Wednesday, September 2, 2015


As part of my small group, Relevant Christianity, we are going to do a series on doubt.  I'm listening to lectures in preparation for this series.  I listened to one that really was good and wanted to share it.  It is a LAbri lecture and they have asked that we not link directly to their lectures. It is available from their library and is free, however, a donation is suggested.  I will link to their library and then you can search for the title: When Doubts Arise by Jim Paul. You can serach for it by going to the LAbri libarary ( 

I will give my personal perspective (not from the lecture) of how we got to this place. It is western culture in a nutshell.  

The Greeks looked into the night sky 3000 years ago and had wonder.  They looked at events of nature and  needed a script to explain. They created the myths and stories around their gods. Their gods were small, somewhat like our Marvel super heroes.

 Pythagoras was born in 570 BC. He was smart but had a gift. He may have been a savant. He saw mathematical patterns everywhere.  The patterns were larger than the Greek gods . . . suggesting that something was bigger than what we see here. This created a problem.

Aristotle born in 384 BC focused on reason and believed that truth came through collecting information through our senses (empiricism) and then using logic to find pure truth.  He believed that perfect truth could be found this way every time.

Plato, originally a student of Aristotle, born in 428 or 427 BC didn’t like Aristotle’s approach to truth. He travelled and studied in a school set up by the disciples of Pythagoras in Sicily. There Plato expanded Pythagoras’ ideas that there was another, more real, realm than we have here, one in the ether. In the ether all things are real verses here, where everything is a mirage or shadow.

Many of the early church followers, leaders and fathers adopted Plato’s ideas because they seemed so similar to the Christian ideas (but was not). Western civilization lived through the Dark Ages as the result of adopting Platonic-Christian metaphysical perspective.

People became starved for knowledge and reason.  South of the Alps, via the Medici family, a new Platonic philosophy was introduced, where human experience or emotion was the other “ether” not the Christian heavenlies. This was the Renaissance and humanism.

North of the Alps, via the influence of the Moors in Spain, Aristotelian logic was reintroduced and taken to the extreme form with the announcement by Descartes (1596) that "Cogito ergo sum."  Meaning, that if my senses can’t perceive it, then it is not real so the only thing I can know for sure is that I exist.

This type of distorted Aristotelian rason led to an extreme empiricism (if you can’t perceive it via your senses it is not real) that had great hopes of optimism (logical positivism). That optimism was dashed in the blood bath of the American Civil War, trenches of WWI where reason created weapons of horrible suffering.  In WWII reason also created the bomb and more catastrophic destruction.  Nazism was the last great social experiment in a pure scientific, logical society (the weak extinguished for the sake of the race).  The passions and morality of humanity could not be factored because they are unseen and thus not real. 

The despondency after these events didn’t lead to a more healthy rationalism, but rationalism being abandoned totally.

Now we live in an age of emotion.  Truth comes to us by feeling.  Christians have adopted the secular society’s views, as they always do.  Now to know God, you must only know Him through your emotions (re-labeled as “spiritual” to make Christians feel more comfortable and hide the fact that they are speaking in truly secular terms).

This is the age of doubt because no one trust reason anymore.  Emotions are wet tissue paper for the support of truth. All truth is now supported by wet tissue paper and doubt abounds, although emotionally suppressed.


abmo said...

I think adding to the problem is who to trust? We are constantly being barraged by the media telling us of the failure of trust. Politicians/leaders/families/parents/children/friends etc. Anyone can deceive us. So, we trust only ourselves which provide for a variety of blind-spots.

NOTAL said...

Do you think movements like transhumanism are a holdover from the time of optimistic rationalism that have yet to die out, or as the vanguard of the pendulum of society starting to return to rationalism? People like Larry Page that want to "cure death" and Ray Kurzweil who predicts and advocates the singularity when human and computer intelligence will merge and lead to wonderful and completely unpredictable things. These views (which I am sympathetic to) seem to bee the epitome of optimistic rationalism--human reason will lead to technology that will cure all the world's problems.

It is interesting Kurtzweil frames the wonderful future of technology as being spiritual (he has a book titled "The Age of Spiritual Machines"). A wonder if futurists in the early 20th saw spirituality as compatible with rationalism.

j. Michael Jones said...

I do think we live in a more pragmatic time where you can have an irrational existenalism side by side with a optimistic, rationalistic modernity . . . like of the 1960s when "plastic" was going so solve all of our problems. I don't know Kurtzweil but it sounds like he is making the atempt to insert a vauge "spiritualism" into the material to add meaning where there can be none. Carl Sagan was an expert at that. So either God is there, he is real, he created us as persons . . . or we are all just machines and the machines have no meaning. A machine that saves the world is exactly the same as one that destroys the world . . . in the simple material world model. It must be nilism. The only place to find true meaning is in a metaphysical certainity that we are created by a personal God who gives us meaning by creating us. Schaeffer would say that the atheist cheats to find meaning. Very few can live honestly in their nilism.

thehesychast said...

Reason is neutral in one sense, not neutral in another. Reason is neutral insofar as it doesn't necessarily lead to a better or worse society. It is not neutral insofar as it does have one predictable effect: an increase in power.

I have observed that scientists seem to like science for different reasons than laymen. Scientists like science primarily because it brings knowledge, although scientists tend to like technology as well - the technology is secondary, however. Laymen, on the other hand, just seem to like technology because it brings power, and they say that they like science because they conflate science with technology.

j. Michael Jones said...

I think your are right thehesychast. The laymen of course like to use a lot of pseudoscience (misuse of statistics) to empower their positions.