Apr 9, 2016
What would you call the age we live in? When I was a child, we were told that the Machine Age had been superseded by the Atomic Age. But that was marketing of sorts. Anyway, nuclear energy and the ability to incinerate the planet have become mundane topics. We might be in the Computer Age, but that term soon will sound as musty as new-fangled “horseless carriages” and “talkie movies” that once inspired awe.
I think we all flatter ourselves that we are blessed to be “modern,” up-to-the-minute (if not quite hip). So is this the Modern Age?
Actually, philosophers and artists maintain that the Modern Age ended long ago, followed by Post-Modernism… which has also ended. Eclipsed by – Post-Post-Modernism? Some people use this term. Do you get the feeling that we have just taken our seats at the stadium, and the game is already in extra innings?
My preference, and it seems very logical to me, is that our age is best described, in perspective of history’s grand sweep, as the Post-Christian Era. Some people would dismiss that as being too theocentric… but in view of the cultural, artistic, intellectual, economic, even diplomatic, and yes, religious, core of two millennia: yes, “Post-Christian” describes where we are.
“Modern” and its permutations are terms that tend to elude us. Whether the Renaissance was the last whiff of Classicism or the dawning of Modernism is debated. But we must go back in history that far. Luther was the last Pre-Modern. The Age of Reason was on the horizon in Europe, espied from the platform of Humanism. Yet Luther, the last Medievalist, held fast to the proposition that “reason is the enemy of faith.”
More than two centuries later, Luther’s artistic disciple Johann Sebastian Bach summed up the heritage of the Gothic, Renaissance, and early Baroque eras. Intending to summarize more than innovate, he was not seduced by potential acclaim nor his effect on the future. In fact, he was rejected by the first “Moderns” in Rococo Europe. Bach’s scientific contemporary, Isaac Newton, was representative of the Age of Enlightenment.
I am aware (all too aware, because it is clearly counter-factual) that many schools today teach, when they teach at all, that Enlightenment scientists and philosophers freed Western Civilization from the shackles of religion and superstition. That’s what “enlightened” meant, right?
Wrong. Philosophers like Pascal and Locke; scientists like Galileo and Newton; and creators like Bach and William Blake, all saw the substantial advances in their fields as confirming, not disproving, the existence of God and His plans. Newton concluded, it has been said, that we live within the space of God’s mind. The poet Alexander Pope wrote: “Nature and Nature’s Laws lay hid in Night; God said, ‘Let Newton be!’ And all was Light!”
But then, 50 years or so later, the mad swirl of Romanticism, revolution, industrialization, and social turmoil broke forth as like a lanced boil. It has not healed; the burst dam has not been mended. We have had Marxism since the 1840s, Darwinism since the 1850s, wars and rumors of wars since the 1860s, and the Industrial Revolution that brought many blessings but also brought poverty, injustice, dislocation, and wage-slavery instead of less pernicious traditional slavery.
Many people have not yet come to full realizations about the enormous disruptions caused by elements of contemporary life specifically of the past 200 years. As people became educated; climbed the ladder of prosperity, or were crushed under it; and earned the new commodity of leisure time… religion became less important.
People relied less on God. And for those vulnerable souls who need God’s blessings, the Modern State and its Socialist and Marxian manifestations are there, attempting to substitute for the Church. These tendencies have multiplied and accelerated. Not only the Dynamo (Henry Adams’ term for the Machine Age’s deity, supplanting the church) but the arts and ever-more secular philosophers, all worked to convince people that God was dead.
God has indeed died, in the Nietzschean sense that society no longer acknowledges Him, depends on His Word, worships His Son, or serves Him.
This is true. The inclination of sinful souls to reject God finds comfort in a culture that makes it safe to reject Him. Denominations even twist scripture and call evil good. Humankind’s soul is no less dark then ever, wars are more brutal, and the world hurtles toward unprecedented chaos, envy, and strife.
The Secularists have an answer: that we distance ourselves even further from God and His Word.
We have itching ears, as the Bible foretold – we hear what we want to hear. We invite cultural enablers.
We are happy to revel in wine, women, and song – or what seduced the decadent Romans, called “Bread and Circuses.”
How do we respond to all the biblical prophecies, all the warnings of our wise forebears, all the lessons of fallen civilizations gone before? We laugh and ignore the certainty of calamity.
The anti-religious impulse of scientists, of Marx, Darwin, Nietzsche, Relativism, Secularism, the negative effects of finance capitalism and repressive Socialism, the pollution of the earth and of our minds; indeed, human nature unfettered for the first time in history – where has it gotten us? Where are we headed? Adherents of those false gods should repent, as should we ALL.
Given the signs of the times and biblical prophecy, those who reject God ought to repent or at least desperately HOPE there is a God. For their alternative ideas have not worked, but rather have brought the world to chaos. Welcome to the brave new world of Post-Christianity.
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Our Click this week is a song by Merle Haggard, the iconic American poet, songwriter, and singer who died this week on his 79th birthday. Of the many genres he mastered, God and Country predominated. This song is among his best. Sadly, it is as pertinent now as when he recorded it, 1971.