Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Ivory Cubicle | The Falconer's Call

“The falcon cannot hear the falconer.” –W.B. Yeats.

So we find ourselves standing at the edge of a precipice, staring into the vacuum that confronts us when absolute moral truth has been removed. If you’ve been reading this column for the past several weeks, you’ll remember the path that got us here. First, we watched Western society begin its decline by turning towards the physical world as the source of all knowledge. Next, we saw the concept of God disintegrate under the attack of the radical empiricists, who insisted that all knowledge must be tied to sense perception. Finally, we watched as the removal of God from philosophical discourse collapsed into the post-modern catchphrase: “truth is relative.”

In the midst of such a cultural disaster, one might be tempted to throw his hands up in despair, move to an abandoned island platform, declare independence, and start printing his own money. But is all truly lost? Is our culture really beyond the point of no return?

A Christian Renaissance?

The curious thing about empiricism and post-modernism is that they inevitably lead the individual to the point of despair. Humans are unique among all other living beings in that we need a sense of purpose. We crave it more than oxygen. We’re not satisfied with simply saying “I am skin, bones, blood vessels and neural pathways.” We are reasonable beings and we need a reason to live.

So when Nietzsche declares that “God is dead,” we don’t really believe him. In the words of Paul Tillich, we instead encounter “God-as-ultimate-concern” – an object that we fixate upon in order to fulfill a deeply felt religious need. And if our “ultimate concern” is not the real God, Jehovah, then we must come up with a series of elaborate self-deceptions in order to convince ourselves that our own personal “god” is in fact the one true “God.”

The problem with this scheme, however, is that we know that we’re deceiving ourselves. We have the eternal law of God imprinted upon our hearts, so that we are without excuse. And academia’s dirty little secret is that they know it too.

In September 2011, Dr. Stephen Hake delivered an address to Patrick Henry College entitled “We are Ripe for a Christian Renaissance.” In his address, he argued that the post-modern collapse has left academia in a state of pride and despair, void of hope and meaning. Desperate to keep up their façade, academics have begun grasping wildly at whatever theory will best help them evade the concept of God, such as “gentle Marxism,” the “linguistic big bang,” and “the cyborg manifesto.” In short, 400 years of academic decline has finally reached a climax of wild, flailing academic desperation.

But once the fumes upon which post-modernism has been running finally give out and the flailing stops, man finds that his last gasp of defiance has unraveled the web of sophistries and lies upon which his rebellion against God has been based. As the noise subsides, he stands alone, unveiled, and without excuse, as his Maker says to him, “answer me then, if you can; prepare yourself and confront me” (Job 33:5).

It is at this point that Christians can stand ready to reclaim their culture with the Gospel of Christ – a Gospel that resonates deeply with the law of God imprinted upon man’s heart (Rom 2:15) and promises purpose, satisfaction, and rest. Deep inside man, there is a sense of the divine, a knowledge of God that can never be destroyed, but merely suppressed or covered up. Once the game is up and he realizes that the emperor has no clothes, man must either turn to Christ or exhaust himself by coming up with some other self-deception.

In the words of the great Christian educator Desiderius Erasmus:
“Our plight would be sorry indeed, had not Christ left us some live coals of his teaching, some living unfailing rivulets from the spring of his mind. What we must do is this: abandon the cinders offered us by men and blow up those coals of his into flame; follow up those rivulets until we find the living water that springs up to life eternal.”
Posted by Nick Barden
Illustration from De Arte Venandi cum Avibus (The Art of Hunting with Birds) by Frederick II (1248).

Well, what do you think? Am I a hopeless optimist? Is there a chance to turn this culture around, or are we still headed off a cliff? Should I keep finishing off articles with snappy quotes from my favorite dead guys? Leave any questions, comments or complaints below, and let me know if you have any ideas for future columns.


  1. I think there is a very strong chance at turning culture around. We just need to keep at it, not water down our beliefs and conform to the world, we have to work at transforming the world (Romans 12:2). If everyone decides its a lost cause and give up, then there is a lesser chance for turning things around.

  2. Snappy quotes from favorite dead guys are the best.

    "Hopeless optimist?" ;)

    I think there's always a chance the culture could "turn around" and that we always have the duty to proclaim the Truth whether we're likely to succeed or not.