The modern era was thought to be the dawning of a new day. The light had come. Except that, despite calling it the Enlightenment, it was as much dusk as it was dawn, a different kind of Dark Ages to the Dark Ages which had preceded it. But dark by any other name is still dark; calling it “light” won’t change that.
So what was this modern Light? People who once walked in the light of Divine Revelation, now followed Human Reason. Contrary to 2Corinthians 5:7, the mantra of the emerging scientific era was “We walk by sight, not by faith”.
So dawned an age of enormous confidence and optimism. Freed from the shackles of religious oppression, humanity embarked on the course of inexorable advancement. The application of scientific understanding held out the promise of technical solutions to every problem, and education offered a means to solve the problems of people who were otherwise ill-fitted to take their place in the well-oiled machine of progress.
The grand vision of secular humanism filtered down to personal perspectives of modern men and women, as do all philosophies that shape the worldview of a culture. As a child, my wife frequently turned down the offer of help with a phrase that has gone down into the folk-lore of her family: “Me manage!” And in such words she articulated the worldview of our culture, rejecting the insight and wisdom of God, preferring our own darkness to his light.
But we did not manage. We did not manage the planet well when we insisted on becoming sovereigns rather than stewards. We did not manage our relationships well, whether at the level of international strife or family conflict. The “upward” direction of the graph of human progress is seen no more clearly than in the fact that there were more violent deaths in the twentieth century than ever before. Yes, religion in the dark ages had resulted in the indefensible death and suffering of multitudes. But secular humanism and the godless totalitarian regimes of the twentieth century wreaked far greater havoc as the enlightenment philosophy of the survival of the fittest demonstrated its dark side – the destruction of the weak.
Human reason was never intended to be a source of light. A moon, maybe, but not a sun. Man in the image of God was created with the capacity to reason. But human wisdom is not the true light. The true light is utterly reasonable, but at heart true light is a matter of revelation. Reasonable revelation, but not revelation-less reason. The light shines in the darkness, John tells us. We are the dark ones – the moons that require the rising of the sun in order to have any light to offer those around. But the true light has come, and his name is Jesus. We must learn to walk again by dependent faith rather than independent sight. No longer dare we say “Me manage!”