"The present chasm between the generations has been brought about almost
entirely by a change in the concept of truth. Wherever you look today
the new concept holds the field. The consensus about us is almost
monolithic, whether you review the arts, literature or just simply read
the newspapers and magazines.... On every
side you can feel the stranglehold of this new methodology—and by
‘methodology’ we mean the way we approach truth and knowing. ... And
just as fog cannot be kept out by walls or doors, so this consensus
comes in around us, till the room we live in is no longer distinct, and
yet we hardly realise what has happened....
"Young people from Christian homes are
brought up in the old framework of truth. Then they are subjected to the
modern framework. In time they become confused because they do not
understand the alternatives with which they are being presented.
Confusion becomes bewilderment, and before long they are overwhelmed.
This is unhappily true not only of young people, but of many pastors,
Christian educators, evangelists and missionaries as well. So this
change in the concept of the way we come to knowledge and truth is the
most crucial problem, as I understand it, facing Christianity today."13
If you had lived in ... the United States
before about 1935, you would not have had to spend much time, in
practice, in thinking about your presuppositions. ... What were these presuppositions? The basic one was that there
really are such things as absolutes. They accepted the possibility of an
absolute in the area of Being (or knowledge), and in the area of morals.
Therefore, because they accepted the possibility of absolutes, though
men might disagree as to what these were, nevertheless they could reason
together.... So if anything was true,
the opposite was false. In morality, if one thing was right, its
opposite was wrong.... 14
The shift has been tremendous. Thirty or
more years ago you could have said such things as ‘This is true’ or
‘This is right’, and you would have been on everybody’s wavelength.
...Thus in evangelism, in spiritual matters and in Christian education,
you could have begun with the certainty that
your audience understood you."14
TENDENCY TOWARDS A UNIFORM CULTURE
...the world-spirit does not always take the
same form. So the Christian must resist the spirit of the world in the
form it takes in his own generation. If he does not do this he is not
resisting the spirit of the world at all. ... It is our generation of
Christians more than any other who need to heed these words which are
attributed to Martin Luther:
"If I profess with the loudest voice
and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except
precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at
that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I
may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty
of the soldier is proved, and to be steady on all the battlefield
besides, is mere fight and disgrace if he flinches at that point."18
HEGEL, THE DOORWAY
It was the German philosopher Hegel (1770—1831) who became the first man
to open the door into the line of despair. Before his time truth was
conceived on the basis of antithesis, not for any adequate reason but
because man romantically acted upon it. Truth, in the sense of
antithesis, is related to the idea of cause and effect. Cause and effect
produces a chain reaction which goes straight on in a horizontal line.
With the coming of Hegel all this changed....
What Hegel taught arrived at just the
right moment of history for his thinking to have its maximum effect.’
Imagine that Hegel ... said, ‘I have a new idea. From now on let us
think in this way; instead of thinking in terms of cause and effect,
what we really have is a thesis, and opposite is an antithesis, and the
answer to their relationship is not in the horizontal movement of cause
and effect, but the answer is always synthesis.’ ... It has never been
the same since. If one understands the development of philosophy, or
morals, or political thought from that day to this, one knows that Hegel
and synthesis have won. In other words, Hegel has removed the straight
line of previous thought and in its place he has substituted a triangle.
Instead of antithesis we have, as modem man’s approach to truth,
KIERKEGAARD, THE FIRST MAN BELOW
"It is often said that Søren Kierkegaard, the Dane (1813-55)... is the
father of modern
secular thinking and of the new theological thinking.... Why is it that
Kierkegaard can so aptly be thought of as the father of both? What
proposition did he add to Hegel’s thought that made the difference?
Kierkegaard came to the conclusion that you could not arrive
at synthesis by reason. Instead, you achieved everything of real
importance by a leap of faith. So he separated absolutely the
rational and logical from faith.... 21
"...from that time on, if rationalistic man wants to deal with the real
things of human life (such as purpose, significance, the validity of
love) he must discard rational thought about them and make a
gigantic, non-rational leap of faith. The rationalistic framework
had failed to produce an answer on the basis of reason, and
so all hope of a uniform field of knowledge had to be abandoned."22
[C. S. Lewis illustrates this new
thinking: Truth + myth = understanding of evolving truths. See
Surprised by Joy]
"...the evolutionary humanism as a whole,
which is current today, is in the same plight. Anyone can assert with
all the persuasion at his command that man is due for a rosy future. But this
again is a leap of faith, if there is no point of observation, either
clinically or sociologically, to demonstrate that man will be better
tomorrow than he was yesterday or is today.
Julian Huxley has taken such a purely
optimistic answer one step further by stating that man will only be
improved by accepting a new mystique. Thus he suggests that society will
function better if it has a religion, even though no god really exists.
For example, he says:
"From the specifically religious
point of view, the desirable direction of evolution might be defined
as the divinisation of existence—but for this to have operative
significance we must frame a new definition of ‘the divine’
free from all connotations of external supernatural beings.
"Religion today is imprisoned in a theistic frame
of ideas, compelled to operate in the unrealities of the dualistic
world. In the unitary humanist frame it acquires a new look and new
freedom. With the aid of our new vision it has the opportunity of
escaping from the theistic impasse and of playing its proper role in
the real world of unitary existence."26-27
"Now it may be true that it can be shown
by observation that society copes better with life through believing
that there is a god. But, in that case, surely optimistic humanism
shows exactly the same irrational leap of faith... if in order to be
optimistic, it rests upon the necessity of mankind believing and
functioning on a lie."27
THEOLOGY AND SEMANTIC MYSTICISM
"Neo-orthodoxy at first glance seems to have an advantage over
secular existentialism, in that it appears to have more substance in its
optimistic expressions than its secular counterpart. ... But in the
theology, use is made of certain religious words which have a
connotation of... meaning to those who hear them. Real communication is not in fact established, but an
illusion of communication is given by employing words rich in
THE USE OF WORDS AND SYMBOLS
"Every word has two parts. There is the dictionary
there is the connotation. Words may be synonymous by definition
but have completely different connotations. Therefore we find that when
such a symbol as the cross is used, whether in writing or painting, a
certain connotation stirs the mind of people brought up in a Christian
culture, even if they have rejected Christianity. So when the new
theology uses such words, without definition, an illusion of
meaning is given which is pragmatically useful in arousing deep
illusion of communication and content is given so that, when a word
is used in this deliberately undefined way, the hearer ‘thinks’ he
knows what it means." 57
"To the new theology, the usefulness of a symbol is in direct
proportion to its obscurity. There is connotation, as in the
word god, but there is no definition. The secret of the strength of neo-orthodoxy is that these religious symbols... give an illusion of meaning. ...
"At first acquaintance this concept gives the feeling of spirituality. ‘I
do not ask for answers, I just believe.’ This sounds sharply spiritual
and it deceives many fine people..... The new theology sounds spiritual and
vibrant and they are trapped....
"Whenever men say they are
looking for greater reality, we must show them at once the reality of
true Christianity. This is real because it is
concerned with the God who is there and who has spoken to us about
Himself, not just the use of the symbol ‘god’ or ‘christ’ which sounds
spiritual but is not. The men who merely use the symbol ought to be
pessimists, for the mere word god or the idea god is not a sufficient
base for the optimism they display....
"This is the kind of ‘beievism’
which is demanded by this theology.... It is no more
than a jump into an undefinable, irrational, semantic mysticism."58
OPPORTUNITY FOR THE NEW THEOLOGY
"Men are facing a society without structure and they want to fill
the void that has appeared. For a long time Reformation ideas formed the
basis of North European culture, and this extended to include that of
America and English-speaking Canada, etc. But today that has been
destroyed by the relativism both inside  and outside the churches.
Hence historic Christianity is now a minority group....
cannot function without form and motivation. As the old sociological
forms have been swept away, new ones must be found or society breaks
down altogether. Sir Julian Huxley has stepped in at this point with his
suggestion that religion has a real place in modern society. But, he
would contend, it must be understood that religion is always evolving
and that it needs to come under the control of society.
is not as ridiculous as it sounds, even coming from a convinced
humanist, if one understands the mentality of our age. The prevailing
dialectical methodology fits itself easily into religious forms....
"Teilhard de Chardin...
illustrates that the progressive Roman Catholic theologians are further
away from historic Reformation Christianity than classical Roman
Catholicism, because they are also dialectical thinkers.
Roman Catholic would tell me that I am bound for hell because I reject
the true Church. He is dealing with a concept of absolute truth.
But the new Roman Catholic who sits at my fireside says, ‘You are all
right, Dr. Schaeffer, because you are so sincere.’ In the new Roman
Catholicism such a statement usually means that the dialectical method
has taken over.
Therefore we are not surprised to find
that ... others such as Hans KUng have been strongly influenced by
neo-orthodoxy. It is important to note that the position on Scripture by
the Vatican Council has shifted in the same-direction and men such as
Raymond Panikkar, Dom Bede Griffiths
[close friend of C. S. Lewis]... are proclaiming a
synthesis between Roman Catholicism and Hinduism." 83
"The time, therefore, does seem right for this new theology to give
the needed sociological forms and motivations. It is true, of
course, that society could look elsewhere amongst the secular mysticisms
for a new evolving religion, but the new theology has some strong
"Firstly, the undefined
connotation words that they are using are
deeply rooted in our Western culture. This is much easier and more
powerful than using new and untraditional words.
"Secondly, these men control almost every large denomination in
Protestantism.... This gives them the advantage of functioning within
the organisational stream of the Church, and thus both its organisation
continuity is at their disposal.
"Thirdly, people in our culture in general are already in process
of being accustomed to accept non-defined, contentless religious words
and symbols, without any rational or historical control. Such words
and symbols are ready to be filled with the content of the moment. The
words ‘Jesus’ or ‘Christ’ are the most ready for the manipulator.
The phrase ‘Jesus Christ’ has become a contentless banner which can be
carried in any direction for sociological
"...because the phrase ‘Jesus Christ’ has been
separated from true history and the content of Scripture, it can be used
to trigger religiously motivated sociological actions directly
contrary to the teaching of Christ.... It is against such manipulated semantic mysticism that we do
very well to prepare ourselves, our children and our spiritual