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The Rise of the Enlightenment

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
March 9, 2020 12:01 am

The Rise of the Enlightenment

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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March 9, 2020 12:01 am

Much of the antagonism toward the truth of God in our culture today can be traced back to the 18th century. Today, R.C. Sproul evaluates the attempts of the Enlightenment to overthrow divine revelation with human reason.

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In the 18th century new science and new thought dominated every part of culture all kinds of new paradigms were brought to the fore on how to create an ideal form of government that's tied into this business of original sin, because in the past, Original Sin meant that people were corrupt and fallen and could not govern themselves. The trees during this period of time could be like humans and in the toward God shifted today on Renewing Your Mind, Dr. RC Sproul will shows the much of the antagonism we see toward God in our own culture can be traced back to the philosophers of the 17 number a message today is taken from Marcy's classic series.

The consequences of idea if we were having occasion to visit Western Europe at this time in history and go on the tours that feature visits to the great cathedrals in the churches of Western Europe. We soon discover that many of them have become museums and what some cynics refer to as the mausoleums for the death of God and of Christianity. The last figure I saw was the roughly 2% of people in Western Europe are regular and attending church and that the culture in the main has been secularized and historians look back to the 18 century and see in the 18th century some pivotal events that took place then that have led to the demise of the church in the life of people in the Western world, we seen already that the 18 century can be called the age of empiricism because of what was going on in Great Britain with respect to the questions of epistemology that were dealt with with people like Locke and Berkeley and Hume but also the 18th century is famous for and movement that is called the Enlightenment and even though the 17th century was called the age of reason from an epistemological perspective.

The 18th century is also sometimes referred to as the age of reason, not because of the distinction between rational and empirical trends and philosophical inquiry now because of the enthronement of reason with a R over against the idea of biblical revelation.

The 14th and 15th centuries brought the Renaissance to your and during that period. As we have seen, there was an attempt to focus people's attention on this world and the focus philosophical energy on understanding man for man kind, as it were. One of the most important voices. As we've already seen for the Renaissance thinkers was that of a Rasmussen was supposedly a Christian humanist, but we saw the whole movement of humanism developing a following that not only inside the church but also as an alternative to the Christian community. But that was forces of the Renaissance were then followed immediately by the 16th century Reformation, which saw a strong current of revival of biblical Christianity, and in the 16th century, we noticed that one of the chief debates at the time was between Martin Luther and a Rasmussen and the subject that they debated was the question of man's fall in nature. The doctrine of original sin, particularly as it influences our understanding of human freedom.

Now in that debate. In the 16th century, historians will usually grant that a Rasmussen lost that struggle and Luther and the reformers were triumphant in restoring a strong Augustinian theology to the Protestant world, and it's also true that in the 17 century Luther and the reformers maintained their victory over the humanists of the earlier. But by the time we reach the 18th century in Europe, we can say that where a Rasmussen lost the battle in the 16th century. In the 17th century to Luther, the 18th century is the age of the triumph of humanism and of the forces of a Rasmussen over the Reformation because at the heart of Luther's theology of Calvin's theology, both of whom were so heavily dependent on Augustine was the view that man is the Bible suggests is corrupt in the core of his being and has because of a historical fall is now caught up in this bondage of the human will to evil impulses. The 18th century saw a strong reaction against the whole notion of the fall against Original Sin against Augustinian theology against Luther and Calvin and the rest with this movement called the Enlightenment now in Germany the Enlightenment was called the alpha collateral, which is simply the German word for enlightenment and the Enlightenment was of strong force basically in three countries. Germany, France and England and the thinking that came out of the 18th-century Enlightenment had a tremendous formative influence on the new world as it was emerging here in the United States and also for the future of Western Europe and we go back to the 18 century and look at the Enlightenment, we see that the. It did not present to us a monolithic movement than sometimes people who looked at the 18th-century and speak of the Enlightenment, sometimes caricature the Enlightenment as if it were a unified systemic movement were all the philosophers believe basically the same thing, namely, that was a monolithic experience. But that's not the case at all. There were a host of thinkers engaged in this movement called the Enlightenment and they run the gamut on the philosophical spectrum theological spectrum from the still highly religious to those who were absolutely cynical and skeptical and hostile towards any kind of religion, but as far as epistemology was concerned. The Enlightenment thinkers shared for the most part a common approach to knowledge, which was called the analytical method and this method was a method that had been born in the laboratory of natural science because of the tremendous advances in astronomy and physics and mathematics, and in the other sciences with the discovery of the so-called scientific method. The thinkers of this time were now applying this method of learning not only to natural sciences like biology and chemistry and physics but also they began to apply this methodology to what we would call the social sciences and I'll give a couple examples of that as we proceed. But again, the startling results of the Copernican revolution. Galileo's experiments and so on. And now, specifically with the impact of the whole new scientific paradigm brought about chiefly through the work of Isaac Newton Newtonian physics was indeed revolutionary. Now Newton himself had a very strong religious bent. In fact, he saw his work as a scientist in his own terms. His own words as being engaged in thinking God's thoughts after him, but not everyone in this new emerging science had the same appreciation for religion that Newton did and so this analytical method can be simply defined as this that the task of philosophy and the task of science is to seek the logic of the facts. This is basically empirical in its initial stages, that is, as the scientist gathers his data empirically against the individual pieces of information. Now the scientists is told to apply the rational skills of deduction to the inductive approach of collecting data experimenting with the data and so on, and to see if the data yields an observable pattern or a coherent system. That's what is meant by looking for the logic of the facts. The idea here is, is that you don't begin with some kind of philosophical system and then use that as a grid to cover the facts and try to squeeze the facts into your preconceived system, but rather the system is to emerge from a study of the facts. I run into this problem all the time in teaching systematic theology. That's one of the courses that I teach in the seminary and that's basically my field. Systematic theology, and I noticed with each passing year, a greater antipathy and distrust towards the very concept of systematic theology students today have this kind of allergy against any kind of system where an anti-system society and so often the accusation is that the systematic theologian has a theological framework, and then he comes to the Bible and he tries to interpret every piece of information in the Bible into that framework for that theological system which would then of course involve us in a serious distortion of what is in the Bible and so they had this clash between so-called systematic theology and biblical theology. On the other hand, where the biblical theologians pay attention to the details of the various portions of Scripture and eschew putting them together any kind of system well what systematic theology has meant historically is not the come with a preconceived system to the Bible but is simply to look for the logic of the fact that is to see the holistic comprehensive coherent relationship of all of the individual parts of the Bible. That is, the assumption is that the Bible is unity. The Bible is coherent. It comes ultimately from God and so we should be able to find an inner logic in it, but any case, such as an illustration or example of this approach to knowledge which I think is basically a sound approach.

I have no complaint to make, essentially against the analytical method or what we would call the scientific method today. As long as it is used properly.

One of the fascinating developments in the Enlightenment was. I said that there's new excitement and confidence in the developments in progress in physics and biology and so on. This principle of the analytical method was then transferred in an attempt to understand the social sciences, for example, Montesquieu as an Enlightenment thinker wrote his famous book called the spirit of the laws where he examined all of the different civilizations that he was aware of. Historically, throughout the history of the West and he looked for patterns and just like we would and biology divide things in the kingdoms and file genus and species and so on. What Montesquieu did was he said while the basic patterns or leaves their all kinds of individual governments that come and go throughout Western history, but there are three basic generic forms of government that we find historically.

There is first of all what you would call a dictatorship. And then there is second of all, a monarchy or monarchy of government. And third, there is some form or another of democratic government. Now, in analyzing these various forms of government.

Historically, he looked for laws that apply to government this like Adam Smith in the wealth of Nations, said there are laws that govern economics, like the law of scarcity and supply and demand, Gresham's Law that bad money drives out good money and if you debase the currency. The old currency will suddenly pass out of existence, as it will be held by those who are collecting at this. Just as today.

If you have silver coins from before 1950 or so on their metal value is higher than their currency value so nobody will take a silver $0.50 piece or a silver $0.25 piece and go the store and use it interchangeably as 1/4 because it silver content is so much higher than the currency value the good money is been driven out of circulation.

That's one of the things that Adam Smith noticed. So what these people were doing was that they were studying the phenomena that manifests itself in these fields such as economics, and government, and so on and looking for patterns looking for trends looking again for the logic of the facts. Now when Montesquieu made his application of government to history. He noticed that there were certain basic underlying conditions that had to be maintained for certain forms of government to survive, and then he reduced these various aspects to those things that he believed where most necessary just give a quick example of this sort of thing. It turns his attention to these three forms of government, and he said the single most important necessary ingredient for the successful continuity of a dictatorship is fear with dictators capitalize on fear in order to stay in power. That's why you when you find dictators you'll find frequently secret police, all kinds of purges of hostile opposition and so and people are oppressed under this kind of a regime because when a dictator rules there's always more power in the masses than in the individual who holds sway and the only way he can keep himself in power is to so intimidate the masses and keep them afraid to revolt and to rise up against his dictatorship that he has to have a reign of terror in order to do that now, we've seen that over and over and over again in history and certainly since the 18th century with the police state of Russia, Germany, and other examples of that around the world.

I remember when Lex Valencia was placed under house arrest during the communist regime wondered what was going to go on there.

He had become so popular in Poland and so famous that I figured that the Soviets understood that if they killed him, there was actually too late to kill it because he would become a martyr and that could trigger a revolution because what Valencia represented was one man who stood against the system with courage and that's the thing that will always topple dictatorships. According to Montesquieu. I also made this observation.

He said the traditionally and historically when one of these forms of government falls. It is inevitably or invariably replaced by one of the other three not coming down the monarchy. He said that the single most important ingredient for a monarchy to survive is the principle of honor. That's why, in the medieval times. There was so much attention given to courtesy, which is a shortened word for 2 Words Ct. etiquette and y'all have your your ladies and lords in the chivalry of all of that business in the pageantry and the pomp and circumstances that go with the monarchy. We see it today. Even in England. With all that goes on with the royalty in all the cursing and bowing and the accouterments of a monarchy system. The whole principle here is that the royalty is to be held in high esteem and in high honor by the subjects to the king or to the Queen and then that works its way down through the dukes and the duchesses in the Earls and the ladies and all that. And whenever there is a loss of honor and the people no longer have respect for their monarchical rulers. Then the monarchy collapses will obviously we've seen in the Western world all kinds of constitutional monarchies that don't rule with the same kind of absolute power that earlier forms of monarchy did in Europe, but we've seen for example, the crisis in England over the whole business of the divorce pending divorce between Charles and I because all of a sudden the monarchy. Even though it's only particular in its representation was in serious trouble in England because it had been disgraced and once disgraced. Once the honor is lost then with it comes the stability of it. Third form of government and its broadly-based format is the democratic form and the democratic form which I find interesting. According to Montesquieu finds its most important necessary condition for its survival and for its continuity of existence is what he called civic virtue, civic virtue, where there is an educated and enlightened sense of responsibility and of obedience, civil obedience and of respect for law and the idea is when the law is no longer respected and public morality fails then inevitably the democracy crumbles and that's an interesting view because now looking back to the beginnings of this country which tried to follow broadly the form of democratic government. Even though was constituted as a republic. Nevertheless, we've seen that very crisis attach itself to our own culture and people wonder whether the grand experiment of the American model is going to survive because of the loss of civic virtue, and of course if it collapses then what you look for you.

Look for either a monarchy, which is highly unlikely in this day and age or worse alternative. The problem of dictatorship will in any case, these are the ways in which the Enlightenment thinkers use the new science to apply themselves to the social sciences in one of the most important social sciences, that the murderers in the 18 century was that of political theory. This is the golden age of political theory where all kinds of new paradigms were emerging and new thoughts were brought to the fore on how to create an ideal form of government and again that's tied into this business of original sin, because in the past, Original Sin meant that people were corrupt and fallen and could not govern themselves but with the triumph of the new humanism and the rejection of this pessimistic view of human nature, came the view that really what has to happen is the improvement of society and one society's improved then human behavior will improve and new forms of government will be the key to bring in this kind of utopian civilization will see how that works out in the broader application of the theories of the enlightened next and will hear that lesson tomorrow your on Renewing Your Mind. We do hope you'll join us. I'm Lee Webb and you're listening to Renewing Your Mind with Dr. RC Sproul, you may be asking why are we focusing on philosophers who lived centuries ago, believe it or not, their ideas can be seen in the books we read the movies we see the conversations we have ideas do have consequences.

So it's critical for Christians to understand where these ideas come from and how to critique them from a biblical perspective. When you give a donation of any amount to look in her ministries. Today we will send you Dr. Sproles comprehensive series on the history of philosophy is called the consequences of ideas to receive this 35 message series on my DVDs just go to Renewing Your or call us at 800-435-4343 with Dr. Sproles named this program Renewing Your Mind. He was emphasizing that Christianity is a thinking person's religion. We don't throw our intellect away because we've taken it a step of faith.

We are called to study God's word and to be transformed by it.

Later ministries produces teaching series like the one we heard today to help you do just that. And many of them are available on our mobile app you can access videos, question-and-answer sessions, articles and blog posts. Look for Lincoln here in your app store and it is free will is RC mention tomorrow will continue studying the Enlightenment and the triumph of humanism, 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 hope you'll join us Tuesday for Renewing Your Mind

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