The Terrestrial God

It all depends on what we mean by "sacralizing" and "sacred," and to a lesser extent by "secular." The fact that Professor McKnight is a student of Eric Voegelin should not be left unmentioned in this regard, because for the recently deceased great scholar, "sacred" remained an elusive term. The word certainly referred to a dimension of man that differed from the secular and the profane, but it is not necessarily synonymous with what the monotheistic religions mean by it. To Voegelin, Eliade, Jung, Campbell, Rudolf Otto, and others, sacred meant the territory of awe, of numinous intervention, of participation in the cosmos and its forces.

In other words, for these scholars (and McKnight), the sacred is a tremendous worldview perfectly compatible with paganism, and to which Christianity has added a sui generis dimension but by no means annexed. We should keep these things in mind as we read McKnight's book.

Through his analyses of important Renaissance figures, McKnight tries to show why the Renaissance is falsely credited with the intention of secularizing the Middle Ages, when in fact it had tried to resacralize the just opening secular world and worldview. Not surprisingly, questions arise immediately. First, what was secular in the course of the Renaissance? The Humanists (Petrarch, Erasmus) formed only a modest corner, enlarged only in retrospect by today's...

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