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The Aftermath of the Enlightenment

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
March 10, 2020 12:01 am

The Aftermath of the Enlightenment

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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March 10, 2020 12:01 am

Is God still necessary to explain the world’s existence and to find meaning for our lives? Today, R.C. Sproul continues his discussion of the Enlightenment to explain why some of its prominent thinkers sought to do away with religion.

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The 18th-century Enlightenment brought new ideas to the world the God hypothesis is no longer necessary to explain all of the old philosophical and historical problems, such as what is the origin of human life. Now science apart from the Bible can answer all those questions that earlier philosophers had to fall back upon their speculation on God to explain the world as we find we see the ripples of the institutions of higher learning almost unanimously reject the idea of divine origins and in fact ridiculed the idea of creation the ideas of those philosophers so many years ago have consequences for him to Dr. RC Sproul series. The consequences of ideas is our focus this week on Renewing Your Mind. We continue now with our brief survey of the Enlightenment. We asked the question now. Why was the Enlightenment called the Enlightenment what was the new light that was being shed on issues of the day, while the 18th-century Enlightenment, perhaps more than any period in the history of Western thought showed a spirit of unbridled optimism with respect to the progress of the mind or what we might call intellectual progress. We sing the startling results in science and now revolutions occurring around the world and new paradigms for government with freedom and individual responsibility and these things that are taking place. The Enlightenment brought with it a severe tension between philosophy and the church, because for many of the thinkers of the Enlightenment. It was the church that was seen as the chief impediment or obstacle to further philosophical improvement and intellectual progress because the church was bound up in her dogmatism and was perceived by many of the critics of the Enlightenment to be the enemy of freethinking and free investigation for truth wherever it could be found, and so we see this critique emerge against the church and against Christianity.

Now one of the most important figures of the Enlightenment was the French philosopher Voltaire and Voltaire was very critical of the church but he was not critical of theism.

He was a devout believer in God and his problem as he said was he was not struggling against face, but against superstition, not even against religion but against the institutional church as he encountered it in his day, we wanted to leave room for faith and so he was somewhat critical of religion. But his basic target was the church and particularly the Protestant church at that. David followed after Calvin and Luther, and he was also very critical of Pascal because of Pascal's revival of Augustinian thought within the Roman Catholic community and Voltaire didn't like that he shared Voltaire's concern for human corruption, but he saw more of a problem with superstition and an uninformed and intellectual approach to faith. I would say the Voltaire is more of a literary figure, a kind of a transitional figure here where he was a moderate with respect to his critique of religion. The French encyclopedia's were the avowed enemies of all religion and they were the ones people like the whole box and the utero who declared themselves personal enemies of God and brought forth the basic theme of the Enlightenment, which was this, namely, that the God hypothesis is no longer necessary to explain all of the old philosophical and historical problems, such as where did the world come from, what is the origin of human life.

Now science apart from the Bible and apart from religion can answer all those questions that earlier philosophers had to fall back upon their speculation on the first causes God to explain the world as we find so again, let me say that what they would condense their view of Enlightenment was that where the lights came on was to the realization that God is not unnecessary.

Hypothesis four theoretical thought how these men in their efforts to put aside all forms of theism developed the idea of spontaneous generation as the alternative to the Christian concept of creation which view at that time seem to be credible within the scientific world, but under later examination was found to be completely absurd. Spontaneous generation means the things just pop into existence out of nothing now for a short period of time, there were efforts in the Enlightenment to produce a natural religion natural religion which would be a religion based upon reason and a religion that would be noted for its chief article of tolerance for toleration by the 18th century Europe was fed up with religious warfare with the endless disputes between Protestants and Roman Catholics and all of the pain-and-suffering that had gone on in the world. As a result of these fears theological controversies and so religion was upsetting daily life. And of course these people thought that it was also a barrier towards a greater awakening or illumination. We can find through natural science while the ironies of this of course is that while this is going on in Europe in the 18th century was going on in America in the colonies as the great awakening with the work of Jonathan Edwards and Whitfield, and Wesley and the biggest religious revival that this New World will have experience not only up to that point. But since that point, when, while religion is taking off in full force in America is suffering a calamitous consequences under the impact of the Enlightenment in Europe now for a time being for short period of time. The new religion but sought to replace classical Christianity on the continent was the religion of theism.

I've mentioned this in passing before because of its historical significance. The dais were those who still affirmed the existence of God. They still believe the reason demanded God as Creator, Voltaire, for example, was convinced that reason demonstrated compellingly the need for a necessary being and followed Descartes at that point but they wanted to strip religion of all of the accretions that have been heaped upon it through the history of the church and get back to the basics of natural religion. The religion by which God reveals himself in nature so natural religion supplants biblical religion and here is where we find the initial stages of radical criticism being offered against the integrity of the Scriptures because there's an all-out effort by the Enlightenment thinkers to get rid of the authority of the Scriptures that also according to experts on this. Was motivated in large measure by the resistance against Augustinian theology and against the doctrine of original sin when there is a passage agreement that Luther and Calvin Augustine, and so on, that the reformers were right about the condition of man's fallenness and that the that they had the Bible on their side over against a Rasmussen's higher view of man and against all Palladian forms of theology.

So rather than try to ground their anti-Augustinian-ism on a different interpretation of the Bible, they decided to do what get rid of the Bible and look at our understanding of mankind through the eyes of nature. So you see all kinds of philosophies emerging in the 18th century, extolling the virtue and the innocence of man in nature, which reaches its supreme expression in the work of Russo, but in any case, the what the Enlightenment thinkers are seeking. First of all, is a natural religion is marked by toleration, and it gives the name of the use of an Deism is a particular form of theism that still says that God creates the world, but he basically steps back out of the world and lets the world operate according to the fixed natural laws that he is imbued into the creation and God doesn't intervene in the structure of human events now course as an organized religion. Theism had a very short lifespan that is a simply a blip on the radar screen of Western history, but I'm also said many times that even though it passed away quickly. The ongoing consequences of it reached even to today and there were those in the colonies, who were practicing devious and their contribution to the formation of the ideals of the American governmental system is a matter of much debate, and so on, but that they were engaged in it and that they were real is beyond dispute, but in any case, you have things in the Declaration of Independence that speaks about we are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights, or later we hold these truths to be self-evident. The language of that kind of documentation is language that comes right out of this environment of the 18th century, which was an attempt to base government and religion on nature. This is also the heyday of natural law now the medieval church believe the natural law. St. Thomas Aquinas was a great advocate of natural law. But the natural law theorists of Christian history took their cue from the biblical exposition of natural law because Paul for example, in Romans two speaks about the law of God that is written on our hearts. Not only do we learn God's law from listening to Moses and the 10 Commandments, and so on. But we also have conscience and we also have an innate understanding of right and wrong. This is the kind of thing that Immanuel Kant labors with with respect to his view of ethics, but that is the natural law or the Lex Monterey was was seen by the classical Christian synthesis as a reflection in this world of the so-called Lex. I turn to talk to us or the eternal law of God, so that natural law was an consistent application of biblical law know what's going on now in the 18th century Enlightenment is an attempt to D supernatural lies life D supernatural lies religion if you will, so that the Bible has to go and supernatural revealed theology has to go and in its place comes natural theology for natural religion. This is a very important point understand because part of the hostility in our own day against natural theology is rooted in the churches awareness that it was the advocates of natural theology who gave birth to this critique of revelation of the Bible and all the rest.

I for example, an outspoken advocate of the reconstruction of natural theology, but not in the Enlightenment sense where you reduce Christianity, to what can be learned simply through a study of nature but rather more in terms of the classical synthesis is Aquinas added where natural theology simply reinforced what was already present in the Scripture now.

In any case, Deism was welcomed by the moderates of the Enlightenment, but the radicals of the Enlightenment. People like as I said the euro and the French encyclopedias saw Deism as a fatal compromise with religion. In fact need a row said that what Deism managed to accomplish in a positive note was that it cut off 10 heads of the Hydra of organized religion going back to the ancient mythology of the Hydra unit with you because I had go to and so this would cut off 10 heads, but he said theism left that one head ahead of Deism and data row said slums that one head is left all the other heads will come back though all grow back and will have all the same religious problems in the future that we had in the past and so the row was not satisfied with this compromise. He wanted to take the acts of the root of the tree were really to take the asked of the neck and cut off all the heads of Hydra, including the head of Deism and get rid of religion altogether.

Now Russo is one who was very important in this. Because he also fought against the classical Christian view of Original Sin and having rejected the biblical view of mankind. Russo came to the conclusion you've heard the famous statements man is born free and everywhere he is in chains, said again man is born free and everywhere he is in chains of the real change that he's out to conquer are the chains of Original Sin, that doctrine of Original Sin that the gun was recovered by Pascal and others in his own day, and Russo granted he agreed that there was much corruption in humanity and society and civilization in the 18th century.

According to Russo was decadent and because of the obvious corruption of human institutions which the reformers would point to as proof of the truth of Original Sin. Let me just add a comment parenthetically Edwards over in America wrote his masterful treaties on Original Sin in the 18th century and he argued for the doctrine of original sin. Not only exegetic clay, which he did do showing the biblical case for Original Sin, but he also has a lengthy section in his treaties on Original Sin proved by natural reason and again the simplify this what Edwards was saying was if the Bible didn't tell us anything about a historical fall or anything about the doctrine of original sin pure unvarnished reason would have to construct a theory of Original Sin to account for the universality of corruption and that all people everywhere struggle with sin if were all born neutral and not fallen, one would expect not to find this kind of universality of human corruption which that kind of issue that Russo was struggling with and he then gave his description of what he called the human state of nature like the innocent, savage, we are all born free from any kind of Original Sin, but then he was faced with this question. If we are all born free of Original Sin and born actually in a virtuous state. Why is the world so corrupt why is society decadent well the answer that Russo gave obviously was that is the result of government man is born with a basic virtuous sense of self-love which is not evil but self-love degenerates into selfishness in community when governments come and form established institutions that sort of codify and placing concrete. The worst impulses of human nature. For example, one of the insights that Russo had about this is the interdependency of human beings on each other.

The whole world functions on the basis of the division of labor. No man is truly an island. No man is ever really self-sufficient. The farmer needs the cattlemen for his mate and the cattlemen needs the farmer for his weight and so on.

And we all are interdependent in a global village on each other's contributions to the human enterprise, but as soon as I enter into a contract with you as soon as I enter into a cooperative venture with you. I become to some degree dependent upon you and the more dependent I am upon you.

The more I expose myself to you are in Paul's to tyrannize me so that the mutual relationships tend toward tyranny, and the more institutionalized these things become. The more government you have than the more you are exploited and you become alienated from your basic human nature. We call it the rat race. Most of us spend little time thinking about how our lives are made complicated by the structures in the systems of civilization and the society as we know it when we sort of dropped into the society in which we live and everybody is expected to have a car you don't have a car there something wrong with you or you can't compete in your expected to do this in spite of do that at all. While big brothers watching you and hurting you and hurting a GRD not hurting although they may do that to and so Russo came to conclusion that every person becomes whatever the government makes it so that it is organized government that corrupts individuals rethink on the basis of this, that he would then appeal to a complete withdrawal from society. But that's not the case. Instead what he said is what we need is a whole new understanding of government where the government is based on a social contract on a covenant between those who are ruled and those who are the rulers and that covenant is spelled out in terms of just laws and adjust laws reflect the general will or the general welfare and everybody then by pulling for the general good and for the general welfare will be actually advancing their own human interest and it's that kind of thinking that brought about the French Revolution that kind of thinking that had an enormous impact on the establishment of America. Don't get me wrong I'm not opposed to the idea of a social contract, but I think it's not even extreme to think that government is going to cure the problems of mankind. The obvious question you asked Russo's of man is all basically virtuous and it civilization that corrupts them out of the civilization to corrupt and the first black because a civilization is simply society is simply made up of individuals and so things got the cart before the horse. I think that it really ever answer the problem of the universality of human sin, except in a very nave way, but the upshot of all of this is a brand-new sense of all right, we have a new illumination were enlightened. We can now create our own destiny.

Get out from under the tyranny of the church and the tyranny of monarchs and form a government that is based upon mutual agreement, the consent of the governed. Where there are checks and balances in place and that will bring about a just society. Well, we can look back at that smile because we still struggle with problems of decadence and moral corruption.

So one, but now we do it so called as enlightened people, almost all philosophers of that day agreed with this somewhat optimistic view of what natural reason would be able to bring about more natural religion or natural law, but rather became more and more skeptical and more and more pessimistic as they entered into the 19th century as we listen to that explanation of the enlightenment we hear echoes of our own culture. Today's message is from Dr. RC Sproles classic series. The consequences of ideas that were bringing you the highlights of the series all week here on Renewing Your Mind.

You know when we were growing up most of his suit accepted the ideas of our culture without much critique of studying the ideas of these philosophers can could come as a shock to the way people think. Today it is a direct result of the teaching of these men so many centuries ago. If we don't study the history of philosophy. We can be in danger of accepting un-biblical ideas and repeating their error.

This series by Dr. scroll is comprehensive 35 messages on my DVDs with more than 13 hours of teaching we like to send you the entire series for your donation of any amount to look in your ministries. Call us at 800-435-4343. You can also give your gift and make your request online. When you go to Renewing Your Mind.org I hope you found today's lesson helpful. We would love for you to share it with others.

If you're so inclined to just go to our website there and you'll find a share button right in the middle of the page. You can post a link to today's program on Facebook and Twitter, or you can email the link to your friends and the decks for spreading the word. We appreciated the web address again is Renewing Your Mind.org tomorrow. Dr. scroll introduces us to one of the most important thinkers of the past 200 years. His name is Emmanuel, we hope you'll join us Wednesday Renewing Your Mind


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