Latour on the God of the Moderns

Reinterpretation of the ancient Christian theological themes made it possible to bring God’s transcendence and His immanence into play simultaneously. But this lengthy task of the sixteenth-century Reformation would have produced very different results had it not got mixed up with the task of the seventeenth century, the conjoined invention of scientific facts and citizens . . . Spirituality was reinvented: the all-powerful God could descend into men’s heart of hearts without intervening in any way in their external affairs. A wholly individual and wholly spiritual religion made it possible to criticize both the ascendancy of science and that of society, without needing to bring God into either. The modern could now be both secular and pious at the same time . . . This last constitutional guarantee was given not by a supreme God but by an absent God — yet His absence did not prevent people from calling on Him at will in the privacy of their own hearts. His position became literally idea, since He was bracketed twice over, once in metaphysics and again in spirituality. He would no longer interfere in any way with the development of the moderns, but He remained effective and helpful within the spirit of humans alone.

Bruno Latour, We Have Never Been Modern, trans. Catherine Porter (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1993), 35-36. 


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