Re-Enchantment Two Ways
Recovering a Supernatural Worldview and the Onset of a New Age
There has been a lot of discussion in recent years, both within and without of the church, about Re-Enchantment. Whenever something gains steam there is a temptation towards it becoming faddish or for the terms to gain baggage. As one who believes that Re-Enchantment is a good thing, and as I will attempt to discuss it in future essays, I would like to be clear about how I use the term.
When I discuss becoming re-enchanted, I’m thinking of it in two ways. (If you want a TL;DR summary, just read the sub-title above. That’s it. The rest is just me trying to unpack that.)
First and foremost I’m thinking of it as the recovery of a Supernatural worldview. Specifically a Christian Supernatural Worldview. A re-embracing of a reality beyond the mere empirical. Not merely a mental assent of the existence of an unseen realm, but to actually participate with it in much the same way the ancients and medievals did. It’s one thing to cognitively pay homage to the idea of a thing, it’s another when it’s in your bloodstream.
And that’s where I think many Modern Western Christians find themselves today. They mentally assent to the reality of the supernatural elements that matter most to the faith: The virgin birth. The miracles and healings of Christ and the apostles. The resurrection. The existence of angelic beings. Good Christian men acknowledge all of this. And yet there is a distinct disconnect once we move our eyes from the Scriptures to engage with the world around us. The water we swim in, the air we breathe, is fundamentally different than that of our ancestors, and that has impacted how we engage (or disengage) with the supernatural. While most of the modern West has been lulled into ignorance or have outright rejected the supernatural, we Christians have basically shifted from being participants to mere observers. Too often we are fans rather than players of the game.
This leads me to the second way I’m using the term Re-enchantment, as the Onset of a New Age. It comes by way of an essay by C.S. Lewis called “Talking About Bicycles”. He observes that there are Four Ages in which people tend to cycle through which informs their view on, well everything, and how when we are learning from someone we ought to consider which “Age” they are currently in. He uses the simple illustration of riding a bicycle to help us understand how it works:
I think there are these four ages about nearly everything. Let’s give them names. They are the Unenchanted Age, the Enchanted Age, the Disenchanted Age, and the Re-enchanted Age. As a little child I was Unenchanted about bicycles. Then, when I first learned to ride, I was Enchanted. By sixteen I was Disenchanted and now I am Re-enchanted.
We can use the Four Ages Model on an individual level, but also on a societal level. In regards to the Supernatural, which Age are we in?
I think it’s fairly easy to see that the Modern West, through a variety of ways—industrial, technological, materialistic, scientific, atheistic, secularistic, etc—has Disenchanted us in regards to the Supernatural. The Disenchanted Age is the environment the church in the Modern West finds itself in, and it’s undeniable how much of an influence it has had.
And yet, cracks have formed in the Modern Materialistic Secularism. There are signs that our culture and society is shifting from a Disenchanted Age to a Re-Enchanted Age. As my friend Josh Robinson rightly recognizes, this cultural Re-Enchanted Age is revealing itself as a Dark Enchantment.
This is precisely why Christians need to become Re-Enchanted; it’s why they need to recover a sound Supernatural worldview. They need to remember their old strength again. C.S. Lewis once pondered the idea that perhaps before the post-Christian world can become Christian again, it must become Pagan first. This is because “Christians and Pagans had much more in common with each other than either has with a post-Christian.” This is because both Pagans and Christians believe in a Spiritual Reality beyond the mere empirically observable natural world; and what’s more, that the Spiritual world and the Natural world interact.
So, what I have in mind in discussing Re-Enchantment is two fold: 1) We, as individuals and the Church in the West, must shake the dust of modern materialism off of our supernatural sword and begin exercising our neglected supernatural muscles again, because 2) the world around us is becoming Re-Enchanted whether we like it or not, and left on its own it’s a Dark Enchantment. And this Dark Enchanted world is already here. Lines are already being drawn. We need to remember our old strength again.
As I said, I plan on exploring these things in some upcoming essays. Indeed, a glance through some of my past essays reveals I’ve already been doing so. But I wanted to set the stage and shine a little more light on how I’m thinking about this. And I wanted to throw my hat in the ring, lending my voice, in whatever small way I can, to what appears to be a bit of momentum on the subject.
I will likely approach it higgledy-piggledy—as is the nature of Deep Levity—but if ever I bring up Re-Enchantment and someone thinks, “What’s he going on about?” well now I have a place to point him.
Thanks for reading Deep Levity! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.