‘While (the Christian) vision is no longer the dominant one (in Australia), and may never have been, neither is any other at the moment. There is as yet no other vision abroad in our society which commands the same authority as ours does, the same sense of being the bottom line, the great reserve to be called on in times of real need. Many of the themes of the rallies are necessary problem solving and little more, and much in the spiritual supermarket is fair weather stuff, adjuncts to a prosperity which may now be vanishing. Unbelief, once a daring and rather aristocratic gesture, must now have exhausted most of its glamour; it is certainly no longer exclusive, or particularly rebellious. Much the same could be said of sexual indulgence, pornography and the like. Having by now surely lost most of its flavour of forbidden fruit, sexual licence has to justify itself in terms of whatever real satisfaction it can give; its utility as a bait to draw people out of traditional ways and beliefs, and if possible into new allegiances, must by now also be wearing thin. And it will be difficult at the very least, for the cult of unremitting youthfulness and physical beauty to survive in the era of aging populations which it has helped to produce. By now liberal humanism is as badly fragmented by dissension as our witness ever was, and its fiercest adherents are often covertly uneasy at its lack of gentleness, its readiness to force the facts and its desolate this-worldliness. Its unrelenting adulthood forces people onto the thorns of tragic complexity and the strange intractability of the world, and often when people who subscribe to it relax for a moment, their eyes are seen to contain an almost desperate appeal: please prove us wrong, make us believe there is more to it than this, show us your God and that Grace you talk about. We are more widely judged on our own best terms than we think, and more insistently expected to be the keepers of the dimension of depth than we find comfortable’. – Les A. Murray, ‘Some Religious Stuff I Know About Australia’ in The Shape of Belief: Christianity in Australia Today (ed. Dorothy Harris, et al.; Homebush West: Lancer, 1982), 25–6.
‘ … in early democracies, as in American democracy at the time of its birth, all individual human rights were granted because man is God’s creature. That is, freedom was given to the individual conditionally, in the assumption of his constant religious responsibility. Such was the heritage of the preceding thousand years. Two hundred or even fifty years ago, it would have seemed quite impossible, in America, that an individual could be granted boundless freedom simply for the satisfaction of his instincts or whims. Subsequently, however, all such limitations were discarded everywhere in the West; a total liberation occurred from the moral heritage of Christian centuries with their great reserves of mercy and sacrifice. State systems were becoming increasingly and totally materialistic. The West ended up by truly enforcing human rights, sometimes even excessively, but man’s sense of responsibility to God and society grew dimmer and dimmer. In the past decades, the legalistically selfish aspect of Western approach and thinking has reached its final dimension and the world wound up in a harsh spiritual crisis and a political impasse. All the glorified technological achievements of Progress, including the conquest of outer space, do not redeem the Twentieth century’s moral poverty which no one could imagine even as late as in the Nineteenth Century’.
– Alexander Solzhenitsyn, ‘A World Split Apart’ (A paper presented at the Harvard Class Day Afternoon Exercises, Harvard University, Thursday, 8 June, 1978).
So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. (Gen 2:21–22)
What is going on here in this second creation account? It is as though we are being warned against an overly optimistic reliance upon some technique or some technician – or of making fools of ourselves – who could intensify or alter existing creaturely being so that it could fulfill and complete itself, i.e. without God.
Michael Jenson has recently posted a helpful review of John Carroll’s book The Wreck of Western Culture – Humanism Revisited on his blog. A fuller version of the review is also available here. The book, and the review, are well worth the read. Writing in 1917, Forsyth had this to say about Humanism: ‘Everything has come to turn on man’s welfare instead of God’s worship, on man with God to help him and not on God with man to wait upon Him. The fundamental heresy of the day, now deep in Christian belief itself, is humanist. It is the humanism and humanitarianism which events are now reducing to an absurdity as a religion … Elated by our modern mastery of nature and cult of genius, and ridden by the superstition of progress (now unseated), we came to start with that excellent creature, man, his wonderful resources, his broadening freedom, his widening heart, his conquest of creation, and his expanding career. And, as with man we begin, with man we really end. God is there but to promote and crown this development of man, if there be a God at all.’