Summit Lecture Series: The Reformation

Summit Lecture Series: The Reformation August 19, 2021

The Reformation

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John Stonestreet:

Worthy says is that there’s no legitimate foundation for knowledge. There’s no place where anyone can stand and actually access truth. They’re stuck in their own perspectives and their own positions. These are characteristics of postmodernism.

As we said, ideas have context and we are in that postmodern context. We’re in a context where certain things seemed believable to our culture that wouldn’t have seemed believable in another place. Go back through that list there, that list of characteristics that you have, do you see kind of expressions of that in our culture? Do you see kind of expressions of that? You don’t see any expressions of this in your culture? Do you see expressions of this in your culture? Yeah. Do you see it kind of in college students? Yeah. Do you see it kind of on TV? There’s just this gut feel of this broad cultural relativism that everyone’s trapped in their own perspectives and so on. And it drives an awful lot of things.

Pure postmodernism is sort of postmodern theorist, which we’re going to talk about in just a little bit, are not those that have a whole lot of sway in the academy anymore, particularly not in nursing or engineering, thankfully architecture. When they opened this building, it was a disaster. I don’t know if you’ve heard the story, but when they opened this building and the first rainstorm came, it was really, really bad. By the way, there’s a staircase in that building that goes nowhere. You walk into the building, you start going up the steps and you hit a wall. You know how frustrating that is when you’re in a group of people? Yeah. You Texans would just like blast through the wall because Texans are like…

Here’s the question. Ideas have context, but contexts have histories and so therefore, ideas also have what? Histories. What we want to look at is how did we get to postmodernism. Obviously, the word postmodernism is referring to being post what? Modernism. Modernism is this central period and understanding modernism is really key to understanding postmodernism.

Before we get to modernism though, let’s go back before modernism to what we sometimes call pre-modernism, prior to modernism or what we would call pre-modernism. By the way, modernism, people kind of tend to define this. These dates really squishy when you’re talking about broad cultural shifts, but let’s just put it modernism is this time period from the late 1600s to the 1960s. And in a lot of ways, we’re still very modern because postmodernism is really just critiquing modernism, but this is just the framework.

Prior to the 1600s, what was the central institution in every town really in Western civilization? The church. Basically, the church. And were most people literate or illiterate? Illiterate, but they were quickly becoming what? Literate, because there was an invention, right? We’ll get to that in just a second, but if most people were illiterate, who were the literate ones? Oftentimes the church, the priest, the upper-class, right?

In other words, pre-modernism was really characterized by a strong belief in the supernatural. And also then, there was a stronghold of traditions. This is what the creeds say. This is what the Bible says. And people were there. They go into the cathedral. How many guys have ever been into a cathedral before? Where’s the first place you look? You look up and then you look at all the what? The stained glass and what does the stained glass do? It tells a what? Story of everyone. It’s called the big story. So you see where all this is coming from, there’s a big story that’s being given and it’s a supernatural one. It’s coming through the traditions.

Now, how does that affect our understanding of knowledge? Let me give you epistemology in a really simplistic lesson. Now, some of you are like epistemology? That sounds like a sneeze. What is epistemology? It’s like epistemology, bless you. What?

The study of churches.

No, that’s ecclesiology. Close.

How we know things.

How we know things. Yeah. It’s the study of knowledge. Now this is going to be really simplistic. How do we know things, kind of three ideas. First is revelation and by revelation, what we mean is God said it. God said it. The second one is reason. Revelation is God said it. Reason is I thunk it. T-H-U-N-K for those of you that need that. Revelation, reason and then experience, I figured it out. I figured it out. Basically, I experimented, I learned, this is how I know he lives within my heart. It’s just part of an experience.

So these are the three ways of knowing, revelation, reason and experience. And a culture where there was a strong belief in the supernatural and a stronghold of the traditions, the creeds and the text, which one of these three is going to be the primary ways of knowing? Revelation, reason or experience? Revelation. So circle revelation.

Revelation was kind of queen in a pre-modern context. An example of this would be what Saint Anselm said when he said, “I seek not to understand in order that I may believe. I believe in order that I may understand for I believe for this reason that unless I believe I can not understand.” And all God’s people said, “Huh?” All this. The big classic battle that we hear about between faith and reason. Anselm would say, which one comes first, faith or reason? Faith. I believe so that I can what? Believing gives me the category so that I can do reason, so that’s pre-modern.

Now, we kind of dated this up until about 1600. What was happening in the world that’s going to change all this? what’s happening around 1500 that’s going to shake this sort of way the world sees itself and sees reality? First of all, you have the… Let me get to that in just a second. That’s a key one, the enlightenment, we’re going to come back to that. That’s really important. 1500s. So we’re at the front end of this, not the back end. Yeah. Sorry.

So there was the age of exploration, right? In 1492, Columbus what? Sails the ocean blue. Now there’s a problem, right? Because he pulls up to the new world and a naked little dark skin thing runs by. And what’s the question that comes to mind? what if we pulled up to… I mean, this is like pulling up to Mars and a naked little green skin thing runs by. What question are we going to ask ourselves? What was that?

Now, this sounds really bad, but you need to understand this is actually what happened. They had to wrestle with the native Americans. What are they? Are they human? To the Pope’s credit, he pretty quickly decided, yes, they’re human and we need to evangelize them and all that other sort of stuff, which sometimes wasn’t to his credit and how they did it but the point is, get this, the point is, is that they determined that these people are human. Here’s the problem. We know what the Eastern European story is. Now, they just discovered a whole new group of people. What’s their story? You had a conflict of stories. Does that make sense? Okay. What else?

The reformation.

The reformation. The reformation was big because that’s going to compromise what? That’s going to challenge what? The authority of the church. And by the way, you don’t get the reformation unless you get an invention. An invention that was the most important invention in the whole history of the world, the iPad. No, I’m just kidding. It was the printing press. That’s right. The printing press. And because what does that do to the literacy rate? It skyrockets it. And by the way, what’s Gutenberg sending out around the world? The Bible, and so people, and so this is going to compromise, and this is going to challenge the authority of the Roman Catholic church at this point. And that’s when you have the break-off of Protestant denominations.

The stronghold in pre-modernism, and by the way, that also sparked an awful lot of wars 30 years war and so on, which at times got really violent. And so, basically, people started to look at religion with a little bit of skepticism. First of all, the structure of authority started to get challenged. Protestantism spread it all out and now, you look at Protestantism today, what is a Protestant? Is it a Baptist? Is it an Assembly of God? Is it a Nazarene? Is it Evangelical? I mean, it’s a whole lot of different things. And so, this really compromised this central authority that was enjoyed prior to modernism.

The other thing was the enlightenment. How many guys have heard of the enlightenment? Yeah, it’s called the age of what? Reason. Now the enlightenment really was pushed through because of some thinkers, primarily French thinkers named the Philosophes. How many guys have ever heard of the Philosophes? How many guys have ever heard of Voltaire? Rousseau? Diderot? Yes, they were the Philosophes. These were French thinkers and they basically were somewhere between deist and atheist and they were challenging the authority of knowledge. At the same time, you had a group of people that also came on the scene and scientific knowledge was taking off. Who are some of the fathers of modern science? Newton. Who’s the father of modern science? Do you know? Who’s known as the father of modern science? No one knows this anymore.


Galileo? It’s amazing. I do this and people are like, Einstein? Jesus? No. Who was it? Franklin? Franklin who? Benjamin Franklin? No. Bacon. Francis Bacon. Bacon, come on. It’s Bacon. You should remember this. Bacon and all Texans say, and then Bacon, right? Bacon’s idea was the what? Scientific method and the scientific method doesn’t begin with faith. It begins with what? Observation. So it moves the center of knowledge to people. So you take the scientific revolution, by the way, all the fathers of modern science were theists. Most of them were Christians. You hear about this classic war, faith and reason. The fathers of modern science, Newton wrote more stuff on theology than he wrote on science. I mean, these guys thought that they were able to figure out the world because of the way God made it. And they thought they were actually unlocking God’s secrets.

Anybody want to go into the sciences at all? Let me give you a motto. You want a life mission statement? Here you go. This is from Kepler. He said, when he would figure something out, he would sign his papers this way, “God, I think your thoughts after you.” Isn’t that great? What a great mission statement. God, I think your thoughts after you. But pretty soon, these Philosophes who were interested in challenging the authority of the church primarily, and God, we had this kind of birth of what’s called the enlightenment and the enlightenment’s idea really was the enlightenment, let’s say the enlightenment plus scientific revolution, plus reformation, all these things pretty much give us modernism and the modern period. What is modernism defined by? Immanuel Kant defined the enlightenment this way, have the courage to make use of your what? Own mind.

So let’s go back to our revelation, reason and experience thing right here. Revelation, reason, and experience. In the modern period, one of these things gets a demotion, which one of these things do you think is going to get a demotion.


Revelation is going to get a demotion. So draw an X through revelation and that means something has to get a promotion and what would get a promotion this point? Reason. So this is the triumph of reason. Now, where do we get postmodernism after modernism? And I say, why was modernism so successful? Modernism, by the way, came with it a promise of progress. There was a that the world was going to be a perfect, or it was going to move into a much better state than it was. Why do you think there was such a belief in progress during the modern period, particularly by the way, in the mid to late 1800s?

Follow Christian Podcast Central on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to see our ongoing discussion with Dr. Jeff Myers regarding worldviews.

(This podcast is by Summit Ministries. Discovered by Christian Podcast Central and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Christian Podcast Central.)

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