Tribulation Saint

Historic Christianity in the Twenty First Century

Month: September, 2018

CHRISTIAN CIVILIZATION?

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Abraham Kuyper

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Betsy DeVos

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review:

Lectures on Calvinism

Abraham Kuyper

Eardmans, 1931

199 pp., pb.

 

One of President Trump’s more controversial cabinet appointments is the Education Secretary, Mrs. Betsy DeVos.  Mrs. DeVos is a strong proponent of school choice and voucher programs, and her appointment was strenuously opposed by the public school establishment.  Mrs. DeVos is a committed evangelical Christian, and the wife of the heir to the Amway fortune.

As it turns out, Mrs. DeVos has quite an interesting cultural background.  She was raised in the Dutch Calvinist Christian Reformed Church and is a graduate of Calvin College.  Both of these, in turn, are the spiritual heirs of a most remarkable figure in church history, Abraham Kuyper, the renowned Dutch theologian, educator, journalist and statesman.  Born in 1837, he studied at the University of Leyden and became a pastor in the state supported Dutch Reformed Church.  But he also became active in politics; and in both religion and politics he became a leading conservative intellectual, fighting against the liberal and secularizing trends of the day.  He was elected to parliament, founded the Free University of Amsterdam, and eventually led a group of conservative dissidents out of the state church.  In 1901 he became the Prime Minister of the Netherlands, serving until 1905.  He died in 1920.  The Encyclopedia Britannica described him as “a remarkable man . . .a powerful writer and a speaker with a gift of arresting statement” (1959 ed., Vol. 11, p. 654).

In 1898 Princeton University invited Kuyper to come to America to receive an honorary degree, and while he was in Princeton he delivered the L.P. Stone Lectures in the nearby Seminary.  The lectures provide us with an insight into the thinking of this remarkable figure.

It should be noted at the outset that when Kuyper spoke of “Calvinism” he was not referring specifically to what we think of today as the “Five Points of Calvinism.”  Rather, he was defining Calvinism broadly as a comprehensive worldview centered on the sovereignty of God.  The Calvinist worldview, he says, consists of three basic ideas: 1) as human beings we can have a direct relationship with God; 2) There is a fundamental equality of all human beings before God; and 3) the world should be honored as God’s creation.

Kuyper spent most of his lectures describing the influence that Calvinism has had on the course of Western history, advancing “Christian civilization.”  This, in turn, leads to what has sometimes been deemed “the cultural mandate.”  “Everything that has been created was, in its creation, furnished by God with an unchangeable law of its existence.  And because God has fully ordained such laws and ordinances for all life, the Calvinist demands that all life be consecrated to His service, in strict obedience” (p. 53).  What Kuyper was arguing for, in effect, was the lordship of Christ in every area of life.

In a Christian (Calvinist) state, Kuyper argues, the state would recognize God as the Supreme Ruler, maintain the Sabbath, proclaim days of fasting and prayer, and invoke God’s blessing.  But the state would also respect the rights of individual conscience and not interfere in the life of the church.

What prevents Western Civilization from reaching its full potential, according to Kuyper, is the liberal, secularist philosophy that sprang from the French Revolution.  Secular thinking is based on the assumption that the world as we see it is normal.  Genuine Christianity, however, is based on the exact opposite assumption, that the world is not normal.  It has been corrupted by sin and needs to be saved by divine grace.  The two viewpoints are diametrically opposed to each other and cannot be reconciled.  What the church must do is to challenge the assumptions of secular thought and put in their place a thoroughly developed Christian worldview.  This approach leads to what is known today as “presuppositional apologetics.”

Much of Kuyper’s thinking was undoubtedly shaped and influenced by events in his own time.  One of the burning political issues of the day had to do with the state supported educational system.  The Netherlands, like the U.S. today, had a publicly supported elementary school system.  But many Christian parents, like their American counterparts today, chose to send their children to private Christian schools instead.  The question then arose as to whether they should have to pay for both the public and private schools at the same time.  The proposal was made to have the government provide financial aid to the private schools as well as the public ones, and this was resisted by the liberals in the Netherlands.  On this question the orthodox Calvinists found themselves on common ground with the Catholics.  A political alliance was formed, which resulted in Kuyper becoming Prime Minister in 1901.

The question raised the deeper issue about the relationship between church, state and the educational system.  Starting with the premise that as human beings we are each directly accountable to God, Kuyper argued that the family, church, state and workplace each operate more or less independently of each other, with each following its own God-ordained method of operation.  This is what eventually came to known in Reformed circles as “sphere sovereignty.”

Kuyper was conscious of being a part of a “Christian civilization” that could trace its roots back 2,000 years and had been at least nominally Christian since the days of Constantine.  Kuyper also say that civilization being threatened by the forces of modern secularism.  The question is, what can the Christian do about it?

Kuyper recognized, quite correctly, that Christ should Lord of every area of life.  He also recognized that modern secularism operates on a set of assumptions diametrically opposed to those of biblical Christianity.  But the question then becomes, what can be done about human society in its present condition?  Kuyper relies very heavily on the role of  “common grace,” which he describes this way: it is that “by which God, maintaining the life of the world, relaxes the curse which rests upon it, arrests the process of corruption, and thus allows the untrammeled development of our life in which to glorify Himself as Creator” (p. 30).  But this may be ascribing too much to human civilization.  While it is certainly true that God “makes His sun rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust” (Matt. 5:45; NKJV), and that “He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way” (II Thess. 2:7), that is a long way from “allowing the untrammeled development of our life in which to glorify Himself as Creator.”  The world is still the world, a human society in rebellion against its Creator.  What it achieves it mostly accomplishes in defiance of God.

Significantly Kuyper quoted little Scripture in his lectures, but relied heavily instead on historical analysis.  He could look back over the course of Western Civilization and note the role that Calvinism had played in advancing it.  But when we turn to Scripture a different story emerges.  Instead of “Christian Civilization” we see the kingdom of God; and in order to enter that kingdom one must repent and be born again.  The root cause of man’s problem is sin, and the central task of the church is to call men and women to repentance and faith in Christ.  The moral tone of human society generally improves only as a result of religious revival.

What, then, is to be gained by Abraham Kuyper serving as the Prime Minister of the Netherlands, or Betsy DeVos as the U.S. Secretary of Education?  Each of us has an individual calling in life, and we should let our light shine before men, that they may see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven (Matt. 5:16).  “As we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially those of the household of faith” (Gal. 6:10); be we must be careful to “abstain from every form of evil” (I Thess. 5:22) and keep ourselves “unspotted from the world” (Jas. 1:27).  Politics, in particular, can be a morally hazardous undertaking!

Kuyper acknowledged that nothing can be accomplished unless God sends for His Spirit.  But he compares Calvinism to an Aeolian Harp – “absolutely powerless, as it is, without the quickening Spirit of God.”  But he says “. . .still we feel it our God-given duty to keep our harp, its strings tuned aright, ready in the window of God’s Holy Zion, awaiting the breath of the Spirit” (p. 199).  To which we can only say “Amen!”

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CIVILIZATION REVIVED?

 

Review:

12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos

Jordan B. Peterson

Random House

Random House Canada, 2018

409 pp., h.c.

 

Dr. Jordan B. Peterson is being hailed in some quarters as an influential conservative thinker who is values-centered and an advocate for freedom of thought and speech.  He is a clinical psychologist and a professor at the University of Toronto.  In his best-selling book 12 Rules of Life: An Antidote to Chaos, he lays out some basic principles on how to achieve happiness and fulfillment in life.  In so doing he often calls us back the traditional cultural values of Western Civilization.

In the book Dr. Peterson challenges many of the assumptions of the contemporary intellectual world.  He argues that in order for society to function there has to be a shared cultural system and a hierarchy of values.  Our values, in turn, are often rooted in religious tradition.  But to avoid the dilemma of slavish adherence to the group on the one hand, and outright nihilism on the other, it is necessary for the individual to take responsibility for his own actions.  “We must each accept as much responsibility as possible for individual life, society and the world.  We must each tell the truth and repair what is in disorder and break down and recreate what is old and outdated.  It is in this manner that we can and must reduce the suffering that poisons the world” (p. xxxiii).

What follows are the “12 rules for life” that he proposes.  Much of it is good, common-sense advice such as “Make friends with people who want the best for you” (Rule 3), “Do not let your children do anything that makes you dislike them” (Rule 5), and “Pursue what is meaningful (not what is expedient)” (Rule 7).

Much of what Peterson has to say is based on common sense and everyday experience.  For him much of it simply means coming to terms with reality.  This would include, among other things, gender roles, which are rooted in psychological differences between the sexes.  He argues that to some degree, at least, these gender differences are desirable.  “It is to women’s clear advantage that men do not happily put up with dependency among themselves . . . a woman should not look after a man, because she must look after children, and a man should not be a child” (pp. 329-330).  “Men have to toughen up.  Men demand it, and women want it . . .” (p. 331).

While Peterson comes across as an outspoken defender of traditional Western culture, his approach, however, is not really Christian.  He accepts the idea that human beings are the products of evolution.  He also accepts modern critical theories about the Bible, and says at one point that “The Bible has been thrown up, out of the deep, by the collective human imagination, which itself is a product of unimaginable forces operating over unfathomable spans of time” (p. 104).

This, in turn, raises a serious question about the nature of morality itself.  While Peterson has a great deal to say about human experience, he has practically nothing to say about God himself.  The result is a more or less relativistic view of morality.  “You can use your own standard of judgment.  You can rely on yourself for guidance.  You don’t have to adhere to some external, arbitrary code of behaviour . . .” (p. 158); although he then adds parenthetically, “although you should not overlook the guidelines of your culture.  Life is short, and you don’t have time to figure everything out on your own.  The wisdom of the past was hard-earned, and your dead ancestors may have something useful to tell you.”

Peterson will sometimes quote Scripture to support his conclusions, but he will often twist the meaning of the text to fit his own humanistic philosophy.  A good example is his handling of the Sermon on the Mount.  Under Rule 4 he has been discussing the importance of setting realistic goals for oneself.  He states that the proper aim of mankind is to “concentrate on the day, so that you can live in the present, and attend completely and properly to what is in front of you . . .” (pp. 109-110).  He then quotes Matthew 6:19-34 and then concludes by saying, “You are discovering who you are, and what you want, and what you are willing to do.  You are finding that the solutions to your particular problems have to be tailored to you, personally and precisely” (p. 110).  But it was hardly Jesus’ intention to have people “concentrate on the day, so that you can live in the present.”  Rather, what He told His listeners was, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth . . .” (Matt. 6:19), and He went on to say “do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink . . .” (v. 25).  And whereas Peterson wants to let the individual decide for himself what is in his own best interests, Jesus says “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness . . .” (v. 33).  God is the kind and He is the One who decides what righteousness is.

In short, for Peterson morality is all about achieving happiness and success in this life.  What is missing is any sense of accountability to God as Creator and Lord.  In that sense Peterson is typical of the great philosophers of the past.  He tries to probe the meaning of existence, but he tries to do it without reference to God.

For the Christian therein lies the whole problem with human civilization.  As human beings we can see the advantages of sharing a settled existence together.  We create governments, we pass laws, and we build infrastructure.  But we do it all out of a sense of self-interest.  What is missing is any due regard for God or for the well-being of our fellow humans.  No sooner do we create the government and laws (ostensibly to promote justice), than we look for ways to circumvent the system we just created.  Our sense of right and wrong is little more than what we can get away with.  Peterson is seeking to revive the cultural values of Western civilization, but he comes short of what our Creator expects from us in the way of moral and ethical behavior.

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness . . . because, although they know God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.  Professing to be wise, they became fools . . .” (Rom. 1:18,21,22; NKJV).

Our values must be grounded in reality.  But the ultimate reality is God himself, our Creator and Lord; and in the end we will all have to stand before Him and give an account.  It is God, then, who determines what is right and what is wrong, and our lives must conform to His will.  Only then will we find the peace and happiness we all long to enjoy.

THE WRATH OF GOD

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The Flood

 

We do not like to think of God as a God of wrath.  We would like to think of Him as a kind, benevolent Father who loves us unconditionally, understands that we are merely human, and would never think of punishing us.  But it would be a mistake to worship a God of our own imagination.  The question is, what is God actually like in reality?  And the only way we can know that is through divine revelation: God himself must tell us what He is like, and this He has done in Scripture.  We must go by what the Bible says, not our own imaginations.

And while the Bible says that God is a God of love, He is also a God of justice who hates sin and punishes it.  “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness’ (Rom. 1:8; NKJV).

The first question, then, is, why is God angry?  The verse says that it is because of the “ungodliness” and “unrighteousness” of men.  The word translated “ungodliness” might better be translated “impiety” – the lack of any devotion or reverence toward God.  “Unrighteousness” refers to lawlessness and injustice.  As human beings we refuse to keep God’s law and mistreat each other.

Paul goes on in chapter 3, verse 5 to refer to “your hardness and your impenitent heart.”  They are “self-seeking and do not obey the truth” (2:18).  In other words, what is in view here not an occasional unintentional mistake or a sin committed in ignorance.  What is in view here is something conscious and deliberate, an attitude of selfish indifference to others and a stubborn rebellion against the truth.  We sin willfully, and thus we are without excuse.

In other words, God’s anger is an expression of His justice.  He is angry with us, not arbitrarily or for no apparent reason.  Rather, He is angry with us, justly angry, because of what we have actually done.  It is a matter of what we deserve for our sin and rebellion.  For God to love righteousness is to hate unrighteousness; to love good is to hate evil.  If He cares for the victim He is angry with the perpetrator of the crime.

But then, the question is, how does God’s anger express itself?  And here we are told that the wicked are “treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God” (Rom. 2:5).  In the day of wrath and judgment God will mete out to the wicked “indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil” (2:8,9)  The wicked will experience real suffering – “tribulation and anguish.”  But it must be kept in mind that God is exercising perfect justice in this; it is not the arbitrary and unpredictable explosion of anger that the pagans predicated of some of their gods.  Rather, the day of wrath is the “righteous judgment of God,” who “will render to each one according to his deeds” (2:5,6).  “For there is no partiality with God” (2:11).

Christians, of course, have been save from the wrath to come.  “For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Thess. 5:9).  Nevertheless, the doctrine of God’s wrath has important implications for the Christian life.

First of all, we should be careful to please God in all that we do and avoid sin, knowing that it is because of those very sins that people are in hell today.  “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.  Therefore do not be partakers with them” (Eph. 5:6,7; cf. Col. 3:5-7).  If God would punish a sin in that way we should dread ever to commit it.

Secondly, we may on occasion find ourselves having to disobey the civil magistrate when they command us to do something that is wrong.  As Jesus sent His disciples out on their first preaching tour He warned them in advance that they face persecution, including the possibility of prosecution by the civil authorities.  What Jesus said was grim and foreboding: “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.  But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both the soul and body in hell” (Matt.10:28).  Civil magistrates and courts may decree this or that, but right and wrong are ultimately determined by God and never change.  Human governments have engaged in oppression and even outright genocide, but that does not make it right.  “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).

But most importantly, Christians should be anxious to share the gospel with the lost, knowing their future destiny if they do not repent.  The apostle Paul could say that he “magnified” his ministry to the Gentiles “if by any means I may provoke to jealousy those who are my flesh and save some of them” (Rom.11:13,14).  There is a sense in which the eternal destiny of our fellow human beings depends on our presenting them with the gospel.

If we were to take the wrath of God seriously we would live differently.  Our priorities would be different, and we would not be so casual about sin.  May God help us to see things more clearly and live accordingly!

ROE v. WADE

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This past week the Senate Judiciary Committee held confirmation hearings on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.  As was expected the subject of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court’s landmark decision on abortion, came up for discussion, and as expected, the nominee was non-committal.  At one point in the discussion Sen. Dianne Feinstein asked Judge Kavanaugh, “What would you say your position today is on a woman’s right to choose?,” to which he replied, “As a judge, it is an important precedent of the Supreme Court.”

Judge Kavanaugh was right to be non-committal on the subject.  Strictly speaking the proper role of a judge is not to make law based on his own personal preferences, but to decide cases based on existing law.  But it is for precisely that reason that Roe v. Wade was extremely problematical.  It was marked by a strained, if not to say bizarre exegesis of the Constitution, and it led to a morally outrageous conclusion.

In Roe the Court took up the question of the constitutionality of state anti-abortion laws.  The case basically involved two separate questions: 1) Is the life of an unborn child protected by the Fourteenth Amendment?   And 2) Does a woman have a right to privacy which includes the right to have an abortion?  What makes the decision so bizarre is that the justices took two completely different approaches to answer the two questions.  On the first question they took a very narrow, legalistic interpretation, while on the second question they let their imaginations have free rein.  One cannot help but wonder if the outcome was dogmatically contrived.

On the first question, Mr. Justice Blackmun, writing for the majority, argued that the word “person,” as used in the Constitution, does not include an unborn child, and therefore the unborn child’s life is not covered by the Due Process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.  On the second question, however, Mr. Justice Blackmun professed to see a generalized right of privacy, something which he himself admitted was not explicitly mentioned anywhere in the document, but thought might be implied in any one of a number of different provisions.  But whatever it was and wherever it was, Justice Blackmun was sure that it must include the right to have an abortion.

In a sense, we do hope that the Constitution does at least imply a right to privacy.  But the right to privacy does not include the right to commit a crime.  You do not have the right to murder your mother-in-law in the privacy of your own home.  The right of privacy, rather, protects you against unreasonable searches and seizures.

What is morally outrageous about the decision is the implication that there is no longer a sanctity of human life.  Mr. Justice Blackmun asserted that “we need not resolve the difficult question of when life begins,” and then went on to argue that Texas may not, “by adopting one theory of life,” override the rights of a pregnant woman.  Thus he tacitly admitted the possibility that life might begin at conception, but argued that it does not matter if it does.  The unborn child still does not have a right to life.

What the Bible says about the ancient Canaanites is highly instructive in this regard.  One of the evils that was endemic in Canaanite society was the worship of a pagan deity named Molech.  Molech was an ancient Canaanite god whose worship involved human sacrifice, specifically the sacrifice of children who were made to pass through a fire.  What God told Israel about the practice was instructive.

First of all, the practice had the effect of polluting or defiling the land.  When Cain slew Abel God said to him: “The voice of your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground.  So now you are cursed from the earth, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand” (Gen. 4:10,11; NKJV).  And so it was with regard to the Canaanites.  “For the land is defiled; therefore I visit the punishment of its iniquity upon it, and the land vomits out its inhabitants” (Lev. 18:25).

Secondly, this and other like practices are called “abominations” (vv. 26,27,29,30).  An “abomination” is something that God considers loathsome or detestable.  Nowadays we might say that it “grosses you out.”  It is an offense that is particularly serious.

Child sacrifice is a barbaric and inhumane practice, something that runs counter to the natural sympathy that should exist between a parent and a child.  God made it clear that Israel was to live a different standard.  Leviticus 19, which falls right in the middle of God’s indictment of the Canaanites, contains exhortations to regard the poor, the deaf, the blind, the elderly and the foreigner.  In a word, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev. 19:18).

The fate of the Canaanites raises some disturbing questions about the possible fate of America.  If God regards abortion as a moral outrage, and if our destiny is ultimately in His hands, then the future looks ominous indeed.  All around one sees signs of impending doom: mired in foreign wars, sinking beneath a mountain of debt, the crumbling family structure, even the erratic weather and invasive species, the divisive politics of the day, we give every appearance of being a civilization in decline.  Could it be that God is telling us something?  Could it be that God’s judgment is not far away?

THE CULTURAL REVOLUTION

Edvard Munch

Edvard Munch: The Scream, 1893

 

 

This past week marked the 50th anniversary of the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in 1968.  While most political conventions are fairly routine and eminently forgettable, this one marked a turning point in American culture.  The country was roiled over the Viet Nam War.  The incumbent President, Lyndon B. Johnson, had decided not to run for reelection.  There were huge ant-war demonstrations in the city which turned into riots.  Hubert Humphrey won the nomination and Richard Nixon won the election.  In the process a whole generation became disillusioned.

Some of us have vivid memories of the dramatic changes that have taken place in American society since.  We remember the relative tranquility of the 1950’s, and then the turbulence of “the Movement,” the counter-culture of the ‘60’s and the Sexual Revolution.  And since then we have witnessed the rise of radical feminism, the legalization of abortion, and skyrocketing divorce rates.  The country we see today is hardly the country we knew back in the ‘50’s.

The fact of the matter is that the changes that we have witnessed in the last fifty years have their roots much further back in time.  And to understand why it is necessary to understand something about the nature of civilization itself.  Civilizations are formed when relatively large groups of people decide to share a settled existence together.  They form governments, establish cities and build infrastructure.  The engage in commerce, pass laws and prepare for their common defense.  They go on to create works of art, music and literature.  And in so doing they create for themselves a standard of living that far surpasses anything they had previously known as primitive tribal peoples with a hunter / gatherer economy.

There is a problem here, however.  Mankind, as a whole, is in a state of rebellion against God.  The motive in creating these civilizations is self-interest.  And while at first a civilization may be built around some sort of civil religion in order to encourage personal sacrifice for the common good, in the end the very success of a civilization is its undoing.  As it becomes rich and prosperous, its citizens become self-indulgent and generally lose interest in religion and patriotism.  “Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori” (“Sweet and beautiful it is to die for the Fatherland”) becomes “Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.”

Underlying all of this, however, is a deep philosophical problem.  As fallen, sinful human beings we do not want to acknowledge God as Creator and Lord, Someone whom we must obey.  And so we will create philosophical systems to provide alternative explanations of reality.  But we must still live in a world that was created by the one true and living God.  This creates a tension between fact and theory, between what we would like to think is true and reality as we actually experience it.

In modern Western thought the problem arose through the scientific revolution of the late Renaissance and beyond, culminating in the publication of Sir Isaac Newton’s Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica (The Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy) in 1687.  This, coupled with the reaction against the religious wars of the late 16th and early 17th Centuries, led to the development of a purely secular philosophy, one based on pure reason rather than on divine revelation.  Two of the philosophers who led the way in this were Rene Descartes (1596-1650) and Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679).

What followed was “The Age of Reason” or the “French Enlightenment.”  The world would make rational sense because it was founded on certain immutable laws of nature.  God was the divine watchmaker who created it all, but does not interfere with it after it was created.  The miraculous and supernatural simply do not occur.  And it is possible to make sense of all of this through the use of pure reason alone.  Any kind of divine revelation is unnecessary.

But where does this leave man himself?  If the entire universe functions according to immutable laws of nature, if everything is based on reason and logic, where does that leave the individual human being?  He becomes nothing more than a cog in the vast machine of the universe.  But we are conscious of having feelings and emotions, hopes and desires, and an inner sense of right and wrong.  Thus it would only be a matter of time before there would be a reaction against the rationalism of the Enlightenment, and that took the form of an essay written in 1754 by Jean Jacques Rousseau entitled “Discourse on the Origins and Foundations of Inequality Amongst Men,” in which he argued that human beings are good by nature and are corrupted by civilization.  This, along with his subsequent writings, helped inspire the Romantic Movement of the early 19th Century with its emphasis on individual freedom and self-expression.  The legacy of the Romantic Movement lived on in the form of Existentialism and Post-Modernism, in the bohemian lifestyle and the beat generation.  Thus the central tension in modern Western thought is between nature and freedom, between rationality and irrationality.

What brought the crisis to a head in the late 1960’s were the Civil Rights Movement and the Viet Nam War.  As more and more young people became disillusioned with the U.S. Government and the “Establishment” they came to embrace a variety of alternative lifestyles and Counter-culture philosophies, some of them rooted in Neo-Marxism and Existentialism.  Much of the protests died away in the 1970’s, but the Existentialist viewpoint lived on in the writing of Simone de Beauvoir whose famous book The Second Sex became virtually the bible of the Feminist Movement.  The basic premise of the book was Sartre’s – that existence precedes essence, that we exist as autonomous individuals and should be free to define our own essences.  The practical implication (for women) was that gender roles were artificial and confining, and should be done away with.  Later the LGBT movement would take up the battle cry and argue that gay and transgender people should be allowed to define themselves as well.  The result of all of these changes was a loss of faith in universal truths and moral absolutes.  And this, in turn, resulted in social decay.

But all of this began with the Age of Reason and the secularization of Western culture.  If we try to rely on human reason alone, we have to assume that there is a rational order to the universe. But, as we have seen, this reduces man to the role of a cog in the machine.  But if we assume that a human being exists as a free and autonomous individual, then it becomes impossible to establish a rational order to the universe.

The problem with a purely secular worldview is that if we make something other than God as the ultimate reality, we cannot do justice to reality.  We leave something unexplained.  And to complicate matters, man’s reason is finite – we cannot see the whole picture.  How did we get here?  What is the ultimate meaning and purpose of life? What happens to us when we die?  Philosophers have struggled to answer these questions, but have never been able to come up with a convincing answer – just ask another philosopher.  Secular philosophy leads to a dead end.

The only solution is to be found in God – the true and living God, the Creator and Lord of heaven and earth.  And we are dependent upon the revelation which He has given us in the Bible to give us the answers to life’s great existential questions.  Only then can we achieve our full potential as human being created in His image.