T. S. Eliot once commented that Matthew Arnold ‘set up Culture in the place of Religion, and...[left] Religion to be laid waste by the anarchy of feeling’. His observation prompts us to consider whether Arnold, the quintessential Victorian, was also the prototypical modern who, unable to muster belief in the biblical God, embraces culture as a faith substitute. And that consideration certainly can lead to the larger questions of what is culture and how Christianity ought to be disposed toward it. This article is concerned with answering these latter questions. Even if Eliot was correct that Arnold made culture, and duty to it, stand for religion, the great Victorian was sufficiently sympathetic to the spirit of historic Christianity that his vision of culture was neither atheistic nor thoroughly secularist. He was a transitional figure from whom we can learn a lot about the late modern context of our discussion.
Keywords: Matthew Arnold; religion; culture; faith substitute
Article. 7784 words.
Subjects: Religion ; Religious Studies ; Philosophy of Religion
Full text: subscription required