The American Vision: A Biblical Worldview Ministry

Materialistic Moral Compasses

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Liberal politics is at a crossroads. Humanism is being attacked by way of the Intelligent Design movement. If biological Darwinism can be shown to be nothing more than a philosophy that gives meaning to the facts, then, by implication, humanists are left in the lake without a paddle. The Darwinists hold fast to their “first principles” as tenaciously as most Christians, and yet we are the ones who get ridiculed for having a “silly, wishful-thinking faith.” Two recent articles by British authors exemplify this point forcefully.

Olivia Judson, writing an editorial for the New York Times entitled “Why I’m Happy I Evolved,”[1] shows the sheer ignorance that passes as “science” on both sides of the Atlantic. After spending several paragraphs fawning over little-known “facts” about creatures and organisms in our ecosystem, she lets a huge admission fly. “It’s not that I have a fetish for obscure facts. It’s that small facts add up to big pictures. For although Mother Nature’s infinite variety seems incomprehensible at first, it is not. The forces of nature are not random; often, they are strongly predictable.” She then goes on to tell of some of her “predictions,” which are not predictions but generalizations based on previous observed events. Her evolutionary paradigm is so strong that she actually believes that the following situation is a prediction. “If you were to discover a new species and you told me that the male is much bigger than the female, I would tell you what the mating system is likely to be: males fight each other for access to females.” If this is a prediction, then I can equally claim that if you bring me a child that I have never met, I would be able to predict that this child has two parents, one male and one female. If hers is a “prediction,” then so is mine.

Not only has Judson made the idea of prediction fit her pre-conceived notion, she makes the claim that “small facts add up to big pictures.” OK, so then she has formed her evolutionary worldview from the small “facts” of scientific discovery. Over time these small facts have added up into the full picture of biological evolution, right? Not quite. She goes on her article to state:

When I was in school, I learned none of this. Biology was a subject that seemed as exciting as a clump of cotton wool. It was a dreary exercise in the memorization and regurgitation of apparently unconnected facts. Only later did I learn about evolution and how it transforms biology from that mass of cotton wool into a magnificent tapestry, a tapestry we can contemplate and begin to understand.

So then, the “facts” didn’t really add up to make the story, the story had to be imposed on the facts. In other words, Judson is a presuppositionalist in regards to her humanist, scientific “faith.” She believed the story of evolution and suddenly the “facts” took on a new meaning, no longer unconnected, but interconnected in the “tapestry” of the big picture. As Rushdoony was fond of saying, she “believed in order to understand.” And where does her belief in the story leave her? “For me, the knowledge that we evolved is a source of solace and hope. I find it a relief that plagues and cancers and wasp larvae that eat caterpillars alive are the result of the impartial—and comprehensible—forces of evolution rather than the caprices of a deity.” And yet she still feels empowered in this impartial, albeit predictable, universe to make ethical judgments. “No other animal that I have heard of can live so peaceably in such close quarters with so many individuals that are unrelated. No other animal routinely bothers to help the sick and the dying, or tries to save those hurt in an earthquake or flood.” Why is this attitude, which is found exclusively among the human “animal,” noble? Why should we help the sick and the dying, instead of cannibalizing them as the weaker portion of the species? Judson never bothers to answer this question, because she can’t. Her evolutionary predictability isn’t able to account for things like altruism, heroism, generosity, selflessness or any other number of traits that are specific to the human “animal” alone. The “story” runs a little dry on explanations in this department.

Another writer, this time a reviewer of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (LWW) film, tries her hand at waving the magic wand of ethical judgment in a humanistic world. In what amounts to two pages of vitriol toward C.S. Lewis and Christianity, Polly Toynbee turns her movie review[2] into a cannon aimed directly at Christians who have the temerity to try to influence the public by way of the media.

Disney is deliberately promoting this film to the religious—it has appointed Outreach, an evangelical publisher, to promote the Christian message behind the movie in British churches…US born-agains are [also] using the movie. Walden Media, co-producer of the movie, offers a “17-week Narnia Bible study for children.”

Apparently it’s wrong for Christians with the means to use their money to influence people with their beliefs, but it is perfectly fine when the humanists want to air their views for public consumption and persuasion. Not to fear though, because most of the religious significance of LWW will be lost on the children of “this most secular nation.” She writes, “Most British children will be utterly clueless about any message beyond the age-old mythic battle between good and evil…. After all, 43% of people in Britain in a recent poll couldn’t say what Easter celebrated. Among the young—apart from those in faith schools—that number must be considerably higher.” Even though, by her own admission, her humanist agenda has nothing to fear from the likes of a resurrected lion and four would-be kings and queens, she never looks back in her spiteful assault of LWW.

Professing a bold ignorance of the teachings of Christianity, Toynbee blindly stabs in the dark, trying to hit a nerve:

After a long, dark night of the soul and women’s weeping, the lion is suddenly alive again. Why? How?...Well, it is hard to say why. It does not make any more sense in CS Lewis’s tale than in the gospels…Of all the elements of Christianity, the most repugnant is the notion of the Christ who took our sins upon himself and sacrificed his body in agony to save our souls. Did we ask him to?

Here then is the real issue. The cross, just as Paul said it would be (1 Cor. 1:18–31), is an offense to Polly Toynbee. She completely misses the point of LWW, because she is completely ignorant of the Scriptures. Because she can’t comprehend the need for a “suffering Servant,” she is content to blame C.S. Lewis and the Bible for her own lack of understanding. “Narnia is a strange blend of magic, myth and Christianity, some of it brilliantly fantastical and richly imaginative, some (the clunking allegory) toe-curlingly, cringingly awful…Adults who wince at the worst elements of Christian belief may need a sickbag handy for the most religiose scenes.” I wonder how, when she openly admits that she doesn’t understand the most basic tenet of the Gospel, she can make a most bold moral judgment of judging what the “worst elements of Christian belief” are. What exactly has informed her worldview? Where does she derive her own authority to put the Bible and Christianity on the witness stand? She tells us in the very last paragraph of her breathless attack:

Lewis weaves his dreams to invade children’s minds with Christian iconography that is part fairytale wonder and joy—but heavily laden with guilt, blame, sacrifice and a suffering that is dark with emotional sadism. Children are supposed to fall in love with the hypnotic Aslan, though he is not a character: he is pure, raw, awesome power. He is an emblem for everything an atheist objects to in religion. His divine presence is a way to avoid humans taking responsibility for everything here and now on earth, where no one is watching, no one is guiding, no one is judging and there is no other place yet to come. Without an Aslan, there is no one here but ourselves to suffer for our sins, no one to redeem us but ourselves: we are obliged to settle our own disputes and do what we can. We need no holy guide books, only a very human moral compass. Everyone needs ghosts, spirits, marvels and poetic imaginings, but we cab do well without an Aslan.

This is where Toynbee meets her fellow Brit author, Olivia Judson. Both want to live their lives in accord with a “human moral compass” that humanism and materialism can’t provide. They showed “Aslan” the door long ago, and now they are stuck with a “most secular nation” with moral compasses that are pointing fifty different directions. (Click here to read Joan Collins assessment of modern Britain.) Judson and Toynbee presume their morals are common to all humans, but can give precisely zero reasons why they should be. They are standing on the borrowed capital of the Christian worldview, all the while refusing to admit it. In their materialist universe, they can’t push phrases like: “we are obliged to settle our own disputes,” and “the knowledge that we evolved is a source of solace and hope.” There is no such thing as obligation, hope or solace in a strictly material world. Pointing out magnetic moral north in a world filled with amoral moral compasses is a tough thing to do, you often have to resort to publishing articles that are “heavily laden with guilt, blame, sacrifice and a suffering that is dark with emotional sadism,” and pray to Mother Nature that nobody finds “Aslan” hidden behind the curtain of the control room.

Endnotes:

[1] Olivia Judson, “Why I’m Happy I Evolved,” New York Times, January 1, 2006.
[2] Polly Toynbee, “Narnia represents everything that is most hateful about religion,” The Guardian, December 5, 2005.

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