CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

The War We Are In

Jul 19, 2013

There are today three main competing ideologies and worldviews locked in fierce combat to see which will gain supremacy. They are the Judeo-Christian, the Muslim, and the secular humanist worldviews. The first and third have always been in conflict to one degree or another, while the second is a newer, 1400-year-old competitor.

I have spoken plenty about the conflict between the first two, so here I want to focus on the secular humanist war on Christianity. I have looked at this ideology before of course, and more background can be found here for example: www.billmuehlenberg.com/2007/05/22/secular-religion/

I now more specifically want to examine how secular statism is at odds with Christianity. Indeed, it always has been. As the early church discovered, the secular state did not take kindly to this new faith, because it presented someone other than Caesar as lord.

That could not be tolerated, so persecution erupted very early on against these recalcitrant Christians. And this battle has always taken place. A secular state has always known that it cannot command the full allegiance of the masses if another competing ideology stands in the way.

Those who give obedience to a transcendent God can never be fully subservient to any human jurisdiction. Thus throughout its 2,000 year history, hostile governments have sought to eradicate Christianity, or at least subvert it for its own purposes and subsume it under its own rule.

An important new book on this theme has just been released, and it will serve as the foundation of the rest of this piece. I refer to Benjamin Wiker’s Worshipping the State: How Liberalism became Our State Religion (Regnery, 2013).

In this vital volume Wiker shows how the modern liberal war against the faith is not new at all, and fits into this longstanding struggle between state supremacy and the supremacy of God. He rightly notes that secular liberalism is a political religion which cannot peacefully coexist with Christianity.

He offers an historical overview of this struggle, and spends much of his book examining political philosophy of the last 500 years. He notes that the separation of state and religion was first championed by Christianity. Before that the two were closely fused.

But when Jesus insisted on rendering to Caesar his due, and to God his, he revolutionised the way religion and politics interacted. And Christian resistance to the state began from the earliest times, with believers refusing to bow to the state.

So a war between these two allegiances has always existed. But it was during the past half millennium that the philosophical and ideological basis for this rejection of Christianity was carefully spelled out. Wiker closely examines the political thought of Machiavelli, Hobbes, Spinoza, Rousseau, Locke and others in this regard.

All these thinkers, in various ways, saw Christianity as a threat to the political order, and believed that the state could not allow it to have free rein. It must be co-opted if not destroyed, if the liberal vision is to be realised and established. Their thoughts, especially as propagated in the universities, eventually held sway, and today we see secular liberalism as the de facto state religion in the West.

Although pretending neutrality, the modern secular liberal ideology is “itself a religion, or an anti-religion – a complete worldview and an agenda in direct and fierce competition with Christianity. The domain covered by secular liberalism is as extensive as that of any religion and in particular of Christianity, the religion that it has displaced.”

It has its own cosmology (there is no god or spiritual reality, only deterministic materialism and physical cause and effect), and its own moral philosophy (there is no universal good and evil, with the maximisation of human pleasure and “rights” the chief end of man), and so on.

These two worldviews are at total odds with each other: “Secular liberalism defines itself against Christianity, self-consciously and dogmatically denying what Christianity affirms”. Wiker nicely lays out a series of contrasting values, goals and emphases:

Christians believe that God exists, the universe has meaning, and we have purpose and significance because of God’s existence. Liberals believe there is no God, the universe is ultimately meaningless, and there is nothing special about humanity.

Christians believe people are fallen and need God’s grace to be made right, while liberals deny the fallenness of humanity, and think we are perfectible by our own efforts. Because of this, Christians believe all political and social life is tainted, and we cannot place our final hope in the state or this world. Liberals see the state as saviour, and believe that human reason and political power can usher in an earthly paradise.

Christians see church and state as complementary institutions, each with their own jurisdiction and power. Liberals want to see the church totally subservient to the dictates of the state, with it alone being the sole source of authority and power.

Christians believe that human life is sacred because made in God’s image, and is thus worthy of protection. Liberals see no inherent value in human life, and believe the state can and should determine who should live and who should die. Christians see sexuality as something confined to the parameters of heterosexual marriage while liberals see it as an anything-goes affair in which every form of sexuality is regarded as equally valid and acceptable.

“We could go on,” says Wiker, “but the point should be clear. In defining itself from top to bottom directly against Christianity, secular liberalism is a kind of inverse image, like a photo negative, of the religion it has so energetically worked to displace for the past several centuries. It is a kind of anti-Christian religion as extensive in its claims as the Christianity it denies, with its own set of passionately held beliefs and dogmas. It doesn’t just look like a religion. It doesn’t just function like a religion. It is a religion.”

Or as he says in a recent article, “But the truth is secular liberalism isn’t what you get when you subtract all religions. What you get when you subtract religion is another religion, secular liberalism, an entirely secular worldview dominated by materialism and hedonism and exceedingly intolerant of all other religions, especially Christianity. You get, to be exact, the secular culture championed with religious zeal by the Left imposed with all the power the federal government can muster. The naked public square is secular atheism’s monument.”

This is the battle we face. Of course it manifests itself in all sorts of specific ways, but at bottom it is a war of worldviews. It is the Judeo-Christian worldview pitted against the secular humanist worldview. The two cannot just happily get along side by side – one has to prevail.

It is this big picture which we need to grasp when we see the myriad culture war battles taking place, be it homosexual marriage, abortion, the new biotechnologies, religious freedom or judicial activism. Unless we see the larger ideological struggle taking place, we will fail to properly understand and effectively counter the various fights taking place within Western culture.

www.tothesource.org/7_17_2013/7_17_2013.htm

[1177 words]

16 Responses to The War We Are In

  • What can I say except that Secular-Liberalists are just a bunch of NumbNuts.

    Leigh D Stebbins

  • A brilliant summary of the battle. As a Catholic I just wish that our clergy, laity, universities, seminaries, religious orders, schools, hospitals, social welfare agencies, media, massive bureaucracy etc. openly displayed even a remote comprehension of the battle. Many of them bat for the other side as either committed apologists or university trained automatons. Leftism had a much greater influence on the Catholic Church than the Church has had on leftist values. I fear that this will continues for many more Papacies.

    Paul Connelly WA

  • Hi Bill, what about the maze of new age beliefs that are not materialists, is their world view an extension of the secular humanism?
    Martyn Mettam

  • Thanks Martyn. Yes and no. New Agers of course are into spirituality and believe there is more to this world than mere materialism. So in that sense they of course are not secularists as such. But given that New Age religion is all about self, indeed, about finding the god within, it is in fact humanism. It has nothing to do with biblical Christianity, but everything to do with emphasis on self. It is a man-centred religion as opposed to a God-centred religion. See here eg:

    www.billmuehlenberg.com/2010/01/09/pantheism-and-biblical-christianity/

    And see all my articles on the New Age Movement here:

    www.billmuehlenberg.com/category/new-age-movement/

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • I love reading your posts. So I feel guilty when the wheels of my mind begin to spin, and I take issue with one of your assertions. Only this time, it’s not one of YOUR assertions, it’s Wiker’s. (As an aside, just know that I was an English major at the University of California (Berkeley) and Brown University – a small explanation as to the way my mind works.) Humanism is really a reference to people who are committed to those things in our culture that are humane. Recently, pro-abortionists have taken to telling the truth and started to wave signs declaring themselves to be “pro death.”) Not humane. I also take exception to connecting hedonism with humanism. For me, humanism is just a way of asserting a faceless, nameless God onto our culture: their goals are humanitarian, that is, they want to help humans. Hedonism, for me, the the direct expression of the devil, personified in people like Hugh Hefner. People who, in their activities, actually strip humans of their innate value and replace it with a false sense of worth defined in the stimulation of their genitals. Not humane. I think that in addition to the three major ideologies that you list in your first sentence, I would urge you to include, evil. Let the secular humanists be just that: secular and humane. And let all those trends that seek to tear down the human being, reducing him to a state that is lower than the animals we share the Earth with, be called by its true name: evil.

    Julia Marks

  • Thanks Julia. But of course when I and Wiker speak of humanists here, we are specifically referring to secular humanists, or secular liberals as Wiker calls them. We are not referring to humanism in a broad, generic sense. And there is no question whatsoever that those who overwhelming promote hedonism, promiscuity, sexual liberation, homosexual marriage, unrestricted pornography, abortion on demand, the sexual revolution and the like are the secular humanists. Hefner who you mention is the prime example of secular humanism or secular liberalism in action. So the connection with hedonism and secular humanism is completely accurate.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • No, Bill, as much as I respect you and your writing, I am going to disagree with you. Read the definition of Secular Humanism. And, for an excellent example of secular humanism, look at the Ethical Society (there may not be any in Australia). Better yet, think of Unitarians. That is, technically, secular humanism. And while they may support things like abortion, that is because abortion proponents (and the gay machine) misrepresent what they are about. They try to promote themselves as caring about individuals, but I think, in truth, they are just groups promoting hedonism and running amok. Technically speaking, secular humanists value reason, ethical behavior, and a morality based on an amorphous God.
    Julia Marks

  • Thanks Julia

    I don’t want to belabour all this, but you actually are still missing the point of my article and of Wiker’s book (which I presume you have not read). Our beef is about liberalism, leftism, statism: a political ideology at odds with the Judeo-Christian worldview. These leftists are for the most part secular and fully supportive of things like the sexual revolution and increased concentration of power in the state. We are not talking about a benign general humanism here, ala Erasmus. We are speaking of a movement that has declared its antipathy to the Christian worldview, and its desire to see it overthrown. But I speak about this in other articles, such as these, if you want to get a better handle on where we are coming from:

    www.billmuehlenberg.com/2007/05/22/secular-religion/
    www.billmuehlenberg.com/2012/09/04/education-wars-the-battle-for-our-children/
    www.billmuehlenberg.com/2012/03/02/preaching-in-schools/

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Queen Elizabeth 11, queen of all queens, has clearly made secularism the official religion of Britain, by signing the gay marriage bill, last week. She has abandoned being “Defender of the Faith” and her Coronation Oath, which was to uphold the laws of the Christian faith in Britain. This she has spectacularly done with a new oath of allegiance to the idolatry of state worship. Any one not bowing to this new god is going to be in for rough time from now on.

    God help our Queen.

    David Skinner, UK

  • We must be very careful in choosing which church to attend. There are many ‘christian’ churches posing as followers of Jesus Christ, wolves in sheep clothing but by their fruit they deny Him. Let’s be like the Bereans who heard many preachers but checked the Scriptures to prove what they heard is of the word of God.
    Kevin McDonald

  • For clarity sake, HUMANISM, is a Philosophy that places HUMANS at the centre of the universe. Hence the combination of HUMAN and ISM….literally meaning the philosophy of humans. This philosophy promotes human values, ideas, moral choices, and happiness as the ultimate purpose in life. Being humane, or humanitarian are certain types of moral choices, and should not be confused with HUMANISM. The only philosophy (ism) Christians should have is THEISM. Humanism is an idol, the philosophy of worshipping humans. Theism places GOD as the focus, purpose, and meaning of all things. The Bible is clear on this…..”Thou shalt have no other gods before me”.
    Darrell Furgason, Canada

  • Still pondering Geraldine Doogue’s interview last night and the idea put up by the Macquarie historian that Christianity is interiorised spirituality, myth based, as a result of being westernised by historicists, while the Muslim scholar rejected the idea of the possibility of this happening to Islam. Islam seems to present a strong universalist vision (global caliphate) which cowers secular humanists. What is your take Bill on this – any articles? Will Islam roll SH?
    Ian Clarkson

  • Yes quite right Darrell

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Thanks Ian

    I deal with that in part here:

    www.billmuehlenberg.com/2011/10/18/islam-and-the-left/

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Thanks Bill – helpful article on left and Islam and biog.
    Ian Clarkson

  • If Christians would quit listening to the pablum puking preachers and pseudo-prophecy teachers, they would know just where we are on God’s timeline. Most of the evangelly-fishes I know of are worrying about a great tribulation that happened close to 2000 years ago, a secret rapture that is foreign to Scripture, and too busy playing pin the tail on the Antichrist.

    Read Revelation 20, you will find out why the things that are going are going on. Hint: HEEEEEEEEEE’s LOOOSE!

    Ed Sumner

Leave a Reply