The Archbishop of Canterbury gave a stern warning to the world's elite gathered in Davos, Switzerland, saying materialism will not help in the fight against extremist ideologies.
Justin Welby spoke during a panel discussion on "a common stance against extremism" at the World Economic Forum in the Swiss Alps today, and challenged world leaders to recover "theological language."
"What we have lost the capacity to do – and here Muslims and Christians are at one on this – we have lost the capacity in Europe to use theological values to discuss our differences in society generally," he said.
"It has become isolated to the religious world. This means we no longer have any way of answering the challenge of extremists."
Welby was on a panel alongside the Grand Mufti of Egypt and the president of the Center for the Study of Islam and Middle East. He urged some of the wealthiest individuals and businesses in the world to move beyond the "vocabulary of materialism."
"We no longer have the vocabulary," he told those gathered. "We say better materialism will help us."
"Nobody goes to Syria because they think they will get a better car next year," he added, in a direct challenge to Western consumerist culture. It just isn't the way they're thinking. It is a theological and ideological problem. Until we in Europe regain the capacity to use theological and ideological vocabulary we will not be able to counter extremism effectively.
"We have lost our roots."
The Anglican leader also noted that all the major world faith traditions, including Christianity, have a group that cannot tolerate diversity or difference.
"What is it that is bringing that out in restored violence in a way that arguable we've not seen, and certainly we've not seen in Christianity, since the end of the wars of Reformation?"
The answer to bad religion, he stressed, is not no religion but good religion.
"As a Christian I would say that our role is to present the faith of Christ in a way that is so clearly full of the love and grace of God that it is an effective counter-narrative in and of itself," Welby stated.
As for interfaith talks on countering extremism, there has been progress, he noted.
"There is a great deal more honesty coming into the conversation than in the past when the debate was quite often at the rather banal level of 'wouldn't it be nice if we were all nice,'" the archbishop said. "I think we're making progress into addressing the issues that affect us."