Inadequate Modern Gods
The first philosophy
is agnosticism, and its false god is reason.
Agnostics don’t care much for churches because they see them as
contributors to “the system”. Agnostics
see God as a figment of man’s imagination, and that all religions were
developments of a culture’s trying to fulfill certain social needs.
In the agnostics’ point of view, those who rule the churches
are those who can control the masses and keep them suppressed.
With the writings of Charles Darwin, some more changes took
place: “gone was human uniqueness [for man became the product of
evolutionary process], gone was idea of purposeful design to the
universe [for all became the product of random chance], gone was the
idea of rationality as yielding any truth other than what could be
observed by the senses [in other words, anything in the realm of the
supernatural could no longer be believed—God, angels, devils, and
miracles were no longer acceptable]” (Moore).
Agnosticism preaches, “Reason, scientific reason must be our
god and only its results based on experimentation can provide us with
real truth because religious knowledge is only the product of
Now we can’t deny
that scientific reason has benefited mankind, but it has also brought
about undreamed of terror as well, as seen in the atomic bomb, chemical
warfare and addictions, and the rampant spread of pornography.
Furthermore, if we take agnosticism to its logical conclusion, we
end up with a mechanical universe without God in which man is simply a
purposeless cog in a big wheel, stripped of his freedom, dignity, and
significance. You see,
scientific reason does a great job at answering the “how question”,
but it does a terrible job at answering the “why question”!
You see, since agnosticism “writes off the supernatural”, it
is really being unscientific and failing to consider all the evidence.
One writer said it his way, “It is we Christians who accept all
actual evidence—it is you rationalists [or agnostics] who refuse
actual evidence being constrained to do so by your [own] creed”
reminds us of Romans 1:22, “Professing to be wise, they became fools
The next philosophy
is existentialism, and its false god is defiance.
Again, the supernatural is taken out of the picture right off the
bat. Existentialism affirms
that man is more than a biological animal with intellectual activities;
in fact, he feels strongly and is passionate.
“We are expected to carve out our own existence between [two
dates—our birth and our death]. We
understand this intuitively. There
is a nagging anxiety about who we are and why we’re here” (Sproul).
So, existentialism preaches that we “must carve out our own
destiny by being morally autonomous.
We must be a law unto ourselves and should never submit to any
norms because there really are no norms” (Ibid.).
We must have the courage to do our own thing, to be authentic, to
defy the system! “It’s
like Jimmy Cagney in the old movie The White Cliffs of
Now this might be
great if we lived alone by ourselves, but the reality is that we live in
families, and nations, and societies.
We are not morally autonomous, and there are established
norms—whether we chose to acknowledge them or not.
Shoot your classmates, blow up a government building, kill
innocent people in shopping mall—sure, you did your own thing, but how
can “your own thing” take precedence over the all “the others’
things” that they were doing in their lives?
What gives any of us the right to become a dictator?
Existentialism says, “Be a dare-devil and overcome the
world!” Jesus gives us the
real truth in John 16:33: “In the world, you will have tribulation,
but be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world!”
A third philosophy
is hedonism, and its false god is pleasure.
Man must seek pleasure and eliminate pain.
The credo of the hedonist is: “If it feels good, then it is
good.” It’s like the
hugely popular song of the late 70s where Debby Boone belted out, “It
[referring to illicit sex] can’t be wrong when it feels so right.”
Hedonism downplays the eternal and exalts the moment: “Better
grab for all the gusto you can now!”
A temporary euphoria from too much whiskey, or from the drug
high, or from the one night stand is better than none at all.
Hedonism preaches an old message, “Let’s eat, drink, and be
merry, for tomorrow we die.”
But hedonism puts
all its stock in the physical dimension doesn’t it?
But isn’t there more to our lives than just high feelings from
one binge, one joint, and one fling to the next?
And what then happens when you become immune to what used to make
you high? Yes, we must admit
that sin is pleasurable, but it is also very short-term.
tells us that Moses
chose to suffer affliction with God’s people rather than to enjoy the
passing pleasures of sin.” Oh
yes, Satan will be glad for you to live it up—for a while—but are
you prepared to live it down after sin has left its damage to your
liver, to your nerves, and to your other organs?
Think about this too, if I put my pleasure above the welfare of
others, where will it lead? It
will eventually lead to loneliness and isolation.
Hedonism says, “Serve yourself and live it up!”
“No,” says Jesus, “What you really must do is deny
yourself, take up your cross daily, and follow Me” (Luke 9:23).
When you do that, you will have an abundant joy and a lasting
fellowship with others who are striving to do the very same thing!
The next philosophy
is humanism, and its false god is progress.
Again, this philosophy takes God and eternity out of the picture.
All we have is this world, and our morals are determined by our
society’s consensus. Humanism
preaches, “We really have no values, only preferences.
Religion only hinders man’s evolutionary progress and keeps him
tied to an outdated morality. We
need to rid the world of pain and suffering through technology,
industry, and education! We
believe in the infinite perfectibility of human nature.
Yes, if we can dream it, we can do it!
All you religious folks can keep your old pie in the sky, but
were putting our stock in a brave new world without any fetter where all
just keeps getting better and better!”
The humanists have even written documents in 1933, 1973, and in
1980, so that all the world can know where they stand.
It sure sounds good
until we look a little more closely.
In Germany, its society’s consensus determined that killing
Jews was the expedient thing to do?
Did that make it right? Just
preferences they say, but whose preferences will become the final
authority? Ridding the world
of pain and suffering sounds noble, but again we must ask, “Why?”
As Christians, we do this to follow Christ’s example, but
humanists do this to bring about supposed “improvements”, but
improvements to whom and in whose eyes?
“To other people,” they would reply.
But why should we set about to help anybody when all of us are
really just cosmic accidents? And
in the humanists eyes, improvements can only come to the healthy
majority; thus, those in the categories of the unborn, the retarded, and
the senile should be eliminated because they will hinder the survival of
the fittest! Yes, humanists
like Micahel Tooley and Francis Crick have actually advocated such
killings (Moore)! “Progress”
sounds so noble, but it not only overlooks the horrors and sins that
mankind is capable of doing but also eventually creates a totalitarian
state where those who are “the progressives” will be in a position
to decide what is best for the rest of the society (Moore).
Sadly, this philosophy is the one predominant in our public
school systems, and especially in higher education!
The apostle Paul shows us that any perfectibility on mankind’s
part must go back to God’s mercy, so we could say with him, “By
God’s grace, we are what we are … (1 Corinthians 15:10)!”
The next philosophy
is nihilism, and its false god is nothing.
It is existentialism taken to its extreme.
It preaches very simply, “We came from nothing, we are nothing,
and we’re headed for nothing!” You
see, nihilism literally means “nothingness”.
Nihilism affirms that the supernatural is absurd, and life is the
tale of an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
Although it is the bleakest of the modern philosophies, it is
probably the most consistent. After
all, nothing times nothing equals nothing.
If this world is the only reality, then there can be no God.
And if there is no God, then life has no meaning.
What a depressing and hopeless philosophy!
practice violence, be a monster, swim against the tide, do whatever
because in the end, none of it matters it all.
Nihilism certainly leaves us very high and dry doesn’t’ it?
We want to have meaningful lives, we want to be significant to at
least a few others, we want to believe that our love, and sacrifice, and
influence have really been worth something.
Psalm 14:1 declares, “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There
is no God.’” The
darkness of nihilism is shattered by Jesus who said, “I am the light
of the world. He who follows
Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (John
The next philosophy
is postmodernism, and its false god is tolerance.
“Postmodernism tends to view human experience as incoherent,
lacking absolutes in the areas of truth and meaning.
Life and [significance] are assigned to endless browsing of
possible alternatives … All beliefs systems are socially constructed
by cultures; they are merely relative truths affirmed by a particular
culture and uniquely belonging to that culture.
Thus, no one system can dominate” (Sanders).
Postmodernism preaches, “No one belief system should prevail
over any other so as to destroy any culture!”
“The issue is power—men should not dominate women,
heterosexuals should not dominate homosexuals, Christianity should not
dominate other faiths” (Ibid.) Sure,
Jesus can be “a way” but certainly not “the only way,” for we
would then be imposing His views on someone who might believe something
different. “Let’s not be
tyrannical; let’s be tolerant! All
views are equal, and no view must demand that another fall into line
with its precepts because, after all, no culture’s beliefs are any
better than any other culture’s beliefs.”
No one system can
dominate, hum, so why are postmodernists even pushing their system?
Who is really seeking to be tyrannical here in the long run?
There are no absolute truths except for one—postmodernism’s
god of tolerance is the one that should be worshipped by all peoples of
all times!” You see, we
are really right back to the same dilemma of humanism as to who will
eventually call the shots. It
is pretty hard to believe that if we all converted to postmodernism,
there would never arise any more dictators out there.
On the other hand, Jesus is a benevolent king who can offer us
more than any other ruler: “And this is eternal life, that they may
know You, the only true God [sorry, that was not just limited to
Jesus’ culture, but was a truth believed for over 2000 years by
cultures beyond the Jews as well] and Jesus Christ whom you sent”
The next philosophy
is pragmatism, and its false god is functionality.
“If it works, use it!” that's pragmatism's creed.
Again the supernatural is totally ignored.
Pragmatism preaches, “After all, who has time for all those
ultimate concerns when myriads of problems are staring us in the face
right now? We need solutions
and results that science and government can offer us today.
Ideas are true only if they are useful.
Since people can never grasp a truth apart from its utility, it
is better to travel hopefully than to arrive anywhere.”
But there are
problems here as well. Pragmatism
really asks, “What works NOW? But
what about a final analysis or the biblical truth about eternity?
Again, science and government are great for the physical needs,
but they don't offer much concerning the spiritual needs.
And what happens when an idea that's useful today becomes
impractical tomorrow? Would
you rather travel in a VW that gets you to your destination or in a
Lexus that only goes around in circles?
Are pragmatists often driven to see functionality only in selfish
terms? And what would be
pragmatism's answer for our suffering and our deaths?
Jesus gives us the truth against the backdrop of eternity, and
only that wider perspective can help us to truly decide what's useful.
“For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world,
and loses his own soul?” (Matthew 16:26)
You see, what seems so practical at first glace (like riches)
really turns out to be very impractical in the long run (in light of
The next philosophy
is relativism, and its false god is uncertainty.
Relativism preaches, “There is no supernatural and are no
absolutes! After all, all
moral principles come from an individual's conscience.
Nobody can decide for anyone else what is right or wrong”
(Moore). You see, what
postmodernism basically did at the cultural level, relativism does at
the individual level. And
this means that if everything is true and everybody’s right, then
nothing is true, and the word “truth” is now empty of any meaning.
Relativism affirms: “There is your truth and my truth, but
there is no truth beyond ourselves to guide us all.”
You see, this
approach again faces the same difficult we saw under existentialism.
This approach might be great if we lived alone by ourselves, but
the reality is that we live in families, and nations, and societies.
Relativism is ultimately intolerable because of the need for
order in society. History
had taught us that when societies experience this vacuum, the stage is
set for the good of the “state” to become the ultimate point of
unity. And hence, dictators
like Lenin, Mussolini, and Hitler will arise promising great visions of
a glorious state which can provide certainty to those who have bowed to
the god of uncertainty! Relativism
makes life into one big guessing game where there are no answers, but
most folks are not very satisfied with a life full of cosmic question
marks! Jesus once said, “I
am the way, the truth, and the life,”
Now there's an enduring point of reference!
The last philosophy
is secularism, and its false god is life.
Secularism preaches, “There is no eternity and no supernatural
realm. All we have is the
here and now. We must make
all our decisions in this closed arena called life.
History has no transcendent goal.
What counts is only this world.
We must live our lives for the immediate!”
Secularism has the
same weakness as pragmatism: “There are no ultimate answers because
secularism excludes any ultimate realm” (Sproul).
Jesus taught us that there is more than the immediate; there is
the eternal: “Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which
all who are in the graves will hear His voice, and come forth—those
who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done
evil to the resurrection of condemnation” (John 5:28-29).
different philosophies may seem to be on a collision course with each
other, but they all embrace [some common points: they say there is no
God, there is no eternity, and our philosophy is the best to follow]!
Look for [these points] in our culture.
Be aware that others [deny the supernatural] when you hear it.
We need to understand the desperate society in which we live, and
we need to show them that godless philosophies always come up short of
providing us a coherent and comprehensive view of reality” (Sproul).
The Bible still provides us with the best answers for mankind's
biggest questions. “God's Word can still provide a lamp for our feet
and a light for our paths” (Psalm 119:105).
Peter C. Moore, Disarming
the Secular Gods Downers
Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1989.
Phil Sanders, Adrift:
Postmodernism in the Church Nashville:
Gospel Advocate, 2000.
R. C. Sproul, Lifeviews: Understanding the Ideas That Shape Society Today Old Tappen: Fleming H. Revell, 1986.