by Bill Nugent
By 1900, science had told society’s upper crust that humans evolved from pond scum. Science said that soul and spirit were beyond the reach of science, so they must not exist. No celestial lawgiver; no accountability to God; no conscious existence after death. As John Lennon would, many years later, sing: “Imagine there’s no heaven . . . only grass beneath our feet and only sky above.”
One hundred years ago, in the early 1900s, the intellectual elite and the dominant political classes of western civilization were fully confident that mankind was capable of attaining utopia on earth. The advance of education was eradicating ignorance. Industry was producing steam locomotives, motorcars, tele-phones and aero-planes. The motion picture Titanic (set in 1912) had a scene where a character boasted that God couldn’t sink the ship and another boasting that Titanic was “willed into existence.”Surely the ideal society was just around the corner. This is calledphilosophical optimism.
Philosophical optimism was crushed but not destroyed during the horrors of the first world war. The League of Nations (1919-1946) was formed under the Versailles Treaty after the war. The intent was to end war by having disputes between nations resolved by arbitration. They even passed a resolution banning war as a tool of foreign policy. War was outlawed in 1927!
Of course, even the League of Nations was not a new idea. TheConcert of Europe was formed in the early 1800s after the Napoleonic wars to provide international cooperation. Then, later in the nineteenth century, came the first Geneva Conventions on war. Later came the international Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907. The direct ancestor of the League of Nations could be considered to be the Inter-Parliamentary Union which was established in 1889. The IPU had members from the parliaments of 24 nations by 1914.
Despite the optimism, the League of Nations failed to prevent World War II and was dissolved in 1946. The United Nations was formed after World War II but this institution is much disdained and few hold any hope that the UN can bring world peace.
While the west was establishing inter-governmental organizations, the east embraced communism. Communism was an optimistic political ideology that sought to establish socialist utopia and conquer poverty. Communism largely collapsed by the early 1990s after the fall of the Soviet Union and after capitalist reforms were enacted in China. From 1917 to the 1990s, the USSR, communist China and Cambodia killed or imprisoned millions of people who resisted socialism. Today, very few people place any hope in the utopian promises of communism.
Modern philosophers had bought into the Darwinian idea that human beings are descendants of apes and have no souls and have no conscious existence in the afterlife. Therefore they sought to build paradise on earth for this fleeting life.
Modernists rejected God’s law and sought to establish man made law, unhindered from the constraint of obedience to God. At first this sounds very liberating. People can make their own laws and live any way they choose.
They chose to repeal the seventh commandment; “Thou shalt not commit adultery” in order to live in sexual freedom and indulgence. What they didn’t plan on was that other people repealed not only the seventh commandment but also the sixth;“Thou shalt not murder.”
Megalomaniacs at the head of nations began campaigns of genocide and mass murder. Lenin, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot killed more than 70 million people according to The Black Book of Communism, written by two French socialists. Then there’s the indescribable brutality of Adolf Hitler and his followers who murdered millions with cruel and torturous methods.
Hitler justified his racism and anti-Semitism in his book, Mein Kampf using vulgarized evolutionary principles. Hitler said “Why can’t we be as brutal as nature?” Secularists can’t answer Hitler’s question. If a lion kills an antelope there is no moral scandal. If humans are animals why be concerned about humans killing humans? Nazism was the logical extension of Darwinism which claims that humans are mere products of nature.
After the second world war came the radical pessimism of the existentialist philosophers, Jean Paul Sartre and Albert Camus. Sartre wrote that a human being is “a useless passion.” In the US, by the 1960s, the Theater of the Absurd was in full flower. There were theater productions with no plot or sensible content that won honors. This radical pessimism and absurdity can be called the Secular Crackup. It’s the failure of unbelief to establish just laws and produce a joyful society.
The only thing that failed ideologies and ineffective inter-governmental institutions proved is that people have sinful natures just as the Bible said all along. People and nations act in their own self-interest. The doctrine of original sin has been experientially proven by the failure of eastern and western secular optimism.
Someone once said “Secularism is like a forest fire which burns to the edge of the sea. Once it has destroyed everything it has nowhere else to go.” Secular optimism is dead. However, this is a cause for renewed Christian optimism because, since secularism has been tried and failed, people will take a new look at Christ.
People are once again acknowledging the fact that the liberty and justice of western civilization was derived from biblical, Judeo-Christian principles. People are not descendants of animals but are sentient beings created in the image of God. Therefore, each person has dignity and inalienable rights and will ultimately live forever. World peace will come immediately after the second coming of Christ.
Jesus Christ came in fulfillment of over 300 messianic prophecies written in the Old Testament centuries before his birth. Even His death by crucifixion and His resurrection from the dead were foretold. In His suffering and death on our behalf, Jesus took upon Himself the punishment we deserved for our sins, thus making atonement.
Receiving forgiveness of sins through Christ gives us true cause for optimism. We walk in fellowship with God in this life and eternal bliss in the afterlife. I invite you to turn to Christ today to receive forgiveness of sins.