Archive for May, 2012

Conclusion to Enlightenment: How to Think with God.

Posted in Uncategorized on May 29, 2012 by ancienthopes

Over the last few weeks we have examined the main pillars that uphold the enlightenment world view. We called them “lenses” in that it is through them that our culture views the world. They are critical thinking, practicality, autonomy, tolerance, eclecticism, and relativity. We might even say that these are the great fundamentals of secularism.

From one perspective, these lenses have a bright side. Christianity, in fact, provided the soil for these ideas to grow. Personally, I am so glad that I go to a post-enlightenment physician rather than pre-enlightenment one. There is nothing wrong with modernism per se or the progress the world has made over the last four centuries in many areas. The Church is not an enemy to science and technology; it is part of the creativity of being made in the image of God and of “subduing” (not in an exploitive sense, but a nurturing sense) the earth. Modernism is who we are as westerners, and this cannot be changed, nor should it be changed. It would be ingenuous to condemn the Enlightenment in its totality on one level and yet embrace the many benefits received on the other. It is absurd to pine for the “good old days” when in fact they were not as good as we might romanticize them to be.

It is the dark side of the Enlightenment that must be exposed for what it is; the secular agenda to create a world view where there is no transcendent truth, that there are no absolutes, thus setting adrift the created realm of space/matter and time from its Creator. In its war against God and the Church, secularism has made deep inroads against Christianity, slowly eroding the biblical world view, and replacing it with individualism, materialism, and false ideas of freedom. All of us are affected by this. Again, it is in the very air that we breathe. We might think we are biblical, but we are not as biblical as we think. We must fight every day so as not to be pressured into the mold of society around us, but to be transformed by Christ. We must consciously examine our world view, or cosmology (how creation works and how we fit into it), and fight our way into reality. When we begin to suspect that so much of our thoughts and life-styles are illusory, it is then that we find our way to the truth. It is a life-death battle. It is not merely a matter of not committing certain sins, nor believing the right things about Jesus. It is a matter of learning how to “think with God.”

How do we learn to “think with God”? Well, again our previous work on the Lord’s Prayer and the Beatitudes provide a beginning. I thought that a new series on the 10 commandments would also be a good thing to do this summer; they provide another venue into the mind of God. Before this, however, I would like to present the three pillars of the biblical world view through what I call the “cosmic Triangle.”

The Lens of Relativity

Posted in Uncategorized on May 21, 2012 by ancienthopes

I am fascinated with the idea of relativity. I know so little about Einstein and his theories. However, it takes very little intelligence to be humbled by the thought that our concept of time is meaningless once outside of our little solar system. Time as we know it, which has such profound human and theological significance, is completely relative to our situation.

This brings us to the last great lens through which the Enlightenment encourages us to look through ─ relativity. Everything is relative and there are no absolutes apart from this one objective declaration that all is relative. What you believe is fine for you, but may not be for me and others. The only thing that approaches objectivity is the results of the hard sciences. Of course, there are also the social engineers who simply wish to rid society of all Christian truth and remake nature and the world according to their own sense of moral absolutes.

It is a strange thing that every group has their own set of absolutes which they tend to impose on others. When “objectivity” is condemned, it is a specific type of objectivity, especially the Christian claim of moral absolutes based both on natural law (see previous post) and Scripture. It is a sad thing that so many Christians are losing their sense of natural law and their grip on the biblical world view by which to counter this secular onslaught of relativity. Many Christians simply no longer have the intellectual, spiritual, or moral grounding to stand up to it, and so we give way so as not to be “intolerant” (see previous post on tolerance). You see that all these lenses we have discussed, when they come together, reinforce one another, casting a spell on the soul and brain that is formidable indeed.

Christians, however, cannot afford to be “triumphalistic” with their own experience or sense of truth. The truth is that there is a lot of truth to the idea that everything is relative to us. Pure, objective truth does not reside in any one of us! We are all, even as Christians, mired in our own subjectivity and sinful patterns of thought. It is Jesus who is pure objective truth. Truth is a Person. Our conceptual ideas and doctrines, as critical and important as they are to us in this life, are but symbols of objective truth anchored in God alone, Who is beyond all our powers of thought. The closer we come to Jesus relationally the more we approach objective truth in heart and mind. This is a very long and difficult process, and therefore calls for much humility. The world sees us smug and arrogant with what truth we have, and rejects the truth in rejecting us. The truth is powerful, however, in the humble; those who have been transformed by their walk with God through the beatitudes (see our previous series of posts on the beatitudes).

Any thoughts? We will wrap up our thoughts on the Enlightenment and its effects on our culture and even us as Christians in the next post.

The lens of Eclecticism

Posted in Uncategorized on May 14, 2012 by ancienthopes

The Enlightenment thinkers rejected the great theological systems of the Church that provided the answers for who we are as humans, why we are here, and how the spiritual and physical realms relate. Also, they rejected secular philosophical rational systems that tried to accomplish the same. For these philosophers, reason’s domain was limited to the empirical world of scientific experimentation, and perhaps in a general way to ethics. There is no way that the human mind can construct a system of thought that can explain how heaven and earth, the spiritual and the physical, the supernatural and the natural, can be applicable for all of humanity. Such a system would necessarily be subjective, and could not be recognized as universal, objective truth. In this way the Enlightenment was a revolt against reason.

When you place this conviction next to the obvious fact that we are spiritual creatures that hunger for meaning, the outcome is eclecticism. By this is meant that we humans view the array of religions and philosophies like a vast smorgasbord. We pick and choose a little of this and a little of that according to our own bent of mind and preferences. It simply doesn’t matter that the bits and pieces do not make sense together because the Enlightenment taught us that the application of reason to spiritual matters is fruitless. For instance, one might love reading the Bible for spiritual stimulation and be a Buddhist. The two world views are utterly in conflict, yet it simply doesn’t matter. Or, one can claim to be a Christian on one hand, and passionately embrace secular social agendas that squarely contradict the ethical structure of Christianity on the other. What is truly sacred is our right to pick and choose regardless of our inconsistencies. It is even fashionable to celebrate our dark complexities as profound self-authentication. The result is that we are no longer “integrated” or whole” beings, but are fractured and compartmentalized along the lines of our contradictory choices.

Our participation in eclecticism can be very subtitle. We may be devout Christians but live out our lives on a practical level with the conviction given to us by our culture that things really do not fit together, that reality in its totality doesn’t make sense. Our Christianity has little or nothing to do with the material world (it is going to be destroyed anyways), how we spend our money (tithing was for the OT believers under law; we are now free by grace to give less), what entertainment we take in (we take in sex and violence throughout the week and sing praise songs on Sunday), how we care for the poor (the word “alms” is archaic — we leave to the government what historically was done by the Church), and how we relate to other groups of Christians (the idea of dialogue and learning from others is absurd, for we clearly got it right). The fact is that most of us do not live by a cosmology, or a world-view, that is integrated, that brings together the whole of reality. We live in terrible contradictions, and are too fearful, lazy, or willful to do anything about it. Are we really all that much different than the eclectic culture around us?

The Church has long held that creation, space and time, the spiritual world, and God Himself who exists above it all are intimately connected. God has placed in the hearts of all humanity His law to which we intuitively know and are obligated to obey through our conscience. This “natural law” is the earthly expression of God’s Eternal Law, and is what holds the spiritual and physical realms together. Moreover, since the incarnation of Jesus Christ in space and time, these two realms that were ripped apart at the fall of humanity are now brought together. Life for us should no longer be picking and choosing this and that, but about one grand aspiration to become integrated and whole beings in union with God and in harmony with nature.

Any more thoughts on this?


Posted in Uncategorized on May 7, 2012 by ancienthopes

We now move to the next lens crafted by the enlightenment through which we westerners view the world. It is the lens of tolerance. Of course, the enlightenment did not create the idea of tolerance, for it is indeed a Christian virtue. Unfortunately, coming out of all the religious strife of the 16th and 17th centuries, tolerance was not seen to be a particularly Christian trait. Out of this failure, the philosophers of the enlightenment were convinced that religious convictions were absolutely at odds with peace. Standing above the religious quibbling, the architects of secular society styled themselves as the apostles of tolerance. Today their progeny are tolerant of almost everything except Christianity, which at heart is completely adverse to the secular agenda.

Again, tolerance is a Christian virtue that manifests itself in true love, respect, and compassion for other people. We have all seen the popular bumper sticker ‘coexist” written in various religious symbols. Surely we can and must embrace others who have completely different world views and religious convictions than we have, and to this extent, there is some truth to this bumper sticker. There is absolutely no room for an intolerance that demeans or disrespects others. All intolerance that arises out of fear and desperation to control others is evil.

“Tolerance” is such a kind and wonderful concept that it is easy to miss something very dark hiding in its shadows. First of all, tolerance can be a code word for moral laxity, especially the breaking down of sexual boundaries established by nature and Scripture. Secondly, the kind of tolerance our society espouses inevitably leads to religious indifference. If there is nothing worth dying for, is there really anything worth living for? Christians must be on fire; ready to die for what they believe. A mind numbed by secular tolerance passively retreats into its own little world, bullied by the world into submission.

The secular world tells us that if religious belief is worth dying for, it inevitably means that it is worth killing for, and shames Christians with past examples of this. I think we Christians have to take this criticism to heart without losing our fire and conviction. Are not many of the divisions among us the result of the failure of our fathers of the 16th and 17th centuries to iron out their differences in a godly fashion? How come Protestants are so intolerant of Catholics, and Catholics so intolerant of Protestants? Why must we drag around the balls and chains forged in old 16th century controversies? Why cannot we study deeply what each other is saying, not for the purpose of argument, but for the purpose of understanding? Why is it that the whole idea of Christian unity is of little or no value to us?

I am absolutely convinced of two things: 1) If our fathers in the time of the Reformation worked out their differences in all love and humility, there never would have been the so-called Enlightenment. 2) If we now abandoned our intolerance by focusing all of our energy into Christian unity, secular humanism would dry up and wither away before our united front. Our fathers on both sides of the isle will be judged for the schism of the 16th century. We will be judged for not working toward mending the fences.

The Lens of Autonomy

Posted in Uncategorized on May 1, 2012 by ancienthopes

As we take in air as we breathe, we cannot help but take in the cultural atmosphere in which we live. Yes, we all are soaked to the eyeballs with secular ideas which we think are normal and natural as mother’s milk. It is only with great effort that we can disengage ourselves; an effort that can be styled as a fight for our very lives. No, I am not being overly dramatic.

The lens that we wish to expose in this post is the lens of autonomy. This word is made up of two Greek words “autos” which means “self” and “on” which is a participle meaning “being.” An autonomous being is a “self being.” In enlightenment thought, it is our natural right to be autonomous. What is meant here is that we must be free to make our own choices without any reference to an external authority, especially God, Church, or Scripture. Our “self” is the true reference point. Granted, we cannot do anything that would directly harm others, for this would be unsociable. Western Democracies are now crumbling because it cannot manage their hosts of autonomous beings. Who or what can herd the cats? We see that the situation in the church frightfully parallels the society at large.

The great confusion has got to do with the idea of freedom and how it relates to autonomy. The Modern/postmodern world has confused freedom with autonomy. The Bible and the Church fathers present freedom as a gift from God, an aspect of the image of God in us. We can become autonomous with this gift of freedom by choosing sin. This is what Adam and Eve chose to do with it. When we do this, we become slaves of sin and self. Autonomy is therefore not freedom, for it leads us into slavery to self, having our own way rather than God’s way. True freedom is a paradox. We freely submit our wills to God … and then we find ourselves growing into freedom over the course of time. Freedom is the power to turn our wills to the good, the true, and the beautiful. Freedom is not autonomy. The enlightenment has declared that freedom is ours by right as autonomous beings. We have drunk deeply from this infernal chalice.

When we take stock of ourselves, can we say that we are truly free, or is their within us a dark streak of autonomy? Have we confused autonomy with freedom like our culture does? When we hear the Word preached, are we listening with a critical spirit (see post above on this), as if we are the final arbiters of what is true, weighing what is said by how we feel about things? If we do not like what is said or done at one church, do we simple get up and go to another? Do we really submit ourselves to a rigorous discipleship with spiritual mentors that have authority to speak truth into our lives? Are we really accountable to anyone? Do we let anyone really close to us? Do we hide in big churches? Are we growing into Christian freedom or are we stuck in our own autonomy? We might think that we are disciples because of our conversion experience and think we are biblical because we read the Bible at times and go to Bible believing church. But do we hear what we want to hear, and read what we want to read? In the end, we are so often left to our own autonomous selves; we simply trust ourselves as competent judges to figure things out. This may be the American way, but it is certainly not the way of true Christian discipleship.

Could it be that we Christians are guilty of the same mindset of our godless culture? If so, what should we do about it?