Quest for Truth 134 Superman, Zombies, and the Secular Age

Getting right to the topics at hand we go right into our usual segments.

Meet the Hosts.

Life in Church House Studios has been pretty routine, except our new addition, a year old kitten, has proven himself to be an alarm cat. Nathan revisits the audio drama projects he’s been doing. Script writing, and posting a few new shows on his other podcast feeds.

For Superman fans, be sure to check out a guest appearance on the Old Time Superman show for their 1000th episode. He’ll be joining the host, Adam Graham, and others to talk about the 1940’s radio show. We spend a little time with our own ideas about the iconic super hero before we move things along.

Main Topic.

Are you ready for zombies? So were we. The trouble is that other than our title, we spend very little time discussing them. The misleading title was what lured Keith into reading a book. It turns out to have little to do about the walking dead, but it addresses why people today love apocalyptic things. It also uses popular movies and TV shows with apocalyptic things to illustrate how our society of the Secular Age got to where we are today.

Four key steps describe, or they try to, how culture shifted away from God based morality, to human based morality. First some background, and comparison.

Religion vs Secular Humanism

Before the Modern Secular Age.

Humanity is porous. Individuals find their identity by participating in their group. Individuals are influenced by relating to, and with others. All this give and take, and mutual influence requires a framework of morality outside the self. Religion or government. To be inside this framework, the claim is the individual is limited in self expression. To be outside the framework of this morality is to be cast off as either a beast, or a barbarian. God is seen as creator, the giver of an initial grace that’s instilled in us at birth, and an ongoing grace that keeps us in the system, and offers explanation to the mysteries of the universe.

After the Modern Secular Age

Humanity is buffered. The individual has an imaginary, buffer, or a coating, or a protective bubble where they are immune to the influences of others. The individual doesn’t need outside influence, since science now offers rational, natural explanations to the mysteries of our universe. Individuals can flourish on their own, without the need to fit into a confining structured like religion. Sure, it’s still there, but is now compartmentalized, and it’s not the main framework of morality. As far as morality, there is no greater good outside the buffered individual.

With just this background, there are so many things wrong with this new, buffered, identity. It assumes that the structure of religion is man made, and that human interaction and relationships are entirely detrimental. . The claim is that’s better to use science, an outside factor, to allow the buffered person to make their own moral choices. It’s all about the uninfluenced choices.

Science may do a fine job in explaining our observable world, but the one thing it can never do is make a moral judgement. If moral choices are left to the Individual, there’s no way to determine moral choices with science alone. With all choices having equal weight in importance, then none of them can be determined to be more moral than another. People need interaction with an outside standard to let them know if they’re achieving anything. Therefore the buffered existence is an illusion that can only hope to work, when adequate outside standards, or morality, is imposed. This view point fails by making too many false assumptions, and claims to truth that have no foundation or evidence. It relies on outside influences for information, and any real moral standard is meaningful only with an outside standard. In fact, all this ideology proves to be the opposite in the real world. Solitary isolation is the worst thing that can happen. It’s a punishment, not a means to flourish.

The anthropocentric Shift… Huh?

That’s just a big word that means a “Humanity Centered” shift.

The 4 steps.

1. It’s Not about transcendence,

I know, more big words. Transcendence. Being beyond the limits of our experience. Beyond comprehension. Having universal application, or significance.

In brief, if we can’t experience it directly, it doesn’t exist, or it doesn’t apply. God, being a transcendent being, means that our only duty to God is that we achieve our own good, and help one another. This step also means there’s no universal or absolute truth.

Nathan has lots of challenges to this claim, since too much of it relies on the untrustworthy claim made about the porous person vs the buffered person. People need other people. Any real moral standard has to come from outside the buffer zone of any individual, if only to agree with other individuals on the outside moral standard. That’s how families, tribes, nations, and governments figure out what laws to make.

It’s great to seek self improvement, and to play well with others.
But you excel at this when you’re the porous human, not the buffered human. People need contact with other people. A buffered life is an illusion that can only exist in the reality of complex support systems, provided in the reality of porous humanity.

2. As buffered selves we no longer need ongoing grace.

The distinction between initial and ongoing grace needs to be clarified. Ongoing grace relates to the need for religious order, a matter which the people of the Secular Age claim they don’t need. Why? Because science tells us how things in nature work. The problem of sin, morality, and the need for salvation is left for the buffered person to give value to, throwing God’s grace back at him.

What’s the initial grace? The inborn logic, intellect, and rational thought we have to comprehend the world. This kind of grace is enough to achieve human good. It’s all we need for any form of self discipline. God may exist, and have created order, but he left the universe to let it wind down, and for people to discover its marvels. Besides, if someone is unfaithful, then god stands at the end of history to judge, or accept them with joy.

Again, there are so many unproven statements in this step. Not to mention the contradiction of the self reliant nature of a buffered person, yet readily accepting the outside influence of science. Possibly because it’s a safe intrusion that merely observes facts, and leaves moral interpretation to the whim of the individual. But if the buffered person allows for the existence of God, and his role to fairly judge, wouldn’t it be important to know what his standard is that he’ll be using on that day at the end of history? Hint: it’s not based on “good enough”, it’s based on “perfection.”

People in the Secular Age seem to reject traditions, and long defined terminology. However, the “initial grace” is explained eerily similar to the religious concept of being made in “God’s image.” We have a body, soul, and mind, because that’s God’s image he puts on us. We have the logical rational thoughts to discover and enjoy his universe. The buffered person may admit God exists, created, and set systems in place, but the difference is that person thinks God made it and left it. The religious person claims God is still actively part of it. Hey, he sure seemed to be in it pretty actively, until the last century or so. Is it really God who left, or the thoughts of humans who left him?

One troubling point is the resignation that if God exists, he’ll clear it all up at the end of history. Wow, that’s a big gamble. The judge already knows your deeds. All arguments, appeals, or hope of mercy is off. Your deeds are what they are. There’s no changing them. Would you go into a court of law in this world, with all your charges before the judge, and be totally unprepared? How would a judge react to a plea of, “I didn’t know. I didn’t think that was a law. I didn’t mean it. Nobody told me…” or any such excuses.. How much more so, the judge of the universe? It’ll be a day of just decisions, no mercy, and fair treatment. Are your deeds good enough? Will that punishment really be fair? Will it really be forever? Now is the time to find out. Hint: They are far from it. It will be fair. Forever is a huge gamble, but evidence in biblical worldview is that it will be for eternity.

We start to run low on time, but we press forward to squeeze in the final two points.

3. The Sense of mystery fades when the world is disenchanted.

What? Mystery? Disenchantment? For a science based, logical proposition, this almost sounds supernatural. What it means is that without science, there’s a lot in nature that seems mysterious, and unexplainable. Strange or powerful forces in nature had been attributed to various gods, or considered miraculous. The buffered, secular person claims that all unexpected things in nature can be explained. Certainly we still love to explore the world, and there’s much left to explore and discover. God does not routinely reach down and do miracles. If he did, we’d think it was irrational and irresponsible of him.

The universe is certainly a place of wonder. At least the Secular Age people admit that. Science has indeed explained many things, and will find even more interesting things. Still, there is no morality in all this knowledge. What about explaining miracles with science? We give some examples with the Israelites being set free from Egypt. Some claim earthquakes made a land bridge to appear, then disappear at the convenient time to let a few million people cross, but not the pursuing army. Plagues like turning water to blood is supposed to be from mud slides of red clay, giving a blood like appearance. Explainable. But not in matters of the timing, or the placed, or the placement of the people who had the need, at that time, for that duration of time, when they were already walking in a path where the situation could easily have been avoided. For all the convenient earthquakes, mud slides, or explainable events, the timing is too convenient for such natural explanations to hold up when you consider all that took place at the deliverance of the Israelites. The events in the Bible narrative are plentiful, and to have convenient earthquakes, or natural events happening exactly when a people in need have them happen is just too much to not consider a supernatural element.

4. The purposes of Faith based activity has changed.

It was once taken for granted as a centerpiece of faith, that god planned on transforming human beings beyond the limitations of the human condition. . Now we see the practices of religion, prayer, devotion, etc, as a means to bring about human flourishing. To have a “Theistic rationality”.

What does that mean? Humans used to think religious activity changed us, and made us into better people. ]That doing religious stuff is what transformed us, and how we got to heaven.

Now people consider it just helps to think rationally about God. It’s nice to help us be good humans, but that’s all. It’s OK to think about God as creator, but all that supernatural, afterlife stuff is no longer thought real. Even if there is an after life, we’d be a lot like we are now, but without some of the more painful and awkwardness.

Nathan can agree, we’d be less awkward, and painful than we are, but the rest is a lot of assumptions. It still doesn’t explain what level of morality will ensure people end up in eternal bliss, and who will be sent away in judgement. It’s also more a matter of people changing their minds about God, not him revoking any of his eternal purposes.

What is God’s purpose for man? The age old doctrine is that man’s purpose is to glorify God, and enjoy him forever. There’s no mumbo jumbo about self fulfillment, or choosing to make him optional, or invent an imaginary concept that you hold as truth.

By now, our time has been up, and we don’t have Time to give better attention to this last step. It relies on too many assumptions, not facts. Too many assumptions in the earlier, basic steps are not even circular, they’re statements with no proof or evidence They make a claim of ffantasy, but have no proof, and their only supports are imaginary. The idea of a solitary, buffered person goes against the basic nature of reproducing life. The worst punishment that can be given a person in jail is to be in solitary confinement. To be the ideal buffered person then, is to impose self inflicted solitary confinement.

How can this ideology be good? It relies heavily on the porous kind of humanity for life support, and knowledge gathering from outside the buffered self, then withdraws into a fantasy world, outside of reality to play a dangerous game of, “what if.”
. It leads to serious problems, mental and moral instability, and an illusion of freedom.

We close with a thought of the week. As always, if you feel we need to cover this topic better, or a point in it that we glossed over, or forgot, let us know. We always want to be fair in representing ideas that are not our own. If there’s a topic you want us to discuss, whether it’s a troublesome bible passage, or a world view, or world event, let us know. We love hearing from you.

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