I have been reading the book “Church History in Plain Language” by Bruce Shelley. (If interested, we have a few copies on our Church bookshelf at Cornerstone.) It is an interesting read and it answers a lot of questions about why things are the way they are.
This last week we stepped into the chapters focused on the Age of Reason, or the more commonly recognized term, the Age of Enlightenment. This period generally runs from the late 1600s to the early 1800s. During this age, it was believed that human reason was the solution to all things.
It is interesting that this Age of Reason was a by-product of the Reformation. This was because during the Reformation, people such as Zwingli, Knox, Luther, and Calvin, taught that the Church was not the highest authority, but Scripture was, and each man had the right to possess and read Scripture for themselves to discover the absolute truth of God’s Word.
This Reformation position undermined the Catholic position that the average man did not have the capacity to think for themselves, but had to be told what the Bible said, which gave rise to heresies that were concocted by the Pope to retain political power. Prior to the Reformation, people were treated like dumb animals who only had the capacity to obey, not the capacity to think.
With the Age of Reason, the human mind was unleashed, and the pendulum swung too far. And I would argue we are still riding that wave, especially in America. We are more Greek than Roman, or perhaps we are the worst of both. We are a society that values knowledge and information above all things, and that we can solve every problem by thinking about it.
But what is fascinating is that this Age of Enlightenment has its own byproduct, which is what I would call the Age of Violence. Beginning in the 1900’s we began to see worldwide brokenness at levels never seen before: wars, abortions, divorces, etc. The 20th Century is known as the Bloodiest Century, and to that I would agree. Enlightenment seems to have failed us. Why?
The problem is that the Age of Enlightenment threw out the Baby with the bath, and by Baby, I mean Baby Jesus. Little by little, the human mind was exalted and worshiped and Christ was excluded and ignored. However, in John 1:9 says, “The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.” Therefore, an Age of Enlightenment without the True Light is no light at all. It is darkness masquerading as light.
In a fallen, sinful, broken world, nothing makes sense without Jesus, the True Light of this World. Jesus is hub that holds all things together. Colossians 1:16 says, “all things were created through him and for him.” If we want to understand the “whys” and figure out the “hows”, it begins and ends with the illumination from the Light of the World.
If you are tired of stumbling through this world with more questions than answers, it is time to set your eyes upon the Son. As Jesus said in Luke 4:18, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind,”
If you are looking for a place to start, open up the Bible and turn to the Gospel of John and read it until you can finally see.