Secularism has been around for a long time. Though it did not become dominant during the Renaissance, it certainly became mainline ideology in the western world beginning with the 18th century Enlightenment. As for stupidity, that has been around even longer—ever since our first parents in the Garden of Eden believed the lies of the serpent.
But, unless my imagination is running wild, during the last few decades the incremental rates of both stupidity and secularity have been rising at an unprecedented rate.1
Examples include the wide acceptance of evolutionary arguments à la Dawkins that, given enough time, one can explain developmental change without resorting to intelligent design. The problem here, of course, is that time contains no causal element. A birdhouse can sit for an infinite period of time and will still be a birdhouse; it will not change into a castle.2
Across the planet, national governments are furiously abandoning their sacred foundations while embracing the politically correct. In the Union of South Africa, for instance, public holidays of ecclesiastical significance such as Ascension Day have been scrapped in favor of humanistic festivals (“Women’s Day,” “Worker’s Day,” “Youth Day,” etc.).
In the arena of law, the most influential figures on the English legal scene when I read for the English bar were serious, practicing Christians. Among them was Lord Chancellor Hailsham, whose first autobiography, The Door Wherein I Went, contains an important legal apologetic for Christian faith3; another, Lord Diplock, worshipped regularly at the barristers’ Temple Church; and yet another, Lord Denning, was president of the Lawyers’ Christian Fellowship.
The judicial atmosphere today has radically changed. For instance, an English judge recently denied the appeal of a Christian relationships counselor who was fired for refusing to provide sex counseling to a homosexual couple, stating that religious justifications were “irrational.”4 Moreover, two civil servants have been told not to wear crosses to work—the English courts agreeing and the government taking the same position before the European Court of Human Rights.
In France, where I spend half of each year directing the International Academy of Apologetics, the 2012 French presidential race witnessed something I would have fairly recently considered almost unthinkable: our experienced President Nicolas Sarkozy lost to Socialist Francois Hollande, a man with zero experience in running a government and even less experience in foreign affairs. This occurred against the background of France’s desperate need for financial austerity as promoted by Sarkozy—whilst the departement headed by Hollande had the biggest financial deficit in the entire country. What’s more, a breakdown of the election revealed that the more committed to Christianity one was, the more he or she voted for Sarkozy, whereas Hollande was heavily favored in the national election by those with no religion—and by the Muslims. The following statistics show the percentage of each religious category voting for Sarkozy, as reported by Le Figaro (8 May 2012):
In receiving 52% of the total national vote, Hollande became the first divorced French president with an unmarried “partner.”
|Regularly practicing Roman Catholics
Occasionally practicing Roman Catholics
Non-practicing Roman Catholics
Meanwhile, many evangelicals—whom we would expect to stand against this tsunami of secularism—engage in a systematic dumbing down. Too many churches immerse themselves en masse in charismatic emotionalism, pabulum theologies, and mega-church populism focused more often on the overhead projector than the cross while substituting seeker sensitive strategies for the serious theologies of the Reformation past. Even the graduates of respected theological seminaries today have trouble understanding the writings of professionals in their field.5
So what can be done? Perhaps nothing; history moves in cycles and we may well be entering into, or experiencing, another Dark Age. But a classical education, like that offered to the bright, serious students at Patrick Henry College, with a strong dose of formal logic, would certainly help—as would thoughtful study of the writings of the great theologians of the past: Augustine, Luther, Calvin, B. B. Warfield, C. F. W. Walther, Herman Sasse. At very minimum, they might teach us how to think.6
1 P. T. Barnum remarked that “there’s a fool born every minute.” To be sure, the birthrate was lower during his time than it is in ours . . .
2 Cf. Montgomery, Global Journal of Classical Theology, Vol. 6, No. 1 (May, 2007): http://phc.edu/gj_toc_v6n1.php
3 Reprinted in Vol. 4 (1984-1985) of The Simon Greenleaf Law Review, under my editorship.
4 See Montgomery, “Religious ‘Irrationality’ and Civil Liberties,” Amicus Curiae: Journal of the Society for Advanced Legal Studies [U.K.], Summer, 2010.
5 The reader will forgive a personal example. One anonymous net review of the author’s book, Suicide of Christian Theology reads as follows: “I found the writing so complicated that I had difficulty following the intricately woven arguments. I actually had to take some of his sentences and rewrite them in simpler terms before I understood what he meant. . . . PS. I am no dummy either. I have a 3.96 GPA at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.” Other reviewers—who had nothing but praise for the book--did not seem to have this problem.
6 It was Sasse who said that the modern Christian has lost the ability to “think theologically.”
One of contemporary Christianity’s leading apologetics experts, Dr. John Warwick Montgomery holds eleven earned degrees and has authored more than fifty books in four languages on the issues of human rights and biblical apologetics. He is currently residing in Strasbourg, France, where he spends the spring and summer and manages the summer International Academy of Apologetics, Evangelism and Human Rights. Read full bio.