4th September 2017
If the Reformation had influenced countries like France as strongly as England and Scotland it may have averted the Reign of Terror where the exaltation of reason was divorced from Biblical revelation. Today the exaltation of reason claims that society can be ‘good’ without God and that cerebral rationality alone will bring utopia. It can’t. Why?
First, the basic rational response is self- preservation. Is it rational for a person to risk their life for the sake of another? Dennis Prager comments, “In all the studies I have read of non-Jewish rescuers of Jews during the Holocaust, I have never read of any rescuers who said that they did what they did because it was the reasonable or rational thing to do. Not one.” Moral nobility betters rational self-preservation
Second, historic evidence yields little for goodness apart from Godliness. All atheistic or purely secular social experiments have introverted down into pernicious egotism and extroverted out into horrendous violence. Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Kim Jong-un. Neither has rationalistic atheism generated altruism, art, and human well-being. Believers invented hospitals, universities, led great social movements like fairness for labourers and founded societies which have been the most humane the world has seen.
Third, evolutionary rationalism is not trustworthy. CS Lewis challenged the logic of trusting his mind, which is governed by randomness, to direct him ultimately towards a rational goal. On this basis reason is really a pretend thing which mocks the attempt to have any confidence about meaning, purpose and substantial good.
Fourth, cultures like the Dani in PNG before the missionaries of Christ arrived, ‘rationally’ held to the virtue of treachery as the highest way of expressing nobility. The first Biblical accounts they heard saw them exalting Judas. The ‘rational’ atheist forgets how much his value system is Christian-influenced.
The Reformers did not argue the case for the Bible, they assumed it. Upon it they expounded theology which laid the foundations for demonstrable and attainable advances in society, politics and family. Reason was used as the servant of and the primary premise of all useful argument and human advance, which for the Reformers was revelation discovered in Holy Writ. That is why the great mantra of the Reformation was Sola Scriptura: human reason trusting the revelation of God in the Word en-fleshed and en-scriptured.
Today with the accelerating advance of blasphemy and hubris against this holy grace of revelation there is nothing either to restrain its spiral towards social death or quench its lust for brutality. Graceless reason is powerless to sustain let alone create common good.
Rev. Ian Clarkson is the minister for the Hope Network in SA
This article was published in the September 2017 edition of ACCatalyst as Ian's regular column.