Posted in Scripturalism on February 5, 2014|
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While listening to the Ken Ham, Bill Nye evolution debate tonight, I was reminded of something a Latin professor told my class many years ago. He related to us a story about a Harvard classics professor, who, so the story went, would make the same statement to his incoming class of hot-shot graduate students, “You may have small opinions,” he would say to them, “tenuously held.” The professor, it seems, sought to disabuse his students of the notion that they were in the business of discovering truth. At the end of the day, the most even a brilliant scholar could claim for his conclusions was that they were his opinions. They were not truth.
This bothered me a bit at the time. “Is there any hope at all of discovering truth,” I thought to myself. In retrospect, I realize the wisdom of the Harvard professor. Indeed, he was right. Classics does not furnish us with truth. But this is not a shortcoming unique to that field. All other secular academic disciplines fail in the very same way, including, though this is hard for may to believe, science.
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Summary: There is abundant evidence, at least in the eyes of some observers, that Western civilization is undergoing a collapse. In fact, it already may have collapsed. That war, brutality, coercion, and immorality are on the rise is not in dispute. But what are we to make of this? Some view these as signs of civilizational collapse; others take them as evidence of progress. Who is right? The answer must be found in the more foundational philosophical discipline of ethics.
What is it that makes for a great writer or thinker? One could spend a great deal of time arguing this question. Many would hold the test of time to be an important criterion. Does an author’s work remain relevant ten, twenty or a hundred years after publication, or does time, like an ever rolling stream, bear all its import away? By this standard alone, the work of Gordon Clark achieves greatness. Reading through this section of chapter 2, the relevance of Clark’s work to our current day situation in the West is obvious. In his 2005 forward to the Trinity Foundation edition of A Christian View of Men and Things (CVMT), John Robbins observed, “Although it is now more than fifty years old, A Christian View of Men and Things is as timely as it was in 1952 [the year CVMT was first published], perhaps even more timely, for the crisis of our age has deepened, and the solution to that crisis has not changed.”
In Chapter 2 of CVMT under the heading “An Appraisal”, Clark walks the reader through contemporary evidence for the collapse of civilization. Working in ascending order from the most specific to the most general, Clark discusses the increase in war, brutality, coercion and immorality evident in the US and throughout the West. The timing of his remarks is worth noting, for Clark wrote CVMT in the early 1950s. a period many Americans fondly recall as a sort of Father-Knows-Best golden age of American civilization. A time when you could leave your house unlocked and not worry. A time when abortion was illegal. A time before anyone had ever heard of school shootings, LSD or the sexual revolution. In other words, the good old days.
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