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NAIROBI: Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali Attacks Secularism, Islam and Syncretism

NAIROBI: Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali Attacks Secularism, Islam and Syncretism

By Michael Heidt in Nairobi
VOL Special Correspondent
October 22, 2013

Introducing speakers on the first full day of GAFCON II, retired Bishop of Rochester, Michael Nazir-Ali identified three major threats to Christian culture, he believed cannot be turned away from or denied any longer.

For Nazir-Ali, these threats are aggressive secularism, radical Islam and a syncretism that holds all religions to be essentially the same. The bishop went on to describe these in greater detail, beginning with secularism, which he felt "infects much of the West" and has increasing influence in other countries.

Citing research that shows human beings to have a spiritual dimension innately within themselves, Nazir-Ali acknowledged that Western people have a personal, instead of social understanding of spiritual life. Religion, which he equated with spirituality in its social aspect, has become a "bad word" in the West, and this has led inevitably to "excessive individualism."

Because of this rejection of religion in general and Christianity in particular, Bishop Nazir-Ali believed that secularism was jettisoning what he described as a "precious heritage" of a "nation formed by the Gospel" with the "idea of a godly ruler subject to law" and a "godly society of mutual interdependence."

There was, said the bishop, plenty of how being asked by society but little of why, "We're not asking what is the purpose of the universe, of our lives, where we're going." This retreat from Christian, Gospel values and belief has had a devastating impact on human dignity, equality and liberty. Secularism had, he felt, twisted the meaning of these qualities of human flourishing, using them without acknowledging their foundation in Christian truth.

For example, secularism likes to uphold liberty but doesn't know why, refusing to understand that freedom is "rooted in revealed truth... inherent in the Gospel itself." In the same way, human dignity "has become radical autonomy, not bowing to anyone, anywhere," and "equality has become not an equality of persons but an equality off any lifestyle." Likewise, for Nazir-Ali, "Liberty has become merely permissive." As a result of this hollowing out of positive ethical values and failure to answer, or even acknowledge, the purpose and end of human existence, secularism has created a "vacuum." However, as the bishop reminded his hearers, "Nature abhors a vacuum" and that 'the space that was filled by the Gospel is now empty."

"Islam," stated Nazir-Ali, "may fill the vacuum," aided by syncretism, which he described as the mistaken belief that all religions are essentially the same. Over and against that, the bishop recommended a whole-hearted return to the Gospel foundations of Christian civilization.


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