A Neo-Platonist and an Existentialist are castaway on a desert island – what do they talk about? They don’t, because they haven’t got a common language.
I had a conversation with a priest recently who identified the problem with evangelisation today as being the simple fact that people no longer use or accept or trust or even believe in the metaphysical: what you see, is what you get.
There are no realities beyond what are perceived or measured.
I think this a pretty fair analysis of where we are at the moment, I suspect it was also where St Paul was with the dispute on the Areopagus, where the death and resurrection of Christ is seen by the Greeks as sheer folly. The same attitude was most probably present in the post-mythological Roman society, when the tales of gods and heroes were regarded as legends which merely spoke about the human condition.
I am convinced at the heart of Western Society, indeed the great divide between religious and secular minds, the west and Islam for example is a crisis of metaphysics, it manifests itself in so many ways in lesser crises. In the Church we see it in the polarisation of Liberals and Traditionalists, or a conflict between Left and Right, it manifests itself in problems such as:
Crisis of Grace: Are the sacraments life changing events where God intervenes, or ceremonies that produce a psychological response?
Crisis of Relativism: Are there any objective realities, such as things which are ultimately good or evil?
Crisis of Authority: Does the authority of the Church or Scripture or Tradition trump personal preference or experience?
Crisis of Commitment: Does a solemn promise or vow once made commit me to a particular action forever?
Crisis of Liturgy: Is the liturgy directed towards God or man?
Without the use of metaphysical language, we simply cannot talk about God, Salvation or indeed any aspiration of mankind, truth beauty, justice etc.
Another priest, friend of mine, not entirely reconciled to modern ways once claimed, “the Tridentine Rites are superior tools for evangelisation than those we use today”. I am not entirely sure what he means but I presume he was saying that using a sacral language, with prayer directed to God and a merely a passing nod to the world of men immediately communicates that our concern is for something totally “other”.
In the past the language, orientation, art, architecture, music, vows, habits etc. etc. etc., all pointed to another reality, a metaphysical reality.