Religion in the Bounds of Bare Reason, the Leftist Objection

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Wednesday, February 8, 2017 0 comments

by David Odegard

If you haven’t read my blog post from last week, constant reader, please go back and read it (here) as this is a continuation of that article.

The split between the intellectual left and right widened as these two separate views of reality developed. The desire that religion must be based in rational categories captured many persons in the academy and those who remained true to Aquinas’ view of a self-revealing God began to debate hotly. David Hume in England writes of his absolute rejection of miracles, and in so doing decisively rejected any notion that God can speak from the other side of the metaphysical barrier. This represents a completely other concept of who God really is. Kant and Hume do not believe in a God who reveals Himself to mankind, and they eventually dominate higher education in Germany and England. The Academy, with its newly adopted Kantian view of reality, forced this understanding upon all those trained under its system. German idealism became the fare of the day.

The hope of bridging Aquinas’ view of reality with Kant motivated many theologians and philosophers of the day. But ultimately the two concepts are completely irreconcilable. Either there is a self-revealing God as the Bible teaches, or there is not. There is no way to bridge that divide.

Many Christians accepted Kant’s view of ultimate reality but tried to reconcile it with faithful Christianity. This produced a great deal of cognitive dissonance (mental friction between two opposing ideas). One way that persons harmonized this dissonance was through an existentialist “leap of faith.” This was how Soren Kierkegaard resolved the issue for himself. He accepted Kant’s idea that the metaphysical universe could not be known, but he decided to believe the Bible based solely in optimism. He divorced faith from knowledge. But the casualty was that trust in God’s revelation in Christ became merely optimistic and nebulous “belief.” “Christian” existentialism and a lucky rabbit’s foot began to compete for the same ground. Religion came to revolve around humanity again, as its only value was measured in its ability to give people the ability to cope with an otherwise hostile world. Prayer was not so much a connection to the God of the universe, but more a therapeutic form of meditation. “It helps me,” became the justification for prayer.

Along with the rejection of miracles, and a God who breaks through to reveal Himself in our world, came a rejection of the miraculous accounts in the Bible. Obviously, if miracles couldn’t exist, then Jesus didn’t actually do any of them. This became the mythology added to the stories of the Bible by superstitious authors. History was to be sanitized of all claims to miracle. Rudolf Bultmann began to try to demythologize the Bible, to get to the story behind all the added myth. He tried to get to the man, not the myth as he saw it. But this entire effort was based on a completely different conception of God and was utterly irreconcilable with Christianity. Bultmann and those who came after him accepted the ethics of the teachings of Christ (sanitized from miracle) and tried to pattern their lives morally and socially according to them.

It is easy to see how this undermined genuine belief in the Bible. The emerging Left completely rejected the notion of God speaking from the other side, revealing Himself to people. Human beings were left to grope about in blindness trying to describe what might possibly be on the other side, but with no hope of any authority on the subject. It was easy to say at that point that all religions are seeking the same goal—even though that is impossible.

At this point, the Left had an understanding of reality that disallowed for a self-revealing God (rise of Deism), disallowed for miracles, and allowed no divine inspiration of the Bible obviously, but it still maintained a deep morality based in the ethical teaching of Jesus. But the erosion to genuine faith was insurmountable, and even the deep morality gave way to a moral memory in the generations to come. This understanding of reality chipped away at any foundation the Bible may have had. The secularized version of Christian ethics is all that remains of Christian Europe.

As the seeds of this new conception of reality crossed the Atlantic to America, it resided first in the mainline churches causing some pretty scandalous takeovers (like the Presbyterian Church). As it mixed with the Progressive movement, it became the grounds for the Social Gospel. When we talk of liberal and conservative in America, it is along these philosophical lines. Next week we shall look at the split in American Christian life. I welcome all of your comments, questions, and concerns. Blessings.

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