“. . . modern times did not develop in ways the generation of 1920 would have considered ‘logical.’
[. . .]
“The outstanding event of modern times was the failure of religious belief to disappear.”
[. . .]
“What looked antiquated, even risible, in the 1990s was not religious belief but the confident prediction of its demise once provided by Feuerbach and Marx, Durkheim and Frazer, Lenin, Wells, Shaw, Gide, Sartre and many others.”
- Paul Johnson, Modern Times, page 700 in Chapter 20 on “The Recovery of Freedom”
Today’s Western Civ Four class concluded with a discussion of the last chapter of Johnson’s book. Twenty-five years after its first publication, and 17 years after he added the more upbeat, concluding chapter, Johnson’s work holds up extremely well.
Johnson’s overarching thesis is that the 20th century saw politics replace religion as the “one legitimate form of moral activity.” The results were a tragedy of world historical proportions. Now, as we look back on the bloody excesses of the 20th century, there is hope that mankind may be regaining some perspective. The state cannot reshape human nature. The state cannot usher in a utopia. The state, given free reign, turns out to be a murderous tyrant.
Mankind was saved from the twin evils of politics and statism by the arrival, sequentially, of Karol Wojtyla (Pope John Paul II), Margaret Thatcher, and Ronald Reagan.
I have a message of hope and good cheer for you, gentle reader: The 21st century, like the 20th, will NOT develop in predictable ways – certainly not in ways foreseen by the pundits of the dying liberal intelligentsia. There IS hope. There ARE signs that God continues to build his kingdom. The vibrancy of the church in China and in Africa gives hope. The collapse of the liberal elites (both secular and religious) in the West proceeds and even in some cases appears to be accelerating.
Keep watching. Keep praying. Keep following Jesus. And wait and see what God will do.
- Rob Shearer, Director
Schaeffer Study Center