The 18th century saw the rise of a new "theology," Humanism. The positive development enabling the growth of Humanism was the rise of modern science. But there was also an intellectual void that allowed Humanism to co-opt science. Christians have largely adopted three responses, all of which have left Humanism unchallenged to lay waste the surrounding culture:
- Mainline (liberal) Protestants and liberal Catholics welcomed it and had no scruples in overthrowing tradition and Scripture in favor of scientistic doctrines.
- Evangelical Protestants, for whom doctrine depends on private interpretation, clamped down on the interpretation of scripture.
- Faithful Catholics, for whom doctrine has always been settled and constant, separated their metaphysics from natural philosophy. Many retreated into the philosophy of Esse (Being).
In military terms, these responses divide into two categories:
- Switch sides and declare victory (n. 1)
- Retreat behind siege walls (i.e., texts; nn. 2 & 3)
Faith found "safety" by walling itself off from the "really real" world of science, but in so doing abandoned all claims to that world. The natural world is where we live; it is life. To hide behind battlements, to cut oneself off from the natural world, is to banish oneself to the irrelevance of subjectivism. (Remember Gandalf's counsel in Moria: "We must not get shut in.")
Both categories of response leave Humanism with the field. Clearly there can be no victory over Humanism if there is no challenge to it.
The only way to win the war and take back the world is to challenge Humanism on the grounds of the objective world now occupied by science. Science is already turning to our side. Scientistic ideology is giving way to scientific data, for example (off the top of my head):
- Sociological studies show that children are gravely damaged by divorce,
- Ultrasound shows convincingly the humanity of the unborn child,
- Darwinism and its heirs suffer from tremendous empirical gaps.
Nevertheless the ideological root of Humanism remains untouched. Whittaker Chambers writes from his own experience with a most potent form of Humanism:
[Communism] is an intensely practical vision. The tools to turn it into reality are at hand—science and technology, whose traditional method, the rigorous exclusion of all supernatural factors in solving problems, has contributed to the intellectual climate in which the vision flourishes, just as they have contributed to the crisis in which Communism thrives. For the vision is shared by millions who are not Communists (they are part of Communism's secret strength). Its first commandment is found, not in the Communist Manifesto, but in the first sentence of the physics primer: "All of the progress of mankind to date results from the making of careful measurements."
If religious believers are to turn the tide, we need to seize the objective, natural world back from Humanism by developing an integrally realistic philosophy of nature.
If we want to lose, we need only continue hiding.
Benedict Ashley, Theologies of the Body: Humanist and Christian (Braintree, MA: The Pope John Center, 1985), 61, 213, 231-232.
Whittaker Chambers, Witness (New York: Random House, 1952), forward. (Clipped from The Augustine Club)