It is now 49 years since Johan Heyns’s Sterwende Christendom? [Dying Christendom] was
published (1969) in which he traced the history of secularisation and its impact on the
theology of his time and 36 years since the publication (1982) of the first volume of his
Teologiese etiek [Theological ethics] in which he discussed the impact of secularisation on ethics.
In this article, the topic of the impact of secularisation on Christian ethics is revisited. Account
is taken of research conducted on the secularising impact of modernisation since then.
Although empirical research points to the fact that it is not true that modernisation inevitably
leads to the complete demise of religious faith and ethics, and also not that there is today
absolutely no room for religious influences in the different social orders, it does not mean that
it is a case of business as usual for Christian ethics. It cannot be denied that modernisation has
a significant effect on the shape of Christian ethics in the contemporary world. And it can also
not be denied that in most contemporary liberal democratic societies, including South Africa,
the public role of Christian ethics is restricted. Some of the challenges – and opportunities –
present-day realities pose to South African churches and their members are identified and
Intradisciplinary and/or interdisciplinary implications: On account of the pluralising and
fragilising impact of modernisation on Christian faith, the discipline of Christian ethics should
today criticise the absolutising of Christian ethical beliefs and encourage Christians to actively
support consensus seeking on moral values in the workplace and in society.
This article is based on the Johan Heyns Memorial Lecture I was invited to give on 24 May 2017 at the University of Pretoria.