Modernity might be defined as the age when mankind tried to do without God for the first time. The effect on culture has been extraordinarily stimulating. From the Renaissance and Reformation, through the Baroque reaction, the Enlightenment and Romanticism, and the Modernist reaction, Western culture has flourished.
Now however the impetus seems to have gone. Now that God has been so effectively removed from our society and culture, there seems to be no point in getting worked up about anything, no point in getting out of bed, so to speak. And the art and culture that is being produced is singularly tired and uninteresting. Postmodernism is the end of the line. So where next? Back the way we came?
In theology the current fashion – “Radical Orthodoxy” – is to see the whole modern experiment as just that, an experiment, which is now finished, and we can return to the certainties and security of the medieval, with its culmination in Thomas Aquinas. In poetry this produced Dante, probably the greatest poet of all time. But is this really possible in a relativist environment hostile to such certainties and security?
In fact it might be the environment most conducive to it. When the state no longer takes any view as to what moral or spiritual truth is, and allows its citizens full freedom of conscience. The medieval conflict between the temporal and the spiritual power which produced both corrupt Kings and corrupt Popes is over. The only danger is that that relativism should not become a dictatorship, restricting views with which it disagrees.
And the art that might be produced would be Christian, but not overtly so. Christianity would once again become the basic assumption, within which a person lives their life, and produces their goods. And Western culture would once again return to its Classical and Christian roots, and find there the energy and enthusiasm that it seems to have lost in cynicism and irony and disillusion.