Posts 1554- 1555
These are some of the first posts ever made, I hope to share some of them over time in between my regular studies. Of course they are ‘dated’- and it would be too difficult to edit each post. So I’ll post them ‘as is’. Hopefully they will be a benefit in some way- John.
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(1554) MODERNISM- okay- need to take a break from politics [current!] and news! Let’s do some history/philosophy. Modernism [modernity] refers to the time period between the mid 17th century to the mid 20th century [loosely]. During the scientific revolution, coming off the heels of the Reformation- there were many challenges to past ways of thinking about religion, knowledge, politics and existence in general. Many new thinkers felt the old forms of thought were outdated- and as man advances he needs to ground his existence in rationality as opposed to religion [Descartes’]. Not all thinkers rejected religion- John Locke and Immanuel Kant tried to show that religion could be rational- not all religion had to be ‘blind faith’. Others rejected that idea [David Hume] and said if you wanted society to be rational- you had to reject religion as a foundation for thought. Modern atheists- like Sam Harris- would say the same thing. In Harris’ 2004 book- The End of Faith- he teaches that all true religion is radical in nature- that those who believe you can be moderate in religion are wrong- that the religious texts themselves [Koran- Bible] call for radicalism and violence and therefore the only hope for peace in the world is to eliminate religion. Basically I think Harris should stick to atheism and not delve too deep into Christian philosophy. The Christian ‘religion/ethic’, while possessing scriptures [Old testament] that certainty do advocate violence- yet the central historical event in Christianity is the event of the Cross and the person of Christ- whose message said ‘Moses said- but I say’. Christianity contains within her texts the mandate to reject the old forms of violence and to embrace a new way of love- so Harris missed the boat on this one. But you have had thinkers [past and present] who have said ‘we need to eradicate the world of all traces of religion in order for man to reach his highest good’. The thinker Nietzsche would pronounce ‘God is dead’ in his 1882 book called The Gay Science [I’ll leave it alone]. Both Marx and Freud would join him in their rejection of God in the last half of the 19th century. So many felt the rise of modernism- along with the descent of religion was mans ultimate goal- as man advances he would mature from this ‘psychological’ weakness and accept a world without God. Than in the 20th century you had some major events that questioned whether or not modern man could survive without true religious morality. We had the world wars and the most violent century in our history as ‘moderns’. The election of Jimmy Carter- the first self professed ‘Born Again’ Christian to become president- and the Iranian revolution in 1979- the rise of an Islamic state based on radical interpretations of Islam. These events challenged the ‘hope ‘of those who felt like religion was waning and mans rationality was winning the day. So that’s why you had the rise of the new atheists who began a campaign to revive the ‘death of God’ movement and to advocate for what they felt was necessary for man to advance along the modern path. Today we are actually living in what’s called ‘the Postmodern Era’ but for the purpose of this short note we don’t want to go down that road at this time. Has man advanced- ‘modernized’ to the point where he does not need ‘God’ anymore? Can man simply build a Utopian society without God? All those who advocated for a society without God- ultimately failed in coming up with a rational basis for law and order- for who has the right to ‘make the rules’ in this new society- in essence those who tried the Freudian way could never come up with a system of govt. and law without having to borrow from the Christian world view- man cannot simply govern himself based on some atheistic principle of ‘reason’ apart from God [who decides whose reason is right?]. The atheist’s charge that all religion at its core is radical and dangerous- without reason- has been proven false. True religion can very much be reasonable- that is being rational and religious can go hand in hand- all religious adherents do not have to be ‘Fundamentalists’ as Harris claims- and the Modern experiment has not shown us that mans ultimate destiny is to rise above religious belief and attain some type of society without God and faith- that experiment has been tried- and found wanting.
 I really want to cover a little more Philosophy/history- but let me mention a few recent news/political developments. This past week Richard Holbrook died. He was our special envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan. I actually wrote a post about him a week or so ago. The Wikileaks revealed him to be less than truthful in his dealings with the public. The reason I want to mention him is because after he died the media [both left and right] praised him as a wonderful man- a great humanitarian- on and on. Holbrook was said to have been the highest diplomat in his area of foreign policy who never became secretary of state. If you remember during the presidential campaign many thought he would be picked to take the position if a Democrat won. He was also said to have had a ‘big’ image of himself- he saw himself as a very important figure. I saw an interview he did with Rachel Maddow one day- he simply gave the same justifications for the war in Afghanistan as Bush and Cheney gave- no difference. Holbrook was involved with our actions in East Timor in the late 70’s [Carter administration] and also played a role in our ‘war’ in Yugoslavia. During the 90’s under the Clinton administration we ‘sided’ with the Muslim’s who were fighting the ‘Christians’. Slobodan Milosevic was the president and we backed the Muslims because we claimed the Serbs were practicing Genocide. So the Muslims did the same against the Serbs when it was their turn. Holbrook had a hand in those killings as well. So whatever a person’s political leanings are- we should also be truthful about the history of people. If someone has leaned more heavily towards the justification for U.S. action- and has pushed for the more aggressive role- than let the record show that. When Cheney or Rumsfeld die- I’m sure you will have some who will praise them- and others who won’t. In Holbrook’s case there seemed to be no one telling the other side.
Okay- let me quickly cover a few more things. I’m doing a study right now on the Western Intellectual tradition- covering the period between 1600-2000. Some if it gets a little dry- but it’s important for believers to have a basic grasp on this period. Many thinkers went thru a transformation during this time- in the pre-modern era philosophy and theology went hand in hand. But during the enlightenment and scientific revolution many new ideas arose. In the midst of the 17th century  the famous Christian thinker- Rene Descartes’- sent a letter [called the Meditations- it would be released in book form later] to the university of Paris [the leading university of the day- theology and philosophy were the main fields of study] and he challenged the thinkers of the day to ground their arguments for God in Reason as opposed to Revelation [meaning tradition and what God has ‘revealed’ to us thru the bible]. Descartes’ believed that the Christian thinker could argue his case in a more powerful way if he based his argument on reason. Now to be sure this idea was not new- you had men like Thomas Aquinas advocate this in the 13th century- and as far back as 400 years before Christ the philosopher Aristotle used this line when speaking of the ‘prime mover’ [God]. But Descartes is credited with challenging the church of his day to do philosophy on this new ground. John Lock, Immanuel Kant and others would take certain aspects of Descartes ideas and develop them more fully. Some were more skeptical than others- and some rejected the idea that any reason/rationality could ever be combined with religious belief. Later on in the 19th century you had many openly advocate a type of reasoning that would totally exclude God from the picture. But for the most part the earlier thinkers did not go down that road- they thought it foolish to deny the existence of God- all things coming into existence from nothing seemed be a non starter for them- yet many of today’s most famous atheists seem to have no problem espousing a view that is absolutely proven to be false [you can never- ever- ever get something from nothing- which is the most popular view of the big bang theory among many atheists today]. So I think Christians today should be more aware of making the argument for the existence of God through rational/reasonable means- the other day I heard a radio preacher trying to debunk the theory of Evolution- he argued that it can’t be true because the bible says God made everything. Well this argument doesn’t cut it with people who don’t believe the bible! Likewise we need to be able to give a defense for the faith- without always appealing to the articles of the faith while doing it.
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