Posts filed under 'humanism'
Here’s the set-up for what’s on my mind today, from “Bench Memos” on the New Republic Online:
“The California Supreme Court Wednesday decided to hear arguments concerning the legality of Proposition 8, which amended the state Constitution to restore marriage to what it was before the California Supreme Court engaged in legal adventurism by creating a right to gay marriage.
The arguments made are pretty thin gruel, and turn on a technical question of whether the change should be an amendment, which can be passed (as Prop. 8 was) by a majority vote of the people after collecting enough signatures to qualify for the ballot, or whether it is such a drastic change that it needed to go through the more arduous process of constitutional revision. Deep down, some of the lawyers making these arguments had to find it ironic to argue that the state Constitution could not be modified to change the right to marriage through the formal amendment process, including the approval of a majority of voters, but that it could be done by four judges who changed the law by their own fiat. The case law is pretty strongly against those challenging Prop. 8, enough so that I think even the California Supreme Court will have trouble legislating . . . oops, I mean carefully legally reasoning their way to the conclusion that Prop. 8 is unlawful.
Enter Geoff Stone. Before the Court opted to hear the case, he suggested that there was really a much bigger constitutional issue at play here: the separation of church and state. He finds that Proposition 8 “enact[s] into law a particular religious belief.” For Stone, religion is the only explanation for the law: “Indeed, despite invocations of tradition, morality and family values, it seems clear that the only honest explanation for Proposition 8 is religion.” His proof: polling data which shows that evangelicals and weekly church attenders favored Prop. 8 by large margins, while non-Christians and non-church attenders opposed it. While he concedes that courts are loathe to intervene in these cases, it is clear that he thinks they should. Indeed, to allow these kind of laws is “un-American”, as he explains with perfect tone-deaf deftness: “Indeed, regardless of whether courts can intervene in this context, it is as un-American to violate the separation of church and state by using the power of the state to impose our religious beliefs on others as it is to use the power of the state to impose our discriminatory views of race, religion or gender on others.”
Where to begin? Should we talk about the fact that a traditional head of the police powers of the state are morals, which often were derived from the religious sentiments of the people? Should we discuss the role of religious law like the Decalogue in shaping much of American law? Should we dispute the correlation between religious voters and religious enactments, noting that weekly church attenders also vote overwhelmingly for other things that Geoff Stone no doubt despises, like Republican party presidential candidates? Should we dispute the premise that “only” religion explains the outcome in the election, and that people of very different religious faiths and no faith at all reached the same conclusion in voting for Prop. 8? No, to do so gives Stone too much credit. His arguments don’t even qualify as reasonable fringe in establishment clause jurisprudence.
One might wish to dismiss his blog post simply as a poorly thought out whim made on a Sunday afternoon, after church bells in Hyde Park’s somehow triggered dementia. But alas, Stone has a track record of these absurdly anti-religious rants to allow such a kind explanation. As Bench Memos readers will recall, he previously asserted that the court’s decision upholding the federal partial-birth abortion statute was a result of a new Catholic majority on the Court. My old friend Ed Whelan made easy work of his argument here, here, here, here, here, and here.
What then becomes obvious is that it is Stone who is acting with religious fervor by attempting to impose his religious, or if you prefer, irreligious beliefs or morality on the public square. The First Amendment was not intended to prohibit religious participation in political life, and it certainly does not mandate that only the morals of the non-church-attenders are constitutionally permissible bases of legislation. But it is not suitable to claim that arguments like Stone’s are “un-American,” to borrow his line. They are simply foolish.”
- by Robert Alt
November 21st, 2008
Here’s an article I wrote a year and a half ago during the primary season on the faith of Barak Obama. It was interesting to go back and read it again in light of the discussions that abound on the potential benefits of an Obama presidency. After reading it again, I find it difficult to be restrained in kindness on this issue: I can’t grasp why someone would rationalize voting for a pro-death candidate in the name of faith. If anything, the twin skeletons in the closet of Obama related to his connection with potential voter fraud and donor fraud shout with far more clarity related to the substance of his faith than anything that Obama has actually done or demonstrated as a public figure, and as such I continue to stand by what I wrote last May.
If you can’t find the time to read “Dreams From My Father” or, “The Audacity of Hope”, then perhaps you can read the “Cliff’s Notes”summary given recently by the New York Times, as reporter Jodi Kantor examines Barack Obama’s faith. I’m not a conspiracy theorist when it comes to issues of media bias - I tend to view conspiracy theories as those musings that attribute far too much thoughtful, strategic thinking and planning on the part of those who constitute any kind of “right-wing conspiracy” or “liberal bias”. Of course a bias exists. Reporters are not automatons or robots able to divorce how they perceive the world, what is noteworthy, or what stories need to be told from their worldview and life philosophy. No one reads the New York Times for the facts. In the information age, the facts come quickly and fade from their importance just as quickly. People want to know more than “what” in our postmodern time - they want to know “why”.
This article, in fact, is exactly in line with modern reporting - particularly in regards to the media pace-setters. It presents, in fact, the reverse of the above premise: it feeds hungry information junkies the “why” as a means of providing a very interesting and noteworthy “what”. In other words, the reporter already assumes you knew the initial ”what”, or facts of the matter: Barack Obama is a man of faith. Her job, then, is to report to you why that is. In doing so, she is presenting to Democratic voters in the south and the principled swing voters throughout the nation a very appealing “what” - a presidential candidate that actually possesses a substantive faith. A similar article ran in the Times regarding Hillary Clinton’s Methodist faith a few months ago in Newsweek.
It’s a reasonable faith that is the subject of these presentations, a depiction of the kind of faith that stirs the complacent and provokes the selfish to do similar good works and have a like-minded concern for the down-trodden, or the “underdog”, the concept that Obama credits with his conversion to Christianity. It is a variation of a theme - faith as the vehicle for hope related to great societal change: all that is wrong being set right in a manner that expresses true justice for the weak and the hopeless. Isn’t this what we all are striving for - and isn’t this something that all should celebrate? Obama’s social and societal concerns appear to be noble and his intentions sound? If you are nodding your head “yes”, at this point, you really won’t care for what I say next.
What does your faith draw men towards?
Hear me when I say this - the fact that the New York Times has an affinity for Obama’s version of Christianity does not make it illegitimate in my eyes. I would, however, suggest that you read the previous paragraph again and tell me what is missing. In my opinion, the initial by-product of my faith in Christ should not be to stir men and women to good works and worthy causes. If you come away from talking with me and are not stirred to:
1. Know Jesus (and study the Bible) and / or 2. Pray more
…than I am going to have to confess, repent, and try again. I was commissioned to draw all men to the Beautiful One, the Desire of All Nations - the Risen King who is the only One worthy of such pursuit. I yearn and long within myself to be a true friend of the Bridegroom, and as such my prayer life is in part a pursuit of authentic loyalty through a transformed heart that draws no attention to myself or my own cause. I want to be a living advertisement for those things that burn on the heart of Jesus. Once we connect to Him in prayer, subject then to the tenderizing work of the Holy Spirit and ignited with a heavenly fire within, we will then receive our mandate and can go forth from that place in confidence that we have been sent by the King and are safely subject to His will.
Obama’s faith is the kind of faith that stirs the soul within itself to act as the first response to need and lack. As a gifted, competent, and capable man, one like Obama would feel a deep responsibility to do his part when made aware of the societal deficiencies and racial inequities that those around him experience on a daily basis. While sounding benevolent and reasonable, Obama falls victim to the most seductive deceit in all of history: the need to play the messiah for those who are in need. Obama’s faith is the kind of message that draws men to themselves as the solution to the problem. Thus it becomes (with seemingly good intentions), even initially (and fully expressed eventually), outrageously anti-messiah in spirit and in truth.
Men are sinners that need to be saved
The first sign of one who is “anti-messiah” is that they misdiagnose the problem. Thus, rather than preaching Jesus, they spend much of their time identifying problems and challenging people to change / learn compassion / get perspective in order to solve the problem. Pick any issue - race, poverty,the environment, peace, etc. The solution, ultimately, is that men would be transformed and renewed in their innermost being that they might walk in true meekness and love. This can only happen through encounter with Jesus Himself, of course. It takes repentance, it takes a conviction to leave our sinful ways, and it takes a continual heart cry in prayer to ask for help, or grace, in our times of need. It takes work to come into true godliness and holiness - work that most do not want to give themselves to. It is far easier to either preach easy forgiveness or social action as a way of appeasing the guilt of the wounded conscience.
The “what” and the “why” that is being presented to our generation falls woefully and tragically short of the truth of the gospel and the reality of the power of the kingdom of God to bring deep and eternal change. This issue, of course, goes deeper than a politician from Illinois and reaches into the depths of what it means to be the church in this hour to a lost and broken world. The solution, of course, runs far deeper than an introduction of the weak to a strong God whose love is relevant to their struggle. It lies in our willingness to confront our sin, repent, and continually and daily appeal to God to do what only He can do. This is not the popular theological conclusion of the day however, and the journey of the heart towards voluntary love and voluntary weakness is repulsive and foolish to the strong. It is, in fact, as it always has been, since the first man went his own way in his attempt to attain knowledge and insight to the world apart from the Living God.
In conclusion, a year and a few months later, I want to suggest to some to examine the kind of government that Nelson Mandela established in South Africa and the impact, today, that those decisions had. While Nelson Mandela had a compelling personal story that inspired many, his governance and socialistic ideals had a dire effect on South African society. While many are inspired by the “faith” and ideals of Obama, they really have given little to no thought as to how those ideals and values will actually impact our society. I would love to see someone attempt to prove that Obama’s ideals and ideas are superior, are a consistent representation of a biblical worldview, or will actually bring positive improvements to a nation in serious decline. While a zeal for change is understandable - what kind of change will Obama’s faith produce?
October 20th, 2008
If you haven’t already, you can read Part 1 of this series here.
Where Humanism has Been
While I will be examining in a little more detail Neitzche and what I believe to be his most critical work - The Anti-Christ, or his treatise against Christianity - it is obvious to all that humanism’s roots are not found with him. In fact, humanism’s roots transcend the Renaissance, or the age of Enlightenment that marked the European transition from the ideas of Christendom and the Reformation. Conversely, it is these biblical ideas and ideals that formed the root system of Europe for over a thousand years that still constitute a critical part of modern civilization’s philosophical foundation.
Not that Christendom and the Reformation era of European development was without its excesses and corruption. There was much sin and unrighteousness throughout that age of history, but I do not believe that the great shift of human thought that spawned the “idea revolution” of the Enlightenment was really about human weakness and government corruption in the name of Christ. At its core, the Renaissance and the Enlightenment were as much about the internal human rage against biblical ideas as it was about external rage against human corruption and poor governance.
Looking at the past is helpful in understanding the obvious parallels with the realities of our day. The social justice movements of recent generations can easily be deconstructed to reveal these dual realities. Externally, it seems reasonable and sound to conclude that human corruption and poor governance must be solved through human benevolence knit to great hope for the future. That both solutions rest upon the notion of the basic goodness and decency of men forms then a powerful illusion about our future that is completely disconnected from biblical (and social) realities. At “best”, a sentimental idealism is the result - and the product of this human sentiment is often seemingly harmless - a “Walt Disney” reality tied to the utopian hope of human cooperation.
At worst, however, humanism’s destination, both historically and prophetically (or scripturally) is far from the Disney realities that pervade modern entertainment.
The French Revolution
One recent example of where humanism goes is found in the logical conclusion to the ideas birthed in the Renaissance and the Enlightenment. Those anti-Christian ideas exalted the human potential and capacity of men and greatly shifted the direction of European culture from the 14th - the 17th centuries. Even the idea that this age marked a revival of learning and a marked improvement from the previous “Dark Ages” of Christendom reveal the pessimistic reality beneath the surface of the movement. Works such as Manetti’s On the Dignity and Excellence of Man marked the humanistic shift to the exaltation of an unbiblical (and idealistic) human ideal.
As the transition of ideas continued, the Enlightenment and the Age of Reason began to take root in the 18th century. Intellectualism, rationality, and modernist thinking marked the philosophical realities of ideas that had now fully taken root in society through science and politics in particular, and, in some spheres, even the church itself through some of the great theologians of the era. A nation-state ideal or societal ethic of rational behavior followed rational thought related to the responsibility of man; in other words, apart from biblical morality, how could men police one another to hold back the tide of darkness and chaos? What would be, in this emerging societal order, the forces of “good” that could be employed to restrain the advance of evil? Thus the idea of societal contracts and civil rights emerged through the writings of the great thinkers of the era.
That revolutionary ideas would lead to revolutionary action was, then, an inevitable consequence. The idea of revolution against unjust rule was romanticized then just as it has been, in a powerful way, in our day. Are some violent revolutions unjustified? What is the difference between some modern “terrorists” and yesterdays revolutionaries? The answers to these questions are beyond the scope of this article. Yet it is helpful to examine the moral imperatives and foundational ideas that fueled the two great revolutions of the 18th century.
While the American Revolution provided much inspiration and fuel for the French Revolution, and both wars were ignited by Enlightenment thinking, the leadership of the two revolutions had vastly different goals and reasons behind their bloody conflicts. Fueled by the Enlightenment societal contracts and ideas of the rights of men to throw off unjust rule that violated those principles, both groups saw moral justification in their actions. The difference, then, is that the initial group looked to supplant oppressive government while preserving the influence of the church (due in large part to the revivals of the first Great Awakening that preceded the American Revolution). The group that followed, however, looked to throw off both unjust government and the biblical morality that had set the foundation for that government over the last thousand years.
Thus, without the moral foundations related to biblical ideas that undergirded the American Revolution, the French Revolution quickly descended into brutal anarchy and rampant, often senseless violence. This was what we now all the Reign of Terror. In essence, the French Revolution was the final “end”, or nail in the coffin, of the idea of Christendom that had been so much a part of the social fabric of Europe from the 8th century and the rule of Charlemagne. The transition, of course, began during the Renaissance and strengthened during the Enlightenment; the French Revolution brought things to a bloody and immoral end - which, unfortunately, is the ultimate end of humanism when it is exposed to the light of God’s truth.
The Original Revolution
Before we examine Nietzche, modern humanism, and the ultimate destination, it is helpful to reflect on the tragic event that the French Revolution simply replayed for all to see. Tolerance and cooperation without biblical foundations only serve to mask a brutal rage and a frightful intolerance of dissent that has a brutal end that robs freedom rather than granting it. This is the lie of humanism - that great freedom is found from the place of true freedom from biblical foundations. In fact, great bondage and fear come when the truth of human nature is revealed - not by God - but by men themselves in bold, arrogant, open rebellion against the Lord and His ways.
I am not describing, of course, the end of the age. I am describing the exact scenario surrounding the events of the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11. It was at this tower that humanism as we know it was born. It was conceived in a garden and grew significantly before a flood stunted its growth, but very quickly the seeds of revolution were reignited into an expression that is far more sophisticated and mature in our day. Yet God did a strange thing. Rather than destroy this unified effort to throw off His rule and establish the uniting of the supernatural realm with the natural without His help. He curiously spared them, showed them mercy, and scattered them by making it impossible for them to speak to one another (in other words, he made their languages like babble).
He did this because of the commitment He made to the nations only a short time before, just after the flood, through a rainbow. This rainbow expressed the covenantal desire of a God that is fully set on showing mercy to weak and broken human beings that are completely disconnected from the fact that they are weak and broken human beings. In essenc, God delayed the time of their destruction (significantly) in order to buy time for their redemption and repentance.
Yet the seeds of humanism continued on from that time forward.
Thus the humanism that was birthed at a tower has, in these last days, accelerated in its maturity to become established in the framework of normative human thought, society, law, and government. We have come to the end of this age, and the expression of modern humanism has almost fully taken hold in a unified way in hearts and minds throughout the nations. Once the peices are fully in place, the nations will be convinced that they no longer need the biblical ideas that have served to limit society and bind it in chains of weakness and pity for so long. How has it come to this? How have we come to the very doorstep of another Reign of Terror - one that will be global this time?
For that answer, we need to begin with Neitzche.
June 27th, 2007
It seems at times that I often use this space to wage my personal war against humanists, atheists, and global alarmists who look to stir the hearts of men towards a seemingly reasonable, rational solution to the problems facing the human race. I suppose that I post so many articles on here about these issues because of the increasing alarm that is resounding in my heart related to the human condition and the growing mindset of “centrist” compromise related to a backlash against the extreme.
It simply seems so clear to me that I have stumbled onto a clear trend, a paradigm of thought and perspective that has transformed how I see and hear the world, and now I detect the fruit of the hubris of humanity in its bold resistance against the leadership of the Lord everywhere in modern society. Because I see where the Bible describes the peoples of the earth going collectively, and I have a fair understanding of the stream of history that has carried us here, I then can watch and pray with some measure of clarity in regards to the present reality of where men stand before my God.
The beginnings of my understanding can be found in Psalm 2.
Breaking the bonds and casting away cords
Why do the nations rage, and the people plot a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying, “Let us break Their bonds in pieces and cast away Their cords from us.” (Psalm 2:1-3)
King David in Psalm 2 gave us the ultimate “blueprints” for the end-times, covering in the broadest of strokes the path that humanity would tread and the necessary response of the Lord in sovereignty, tenderness, mercy, judgment, and wrath. This first section of the Psalm gives us the overview of the desire of the nations to indulge in the ultimate vanity - to gather in unity related to their collective decision to throw off restraint and establish a global “anti-God” society.
I believe that they do this as part of a rage-filled response to prophetic preaching - the global witness of the coming King that will go forth in the coming days (Matt. 24:14). The powerful preaching of the coming prophetic messengers to the kings of the earth will actually serve to galvanize their resistance and rage against the “Anointed One”, or God’s chosen King of the earth.
The result of this concerted effort to reject God and His Son will be the apex of humanism itself, or the exalting of man and his capacities and capabilities in a manner that is seemingly able to effect his own salvation without the interference of biblical morality or the “restraint” of the law of God. In the minds of the sinful man, “salvation” means the achievement of utopian ideals related to perfection in society and perfection in man himself. Nietzsche called this the “Übermensch” - or the overman, which represented the human ideal, once men overcame by force the norms of society externally imposed.
As I continue this series, I will look at where this philosophy has been, where it is, and where it is going. All of the evidence, however, leaves me concluding that the destination of sinful man is far nearer than we would like to admit or ponder.
June 22nd, 2007