The late Soviet dissident Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn understood the dangerous side of the Enlightenment all too well. The Enlightenment was a philosophical movement in 1700’s that in the words of Immanuel Kant, a chief proponent of the Enlightenment, had as its motto: “Have courage to use your own reason!” Now, Reason is a very good thing, a God-given gift. Far from the popular caricature of Christians (and sadly the practice of many that claim to be Christians), the Gospel doesn’t encourage blind, unreasoning faith over against reason. Ironically, though, this is precisely what the Enlightenment itself does. In effect, it blindly leaps to find truth in the internal world of the self. It tells me that I as an autonomous individual can attain “the knowledge of good and evil” apart from the aide of any external authority. As a matter of fact, external authority is presumed to be the very source of all human infirmity and oppression. “I find ‘god’ not outside of myself but inside of myself.”
But Solzhenitsyn lived through the unbridled expression of this “faith claim”, spending numerous years in a Soviet prison camp, ironically, for daring to bring his reasoning powers to bear on the reasoning powers of the Soviet system. Of “the calamity of an autonomous, irreligious humanistic consciousness” he said:
It has made man the measure of all things on earth—imperfect man, who is never free of pride, self-interest, envy, vanity, and dozens of other defects. We are now paying for the mistakes, which were not properly appraised at the beginning of the journey. On the way from the Renaissance to our days we have enriched our experience, but we have lost the concept of a Supreme Complete Entity, which used to restrain our passions and our irresponsibility.
Now, don’t misunderstand me. Incredible oppression and “irresponsibility” have been committed by religious hubris, too. Religious arrogance is no better than irreligious. Blind Revelation is no better than blind Reason. But if you exclude the possibility of external authority, an external standard of right and wrong—if God has not spoken objectively in history—then you have just damned yourself and your civilization to mere arbitrariness. “Might” will make “right”; power will prevail over prudence. In such case, as Chairman Mao so graphically put it, “Morality begins at the muzzle of a gun.”
Something to think about from “The Kingdom Perspective”
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge;
Fools despise wisdom and instruction.
~Proverbs 1:7 NASB