The World in Which We Live
I have become amazed, although I should not be amazed, by the vast changes happening in western thinking. Where once there were more accepted boundaries between good and evil thinking and behavior, the boundaries have been muddied if not erased completely. A large part of the problem has to do with a wrong understanding of truth and the origin of truth. Truth about just about everything in life has been turned on its head. This includes gender, historical accounts, morality, and the origin of life. Some find this very encouraging. I do not. It is as if the drug-muddled brain of a 1960’s hippy has become the norm. This leads me to a better appreciation of a great mind who wrote extensively with profound insight.
C.S. Lewis (Clive Staples Lewis) was an Irishman who lived from 1898 to 1963. He was a British writer and lay theologian. He held academic positions at both Oxford University and Cambridge University. He is best known for his works of fiction, including The Screwtape Letters, The Chronicles of Narnia, and The Space Trilogy, and for his non-fiction Christian apologetics, such as Mere Christianity, Miracles, and The Problem of Pain. (Wikipedia)
C.S. Lewis and The Poison of Subjectivism
Yesterday I took some time to pick up one of the books from my mother’s library. She gave her books to me, and there are a couple that I brought into my home office “to read someday.” One of the paperback books was The Seeing Eye (and other selected essays from Christian Reflections.) One of the essays grabbed my attention. The title of the essay is “The Poison of Subjectivism.”
Lewis is not an easy read. It requires time to read what he said. Two of the challenges in reading Lewis are his masterful use of logic (requiring a pause or two to think about what he said) and his extensive vocabulary. He had an amazing range of words that are not commonly used in everyday life. In just the first two paragraphs of this essay he used words like: “epiphenomenon” and “subjectivism.” If asked to define these words, I dare say the average person would be stumped. In fact, I don’t recall ever reading the word “epiphenomenon” before, so defining it would have been impossible.
1. A secondary phenomenon that results from and accompanies another: “Exploitation of one social class or ethnic group by another [is] an epiphenomenon of real differences in power between social groups” (Harper’s).
2. An additional condition or symptom in the course of a disease, not necessarily connected with the disease.
Subjectivism is a doctrine based on man’s isolated thinking. It is a doctrine that all knowledge is restricted to the conscious self and its sensory states. In other words, only what I can see, taste, touch, smell, hear, or think is acceptable for right thinking. It emphasizes the subjective elements in experience. Outside sources, including what others have written or said or what God has said, are excluded as dated, irrelevant, and even dangerous. Progress means we leave all that nonsense from the past, including past values and ideas. The problem with this is that the foundation of all relationships crumbles and we live in a state of anarchy. There is no truth, no authority, no common standards, and this leads to disorder and confusion.
Right Thinking is Not Popular
To understand man, one must go to the Creator. If there is a Creator, and if he has a purpose and plan for his Creation, then we would do well to listen to his analysis of our state of affairs and our normal mode of thinking. Psalm 14 provides a helpful starting point to understand the folly of subjectivism. Most reading the following Psalm think God is speaking about someone other than the reader. That would be a massive error. If we use only our senses to determine truth, we are fools.
“The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds; there is none who does good. The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one. Have they no knowledge, all the evildoers who eat up my people as they eat bread and do not call upon the Lord? There they are in great terror, for God is with the generation of the righteous.
You would shame the plans of the poor, but the Lord is his refuge. Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion! When the Lord restores the fortunes of his people, let Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad.”
The Psalm starts out with a diagnosis that is accurate. Things look hopeless until the Psalmist reveals the place where hope can be found.