When one looks at the Italian Renaissance (14th C.) which led into the European Renaissance and the Period of Enlightenment, he sees by comparison, a veritable Dark Ages from c. 400 A.D. to the mid 1300’s. Every aspect of human existence blossomed and flourished during the 1500’s-1800’s. Yet, as with all things, there is bad with the good. Some of these negative consequences would take a long while to manifest. Many of them are fully grown and monstrous today. Let’s have a look.
1. Science seen in opposition to monotheism–a.k.a. “Scientism” or “Skepticism” or “Naturalism”
Before the Italian Renaissance, the Roman Catholic Church (RCC) held sway in all matters natural and spiritual. The RCC gained this influence through centuries of unbiblical indoctrination (as witnessed later by the Reformers), which included:
- Monetizing the church and spiritual “services”
- Emphasis on hierarchical domination and the church as a physical kingdom
- A view of the “commoner” as unfit both to interpret Scripture and obtain the education necessary to do so
- Fear mongering and control exerted through overly spiritualized views of the material world
No wonder there were reactionaries, even from within the RCC! In opposition to this error-filled religion, those who were “enlightened” saw science in opposition to theism, particularly the monotheism of the RCC. The big idea was everything could be explained in scientific or naturalistic terms. It is true that everything physical can be studied, classified, understood in scientific terms by hypotheses and experimentation and even reduplicated & manipulated with the mastery of that knowledge. However, it does not follow that naturalism can explain the why or the causes of the physical universe, no matter how infinitesimally minute become the studies we pursue. The best physicists have known for generations that our “space-time” dimension is not all there is to the universe. In other words, along with the material, there is the immaterial–a truth that the Holy Scriptures have described for millennia. Moreover, the universe is apparently full of enough order to allow sentient beings to scientifically study the cosmos around them–a thing mathematically impossible for random chance to explain.
2. Individualism touted above mutual accountability–a.k.a. “humanism” or “disdain for natural order & consequentialism” or “everyone right in his own eyes syndrome.”
Because of the enlightenment, education and learning boomed. Whereas very few knew how to read and write in the Dark Ages, nearly everyone from merchants to artisans to commoners had the opportunity for at least some education during the 1500’s and 1600’s. Sadly, this led to unhealthy growth of individual opinion. Again, please do not misunderstand. Education and opinion are good. However, “too many cooks in the kitchen ….”
Nowadays, individualism is fully grown and counterproductive. For example, a doctor must constantly struggle against patients who self-diagnose, because they “studied” something on the internet. According to George Ritzer, professor of sociology and author of The McDonaldization of Society, contemporary western society allows one to be both self-sufficient and dependent in detrimental ways.
Now, it is true that the individual conscience makes one accountable for his own deeds and that all of us should strive to be self-sustaining and responsible; but when individualism leads the citizens of a society to close inward upon themselves, something is wrong. When everyone is his own authority, claims that only his own opinions are normative for himself, submits to none (or else very reluctantly and skeptically) something has been lost. What’s worse, in a post-modern world, since everyone’s opinion is held as valid, “there is no absolute truth.” The assertion could not be more self-refuting, because it is said as an absolute maxim.
By accountability, I do not refer to “moralism”—being good for the sake of virtues themselves. This is empty and leads to psychosis (Eccl. 2:12-17), since the “moral,” behavioral mask that we put on stimulates a shame-driven and insecure self. Rather, I mean the desire to recognize, preserve and advance the essences which make us human—not the least of which is honor given to recognized roles (those bearing responsibility) and the aged. Regard for natural order is also lost, among interdependence and mutual accountability. Lastly, inability to recognize the patterns of action and consequence, maturity and immaturity, reason and irrationality, have become prevalent. “No man is an island unto himself” seems to have been replaced by “It’s my life, my choice.”
3. An overtly rebellious and violent democracy.
When cultural and societal studies experienced resurgence during the Renaissances, Greek and Roman styles of rulership revived. Democracy and notions of democratic republic became all the rage–quite literally, the rage. Let’s not pretend the monarchs of Europe were consistently benevolent rulers or emperors. They most decidedly were not. Notions of Absolute Power, Divine Right to Rule, State Church, and remnants of a feudal cast system left over from the RCC-fostered Dark Ages poisoned even the most generous rulers during the Ages of Discovery and Empire.
Subsequently, the American Revolution ensued, then the French Revolution quickly arose in the names of democracy and independence. Murder, violence, war, bloodshed, guillotines, plotting, sedition, massacre, coup; need I say more? As an anabaptist pacifist, I do not take either side in this historical era. Perhaps that leaves me objective enough to state that I see both good and evil on both sides, and that, these struggles were not against styles of rulership but against the human condition. Whenever the few, called leaders, require their “subjects” or “constituents” to take up violence, then no one is right… and the powers that be rarely suffer for it. Perhaps the revolutionaries could have saved themselves generational loss by realizing both the Greek and Roman democracies/republics eventually grew so large and so fickle and so corrupt that kings and emperors (often the most corrupt) had to assume power.
By the mid-to-late 1900’s, the United States and strong proponents of democracy obviously held that system of rule as “the savior” of all non-democratic societies. “Freedom” and “empowerment” were the sell words. Looking back, some historians make the case that greed and expansion through monetization were the real agendas. There is observable truth to that.
The push of democracy is ongoing even today and at great cost. We find ourselves amid heinous atrocities—the western concept of democracy clashing against the near eastern concept of social rule. While materialism and capitalism have rooted themselves firmly in Asia, Southeast Asia and most other continents, western Asia views the west and its democratic capitalism, embodied in the USA, as “the Great Satan.”
Again, I am pacifist, especially in the face of religious persecution. I also pray for and do good to all mankind, no matter their occupation, religion or governmental ideals. But, as objectively as I can state it, I say democracy and capitalism or any societal structure are no saviors for the human condition. And, any religion or social ideology which considers itself a physical kingdom and uses physical means (even force) to advance itself, has never been a pure religion. And, any religion, sect of religion or social ideology which is not pure has no valid claim to being true.
Skeptical secular naturalism, individualistic humanism, and violent democracy are serious negative consequences of the Enlightenment. These consequences are fully grown and socially detrimental today on the global scale. There were good elements which came out of the Enlightenment Era. Yet, with the good came the bad. Neither naturalism, humanism nor democracy have been the saviors of mankind from the human condition. As one might expect me to say, I write without apology, only Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God claimed to be the Way out of the human condition, the Truth about the human condition and the Life which stands in opposition to the human condition. Only Jesus Christ died for the human condition, and only Jesus Christ arose from the grave and ascended to heaven in remedy for the human condition. But the Jesus of imperialistic, capitalistic democracy is not the same Jesus, who died at the oppressive hands of the Roman Empire, after being betrayed to them by his own theocratic people. That Jesus is the Friend of oppressed peoples everywhere.
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