The Domino Effect
In this article we wish to briefly explore the origins of the contemporary worldview that has swept over the Western world in the last few decades, causing a major crack in its foundation. We also wish to discover the impact of this worldview on human society and compare that impact with the standards for human conduct established by our Creator. As we will quickly point out, the most destructive manifestations of this unsettling philosophy have boldly emerged in the second half of the 20th century. The visible expressions of that unbiblical worldview are to be found in the modern concept of marriage and family life and in the ways the men and women of our age view their gender and sexuality. The challenges facing contemporary Christians, especially the younger generation, are unprecedented. These challenges require careful investigation in the light of divine revelation but also the willingness on the part of the observer to submit to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
We will not be able to understand the magnitude of the changes that have taken place in the last few decades unless we first understand the original blueprint which man’s Creator laid for the human family. In the first chapter of the book of Genesis we read verses 26 to 28:
“And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”
The account of creation in chapter 2 of Genesis provides some additional information about God’s original plan for man and woman:
“And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. and Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” ().
Any unbiased and fair-minded reader of the creation account in Genesis can clearly discern the following foundational principles for human sexual identity, marriage, and family life:
God created human race as male and female, two distinct sexes of the same species (“adam” or mankind). Both were created in God’s image and both were endowed with beauty and dignity. The misconception of an original androgynous (bisexual) man inis completely unfounded. “God created man [mankind] in His own image, in the image of God created He him [singular]; male and female He created them [plural].” “Them” clearly refers to two distinct sexual persons—masculine and feminine.
God ordained that both sexes, male and female, be fertile and capable of fulfilling distinctive reproductive functions. It has been God’s design that man and woman reproduce (multiply) and fill the earth with godly offspring. There is no place in God’s order of creation for unisexuality, bisexuality, or for any diminishing of sexual identity. It is heterosexuality, male and female, that God designed for the human race. Only through such a union can God’s image in the human race be preserved.
The conjugal relationship and reproductive function of man and woman are properly realized only through a permanent bonding of a man and woman in a sacred union we call marriage—“they shall be one flesh” ().
As originally designed and intended, marriage is blessed by God only if it is a:
Lifelong union (which death alone can dissolve)
Monogamous union of only two human beings
Heterosexual union of a man and woman
Christ-centered union in which both man and woman recognize God as their Creator and Sustainer (after the fall, as their Redeemer)
The contemporary sharp distinction between sex as biologically given and gender as a socially and culturally constructed identity (masculine or feminine, no gender, or something in between) whereby a human being is at liberty to view his or her gender identity as different from the biological sex assigned at birth, is foreign to biblical thought.
As we will soon realize, all these foundational principles defining the identity and the function of human beings are presently either completely ignored or misconstrued and radically redefined.
We might be surprised to find that the modern Western worldview on human sexual identity, gender roles, marriage and family life is fundamentally rooted in ancient Greek philosophy. This is not to say that the ancient Greeks and other pagans, by whom the Greeks were influenced, held the exact same views as our modern society does. We only wish to say that the roots of the modern worldview are firmly planted in the pagan philosophical view of man and of the world in which man lives. Today we call this worldview “humanism” or a “humanist philosophy.”
One of the prominent advocates of relativism (holding that there are no absolute truths) and agnosticism (asserting that we cannot know anything about the existence of God or gods and of an absolute truth) was a Greek philosopher from the fifth century B.C., Protagoras of Abdera (Older Sophist). The sophists came before Socrates, Plato and Aristotle and spread skepticism and humanism.
Protagoras is well known for one dictum that aptly expresses the fundamental outlook of the Greek philosophy and of the modern humanists: “Of all things the measure is man, of things that are that [or ‘how’] they are, and of things that are not that [or ‘how’] they are not.”1 That famous expression was later known by its Latin form as homo mensura omnium rerum—”man is the measure of all things.” The Protagoras sentence could be interpreted philosophically in different ways, but one way is certainly inescapable: Man, and not God, supposedly defines the truth of all things, including the truth about man himself and about his moral conduct.
Protagoras also asserted that different individuals view matters differently: “As each thing appears to me, so it is for me, and as it appears to you, so in turn it is for you, you being a man and I too?”2 This view laid the foundation for the philosophy of relativism.
But we should not think for a moment that Protagoras was the true father of humanism and relativism. The father of humanism predated Protagoras when he approached a young woman in a beautiful garden and said to her: “You shall be as gods, knowing good and evil” (). So, the true birthplace of humanism and associated secularism and materialism that we will mention later, is found in Genesis 3.
But in the terms of the more recent past, we need to consider another major watershed in the history of theoretical thought that caused a decisive break with the traditional Christian worldview. That event took place in the year 1781 when a fairly obscure German philosopher by the name Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) published a book under the title, Critique of Pure Reason. Let us see, in the simplest way, how that book impacted the world.
Kant had lived in what is often referred to as the age of Enlightenment and rationalism when European thinkers turned to human reason as the “chief source and test of knowledge.”3 In his dialogue with rationalists and empiricists, Kant made one of the most important distinctions in the history of theoretical thought. He divided reality into two spheres: There is an ultimate, metaphysical sphere, which he called the noumenal realm, which he distinguished from the lesser realm that he named the phenomenal realm.
The phenomenal realm is basically the world of phenomena that we can observe by our senses and measure, analyze, systematize, predict, manipulate through scientific inquiry and practice. So, humans with their mind and sense can come to a fairly meaningful understanding of the reality of this phenomenal world.
But, he claimed, that other world, the transcendental (noumenal) world that goes above and beyond physics—the realm of metaphysics, which we would call the realm of the supernatural—is beyond our ability to penetrate. Kant said that there are three things located in the noumenal world: God, the self, and the “thing-in-itself.” Of course, we cannot enter here into an analysis of some of the philosophical concepts employed by Kant and we do not need do so.
Suffice it to say that a serious problem arose in the Christian intellectual circles with Kant’s assertion that God is beyond human ability to know anything about: He insisted that we simply cannot at all talk about God’s existence or His attributes. In other words, according to Kant, there is no way to get from the phenomenal realm to the noumenal realm. There is an unbridgeable chasm between these two worlds (“Lessing’s ditch”).
Kant further engaged in a thoroughgoing criticism of the classical arguments (proofs) for the existence of God. These arguments were glue in the medieval university, ensuring that theology preserved its status of a queen among all sciences and that philosophy served as her handmaiden. But in Kant’s Critique, the queen was not only dethroned but basically sent off into exile. Human reason, and not divine revelation, is the final court of appeal in all questions about the nature of reality and the only true moral compass for ethical conduct. Kant has thus become the chief proponent of human moral autonomy.
Let us make crystal clear at this juncture that Kant’s philosophical criticism has not shaken one bit the spiritual foundations of the true Bible-believing Christians. Kant’s criticism has affected primarily those Christians in intellectual circles who have relied on human reason for their religious beliefs assuming that natural reason can infer certain truths about the true God without the aid of faith and without spiritual regeneration.
Yet, the influence of Kant in the history of philosophy and in the history of human thought and Western civilization in general, cannot be overstated. After Kant, the whole host of philosophies was spawned—including dialectical materialism (Marxism), humanism, logical positivism, existentialism, relativism, pluralism, secularism, and postmodernism. . . . All these “ism-s” have their distinctive features, but all of them have one thing in common: Skepticism with respect to the supernatural and particularly to God. All of them share the common premise of phenomenology that was manifested ultimately in metaphysical naturalism, the philosophical worldview that supremely rules in the contemporary scientific community (scientific naturalism).
If we take God out of the equation, there is no way that humans can come to ultimate reality. You must be satisfied with “here” and “now.” Consequently, we can speak of “truths” but not of “truth,” “purposes” but no “purpose,” “existences” but no “essence,” “humans” but no “humanity.” Therefore, what emerged after Kant was a form of relativism. In the history of Western theoretical thought every period of skepticism was followed by some form of relativism and its twin sister—pluralism. If there is no absolute truth, if all truth is relative, then all truths are equally valid or invalid. Pluralism is that philosophy that says there is no absolute truth but only plural truths. Therefore, no one has the right to claim an exclusive truth.
To claim an exclusive, absolute truth in the modern age means to be guilty of the most “politically” incorrect sin, the sin of “narrow-mindedness.” The supreme virtue of relativism and pluralism is rather “broad-mindedness.” It is truly tragic that this concept has crept in even among some Christian communities. We hear about evangelical Christians who identify themselves as “broadly evangelical.” Such a qualification of a Christian is an oxymoron, since such a Christian is a “pretend-Christian.” If you are a Christian and think like a Christian, and believe as a Christian, then the false supposition is that you are by definition a narrow-thinking person, which by today’s cultural standards is a vice. But by the measurement of the incarnation of Truth and the perfect Son of God, it is a virtue.
To illustrate the consequences of different worldviews for everyday life, let us fast-forward to our contemporary society and view one of the morally and socially divisive issues through the lenses of two opposing philosophies—the humanistic and the biblical worldviews.
For several years, the city of San Francisco, California, allowed unrestricted public nudity. Somehow, due to the proliferation of public nudity and boldness of some of its advocates, in November of 2012 the Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance banning public nudity in San Francisco without a permit. The ordinance was passed by a very narrow majority of 6-5 vote.
It is quite interesting to observe that in the debate over this controversial issue, one of the arguments against public nudity was that nudity is improper in public places due to sanitary reasons! Sitting nude on public benches or chairs in parks and restaurants is not hygienic. It is truly puzzling that even those who opposed public nudity did not find any better argument in support of their position. This incident only shows the pervasiveness of the humanist worldview in our modern culture: The opponents of public nudity either do not believe in or do not have moral courage to uphold the biblical principles on human nakedness.
Those who advocate public nudity argue that the push for body acceptance and body freedom is in no way sexual or prurient. Drawing on the research of Mario Perniola (Between Clothing and Nudity, 1989), Ruth Barcan of the University of Sydney and a specialist in cultural studies, reminds us that the views on nudity in the modern West have been strongly influenced by two metaphysical traditions: the Judaic and the Greek:
“According to Perniola, the Judaic tradition envisaged transcendent divinity as clothed or veiled, and hence nudity as a loss or deprivation, a distancing from the Godhead – the state of slaves, prostitutes, the damned or the mad. The Greek tradition, on the other hand, represented in Platonic metaphysics as well as in athletic and sculptural practice, saw nudity as the state of the ideal human figure.”4
The biblical worldview which is built into the foundations of Judeo-Christian system of values strongly affirms separation between the holy and profane as well as separation between humans and animals. The reasons to oppose public nudity derive from the biblical separation of life and death, nature and God, good and evil, man and woman, the holy and the profane.
If human beings walk around with their private parts uncovered, they are behaving in a manner indistinguishable from that of animals. One of the major differences between humans and animals is clothing. Clothing separates us from—and in the biblical view, elevates us above—the animal kingdom.
But how can humanists, who have invariably adopted scientific naturalism and evolutionary biology as their foundational view on human origin and nature, separate humans from animals? The humanist mind finds this animal-human distinction unnecessary. Article after article in major liberal newspapers and magazines fascinate their readers with the new discoveries showing how much more alike humans and animals are than we ever thought.
A further reason to oppose public nudity on biblical grounds comes from another separation that God established in the beginning—between profane and sacred. The first thing Adam and Eve discovered after eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil was that they were naked. And the first emotion they ever experienced after the fall in sin was shame over their nudity.
It is noteworthy that the first thing the fallen pair then did was to sew themselves aprons of fig leaves. That skimpy clothing was still insufficient to take away their fear and shame in God’s holy presence. (, , .) But God graciously stepped in to take care of His wayward children. He made for Adam and Eve more suitable clothing: “Unto Adam also and to his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them” ( ). And if we move on through the biblical record we will find consistent teaching regarding human nakedness—God views it as improper. Whether this be the case of the nakedness of Noah ( ), or of the priestly garments ( ; ) or the apparel of Christian women ( )—the principle remains the same: public nakedness is wrong.
For a humanist, “sacred” in a proper sense of the word, does not exist. Sacred exists only if humans acknowledge the existence of a Supreme and holy Being we call God and the infinite distance that exists between that Being and humans. Humanism denies the existence of such a Supreme Being. Humanism is therefore left only with the human mind and human reasoning capacity to determine what is right and wrong, good and evil.
And that is exactly the place at which the archdeceiver wanted the human race to be. Eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, take the place of God, assume God’s prerogative to define the ultimate reality, and presumably you will become like God: “For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil” (). As we know all too well, man and woman have not become divine, but they have become naked, crushed by the sense of shame and fear. It is truly a perplexing thought that the natural vestiges of shame due to public nakedness seem to have almost completely disappeared with many humans living in this generation. This tells us that the world as we have known it approaches its end.
[In Part 2 of this article we wish to explore the consequences of the sexual revolution, including rampant divorce and the destruction of families, gender confusion, and acceptance of homosexuality. We will look into various sinful practices in the light of God’s Word and call upon Christians to stand for moral absolutes in the face of widespread opposition.]