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Coming: ....A world of Enlightenment!

   By Jeff Calkins Page 1 Plain Truth May, 1981

SOME DAY historians will look upon the 20th century as part of the dark ages.

Oh, we think we are enlightened! Has not the 20th century seen great strides in medicine, transportation, communication?

Undoubtedly. But mere knowledge and technology is not enlightenment. Our age has probably less understanding of the basic, eternal truths that bear on human happiness than preceding ages.

The 20th century has indeed seen a "knowledge explosion." But in reality what this means is that there are now probably more writers of learned journals than readers of them. The average university library contains endless volumes on boring, turgid topics. And what good will most of them do? They will serve as sources for footnotes in even more endless volumes! Most of them will remain, deservedly, unread.

Indiscriminate, promiscuous knowledge is not enlightenment. Much of the "knowledge" contained in university libraries exists to provide work for the professors who wrote it, and most of them wouldn't have written it except for the fact that being published, just for its own sake, is important in the academic world. How true the Bible is when it declares: "For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God . . .” (I Corinthians 3:19).

It is not surprising that the 20th century should rather conceitedly think of itself as enlightened. To a great degree, our age has substituted technology for character, and technology is something the 20th century has done well.

The 20th century has given us word processing machines, cable television and cheap calculators; it has also given us Valium, birth control pills, chemical weapons, hydrogen bombs, suction abortions, and thalidomide: technology, without character, is not usually a blessing.


Enlightenment as Reaction

In man's world, "enlightenment" usually comes as a reaction to past problems. What historians call the "age of enlightenment," around 1700, was largely a time of overthrowing the old, and largely religious, dogmas of earlier times. Indeed, man's religions had stifled science (Galileo), had produced bloody slaughter (the Thirty Years War), and terror (the Inquisition). In reaction, all moral and religious traditions — including the Bible as a source of revealed knowledge — became open to question.

In fact, because it was a reaction to religion, the word enlightenment took on a subtle anti-God, antireligious meaning. Being enlightened became being secular — not being bound by rules laid down by a Creator.

And where did this enlightened secularism lead? Freedom from religion and God led to atheistic, materialistic philosophies. Instead of bringing freedom, they brought every part of life under partial or full control of human government.

Such materialistic philosophies have provided a ready means for tyrants to justify the slaughter and imprisonment of millions: Stalin's forced famine in the Ukraine in the 1930s, Hitler's concentration camps in the 1940s, Pol Pot's brutal slaughter of millions of Cambodians in the 1970s. And, while every century had its tyrants, this century's are armed with sophisticated technology: electronic snooping devices, truth serums, computers and atom bombs.


Jumping Track

But the materialistic enlightenment has had other results as well. Perhaps you've noticed that the word enlightened is often used to mean something like "permissive" or "morally lax." An "enlightened" penal system is not one where criminals are punished, but are given psychiatric care. An "enlightened" educational system is not one emphasizing discipline and high standards, but one where children "design" their own curriculum. An "enlightened" code of sex morality is one where almost anything goes.

Of course, the fact is that such enlightenment has produced a world abounding in crime, illiteracy (even in modern, industrial nations), illegitimacy, divorce and venereal disease.

"In the last decade," writes historian James Hitchcock in a brilliant essay in National Review (February 6, 1981), there has been "an unprecedented extension of the socially and legally permissible limits of personal behavior." (In plainer language, morals have fallen into the cesspool)

Mr. Hitchcock points out that under the hot light of enlightened skepticism, moral barriers have melted away. The simple question "Why not?" becomes a sort of acid that eats away at all standards. Unless the reasons for a moral law can be easily stated, the presumption is in favor of licentiousness. People want to believe that mere unthinking prejudice is the reason for moral laws. Defenders of morality seem reduced, in Lionel Trilling's words, to "irritable mental gestures."


A Great Kick!

At the height of the age of enlightenment, the questioning of moral laws reached absurd proportions. One philosopher, David Hume, even questioned cause and effect. Nothing at all could ever be really proved. Years later, Samuel Johnson, a man far wiser, came along. His friend pointed at a rock.

"See that rock; David Hume says you can't prove that rock exists," his friend told him.”Well I prove it thusly," Johnson declared, and gave the rock a great kick.

The time has come to give a great big kick to the false enlightenment of the 20th century! Professing itself to be wise, it has become foolish (cf. Romans 1:22).

The permissive enlightenment of our age has not brought happiness. It has given us penicillin to cure venereal disease, computers to calculate how much air pollution we have, and Valium to calm our jangled nerves. But it has left us without an ingredient most necessary for happiness — a sense of purpose.

Look at the great ignorance of our age! We do not know who we are, or why we are. The most important knowledge concerning human happiness is not part of 20th century enlightenment.

"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments," declares the Bible (Psalm 111:10).

And yet the starting point of philosophy in our world is doubt! God is ignored.”Philosophy," which means "love of wisdom," rejects the "beginning of wisdom." So the Bible counsels, "Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ" (Colossians 2:8).

Philosophy's rejection of God reflects the natural limitations of the human mind. The human mind, the natural, physical "carnal" mind, is profoundly limited. The "carnal," meaning "physical," mind cannot comprehend the most important knowledge of all — who and why man — without God's divine help, and God ordinarily doesn't bestow this knowledge on philosophers. The natural human mind knows only "the things of man" (I Corinthians 2:11), but does not naturally know the things of God (I Corinthians 2:14).

But if you don't know the things of God, you are not really enlightened. You may have gadgets galore. You may have millions of footnotes in thousands of articles. But there is still great and important understanding of which you are ignorant.


A World of Enlightenment

True enlightenment, of course, is not antireligious. God exists, and he does lay down laws for human conduct. It is the height of unenlightenment to ignore what exists, whether some philosopher likes it or not. Since God does exist, and the Bible really is his Word, then not looking to the Bible is being unreal and you are operating in a dream-world. The real world, by contrast, is the one revealed in the Bible.

The Bible uses the word vail to symbolize mankind's natural inability to know the whole truth of God. When Christ establishes the government of God from Mount Zion in Jerusalem over the whole earth, the veil will be removed.”And he will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering cast over all people, and the vail that is spread over all nations" (Isaiah 25:7).

In the coming government of God, God's existence and the validity of God's Word will be undeniable! Christ himself will rule in Jerusalem, and the fact of Christ's existence and his ruler-ship will be physically perceptible. The Bible clearly declares that in the Millennium the spirit beings who will administrate God's government under Christ will be seen:

. . . Yet shall not thy teachers be removed into a corner any more, but thine eyes shall see thy teachers: and thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left" (Isaiah 30:20-21).

In God's World, science and technology will thrive: but they won't be that world's only claim to fame. The real frontiers of enlightenment revolve around the creation of the perfect, righteous character of God within human beings. This most important knowledge — ignored in this world's civilization — will be universal in Tomorrow's.”For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea" (Isaiah 11:9).