The God Who is There

“The present chasm between the generations has been brought about

almost entirely by a change in the concept of truth. Wherever you

look today the new concept holds the field. The consensus about us is

almost monolithic, whether you review the arts, literature or just simply

read the newspapers and magazines…. On every side you can feel the

stranglehold of this new methodology—and by ‘methodology’ we

mean the way we approach truth and knowing. … And just as fog

cannot be kept out by walls or doors, so this consensus comes in

around us, till the room we live in is no longer distinct, and yet we

hardly realise what has happened….

“Young people from Christian homes are brought up in the old

framework of truth. Then they are subjected to the modern framework.

In time they become confused because they do not understand the

alternatives with which they are being presented. Confusion becomes

bewilderment, and before long they are overwhelmed. This is

unhappily true not only of young people, but of many pastors, Christian

educators, evangelists and missionaries as well. So this change in the

concept of the way we come to knowledge and truth is the most crucial

problem, as I understand it, facing Christianity today.”

If you had lived in … the United States before about 1935, you would

not have had to spend much time, in practice, in thinking about your

presuppositions. … What were these presuppositions? The basic one

was that there really are such things as absolutes. They accepted the

possibility of an absolute in the area of Being (or knowledge),

and in the area of morals. Therefore, because they accepted the

possibility of absolutes, though men might disagree as to what these

were, nevertheless they could reason together…. So if anything was

true, the opposite was false. In morality, if one thing was right, its

opposite was wrong…. 

The shift has been tremendous. Thirty or more years ago you could

have said such things as ‘This is true’ or ‘This is right’, and you would

have been on everybody’s wavelength. …Thus in evangelism, in

spiritual matters and in Christian education, you could have begun with

the certainty that your audience understood you.”

TENDENCY TOWARDS A UNIFORM CULTURE

…the world-spirit does not always take the same form. So the Christian

must resist the spirit of the world in the form it takes in his own

generation. If he does not do this he is not resisting the spirit of the

world at all. … It is our generation of Christians more than any other

who need to heed these words which are attributed to Martin Luther:

“If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition

every portion of the truth of God except precisely that

little point which the world and the devil are at that

moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however

boldly I may be professing Christ.Where the battle rages,

there the loyalty of the soldier is proved, and to be

steady on all the battlefield besides, is mere fight and

disgrace if he flinches at that point.”

HEGEL, THE DOORWAY

It was the German philosopher Hegel (1770—1831) who became the 

first man to open the door into the line of despair. Before his time truth

was conceived on the basis of antithesis, not for any adequate reason

but because man romantically acted upon it. Truth, in the sense of

antithesis, is related to the idea of cause and effect. Cause and effect

produces a chain reaction which goes straight on in a horizontal line.

With the coming of Hegel all this changed….

What Hegel taught arrived at just the right moment of history for his

thinking to have its maximum effect.’ Imagine that Hegel … said, ‘I have

a new idea. From now on let us think in this way; instead of thinking in

terms of cause and effect, what we really have is a thesis, and

opposite is an antithesis, and the answer to their relationship is

not in the horizontal movement of cause and effect, but the

answer is always synthesis.’ … It has never been the same since. If

one understands the development of philosophy, or morals, or political

thought from that day to this, one knows that Hegel and synthesis

have won. In other words, Hegel has removed the straight line of

previous thought and in its place he has substituted a triangle. Instead

of antithesis we have, as modem man’s approach to truth,

synthesis.

KIERKEGAARD, THE FIRST MAN BELOW

“It is often said that Søren Kierkegaard, the Dane (1813-55)… is

the father of modern secular thinking and of the new theological

thinking…. Why is it that Kierkegaard can so aptly be thought of as

the father of both? What proposition did he add to Hegel’s thought that

made the difference? Kierkegaard came to the conclusion that you

could not arrive at synthesis by reason. Instead, you achieved

everything of real importance by a leap of faith. So he separated

absolutely the rational and logical from faith…. 

“…from that time on, if rationalistic man wants to deal with the real

things of human life (such as purpose, significance, the validity of

love)he must discard rational thought about them and make a

gigantic, non-rational leap of faith. The rationalistic framework had

failed to produce an answer on the basis of reason, and so all hope

of a uniform field of knowledge had to be abandoned.”

[C. S. Lewis illustrates this new thinking: Truth + myth =

understanding of evolving truths. See Surprised by Joy]

“…the evolutionary humanism as a whole, which is current today, is

in the same plight. Anyone can assert with all the persuasion at his

command that man is due for a rosy future. But this again is a

leap of faith, if there is no point of observation, either clinically or

sociologically, to demonstrate that man will be better tomorrow

than he was yesterday or is today.

“Sir Julian Huxley has taken such a purely optimistic answer one step

further by stating that man will only be improved by accepting a new

mystique. Thus he suggests that society will function better if it has

a religion, even though no god really exists. For example, he

says:

“From the specifically religious point of view, the desirable

direction of evolution might be defined as the divinisation

of existence—but for this to have operative significance we

must frame a new definition of ‘the divine’ free from all

connotations of external supernatural beings.

“Religion today is imprisoned in a theistic frame of ideas,

compelled to operate in the unrealities of the dualistic

world. In the unitary humanist frame it acquires a new look

and new freedom. With the aid of our new vision it has

the opportunity of escaping from the theistic impasse

and of playing its proper role in the real world of unitary

existence.”

“Now

it may be true that it can be shown by observation that society copes

better with life through believing that there is a god. But, in that case,

surely optimistic humanism … shows exactly the same irrational leap

of faith… if in order to be optimistic, it rests upon the necessity of

mankind believing and functioning on a lie.”

THEOLOGY AND SEMANTIC MYSTICISM

Neo-orthodoxy at first glance seems to have an advantage over

secular existentialism, in that it appears to have more substance in

its optimistic expressions than its secular counterpart. … But in

the new theology, use is made of certain religious words which have

aconnotation of…  meaning to those who hear them. Real

communication is not in fact established, but an illusion of

communication is given by employing words rich in connotations.”

THE USE OF WORDS AND SYMBOLS

“Every word has two parts. There is the dictionary definition and there

is the connotation. Words may be synonymous by definition but have

completely different connotations. Therefore we find that when such a

symbol as the cross is used, whether in writing or painting, a certain

connotation stirs the mind of people brought up in a Christian culture,

even if they have rejected Christianity. So when the new theology

uses such words, without definitionan illusion of meaning is

given which is pragmatically useful in arousing deep

motivations….

“An illusion of communication and content is given so that, when a

word is used in this deliberately undefined way, the hearer ‘thinks’

he knows what it means.”

“To the new theology, the usefulness of a symbol is in direct

proportion to its obscurity. There is connotation, as in the word

god, but there is no definition. The secret of the strength of neo-

orthodoxy is that these religious symbols… give an illusion of

meaning. …

“At first acquaintance this concept gives the feeling of spirituality. ‘I do

not ask for answers, I just believe.’ This sounds sharply spiritual and it

deceives many fine people…..  The new theology sounds spiritual and

vibrant and they are trapped….

Whenever men say they are looking for greater reality, we must

show them at once the reality of true Christianity. This is real

because it is concerned with the God who is there and who has

spoken to us about Himself, not just the use of the symbol ‘god’ or

‘christ’ which sounds spiritual but is not. The men who merely use the

symbol ought to be pessimists, for the mere word god or the idea god

is not a sufficient base for the optimism they display….

This is the kind of ‘beievism’ which is demanded by this theology…. It

is no more than a jump into an undefinable, irrational, semantic

mysticism.”

TODAY’S OPPORTUNITY FOR THE NEW THEOLOGY

“Men are facing a society without structure and they want to fill the

void that has appeared. For a long time Reformation ideas formed the

basis of North European culture, and this extended to include that of

America and English-speaking Canada, etc. But today that has been

destroyed by the relativism both inside and outside the churches.

Hence historic Christianity is now a minority group….

“Society cannot function without form and motivation. As the old

sociological forms have been swept away, new ones must be found

or society breaks down altogether. Sir Julian Huxley has stepped in at

this point with his suggestion that religion has a real place in modern

society. But, he would contend, it must be understood that religion is

always evolving and that it needs to come under the control of

society.

“This suggestion is not as ridiculous as it sounds, even coming from a

convinced humanist, if one understands the mentality of our age.

Theprevailing dialectical methodology fits itself easily into religious

forms….

Teilhard de Chardin… illustrates that the progressive Roman

Catholic theologians are further away from historic Reformation

Christianity than classical Roman Catholicism, because they are also

dialectical thinkers.

“The orthodox Roman Catholic would tell me that I am bound for hell

because I reject the true Church. He is dealing with a concept of

absolute truth. But the new Roman Catholic who sits at my fireside

says, ‘You are all right, Dr. Schaeffer, because you are so

sincere.’ In the new Roman Catholicism such a statement usually

means that the dialectical method has taken over.

Therefore we are not surprised to find that … others such as Hans

KUng have been strongly influenced by neo-orthodoxy. It is important

to note that the position on Scripture by the Vatican Council has

shifted in the same-direction and men such as Raymond

Panikkar, Dom Bede Griffiths[close friend of C. S. Lewis]… are

proclaiming a synthesis between Roman Catholicism and

Hinduism.”

“The time, therefore, does seem right for this new theology to

give the needed sociological forms and motivations. It is true, of

course, that society could look elsewhere amongst the secular

mysticisms for a new evolving religion, but the new theology has

some strong advantages.

Firstly, the undefined connotation words that they are using

are deeply rooted in our Western culture. This is much easier

and more powerful than using new and untraditional words.

Secondly, these men control almost every large denomination

in Protestantism…. This gives them the advantage of functioning

within the organisational stream of the Church, and thus both

its organisation and linguistic continuity is at their disposal.

Thirdly, people in our culture in general are already in process

of being accustomed to accept non-defined, contentless

religious words and symbols, without any rational or historical

control. Such words and symbols are ready to be filled with the

content of the moment. The words ‘Jesus’ or ‘Christ’ are the

most ready for the manipulator. The phrase ‘Jesus Christ’ has

become a contentless banner which can be carried in any

direction for sociological purposes.

“…because the phrase ‘Jesus Christ’ has been separated from true

history and the content of Scripture, it can be used to trigger

religiously motivated sociological actions directly contrary to the

teaching of Christ…. It is against such manipulated semantic

mysticism that we do very well to prepare ourselves, our children and

our spiritual children.”


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