Friday, April 22, 2016
The Dilemma of Western Thought
Eph. 4:17-19 provides the following insight and instructions:
“So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness.”
“Modern man must be challenged to forsake his sinful and therefore futile effort to find meaning in life in terms of himself as a law unto himself.” [Van Til, A Christian Theory of Knowledge] Since the fall, man has been desperately searching for meaning and knowledge, but he has presupposed that he can discover meaning and knowledge apart from God. In fact, bound up in the fall of man is the idea that truth may be accessed apart from God. Man can determine for himself if truth exists, what truth is, and how truth should be accessed.
The apostle Paul provides a vivid description of the state of the unregenerate. He describes the unregenerate condition as 1) futility of their mind, 2) darkened in their understanding, 3) excluded from the life of God, 4) ignorant, 5) a hardened heart, 6) callous, 7) given over to sensuality.
Knowledge is like the tree we see outside our window. It existed once as a seed. Without the seed, the tree would not be possible. In other words, knowledge from nothing is impossible. What this means is that knowledge depends on knowledge. Apart from some prior knowledge, knowledge in any meaningful sense is impossible. How does one account for “the why” and “the how” where it concerns human knowledge about reality? What is the epistemic seed necessary for knowledge? What are the necessary preconditions for knowledge? As Van Til would put it: what are the necessary preconditions for the intelligibility of human experience?
In his book, Problems of Knowledge, Michael Williams lists five problems confronting the idea of knowledge. The analytic problem concerns how knowledge is to be distinguished from mere belief or opinion. The problem of demarcation is related to what knowledge actually is and whether or not it has boundaries and what those boundaries involve. Another problem concerns that of method. How do we obtain knowledge? There is also the problem of skepticism. Is knowledge even possible? Finally, there is the problem of value. Is knowledge even something worth having? If so, why? Indeed, these are some very important questions and worthy of consideration. Christians must learn to use their minds differently in the 21st century, especially in Western culture, and especially in America. The absence of deliberation, contemplation, critical analysis has placed us in a very challenging and embarrassing predicament. The good news is that it is never too late to reverse the course. But it is critical that such a course must be reversed and it must be reversed today.
Human beings exist in and are part of, reality. Reality is what God says it is. Therefore, the existence of human beings is what God says it is. All that remains is to examine and understand what God says about human existence in this thing we call reality. This argument represents a way of thinking about human existence that is antithetical to Western culture in general, and American culture in particular.
Insanity is defined as a state of mind that prevents normal perception, behavior, or social interaction. The very definition of insanity then presupposes the existence of God. If insanity is to have a state of mind that prevents normal perception, behavior, or social interaction, then there must be a normal state of mind. And if reality is what God says it is, then God must have already defined what a normal state of mind actually is. The text I referenced above indicates that the Apostle Paul positions Christianity as the only sane worldview in existence today. All other worldviews, being the product of godless, and therefore, abnormal thinking, are the products of insanity, if Christianity is to be taken seriously. It is unfortunate, though not surprising, that all humans have fallen in varying degrees into a pit of insanity. Holding mindlessly to false beliefs, failed hypotheses, and unjustifiable ideas, each individual is left clinging for life to any root, branch, or outcropping that will prevent his plummeting descent into the dark abyss of folly. [Jonah Haddad, Insanity: God and the Theory of Knowledge]
American culture has fallen into such inanity, head to toe. She has marched off the cliff of the rationally coherent, and plunged headfirst into the chasm of madness with the irrational impulsiveness of a teenager on prom night. Driven by blind pleasure alone, she has purged herself of anything remotely resembling healthy, intellectual interchange, preferring only the intense love affair she has with a postmodern hedonism, rapidly moving along, with more speed and power than any locomotive ever engineered in the history of mankind. In short, no mountain on God’s green earth seems big enough to deter the end goal of American society: ˜God (no God).
Recently, there has been a dustup in American culture over the North Carolina “bathroom law.” There are many supposedly smart people, intelligent people, who think that a person can not only self-identify whatever gender they wish, but that such people should be able to use the public rest room of their choice. A man can use a woman’s rest room if he self-identifies as a woman. But isn’t it possible he could be wrong? Isn’t it possible he could be lying? How could we know if he is either? Is there a certification process in place, and an I.D. card issued to people that have been through some sort of scientific assessment, thus, validating and certifying that they are in fact properly identifying themselves as “x” gender? What is to protect women and girls from being subjected to dangerous perverts of all sorts? No one seems to be asking those questions or worse, no one seems to be even slightly interested in that question. I wonder why.
Paul tells us that the unregenerate walk in the futility of their mind. This Greek word mataios means that the unregenerate mind is useless, and lacking in content. He tells us in Romans 1:21 that they became futile in their speculations. How much more futile can you get when you think that a man ought to be able to use a woman’s restroom, and anyone who dares to disagrees with that concept is, well, not engaged or debated, but dismissed as a hateful bigot who doesn’t even deserve the right to gainful employment. Curt Schilling was fired for posting his view regarding the homosexual issue on his own Facebook page. Apparently, employers now have the right to discriminate against people with religious beliefs that are contrary to their own. The message is simple: either reject your Christian worldview and adopt our worldview, or you are a bigot with no rights to support your family. That is basically what it comes down to. Dr. Eric Walsh, a medical doctor and lay minister in Georgia was fired from his position in the Department of Public Health recently after the state demanded he turn over his sermon which took contrary positions on issues related to marriage, creation, and sexuality. Did you read that? In America, a man was fired because of a sermon he preached in his own church. This is indeed, insane! But it is exactly what the rest of our brothers and sisters have faced throughout the world for centuries. Hey Christians in America; welcome to the party! The Christian persecution party.
Peter tells us that we were redeemed from a “futile way of life.” We have been redeemed from a way of life that is useless, without fruit, pointless. Western thought, being thoroughly autonomous, refusing to acknowledge dependence on God is doomed from the start. We see this argument expressed in Scripture without ambiguity. The unredeemed mind is hopelessly futile. We cannot, in any way, allow the unbeliever to establish his own criterion for what passes as knowledge. Having rejected God from the start, he has rejected knowledge from the start. Attempting to build his house of knowledge on a foundation of autonomy, he only builds upon quicksand. The Christian message is indeed good news. It is a message of grace, of peace, of hope, of forgiveness, and of redemption and restoration. But that message comes to us as a message of divine demand, informing us, reminding us, of an obligation to our Creator that we would rather ignore. Apart from God, knowledge cannot even get started. The skeptic carries the day so long as we ignore God or even if, for some reason, we pretend there is no God when we interact with the unbelieving pagans. The gospel demands that men acknowledge the Creator. We know, being contemporary eyewitnesses, that Western thought degenerates into insanity because it attempts to do what no one, in the history of the world, has yet been able to do: provide the necessary preconditions for the intelligibility of human experience apart from God.
The gaze of God is both what we fear and what we can’t do without. Scripture makes it clear that apart from God’s coming to us and opening our eyes, we cannot know him truly. Talk about epistemic difficulties! For us to know him, he must know us first. Our knowing is warped, especially when it comes to knowing God, because of human rebellion against God. There is something inside us that doesn’t want to know him, even as another part of us does. Our blindness thus requires the terror of his meeting us. [Meek, Esther Lightcap, Longing to Know]