Chapter 6

 

The Enlightenment

 
Here was a man starting from himself absolutely. And if the humanistic elements of the Renaissance stand in sharp contrast to the Reformation, the Enlightenment was in total antithesis to it.
  • The Utopian dream of the Enlightenment can be summed up by these words
    • Reason
    • Nature
    • Happiness
    • Progress
    • Liberty
  • The Enlightenment was thoroughly secular in its thinking. The humanistic elements which had risen during the Renaissance came to flood tide in the Enlightenment. Here was a man starting from himself absolutely. And if the humanistic elements of the Renaissance stand in sharp contrast to the Reformation, the Enlightenment was in total antithesis to it. The two stood for and were based on absolutely different things in an absolute way, and they produced absolutely different results.
  • To the Enlightenment thinkers, man and society were perfectible.
  • The deists believed in a God who had created the world but who had no contact with it now, and who had not revealed truth to men. If there was a God, he was silent.
  • The men of the French Enlightenment had no base but their own finiteness. They looked across the Channel to a Reformation England, tried to build without the Christian base, and ended with a massacre and Napoleon as authoritarian ruler.
  • Like the humanists of the Renaissance, the men of the Enlightenment pushed aside the Christian base and heritage and looked back to the old pre-Christian times.
  • What the Reformation produced–by native growth as in England or by borrowing as in Italy–is all in gigantic contrast to what Communist countries continue to produce. Marxist-Leninist Communists have a great liability in auguring their case because so far in no place have the Communists gained and continued in power, building on their materialistic base, without repressive policies. And they have not only stifled political freedom but freedom in every area of life, including the arts.
  • No place with a communistic base has produced freedom of the kind brought forth under the Reformation in northern Europe.
  • Humanism has no way to provide absolutes. Thus, as a consistent result of humanism’s position, humanism in private morals and political life is left with that which is arbitrary.
  • A Christian can fight the abnormality which has resulted from man’s rebellion against God without fighting the final reality of what is–that is, without fighting God. Therefore, because God exists and there are absolutes, justice can be seen as absolutely good and not as just expedient.
  • These matters are not just theoretical but eminently practical, as can be seen from the results produced in England and the United States in contrast to those produced in France at the time of the Enlightenment, and later in Russia.

Cover Photo: Statue of Voltaire

This post contains quoted and paraphrased passages of How Should We Then Live? by Francis A. Schaeffer. 50th L’Abri Anniversary Edition, © 2005 by Crossway Books.
 

Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.