Joad, C.E.M. Decadence: A Philosophical Inquiry (New York: Philosophical Library, ). The late C.E.M. Joad (1891-1953) was a renowned philosopher on the faculty of the U. London (1930-1953). He published many works, including studies in ethics, theology and religion. In this study Dr. Joad defines decadence as "the arrogance of man getting above himself and thinking he is lord of the universe" (pp. 14-15). He concludes that a decadent society is caused by the loss of belief in a higher spiritual reality: "the conviction that what is good and beautiful has its origin in and derives its authority from some other plane of reason… [which] invests our own world with a significance it had otherwise lacked." This conviction, Joad said, "forms part of the Christian tradition of Western Europe," but is threatened by factors which tend to preempt it such as "material prosperity and technical advance" (pp. 12-13). Characteristics of a decadent society include: "luxury, scepticism, weariness and superstition… as well as a preoccupation with the self and its experiences" (p. 117).
"A non-decadent community" Joad says, "is… one which is conscious of the spiritual order of the universe, more particularly as it manifests itself in values. Inhabitants of this order are God and the values in which God expresses and manifests Himself, namely, truth, goodness, and beauty…In decadent societies [this spiritual order] is lost sight of" (p. 281). Joad labels the materialistic cultural drift "insectification," and states, anticipating Thomas Cahill, and perhaps supporting Niebuhr's category: "Christ above culture,": "Granted the theistic hypothesis we may, I think… suppose that some human beings will be proof against the general process of 'insectification' and will retain the standards and values of civilized men, or will retain at least their memory much as the saints preserved the Christian faith in pagan lands and the monks some remnants of classical culture during the Dark Ages… By withdrawing, a man might…hope to keep alive some remnant of the culture of an earlier and more civilized time" (pp. 399; 401).
Johnson, Paul. Modern Times: The World from the Twenties to the Eighties (New York: Harper & Row, 1983); Intellectuals, reprint ed. (New York: Harper & Row, 1988. A graduate of Magdalen College, Oxford, and former editor of The New Statesman, Johnson characterizes the twentieth century as "a relativistic world." In chapter one of Modern Times he explains how Einstein's theory of relativity became "confused with relativism": "At the beginning of the 1920s the belief began to circulate, for the first time at a popular level, that there were no longer any absolutes; of time and space, of good and evil, of knowledge, above all of value. Mistakenly, but perhaps inevitably, relativity became confused with relativism." While Einstein himself "believed passionately in absolute standards of right and wrong," he "lived to see moral relativism, to him a disease, become a social pandemic" (p. 4). Johnson illuminates the furthest global events in this light: "The tragedy of inter-war China illustrates the principle that when legitimacy yields to force, and moral absolutes to relativism, a great darkness descends and angels become indistinguishable from devils" (p. 201); "all forms of moral relativism have an innate tendency to generate moral collapse since they eliminate any fixed anchorage and launch the ship of state on an ocean where there are no bearings at all" (p. 403).
Johnson, Pillip E. Reason in the Balance: The Case Against Naturalism in Science, Law and Education (Downers Grove, IL.: InterVarsity Press, 1995). A law professor at the U. of California, Berkeley, Dr. Johnson, initiated a new debate about the scientific credibility of the neo-Darwinian theory of evolution in 1991 with his book, Darwin on Trail (Downers Grove, IL.: InterVarsity Press). Since that time he has participated in a vigorous debate with critics through such vehicles as the journal, First Things, and through a university lectureship called the Veritas Forum. Johnson argues that at the heart of the current "culture war" is a "radical disagreement" about origins: "Darwinian evolution is not primarily important as a scientific theory," he says, "but as a culturally dominant creation story" (p. 12). Johnson calls for civil public debate which focuses on the issue of "truth;" which allows "presuppositions" to be identified; and which seeks to discover: "the first principles and premises that will help us to base our lives, worldviews and communities on truth and not error" (p. 203).
Johnstone, Ronald L. Religion in Society: A Sociology of Religion, 4th ed. (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1992).
Jones, L. Gregory and James J. Buckley, eds. Spirituality and Social Embodiment (London: Basil Blackwell, 1997). R. Clapp cites the following passage from L.G. Jones' essay, "A Thirst for God or Consumer Spirituality?," in this forthcoming volume: The "bifurcation of spirituality and politics is one of the reasons that contemporary spirituality can be consumed as a luxury consumer good, primarily designed for middle—and upper—class folks. One will not be confronted by massive suffering around the world, or even around the corner from where one lives. Nor will [one] be confronted with Amos's stinging prophetic indictments and Jesus' call to costly discipleship. Rather, [one] is invited to an increasingly inward journey that leaves the world largely as it already is. The presumption created by these sorts of intellectual grids and habits of thought and 'practice' is that the sacred has little if anything to do with morality, social institutions, or political power. What really matters are the inner experiences of isolated individuals, cultivated and evaluated largely by those same individuals. Yet such a presumption both distorts our readings of the patterns and practices of many spiritual figures and communities within the history of Christianity and masks the social values and commitments entailed in much contemporary spirituality" (cited in A Peculiar People, p. 217, n. 10).