first real university was founded at Bologna late in the eleventh century. It was a church body and became a widely respected school of canon law and civil law, but no great names are associated with it. That is not the case with the University of Paris, which formed during the twelfth century and boasted such renowned figures as Peter Lombard, Hugh and Richard of St Victor, and Abelard as its ‘founders’. The term universitas was applied to it in 1207. The University of Oxford developed at around the same time, and there were many links between it and Paris.

From the thirteenth century on, universities were established in many of the principal cities of Europe: the universities of Montpellier, Padua and Salamanca and Cambridge were founded in the thirteenth century; St Andrews and Glasgow in the fifteenth.

It has to be remembered that after the fall of the Roman empire, in Western Europe for the second half of the first millennium the church was the sole vehicle of literacy and learning, so it is no surprise that the church came to provide education at all levels. The early universities were free to govern themselves provided that they taught neither atheism nor heresy, but they were still firmly rooted in the church, and teaching was in Latin.

Up to the eighteenth century most universities offered a curriculum based on the liberal arts: grammar, logic, rhetoric, arithmetic, astronomy and music. Students then went on to study in one of the professional faculties of medicine, law and theology.

It has to be remembered that after the fall of the  Roman empire, in

Western Europe for the second half of the first millennium the church was the sole vehicle of literacy and learning…

The Reformation and Counter-Reformation in the sixteenth century affected the universities of Europe. Now that the church was split into Protestant and Catholic, in the German states the Protestants founded new universities and took over older schools to counter those established universities which had become Catholic. Universities proved to be something like religious status symbols. But they were entrenched in defending correct religious doctrines and as a result they resisted the new interest in science which had seized Europe. They therefore went into relative decline.

The first modern university was in Halle, Germany, founded by Lutherans in 1694. This was a pioneer in renouncing religious orthodoxy of any kind in favour of rational and objective study, and it was the first university at which teachers lectured in a vernacular language (German) rather than Latin. These innovations were adopted and developed by other universities; at Göttingen University, founded in 1736, research and teaching were combined for the first time. In due course the innovations also spread to America and determined the type of university that came to be established there.

The date of the founding of Halle University is important. One of the great watersheds of European history, the Peace of Westphalia, was in 1648. This ‘peace’ was a treaty concluding the Thirty Years’ War, a disastrous religious war which had ravaged Europe [2]. Such was the disillusionment caused by this religious war that new authorities and values came to be sought, and soon reason was fixed upon as the new leading cultural value. In the next century, the American and French Revolutions were further to support this emphasis on reason, and what has come to be called the Enlightenment, a wave of ideas based on reason and a scientific approach, not only dominated much of intellectual Europe but also led to clashes with the church. This is evidenced, for example, by the French philosopher Voltaire, who wanted the church exterminated (écrasez l’infame!).

Such was the disillusionment caused by this religious [‘Thirty Years’] war that new authorities and values came to be sought, and soon reason was fixed upon as the new leading cultural value.

With the decline in religion as a force in education, during the late eighteenth and nineteenth century the European universities along the pattern of Halle and Göttingen became institutions of modern learning and research. For example, in the University of Berlin , founded in 1809, laboratory experimentation replaced conjecture; traditional doctrines were examined with a new rigour and objectivity; and modern standards of academic freedom were pioneered. The university became increasingly complex and comprised more and more schools or faculties.

Inevitably this development drew the universities out of the sphere of the church, where they had begun. Most universities became state-financed, and the range of subjects was greatly increased. However, the hold of the church on the universities proved tenacious. In England up to around 1850, only members of the Church of England could attend Oxford University , and even when after acts of Parliament in 1854 and 1845 the university was opened to members of any religion or none, the government of the university and its colleges and the teaching in them was reserved to members of the Church of England. Not until 1871 were all degrees and offices (except offices specifically related to ordained clergy) opened to all men of any religion or none. Admission of women came much later, towards the end of the century. All this was brought about only after a bitter and long-drawn-out fight with the church[3].

Surprisingly, although the ideal of the German university became so influential throughout the Western world, in Germany today the battle which was fought and won by the secular side in England in the nineteenth century is still going on in the area of theology. This is not least because a church tax is paid to the state by all Protestants and Catholics who do not choose to opt out of it, and the proceeds from it keep the denominational divides institutionally alive. In theology, German universities have separate Protestant and Catholic faculties, teaching different curricula, and admission to them is strictly regulated. Those doing doctorates in theology have to be baptized Christians. This makes it impossible to for, say, a Jew to do a doctorate on the life of Jesus, even though Jesus was a Jew! In the once-pioneering university of Göttingen a professor of New Testament who has declared that he is no longer a Christian has been removed from his post and transferred out of the faculty of theology although what he teaches academically, how he teaches it, and the methods and sources which he uses are in no way different from those of his professorial colleagues who remain Christians[4].

Of course there are still ‘private’ religious universities, and over recent years the term ‘university’ has been spread wider and wider, as have its disciplines. But the main trend is quite clear. Having begun as institutions of the church, the universities have now largely become non-church institutions; they have been secularised. And outside  Germany there have been vigorous discussions about how far theology, once the major discipline of the university, is an appropriate subject to be taught at the university at all. Should now teaching and research in connection with religion be designated ‘religious studies’ and practised in the way that might be expected from that term? It is significant that the American university presses do not publish books on theology but only on religious studies.

Other examples of secularisation could be added. Further activities formerly undertaken by the church have now often been transformed to secular control. One of the actions taken by Constantine the Great in the fourth century, when Christianity became the religion of the Roman empire, was to abolish all pagan hospitals so that the Christian church became deeply involved in treating sickness. From the Hôtel-Dieu in Lyons and Monte Cassino in the sixth century down to the Middle Ages the church established hospitals throughout Europe , many of them run by religious orders. Here, however, secular authorities became involved at a much earlier date than in the case of the universities: towns and cities had some form of secular health care by the end of the fifteenth century[5].

Nevertheless, the church continued to play a key role, and the decline in the number of members of religious orders is causing a crisis in the health service in Germany , where their work is an important part of the fabric of care. A similar pattern could be traced in education.

  1. The process of secularisation

So simply by following developments in various areas we can see a pattern which can rightly be called secularisation. The Oxford English Dictionary gives the first instance of the term as dating from 1706 and defines it as ‘the conversion of an ecclesiastical or religious institution or its property to secular possession and use; the conversion of an ecclesiastical state or sovereignty to a lay one’; a second meaning, dating from 1863, is ‘the giving of a secular or non-sacred character or direction to [art, studies, etc.]; the placing [of morals] on a secular basis; the restricting [of education] to secular subjects’. These dates are later than the very precise date on which many historians argue that the actual process of secularisation began: 8 April 1646 , when the French delegate at the Westphalian peace talks proposed that ‘for the sake of peace’ the Elector of Brandenburg , who had to cede some of his territory to victorious Sweden , should be compensated by the secularisation of a number of areas which had fallen under church jurisdiction[6].

So far the process of secularisation and the meaning of the term is clear. However, problems arise when the concept is used as a blanket termto describe what has been happening in Western society over the past twohundred years or more, particularly in matters of behaviour, moral standards and so on. In the Western world which formerly had a marked Christian stamp people spend less of their time, energy and resources in religious concerns and therefore in many areas there has been a decline in religious organisations like local churches, Sunday schools, and uniformed associations. Forms of behaviour are no longer controlled by religious precepts but by demands which accord with purely technical criteria (wear a condom to prevent Aids) or social norms (no smoking in many public places). The religious consciousness is put increasingly under pressure by empirical, rational, instrumental and matter-of-fact attitudes. How we know is increasingly detached from how we feel. Ceremonies which mark rites of passages, customs like saying a prayer before meals and so on, have all declined. All this and more can be brought under the term secularisation, making its application so wide that it sometimes becomes almost unusable as a concept. Nevertheless, it is hard to see how the term can be dispensed with, because it does describe a historical development very well.

problems arise when the concept is used as a blanket term to describe what has been happening in Western society over the past two hundred years or more, particularly in matters of behaviour, moral standards and so on.

Of course secularisation inevitably applies to moral values and ways of looking at the world, as well as to the transfer of institutions like universities, hospitals and schools from one sphere to another. Intraditional Western society religion, and particularly the Christian religion, served to sustain community and even provide a sense of cohesion within the community. It gave both the individual and the group a sense of identity. By its teachings of rewards and punishments in another life and by basing morality on divine commands it instituted a system of social control which induced good behaviour in individuals and established a regulated pattern of social order. Christianity supplied an overall intellectual picture, claiming to explain and justify not only the supernatural and moral but also the nature and purpose of the universe.

The church regularly backed up political authority: up to the English Civil War in the seventeenth century the ‘divine right of kings’ was a very real concept and the execution of Charles I was an earth-shaking event. The church also backed up political and social policy and ideas of social order.

Perhaps the most popular Christian children’s hymn, written in the nineteenth century by the famous Mrs Alexander, ‘All Things Bright and Beautiful’, contains the notorious verse, now usually omitted:

The rich man in his castle, The poor man at his gate. God made them, high and lowly, and ordered their estate.

The rich and powerful were urged to be merciful and charitable – but not change their ways; the poor were urged to be patient and content; this provided a theological rationale for social inequalities of wealth, power and status.

At this point it is important to emphasise that secularisation is originally a neutral term. It does not postulate the disappearance of religion nor conflict with the fact that in secularised societies in which religion has ceased to be of much importance to the operation of the social system, religion manifestly continues to be practised and to influence many people. There is a fundamental difference between secularisation, the process described above, and secularism. On closer inspection, though, secularism does not prove to be quite the force that it is sometimes presented as being.

[I]t is important to emphasise that secularisation is originally a neutral term.
  1. Secularism and secularisation

Secularism is a term which derives from the middle of the nineteenth century: The Oxford Dictionary gives the date of the first occurrence as 1846 and the meaning as ‘the doctrine that morality should be based solely on regard to the well-being of mankind in the present life, to the exclusion of all considerations drawn from belief in God or in a future state’. Secularism manifested itself in the form of secular societies, of which there were more than one hundred in nineteenth-century Britain.

Its roots lay in the socialist movement, among people who had been alienated from or lost to the churches as a result of the industrial revolution, but the secularists were always small groups, elites, craftsmen and shopkeepers rather than labourers and factory workers. And as Owen Chadwick has pointed out, if these societies ‘were secular, they were not very secular, in the original sectarian sense. Though chapels and churches regarded them as enemies, their structure, outlook, organisation and philosophy resembled nothing so much as a loose structure of independent chapels. They ministered to much the same personal needs and to much the same social groups.’[7] Many of them were almost completely political and not particularly irreligious. They took up specific causes, most particularly (and perhaps surprising to us today) freedom of religion. An open air meeting of 2,000 secularists at Hollingworth Lake near Manchester in June 1858 demonstrated in favour of a bill then before Parliament for the equality of the Jews, and in favour of Sunday recreation, and boats on the lake.

But the story of secularism in this sense is a story of decline. The first secularists were campaigning for particular causes, and on the whole they proved successful. Boats did come to lakes, Sunday did become a day of recreation and by 1890 not only Jews but also atheists became eligible to become members of Parliament. And these successes meant a decline in the fortunes of the secular societies. They continued, and indeed the National Secular Society still exists today, with a flourishing website[8], but it still bears a more striking resemblance to the churches than to society around it. Its ‘creed’ is an anti-religious creed, and it fights against religion in any shape or form, but alongside that it adopts many ethical positions with which those holding religious beliefs, particularly those with a more liberal attitude to religious belief, would find not only acceptable but would whole-heartedly endorse.

In this context it is important to emphasise that the advance of secularisation is not being driven by secularists. It is a complex historical movement which largely seems to have taken on a momentum of its own.

And as is clear from the historical outline of one of its aspects at the beginning of this article it took place over a long period in the form of a  whole variety of events, actions and pieces of legislation happening at different times throughout the Western world. But although the term ‘seculasization’ is almost three hundred years old, it was only comparatively recently that it became prominent as a concept; before the 1960s it would be very difficult to find widespread use of it to describe a major feature of the modern world (just as it would be hard to find instances of the term ‘globalisation’ before the late 1990s, though that process, too has been under way for considerably longer).

[A]lthough the term ‘seculasization’ is almost three hundred years old, it was only comparatively recently that it became prominent as a concept…

The term ‘secularisation’ came to the fore following the publication of one of the most influential theological books of the twentieth century (strictly speaking it is not even a book but a collection of fragments). In 1948 Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Letters and Papers from Prison were published in Germany , and in 1953 they appeared in an English translation (the text was twice expanded, as over the course of time more material became available, but the basic core remained the same). Imprisoned for his involvement in a plot against Hitler and executed right at the end of the war, Bonhoeffer, a brilliant young theologian, had spent his time reflecting on the modern world. The jottings that he made and the letters in which he outlined his thinking to a friend, Eberhard Bethge, were smuggled out of prison and made into a book by Bethge after the war.

Bonhoeffer among other things spoke of a ‘world come of age’ and of  ‘religionless Christianity’. He wrote:  God is being increasingly pushed out of a world that has come of age, out of the spheres of our knowledge and life, and since Kant he has been relegated to a realm beyond the world of experience. Theology has on the one hand resisted this development with apologetics, and has taken up arms – in vain – against Darwinism, etc. On the other hand it has accommodated itself to the development by restricting God to the so-called ultimate question; that means that he becomes the answer to life’s problems and the solution of its needs and conflicts. So if anyone has no such  difficulties or if he refuses to go into these things, then either he cannot be open to God; or else he must be shown that he is in fact deeply involved in such problems, needs and conflicts without admitting it or knowing it. If he cannot be brought to see and admit that his happiness is really an evil, his health sickness and his vigour despair, the theologian is at his wits’ end[9].

In the 1960s these remarks were quoted by John Robinson, Bishop  of Woolwich, whose book Honest to God seemed to catch the spirit of the age[10], and gave rise to a flood of books on the current religious and theological situation in which secularisation came to the fore. Revisited almost forty years later the discussion seems highly emotive and extremely confused. Something of this was seen even at the time, and one sociologist caricatured it as follows: ‘God is dead. Therefore secularisation must be occurring. Therefore secularisation is a coherent notion… The whole concept appears as a tool of counter-religious ideologies.. and the word should be erased from the sociological dictionary.’[11] In other words, secularisation exists only in the minds of those who wish it to occur. This was countered by a whole series of historical analyses, also conflicting, some heightening the impact of secularisation by depicting a world which was claimed to be far more religious than it could have been; others putting the beginnings of secularisation so far back that there never seemed to have been a time when the world was not ‘secular’[12].

But the focus of attention came to lie on books which proclaimed the positive values of secularisation. Three titles above all stand out:

Harvey Cox, The Secular City[13]; Paul van Buren, The Secular Meaning of the Gospel;[14] and Ronald Gregor Smith, Secular Christianity. Common to these different books, and the many others which followed in their wake, was a tendency to write off the supernatural dimension of Christianity and religion generally, to glorify excessively the achievements of technology, and to have an over-optimistic view of human nature. The expectation was that the process of the secularisation of religion would continue further and that ultimately the world would become completely secular.

This was not a militant secularism; it was above all an attempt to make the best of a development which many Christians felt was unstoppable.

Harvey Cox began his book with these words:

Secularization makes a change in the way men grasp and understand their life together, and it occurred only when the cosmopolitan confrontations of city living exposed the relativity of the myths men once thought were unquestionable. The way men live their common life affects mightily the way they understand the meaning of that life, and vice versa. Villages and cities are laid out to reflect the pattern of the heavenly city, the abode of the gods. But once laid out, the pattern of the polis influences the way that succeeding generations experience life and visualize the gods.

Societies and the symbols they live by influence each other. In ourday the secular metropolis stands as both the pattern of our life together and the symbol of our view of the world. If the Greeks perceived the cosmos as an immensely expanded polis, and medieval man saw it as the feudal manor enlarged to infinity, we experience the universe as the city of man. It is a field of human exploration and endeavour from which the gods have fled. The world has become man’s task and man’s responsibility.

Contemporary man has become the cosmopolitan. The world has become his city and his city has reached out to include the world.

The name for the process by which this has come about is secularization.[15]

And he went on to praise the ‘freedom’ offered by the secular city as opposed to the ties of tribal society and the small local community. Van Buren and Gregor Smith both embarked, in different ways, on what they argued was the necessary process of ‘translating’ Christianity into the terms  of this world without abandoning it altogether, a ‘translation’ which eliminated ‘God’, the divine and the other-worldly from religious belief.

This they did with great confidence. As van Buren concluded: ‘The path which we have described for the secular Christian in the secular world is clear and wide enough to carry the whole gospel along it. Although we have admitted that our interpretation represents a reduction of Christian

faith to its historical and ethical dimensions, we would also claim that we have left nothing essential behind.’[16]

But what stands out on re-reading this literature is just how simplistic most of it is, and how many issues which have since become pivotal to contemporary discussion fail to make any appearance whatsoever. One looks in vain in the radical books of the 1960s for discussions say of Auschwitz and genocide and the dark side of the twentieth century, forliberation theology, for black theology, for discussion of the role andstatus of women, for interfaith issues, for any awareness of the degree to which theologians and others are governed by their context, all indispensable elements of present-day discussion. Most significant of all, as often happens, history did not follow its predicted course. Modern men and women did not prove to be as ‘secular’ as was assumed. In many aspects and in many faiths religious belief and practice has made a comeback; in Christianity, although the institutional churches are declining and losing members ever more rapidly, interest in Christian faith and especially Jesus, particularly in non-church groups and new movements, is still extremely high. Recent events where religion and politics are so closely bound up together have so brought out the ongoing force of religion that it has even been seen as the most likely source of future conflict. Moreover, the awareness of what is happening in the southern hemisphere, in Africa and Asia , particularly in Christianity and Islam, which has come with an increased sense of globalisation, has made the sensitive realise just how narrow and blinkered the Western picture often is.

The awareness of what is happening in the southern hemisphere, in Africa and Asia, particularly in Christianity and Islam, which has come with an increased sense of globalisation, has made the sensitive realise just how narrow and blinkered the Western picture often is.
  1. Secular values

The world is not as secular as it was expected to be at one time, but it is still dominated by secular values, and the development of secularisation which I outlined at the beginning of this article shows that secularisation cannot be dismissed, either as a reality or a concept. But it needs to be assessed; value judgments need to be passed on it. That it is what I shall try to do in the last part of this article. As I have already remarked, what I write is inevitably from a Christian perspective and above all is a perspective on Christian history.

Christianity has always interacted with the society in which Christians have lived, and therefore it has also interacted with secularisation. There are substantial differences between the ethic of Jesus, an itinerant charismatic who attracted a group of followers who went with him around rural Galilee , and the ethic of Paul of Tarsus, who founded communities in urban settings and had to lay down regulations for their behaviour. Christianity changed when it came into contact with the Greek world and changed again when it became the religion of the Roman empire . That explains why by the beginning of the second millennium, the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church seem in many respects to be so different from the ideals of their founder. The Catholic Church split, and we now have in the West the Roman Catholic Church, stamped, for example, by Roman law. Then later, with the Renaissance, the Enlightenment and the rise of modern science, many assumptions which Christianity had from the start or picked up along the way came to be challenged, and often rightly so, from outside Christianity, latterly in fact from the ‘secular world’.

Thus for example for a long time Christians had no objection to slavery and Christians owned slaves: slavery had been taken for granted in  the world in which it came into being and Paul expresses no objection to it. Much of the impetus to give women a greater role in the church and society came from outside the church, again contrary to some of Paul’s instructions; the inspiration for codes of human rights and human responsibilities came from the American and French Revolutions. And so one could go on. Over the last two hundred years and more the very heart of Christian doctrine has been affected by forms of criticism arising out of the development of modern scientific investigation. We realise that Jesus as he was was different from Jesus as he is presented in the Gospels, which are theological portraits; that Christian doctrine was developed against a background of political as well as theological issues (the main aim of the emperor Constantine at the Council of Chalcedon in 451 CE was to secure ideological unity for his empire) and did not just drop down from heaven.

So it is impossible to dismiss the role of secularisation and the growth of secular values in dialogue with Christianity. They are manifestly there and I have yet to mention the tremendous impact of modern science.

Lightning conductors, weather forecasts, modern medicine and surgery seem better ways of coping with our climate and our health than prayer.

And if one is flying in an aircraft at around 600 miles an hour five or six  miles above the Atlantic one has put a tremendous amount of trust in the reliability and efficacy of modern science. There are those who take a completely negative view of the Enlightenment and want theology to begin again well before it, before what are regarded as disastrous wrong turns. But would such people really want to do without electricity, modern sanitation and above all have mediaeval dentistry? (In the USA recently I visited Mount Vernon , George Washington’s home for most of his life; for all his great privileges he had wooden teeth.)

So it is impossible to dismiss the role of secularisation and the growth of secular values in dialogue with Christianity.

This total opposition to the modern secular world and its values isfortunately, I think, relatively rare. Most people are willing toacknowledge the benefits that the secular world has brought. However, agreat many people are quite happy to live in two compartments – theeveryday world and their religion – without reflecting too far on thepoints where two sets of values clash. The religious revivals over the pastthirty years which I have mentioned are largely irrational, privatised or innocent of the problems posed to theological thinking by the modern

secular world. That is true even of radical movements like liberation theology. The liberation theologians of Latin America took seriously Karl Marx’s critique of modern capitalism, but they totally ignored his devastating critique of religion, which could equally well be applied to them.[17]

So the conclusion to which I am led is that secular values must be explored and taken extremely seriously. It is important for those of all faiths to enter into dialogue with them. When it consisted only of Jewsand Christians, the dialogue group to which this article was originally given as a paper produced a volume of papers reflecting its thinking. These ended with a perceptive discussion of the ‘third presence’ by Norman Solomon (in a discussion between Jews, Christians and Muslims this would have to become a ‘fourth presence’). He commented:

There were two sets of us, a set of Jews and a set of Christians, so the dialogue was bilateral. Or was it?… Our shared culture made the dialogue possible. But it did not – could not – provide a neutral medium. Rather, it was the ‘third presence’ in the dialogue, a presence whose profound influence was so all–pervasive that it was in danger of not being noticed.

Three cultures – even three civilizations – met. A Christian civilization, a Jewish civilization, and the third civilization, in which all of us Jews and Christians live and find our identity, and which was mediated through the English language. This third was the civilization of modernity, or of enlightenment. In the form of rationality this movement of the human spirit poses a challenge to traditional doctrinal formulation, whether Christian or Jewish.

One type of ‘modern’ rationality is that which insists on submitting truth claims made by the religious, including those about the composition of texts, to the sort of tests that have been found effective in the empirical sciences and historical criticism.

Another is the ‘rationality’ on which ethical judgments are founded, the modern convictions about right and wrong which do not accord with traditional ethical teaching; liberal democracy, human rights and abolition of slavery, and equal rights for women are characteristic modern ethical imperatives, all of which have been or are opposed in traditional religious ethics. Then there are scientific discoveries about the physical world – for instance, its size in both space and time, the relativity of both, the nature of matter, the dominance of human action by brain physiology rather than by conscious acts of a disembodied will or spirit, the chemistry of reproduction and genetic variation – all findings which flatly contradict the assumptions made by the writers of the formative texts of our faiths.

Three cultures, three parties to the dialogue… Would it be true to say that each man and woman participating was a member of two cultures, modernity plus either Judaism or Christianity? I think not. When I identify myself as a Jew this does not mean that I inherit exclusively one tradition. My special relationship with Judaism is to do with which set of people I feel I belong with in family and historical and religious perspectives and to a limited extent with truth-claims; it is not a delineation of the resources available to me for spiritual intellectual or even social growth.

Truth comes from many sources; my total heritage is everything now accessible to me, including creations of other religious traditions[18].

The modern world shapes us all. Men and women of all faiths will have much to criticise in the secular values of the world today, particularly those which affect key areas of life and death, society and the individual.

But outright opposition and rejection are wrong. The important thing is to explore, engage in dialogue and improve the values of society.

Above all to engage in dialogue, because it is only in dialogue among ourselves and with the world in which we live that we have a possibility of a faith and life which is not compartmentalised and which brings together God and reality.

Dr. John Bowden taught theology at Nottingham University from 1964 to 1966 and form 1966 to 2000 was Managing Director of SCM Press, London , a leading ecommercial and interfaith publisher.  

* This paper is published with the permission of Encounter; The Journal of Inter-Cultural Perspectives.

[1] Encyclopedia Britannica, s.v. ‘University’, I am much indebted to the information provided here. For developments in Germany see ‘Universität’, in Evangelisches Kirchenlexikon IV, Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht 1966, cols 1055-60.

[2] For details see R.G.Asch, The Thirty Years War. The Holy Roman Empire and Europe , 1618-1648, New York : St Martin ’s Press 1997.

[3] See Owen Chadwick, The Victorian Church , Part Two: 1860-1901, London : A.& C.Black 1970, 439-62.

[4] The theologian in question is Gerd Lüdemann. See G.Lüdemann, Im Würgegriff der Kirche. Für die Freiheit der theologischen Wissenschaft, Luneberg: zu Klampen Verlag 1998.

[5] Encyclopedia Britannica, s.v. ‘Hospital, history of hospitals’,

[6] See Anton von Houtepen, God – An Open Question, London and New York : Continuum 2002, 20. For a good discussion of secularisation see the whole of  Chapter 2, ‘Taking Leave of God: An Inevitable Process?’, ibid, 12-30.

[7] . Owen Chadwick, The Secularization of the European Mind in the Nineteenth Century, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1975, 91.


[9] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison. The Expanded Edition, London: SCM Press and New York : Macmillan 1971, 341.

[10] . John A.T.Robinson, Honest to God, London : SCM Press and Philadelphia : Westminster Press 1963.

[11] David Martin, The Religious and the Secular, London : Routledge 1969, 1.

[12] As representative works from this period in addition to those already quoted see H.Lübbe, Sakularisierung: Geschichte eines Ideenpolitischen Begriffs, Munich :Christian Kaiser Verlag 1965; B.Wilson, Religion in Sociological Perspective, Oxford : Blackwell.

[13] Harvey Cox, The Secular City , New York : Macmillan and London : SCM Press 1965.

[14] Paul van Buren, The Secular Meaning of the Gospel, Philadelphia : Westminster Press and London : SCM Press 1963.

[15] Ronald Gregor Smith, Secular Christianity, London : Collins and New York : Harper 1966.

[16] Cox, Secular City (n.13), 1.

[17] van Buren, Secular Meaning (n.14), 199f.

[18] See Alistair Kee, Marx and the Failure of Liberation Theology, London : SCM Press and Philadelphia : Trinity Press International 1990.

[19] Norman Solomon, ‘The Third Presence: Reflections on the Dialogue’ in Tony

Bayfield and Marcus Braybrooke (eds), Dialogue with a Difference. The Manor House Group Experience, London : SCM Press 1992, 147-62: 147f. I should point out that it was recognised at an early stage that to publish papers would affect the nature of the group as described earlier in this article, and that a plan was made to publish papers only when it was decided that the group should come to an end in its original form and change to being a Jewish-Christian-Muslim dialogue group.