by Bill Nugent
In a comment severely criticizing one of my blog posts, a man derided Christians as those who live by an ancient book. His comment applauded those who live by contemporary ideas rather than by our trusty old Bible. I will show that contemporary ideas, be they modern or postmodern, are nothing new but date back to ancient times. “There is nothing new under the sun” (Eccl. 1:9 NASB).
Christians are often accused of turning back the clock when we press for cultural acceptance of Judeo-Christian morality. Politically Correct critics denigrate our old-fashioned ideas that are derived from biblical wisdom. The PC crowd touts their postmodern ideas which reflect the collected wisdom of forward thinking academics, suave Hollywood entertainers and progressive politicians like Bernie Sanders and AOC.. However, their PC ideas have been tried by earlier generations and found wanting. The PC “progressives” also want to turn back the clock!
Contemporary liberal political thought can be summed up in four words: postmodernism, socialism, homosexuality and abortion. All four have been discussed and promoted in ancient writings.
Postmodernism is a philosophy that denies the concept of objective, absolute truth. Postmodernism ultimately claims that each individual decides for him or herself what is truth. This is moral relativism. It’s implicit rebellion against any firm moral standard. At first blush it sounds great and appears to be very liberating and broad minded. However, when implemented in society, postmodern moral relativism results in anarchy, division and social injustice such as what we see today in the Western social democracies of Europe and North America.
It may be a surprise to learn that postmodernism is nothing new. Postmodern is premodern! Moral relativism was proposed by the early Greek sophist philosopher, Protagoras (c.490 – c.420 BC). Protagoras famously wrote “Man is the measure of all things.” This phrase sums up postmodern thought in a nutshell. It puts each individual in charge of defining truth for him or herself. It’s ultimate rebellion against God who gave revelation that defines truth and gave laws to govern morality.
Protagoras made quite a splash in the ancient world with his postmodern thought. Nearly a century later, Plato (c.427 – c.347 BC) wrote about Protagoras in his dialog titled Protagoras. In this dialog Plato rejected relativism and asserted that there are transcendent and objective principles that govern the universe.
Even Plato didn’t argue that God’s revelation gives us absolute truth. Socrates, Plato, Aristotle and other Greek philosophers appealed to reason rather than revelation. Their gods didn’t give them laws to live by. There’s no Ten Commandments of Zeus. There’s no moral code of Hermes or Athena. In ancient Greece and Rome there was nothing to compare with the biblical laws given by God to Israel through Moses.
Socrates, Plato and Aristotle were reformers. They countered the postmodern moral relativism of Protagoras and other sophist philosophers. Socrates, Plato and Aristotle resorted to reason and logic because they didn’t have revelation from God. Yet in many ways, God did speak to them through nature and God gave internal witness to them through their consciences. “That which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them . . . being understood by what has been made, so that they are without excuse” (Romans 1:19-20 NASB). Socrates, et al. developed a philosophy of reason similar to modern philosophy which is rationalism. So we had postmodernism and modernism dueling against each other in ancient times!
The three major worldviews are the Judeo-Christian: based on revelation from God; the modern: based on reason (intellect, logic) and the postmodern: based on emotions (preferences, if it feels good, do it).
Plato reasoned out his conception of the ideal society and he came up with socialism and totalitarianism. Plato’s most famous dialog is titled Republic. In this dialog he described his ideal city which has socialist features and totalitarian governmental features. You can’t really have one without the other. It takes an all powerful total government to implement socialist ideals and redistribute wealth. Aristotle, in his work titled Politics, also delineated socialist principles.
Postmodernism, modernism and socialism are ancient ideas. The PC crowd of today echoes the teachings of ancient books. All of the Bernie Sanders socialism and the wild utopian promises were written about in ancient times. Rome had its free “bread and circuses” for the people. In socialism, the dictator makes his Faustian bargain with the people and says “you give me all power and I’ll give you cradle to the grave security.” The dictator gets the power but the people end up with poverty.
It should surprise no one to see that societal toleration of homosexuality is also an ancient idea. The Bible describes a city called Sodom where homosexuality was rampant. Ancient literature makes it plain that homosexuality was widely practiced in ancient Greece and Rome. Scholars disagree over the extent of its acceptance. It was practiced openly in some circles but often frowned upon and even punished to some degree in ancient Greece. Marriage between males occurred infrequently and was not generally accepted in Imperial Rome. Ancient sources tell us Emperor Nero was involved in at least two weddings to males, once as “bride,” once as groom and possibly in a third wedding as “bride.” At least one other emperor married a male.
Lastly we come to abortion. The so-called right to kill a preborn baby is a central holding of contemporary feminism. Abortion was widely practiced in the ancient world. Abortion is mentioned as far back as the Egyptian Ebers Papyrus dated around 1550 BC. Ancient abortion methods included giving the woman concoctions of bitter herbs including silphium and sometimes even opium to induce a miscarriage.
Other ancient abortion methods included massage of the abdomen or binding the abdomen and also the modern sounding technique of dilating the cervix and inserting sharp instruments to cut out the preborn child. In ancient times, a doctor who performed abortions was not punished by law. Only the woman was punished if she had an abortion without her husband’s knowledge.
So much for contemporary “progressive” thought. Liberal progress is simply a regression to ancient ideas and tired old worldly wisdom. They have their dusty old ancient books and we have our Bible which is God’s love letter to humanity. I’m not at all embarrassed to say that I live by the Bible and its timeless wisdom given to us by God. Our ancient book can beat up their ancient books!
The Bible gives us the concept of the sacredness of human life. Human life is not just valuable but it’s sacred because each individual is created in the image of God (Genesis 9:6). From this flows the value, dignity and inalienable rights of the individual. Liberty and autonomy is given in the Bible in Romans chapter fourteen, verses four to six. The Bible even gave us the weekend. The fact that we have Saturday and Sunday off each week derives directly from the Bible’s commands to rest one day in seven. Jews observe their rest on Saturday and Christians observe Sunday. So now, in Western Civilization, we take both days off!
The Bible is confirmed by the supernatural witness of prophecy and fulfillment of prophecy. I challenge you to show me a prophecy and fulfillment in Plato or Aristotle’s writings! Jesus Christ came in fulfillment of over three hundred prophecies written in the Old Testament hundreds of years before He was born. God sent Jesus of Nazareth to be the promised Messiah of Israel.
The ancient Hebrew prophets gave details of Christ’s life. In the fifty-third chapter of the biblical book of Isaiah, it is prophesied that Christ would suffer and die, taking upon Himself the penalty of our sins so we can receive forgiveness. This is called substitutionary atonement. This is an expression of the love of God. Christ suffered and died and rose from the dead to offer forgiveness of sins to all who turn to Him in repentance. I invite you to turn to Christ today to receive forgiveness of sins.
Steps to salvation:
Jesus said “Ye must be born again” (John 3:7).
Prayer to receive salvation:
“Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13).
To receive the salvation that Jesus purchased for us at the terrible cost of His suffering and death on our behalf I invite you to pray this simple prayer:
“Dear heavenly Father, I thank you for sending Jesus, the promised Messiah, to die for my sins. I admit that I am a sinner. I repent of my sins and I ask for your forgiveness on the basis of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I ask you to fill me with your Holy Spirit to empower me to serve you under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, Amen.”
If you prayed this prayer in the humble sincerity of your heart then you have received everlasting life, which includes power to live right in this life and entrance into heaven in the afterlife!