by Ron Teed
We might also entitle this section "The Modernization of God."
Followers of Jesus Christ fondly recall the Protestant Reformation (1517 ff), not simply because of their spiritual ancestors and their attempt to bring all dimensions of life under Christ's Lordship, but because it was a time when the Christian worldview was universally accepted throughout Europe. Humanity's sinfulness, the need for a divine human Savior and the necessity of special revelation for a true knowledge of God were unquestioned.
That age, however, is now gone, dissolved by the Enlightenment and its ideology of modernity. The progressive development of modernity from the eighteenth century through the twentieth century has produced a decisive and irreversible change in its political, social, and intellectual outlook of Western Europe. Society's religious moorings crumbled under the Enlightenment's impact. The Bible and religious values lost their influence in the culture.
The Enlightenment rejected Christianity's appeal to use the Bible as a unique sphere of knowing and instead insisted that a statement could be accepted as true only if its proofs were universally or publicly grounded. The old authorities, the Bible, the Church, and other authoritarian systems were distrusted and replaced by human reason. Reason was elevated and honored as the protector from the prejudices and fanaticism of the past. This was humankind's coming of age when humankind dared to think for itself, no longer blindly accepting tradition. This ideological vision to reestablish society and thought on an objective foundation in which everyone agrees is called "modernity." Reason's ability to determine truth would provide the foundation for correct thinking about reality and assessing absolute truth, since all thinking human beings can agree through the process of reason. With this strategy "modernity" offered the hope that humans could understand the universe, be reconciled to one another by establishing social peace, and attain their utopian vision of the future.
Driven by this new confidence, humanity freed itself from the old authority of the Church. Not only did "modernity" produce great cultural and social change, but it also posed a grave challenge to the Christian faith on several fronts.
As men like Copernicus, Galileo, and Newton discovered the basic mechanics in the operation of the universe, confidence in humanity's ability to unravel the mysteries of the universe quickly followed. These scientific advances bolstered the attitude that truth in the natural world could only be discovered through the Scientific Method, and must conform to general laws that are provable to any rational person. This pretty much placed the authority of the Bible in question since the material found there could not always be proven in such a manner.
The great mistake that the culture made here was assuming that they had discovered the causes of the functions of the universe, and assuming that because they discovered, for example, that the planets stay on a specific course in their elliptical orbits, that they didn't need to attribute that function to God, when just the opposite should have been true. They may have discovered many fundamental truths about the universe, but I'm surprised they weren't at the same time astonished at the perfect mathematical design and function of all creation. For example, a planet such as the earth repeats its exact orbiting distance around the sun year after year, and has for six thousand years without variation or interruption. How could that happen without there being a master creator.? Could it occur by chance? Not likely. Then as we further examine the universe we see one unexplainable miracle after another. The temperature of the sun has remained relatively constant for thousands of years and its temperature reaches millions of degrees. If the temperature of our sun were to vary twenty or thirty degrees one way or the other we would either freeze or fry, take your pick. Without the process of hydrogenation, which brings us a continuous supply of rainfall, we could not grow crops and we'd have no water supply to sustain life.
It would seem only logical, as it does to more and more scientists today, that the discoveries of how the universe functions would be all the more proof of a master designer rather than proving one doesn't exist. We could fill hundreds of thousand of pages with the untold wonders of nature and the universe and never come close to describing all of them. No thinking human being could ever possibly come to the conclusion that the universe was not the result of the design of a master creator, and that master creator is God. It is only those who, for whatever reason, do not want God to exist who will maintain creation could have come about by a "big bang" or some other nonsense, or that the complex mind of man could have evolved from an ape, who in turn would have had to evolve from a couple of molecules sitting on a beach way back at the beginning of time. And to really stretch your imagination imagine every other created thing evolving from pairs of other molecules on beaches all over the world, and where did those molecules come from? It is simply impossible to believe. Do you think something as complex and miraculous as the eye which gives us vision, or the ear that allows us to hear could have come about by accident. You really may want to give that question a lot of serious thought before reaching a final conclusion.
These Enlightenment thinkers concluded that because of their brilliance in discovering how things worked, they no longer needed God. The fallout of this kind of thinking produced a philosophy focused on the self. Some philosophers professed that experience was the source of all knowledge. Others professed that reason was the source of all knowledge, and there were any number of variations of these philosophies and all of them focused on mankind in control rather than God.
All of this ultimately boiled down to the conclusion that all religions possess at least some partial insight into the truth, and all are necessary stages on the way to finding truth.
Breathing the same air of developmental explanations of human existence, Charles Darwin (1809-1882) marshaled facts and theories to support his thesis of evolution in biology. For anyone to accept the theory that humankind developed in this way was well covered in the previous paragraph. It is impossible to convince me that the complexities and depth of the human mind and body could have simply evolved from a swamp.
Further, as long as I'm on this soap box, what do you think the odds would be that both a man and a woman could have evolved in the same manner, having a complexity of design in order to reproduce one another? It is simply utterly incomprehensible.
Everything has been designed for a specific purpose and to survive in unique environments. Fish swim in the water. Birds fly in the air. Snakes crawl on the ground, monkeys swing through the trees, and humans walk the earth on two legs. Cats meow, dogs bark, lions roar, and so do some people. Animals exist by following the inbuilt instincts which the Creator has given them, and humankind does also. However, the Creator has also made humans in His image and given them the ability to think, and it is that ability that can either get them into or keep them out of Heaven.
But our culture has bought into the concepts of evolution, the big bang theory, and almost anything else that elevates men and women and discounts God. In a secularized society such as ours, the institutions essential to a culture, such as science, technology, business, and politics exist without any religious support or connection. If God matters at all to people, it is only because "He could be fit into the story of their lives." Whatever religious dimension that still remains within governmental institutions is confined to the ceremonial. Thus Congress opens its sessions with prayer and we pledge allegiance to "one nation under God." But how many give it any real meaning anymore?
The primacy of individual rights has encouraged a narcissistic (excessive interest in one's own self) religion that emphasizes personal satisfaction. We believe because it makes sense to us, because it fulfills our needs and desires. As the recent slogan for the Universalist Church illustrates, "Instead of me fitting a religion, I found a religion to fit me."
Due to secularization, religion has not only lost its dominance within society, but the culture has begun to place limitations on religion. American culture insists that religious beliefs be isolated from public life, and be pursued by individuals only in their own private sphere. Today, when religion transgresses these boundaries and impinges on public life, it is considered offensive, or worse, politically incorrect!