Conform to reality or subdue reality?

Justin Taylor quotes from C. S. Lewis’s The Abolition of Man.  Peter Kreeft calls these lines “the single most illuminating three sentences I have ever read about our civilization.”

Read those three sentences after the jump.

Then consider what Kreeft says about them and my point about how one of these ways of thinking can now be found virtually everywhere in contemporary life.
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C. S. Lewis, atheist

C. S. Lewis, one of the foremost Christian apologists, had been for 15 years a convinced and rather militant atheist.  My friend and former colleague Joel Heck has written a splendid study of Lewis’s atheism, published by Concordia Publishing House:   From Atheism to Christianity:  The Story of C. S. Lewis

There are many kinds of atheism, just like there are many kinds of Christianity, and Joel unpacks the influences, books, and ideas that defined Lewis’s particular variety of unbelief.  In tracing Lewis’s life and intellectual development from his school days through the early years of his academic career, the book is a compelling biography.

In his recreation of the intellectual atmosphere of pre-war Oxford, Joel shows the important influence of idealist philosophers, such as F. H. Bradley and Henri Bergson.  Most studies of early modernism focus on materialism and existentialism.  And yet, arguably, the idealists–who said things like “”the Universe begins to look more like a great thought than like a great machine” (James Jeans)–may have been even more important.  After all, T. S. Eliot, a founder of literary modernism, wrote his dissertation on Bradley.  Certainly the artistic modernists–Yeats and Joyce with their mythmaking; Stravinsky with his neo-primitive music; Picasso’s Cubism, Dalí’s Surrealism, and Kandinsky’s Abstractionism–are hard to reconcile with the definition of Modernism as an “age of reason.”  [Suggestion for graduate students:  Lots of good material for dissertations here!]

Both idealists and materialists could be atheist, and Lewis seems to have vacillated between the two, but idealism best accounted for his personal and aesthetic yearnings.  This new book also describes in detail how and why Lewis gave up his atheism, turning first to belief in a personal though philosophically-abstract deity, and then to the God of Abraham who became incarnate in Jesus Christ.

C. S. Lewis fans, apologists, intellectual historians, and atheists will all want to read this book.

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“The crowd is untruth”

Soren_KierkegaardIn our discussion of yesterday’s post The Problem with Crowds, Stefan Stackhouse linked to an essay by Søren Kierkegaard, The Crowd is Untruth.  That essay is shockingly profound,, with great resonance for today.

The Danish Lutheran/proto-existentialist takes a theological, as well as ethical, view of crowds.  He points out that the Bible says, “Love thy neighbor”; not “love the crowd.”  He deals with “the daily press” and its creation of an abstract “public” that assumes an authority over what we are supposed to consider true.  He critiques those whose profession it is to lead a crowd and how they often ignore an individual in need because of their obsession with big numbers.   He addresses preaching.  (Yes, one can legitimately preach to a hundred thousand, as well as to ten.  But don’t let the desire to attract a hundred thousand determine what you are going to preach.)  He warns against the “numerical”–attending to numbers as your main criterion.

Pastors of big churches and of small churches should read this essay, excerpted after the jump.  So should church growth consultants, who often give the direct contrary advice.  (Large congregations don’t have to be “crowds” in this sense.  And small congregations should be appreciated, though they too can turn into smaller “crowds.”)

You don’t have to agree with Kierkegaard on everything to appreciate the force of his argument here.  But let me raise a question:  How can we avoid the danger of the crowd being untruth while acknowledging the corporate nature of the Christian faith?  Some Christians do have a completely individualistic understanding of Christianity–as in Tom T. Hall’s song “Me and Jesus”–with no need, as in that song, for the Church.

I suspect Kierkegaard’s answer would be in terms of how Christianity is for “the one,” yet “everyone can become that one.”  And in what he says about the love of neighbor.  Does this solve the dilemma, or is he taking individualism too far?

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A world without property, privacy, freedom, or problems

World_Economic_Forum_Annual_Meeting_2005aDanish politician Ida Auken has written a provocative essay entitled Welcome to 2030. I own nothing, have no privacy, and life has never been better.  She envisions a time when property is replaced by services, when technology provides for our every need, individual privacy gives way to the needs of the group, and government takes complete care of us.

She says that this is not a utopia that she is actually proposing but a thought experiment about where we might be heading.  Still, that the essay is posted on the website of the World Economic Forum might give us pause.

The World Economic Forum is an organization of global politicians, tycoons, and celebrities that meet annually in Davos, Switzerland, to discuss the future and their plans for the rest of us.  Conspiracy theorists of both the right and the left shudder at the spector of the global elites meeting to plot their world domination.  But that the Davos participants are discussing this article might provoke some justified paranoia.

As Daisy Luther says, who cites the article in a critique of the proposed Universal Basic Income, all of this amounts to a restoration of feudalism–a system where the masters own everything and the peasants are kept under control in exchange for protection. [Read more…]

Fake News 

fake-1903774_640Both sides of our political divide are accusing the other of spreading “fake news.”

Rev. Tim Pauls, writing for LCMS News & Information, says that of course making up facts and believing whatever we want to is going to be a problem in a culture that rejects objective truth.

He gives some striking examples and some insightful analysis from a Christian perspective.  He then gives some Biblical texts that address this issue and suggests how Christians can handle it. [Read more…]

China pushing Communism to replace failing Democracy

3205545010_28e80765c7_zChina says Western democracy has reached its limits and has started to deteriorate (alluding to Donald Trump’s victory without saying so).  Global Communism will take its place, with China supplying new universal values.

When I have referred to “still-Communist China,” some readers have said, in effect, are you kidding?  China has become capitalist, what with all of their entrepreneurs and wealth-building.  But orthodox Marxism teaches that societies must go through a capitalist phase in order for socialism to emerge.  The problem with the Soviet Union and Mao’s China is that they attempted to go from a feudal economy straight to socialism, which can’t really work.  Capitalism and with it Western democracy will eventually fall from their internal contradictions.

China has come up with a style of Communism that is working, pragmatically.  It is centered on economic growth, but state ownership and, what is just as effective, state control of the means of production continues.

What’s new here is China’s plan to export not just its goods but its ideology around the world.  The Communists still think they will bury us. [Read more…]