HomeCA Research Journalvol. 4 no. 1 (2013)

The Role of the Church in the Politics of Social Transformation: The Paradox of Nihilism

Virgilio Rivas

Discipline: Philosophy, Religion



The paper attempts to demonstrate, drawing on the recent experience of the Philippine Catholic faith, that relevance of the Church in the postmodern age is as much a political choice as I is a tolerance of the nihilistic mood of the times. It is a political choice insofar as the church has nowhere to go in the postmodern except through asserting its relevance, which necessarily means homing in on the growing irrelevance of the organized faith, amidst the secular and liberal currents of the present, in order to thresh out strategic directions for its continued survival, which is recently challenged by stories of sex scandals involving its clergy. The postmodern age also compels the church to come to terms with the nihilism that accompanies what Nietzsche saw in his own time, and still true today, namely, the ‘death of God’.  The ‘Death of God’ continues to be a pervasive force behind the historical reaction of the faith toward the secularization of the modern world, in terms, for instance, of the rise of today’s conservative attitude of Roman catholicism, which can be considered a throwback of the earlier papal orthodoxy that looked down on temporal powers as disguised evil. This conservatism entails a certain practice and belief in the purity of the faith and the sacred over and against the secular and the profane. It ignores the actual and objective distinctions between the temporal and the sacred, which betrays a form of nihilism, that is, the forced oblivion of the real ambiguity and the paradox that on form the distinction between the secular and the sacred. This kind of nihilism connotes that no distinction can be tolerated at the expense of the sacred, while certain strategic compromise with the secular in the guise of advancing the aims of faith are tolerated if only to allow for the full maturity of the regime of the sacred.