The Consequences of Ideas

One of the books I read last year was Francis Schaeffer’s How Should We Then Live?. The subtitle of the book is “The Rise and Fall of Western Thought and Culture” & that’s exactly what it is. Schaeffer takes the reader on a intellectual and cultural stroll through Western history. It really is a fascinating and enlightening read and I suggest it to you!

The main thrust of the book is that ideas have consequences. He shows this most acutely in the difference of historical outcomes in countries that are shaped by opposing ideas. On the one hand there is England, mainly shaped by the ideas of the Protestant Reformation. On the other hand there is France, mainly shaped by the ideas of the Humanistic Enlightenment. The English Revolution is historically referred to as the “Glorious Revolution”.  The French Revolution is historically referred to as the “Bloody Revolution”. Schaeffer believes that the differences in the revolutions are due to the different ideologies that shaped each nation. Here’s how Schaeffer puts it:

When the French Revolution tried to produce the English conditions without the Reformation base, but rather on Voltaire’s humanistic enlightenment base, the result was a bloodbath. (pg. 121)

Consequences have ideas. History proves this. The enlightenment told man that he can create a philosophy starting wholly from within himself with no need for a God. The result was a chaos of worldviews stemming from each man’s own sinful heart. The further result was that the dignity of Man is taken from Man. It is the God of the Bible who places dignity on human life. The English Revolution saw each man’s life as dignified and something to be spared at all costs. The Enlightenment thought of France could not place any objective dignity on Man and the result was death at a terrifying rate.

Another example of this is the entire twentieth century. No other century has shown more growth in science, industry, and knowledge than the twentieth. At the same time no other century has seen more spilled human blood. Whenever societies try to imagine a world where God does not exist, the only possible result is a world where this in no human dignity and a world without human dignity is a world where human blood is spilled. Just look at our culture. We have legalized and celebrated the murder of unborn babies.

Food for thought.

Michael

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