We live in a world where there is a great deal of knowledge. Indeed, some say the sum total of human knowledge doubles every 13 months. Yes, we know a lot. Is this is a good thing? Yes. But a better question is this, do we know what to do with this knowledge? Another way to put this, are we wise? You see, wisdom and knowledge are not exactly the same thing. Continue reading
For some years now a very hot religious and religio-political topic for debate, both in the Christian and secular media, has the subject of Intelligent Design (I.D. for short). I have heard it debated on radio and TV. I have read articles about it in secular newspapers. If you go to Christian websites, such as that for the Christian Research Institute (Hank Hanegraff) or John Ankerberg’s site, I.D. has been prominently featured. It is a concept that secular, naturalistic scientists disavow—and creationists find helpful. Continue reading
I am a history buff. Always have been. I am also one of those people who is fascinated by dates and what happened on certain days. For example, I am writing this on Friday, March 18, 2016. On this date in history in the year A.D. 37 the Roman Senate proclaimed Caligula as Emperor. (Something they would come to regret!) In 978 King Edward of England was murdered, joining thousands of other Christian martyrs in the roll call of faith. In 1852 the Wells Fargo Company was founded. In 1922 Mohandas Gandhi was sentenced to six years in prison for civil disobedience. In 1961 the Pillsbury Dough Boy made his debut.
One of the premier events for Christian young people in this country is the Urbana conference. This event is sponsored by Intervarsity Christian ministries and is held every three years. It is one of the largest Christian youth events in the world. The most recent conference was December 27-31, 2015 and was held in St. Louis, MO. Advancing Native Missions had a display there, with a number of staff representing ANM.
Back in our offices in Virginia, we received regular reports about what was happening at the conference. One of these reports noted that social media from the conference was very interesting. There were a number of posts to Facebook and Twitter commenting on the fact that the LGBT community was not represented at the conference. Fascinating. Would you really expect the Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender community to be a part of this conference? For some, apparently yes. Continue reading
Years ago I remember reading a science fiction short story about the depletion of the stock of human souls. I can’t remember the author or the title… wish I could. But I do remember that the gist of the story was that God (or fate or nature or whatever) had only created a certain number of souls. As the population of the earth grew to the abundance we see today, the quantity of available souls was completely reached. Doctors and midwives, parents and childcare workers, all began to notice that they were seeing children who were alive, but had only a vacant stare and no intellectual response. They seemed happy, in a sort of mindless bliss, but were missing the vital component that would make them fully human. What was missing? They had no souls. The reservoir of souls had all been used up. According to the story, the world had reached a stage where all beings genetically identifiable as Homo sapiens were only soulless human-appearing creatures. We had come to the end of humanity as true human beings.
This story came to mind today because I have been pondering C. S. Lewis’s critically important book The Abolition of Man. At Advancing Native Missions we currently have four interns working in the office. As part of their program, they are reading this Lewis work. George Ainsworth, an ANM staff member, is leading them in their study. Knowing my devotion to Lewis, George asked if I wanted to join their discussion. I jumped at the chance. Thus prompted by this opportunity, I have reread The Abolition of Man for the first time in many years. What a book! Some believe that this may be Lewis’s most important work. It certainly deserves attention as an amazingly prescient writing.
In this book Lewis takes to task a grammar book which he calls The Green Book. Beyond just discussing grammar, the authors of The Green Book were attempting to change students themselves. As Lewis observed, the authors were clearly redefining not only the use of language but values and fundamental beliefs. Basically they rejected the objective nature of truth and the idea of universal absolutes and mores. Lewis rightly asserts that these matters (call them first principles, natural law, human conscience, or just plain ol’ right and wrong) are foundational in all of Western philosophy and civilization. We built our culture upon them. To abandon these building blocks of our society has tremendous consequences not only for the individual students who read this work, but for society as a whole.
In the 1940’s, when Lewis wrote his book, he was seeing the beginnings of this move to jettison such fundamentals. The idea of a postmodern culture was still decades in the future. Now, what Lewis saw in a nascent form, we see full grown and endemic in our society. We are daily witnessing what Lewis “prophetically” saw in 1943.
One of the main points of The Abolition of Man is that by rejecting natural law, what Lewis calls the Tao, the natural way of things, we are rejecting what makes us truly human. When we remove first principles, absolute truth, we reduce man to something less than human. We create what Lewis calls “men without chests.” By this he means there is a disconnect between our intellect and our passions. And without the mediating human factor, we become either thinking mechanisms or brute beasts.
For example, we may have intellects, thinking minds, but without a proper spiritual basis as a responsible beings created in God’s image, we are simply organic machines. Thinking is reduced to electrical pulses between synapses in our brains—nothing more. We are only fleshly computers. This is the position asserted by Francis Crick in his final major work, The Astounding Hypothesis. Crick was co-discoverer with James Watson of the structure of the DNA. For this he was awarded a Nobel Prize. However, with all his intelligence, Crick rejected the idea that we possess souls, something external to our material physiology. For him, our minds are only physical realities. The mind consists of nothing beyond electrical and chemical processes. We are organic super-computers, if you will. This is the same position held by many in our culture today.
At the other end of the spectrum we may be “men without chests” who are ruled by our physical urges. We are slaves to our passions, those barking dogs in the lower recesses of our psyches that Dostoyevsky wrote about. What is a human being? According to this perspective, we are only animals dominated by instinct, feelings and hormonal desires. There are no moral absolutes, no certainty in ethical matters. What is right is what I want to be right. Generally, the attitude is more like this: What is right is what I enjoy, what gives me pleasure. Humans are nothing but evolved, reasoning primates. We are not made a “little lower than the angels.” Instead, we are only one step above gorillas.
The point is this: It is not our intelligence that makes us human. Nor is it our physical form. It is what is found in our chests—our values, our beliefs, our spiritual nature. What makes us human is our soul. And the evidence of our soulish nature is seen in the reality of natural law (absolutes, first principles, conscience). If we deny the existence of natural law, we deny what it is that makes us human. To deny what fills our “chests,” to dismiss the existence of the soul, is to reject the very essence of what it means to be a human being. We abolish mankind en masse.
Think this too far-fetched? Then consider the modern world. How do you explain gross immorality being promoted as simply “alternative life-styles”? How do you understand all the crime, violence, war, hatred, and terror of contemporary life? How do you deal with the slaughter of untold millions of unborn babies? Every year over 800,000 teens become pregnant out of wedlock in this country. Why is this happening? We kill each other over drugs, the very drugs that we use as an escape from the tedium and pain of life itself. Religious faith has become either something to be mocked or an excuse to justify our immoral behavior. God is ignored, or blamed for the mess we have created. In other words, the world is totally fouled up. And we have made it so. What we are experiencing is a society of “men without chests.”