Home » Theology » Biblical Theology » The Idolatry of the Modern Mind

The Idolatry of the Modern Mind

American-IdolatryWhen I was a child, I spent a lot of time irritating my teachers. I had the tendency to say, “What does that mean?” and “What am I supposed to do with that?” or “Why does this matter?” I was more practical back then than I am now on certain levels, and didn’t want to waste my time learning things that had no benefit. [Now, I regard all information as useful… I play Trivial Pursuit after all.]

I needed to know what geometry was going to ad to my life, though I sensed that learning algebraic proofs had some value for general reasoning skills. I knew that French would allow me to talk to people I might want to know, but couldn’t  figure out what value there was in Latin, other than reading a lot of old books in which I had no interest. I was an idiot… but a practical one.

When I studied plumbing and the teacher told us the code, I would raise my hand and ask, “Why?” He would sigh, groan, and chuff, “Just memorize it for the test.” I’d say, “But when I’m in the field and a situation comes up that tempts me to violate the code… you know… in some place that no inspector will ever find out about it… I’d like to know what the practical implications would be for the health and safety of the people and for the functionality of the plumbing.”  This teacher gave me the nickname… wait, this is Christian blog… I can’t write the nickname he gave me.

In Bible college, when our teachers regaled us with depictions of man as Trichotomy or dichotomy, I annoyed them, as well, by asking, “What practical difference does it make? How does a trichotomist live differently than a dichotomist?” They never told me to shut up, exactly, but neither did I get a good answer. [I have better categories to think about now, and do have a good answer for that question if ever you want to hear it.]

Straight Lines and Circles

In grade school a teacher introduced our class to the idea of different patterns of thought in various cultures around the world. She said, “Americans think linear… we think in straight lines. Asians think circular… they think in circles.” I raised my hand and asked, “What does it mean to think in circles?” I’ll never forget her answer. It changed my life. It was profound. This might be a bit of a paraphrase, but she said, “I don’t know; I’m not Asian.”

What she failed to articulate about the differences between linear and circular thought patterns is better termed dialogical thought vs. analogical thought. I’ve written on these before, you may want to check those out as well. Just go to the search bar on my blog’s home page and type in dialogical or something like that.

Thought patterns like analogical and dialogical are fancy terms for the way a given culture conceives of reality and the way in which individuals within that culture evaluate truths about reality.

Analogical thought patterns as the name suggests conceives of reality in terms of repeating analogies or patterns in the world. They ask about the truth behind the material world, and the right paradigm for succeeding in the world that is.

The most basic elements of this reality are received by sacred truth tellers… like the prophets of the biblical era, or some version of “the ancient ones”… who establish the most fundamental patterns by which behavior, relationships and societal structures are crafted and evaluated. Things are accepted as true because they are in harmony with these basic analogies and patterns. When one’s life and society is in sync with these patterns, life goes well. When one’s life and society are out of sync with these patterns, things begin to fall apart.

Under this process, Sages do watch the cause-effect actions and reactions around them, seeking a deeper understanding of the basic patterns of survival and prosperity that God has woven into reality, but age old patterns of survival are not easily cast off. These traditions were the means by which the community survived and thrived for generations, and each new generation sees themselves as part of that age old community, adding their bit of discovery and observation to the accumulation of shared knowledge passed down them.

New ideas about reality are suspect and must prove themselves in a hostile court… Tradition gets the benefit of the doubt.

Dialogical thought patterns, whose name may not be as transparent to Joe Plumber, conceive of reality in terms of a materialistic fixation on natural (as opposed to supernatural) cause-effects. The most basic truths of reality are gleaned only from supposed observations of the material world. This is the scientific model of thinking.

Questions of the truths behind the material world are outside the scope of this way of conceiving and evaluating the world. While many, who primarily conceive of reality this way, do have levels of spirituality, and beliefs in the divine…

(something philosophical materialists [i.e. those who deny any reality beyond the physical world] are quick to label empty superstition)

…this way of evaluating the truth statements around them tends to limit itself to one’s ability to reason FROM what one sees TO some basic truth about reality.

Ideas of “right and wrong” tend to get muddied up in attempts to establish ideas about “practical and impractical” based on one’s own personal ability to perceive the consequences of any given action.

So, those wholly dedicated to this perception of reality, rarely have strong moral convictions, tending more toward the development of practical means to practical ends.

It views past positions that have been argued analogically “this is the way of things” or “This is how we’ve always done it” or “This is RIGHT” or “This is WRONG” with suspicion, needing to arrive at some type of metaphorical right and wrong by practical observations alone.

By way of a practical difference.

Theft to the Purely Dialogical: “Stealing is destructive to the individual and the group. Theft creates an environment where a lack of property protection and rights wastes important community resources protecting property from increasing amounts of loss from theft, and increases the risk of investment in property, decreasing both investment and return, reducing potential capital and diminishing the prosperity of everyone… including the thief.

That said, a strong economy can handle a measure of theft. So long as one doesn’t get caught, theft can be a way to get ahead quickly by taking what other people have labored over time to create. In a weak economy, one might rather risk the possible consequences of theft than face the sure consequences of a dire situation. Theft isn’t WRONG, it’s just IMPRACTICAL in most situations.”

Theft to the Analogical: “Stealing is wrong because God has endowed (made in His image) each of his creatures (regardless of race, creed, culture, age, or gender) with certain natural rights, foremost of which is life, liberty & property. To steal from another person is to take his labor, time, security, and hope for the future… it is a fundamental violation of his or her rights as a person. It is to risk the destruction of his or her life and freedom. The individual is an autonomous creation with a natural right to keep and protect what he has earned, built, or created.

Stealing what another has labored to create is to steal what flows out of the individual himself, it is to attack and partially destroy a divine image bearer and is, therefore, inherently wrong… whether perpetrated by individuals, groups, or governments, whether done in desperation, hatred, lazy greed, or as a do-gooder trying to help another.”

The Idolatry of the Modern Mind

The public narrative of reality in the western world is dominated by a nearly monolithic media under the sway of a reasoning process that is neither analogical nor dialogical per se. It is driven by a foundational vision of what should be, how certain people wish things worked, rather than by how the world actually works.

It begins with an a-priori idea (i.e. starting point for logical reasoning) that human nature is flexible and that the problems of the world are the result of failed systems not a failed human nature & that some people are smart enough to successfully solve all of society’s problems if the rest of society would only let them… by being subservient to them and letting them make all the decisions for us.

While real dialogical reasoning observes the cause-effect structures in society and, as much as possible, in history, the reasoning processes of the media driven narrative neither consult real cause-effect structures nor allow access to them if it can be prevented. Those who talk about the real world must needs become targets of varied assassination; they must be shouted down, humiliated, silenced… and, at times, actually imprisoned or killed.

The patterns of the past are not merely suspect and in need of evaluation, they are rejected out of hand without evaluation; assumptions of prejudice, bias, and discrimination take the place of analyzing cause-effect. All inequality in society is, a-priori, deemed villainy and in need of correction by the surrogate decision makers… this elite band.

Scripts are written not only for TV shows and movies but also for 24 hours news, documentaries, and statistic gathering studies that fabricate cause-effect portraits to reflect the way things ought to be. If other studies suggest different cause-effect structures at work in the world than their scripts portray, these are dismissed without concern as the product of prejudice, bias, and discrimination.

This is a form of a most vicious idolatry—self-worship.

The hearts of a few have elevated their own thoughts and emotions concerning the world above the well tested patterns of millennia as billions have struggled for survival the world over. They have no concern at all with the notion that these generations have demonstrated through their successes and failures in achieving poverty or prosperity, general happiness or oppression the trustworthy and untrustworthy paradigms of life and society. An imperfection is sufficient evidence that their guidance, which is based on nothing but their own superior thoughts, is the only hope for the world.

They have elevated their own fundamental visions of reality above reality itself, imagining that they can create a better world if only those around them would bend, or could be made to bend, to their own sensibilities. Thus, the natural rights of others (life, liberty, property, etc…) pale before the self-importance that they conjure in their hearts for their every inclination.

They are so convinced of their own superiority of thought and feeling that they have no need to consult the actual cause-effect relationships around them… if those do not confirm their every impulse then it is those and not they themselves that are amiss.

The Spirit of Our Age

This is, for lack of a better term at the moment, the spirit of the age. This way of thinking… this way of evaluating truth… this way of presenting data… this way of determining the most basic principles of personal choice, domestic life, government, and society… is the spirit of our age.

Such an overwhelming force of idolatry at such a basic level of heart and mind cannot but influence all of us in ways we scarcely imagine… even if we are aware of its presence.

We have numerous “leaders” in the Christian church coming forward, true bitter roots amid God’s people, calling for the Church to let go of Biblical teaching, foundational doctrines of historic Christianity, to let love abound in such a way as to eradicate basic standards of thought and life for those who worship Jesus Christ as God and Lord. These attempt to use this reasoning pattern, this warped attempt at dialogical thinking to lift their own consciences above Scripture, to herald a standard of thought and behavior against which God himself, as revealed in Scripture, is made out as a villain. They say that Christians must forsake rigid biblical standards in order to remain not only relevant, but loving and accepting in the face of rampant age old forms of corruption and wickedness.

They make so much sense… their process seems so flawless to many… because we have adopted the reasoning processes of the media and of political powers seeking power as the only right (or known) processes of thought. [Prove your moral standards while adhering to our basic perceptions of reality {philosophical materialism}, using our values {equality of result for all is the highest morality; never make anyone feel bad about themselves}, our categories & vocabulary {tolerance means never saying anyone else is wrong; down with ageism, sexism, racism, bullying, homophobia, blaming the victim; down with corporate fat cats, the 1%, and white privilege}.]

Here is my declaration.

I stand with Scripture properly interpreted within its historical, grammatical, and literary context. I stand with Scripture against society, philosophy, supposed scientific institutions, against politicians, laws, ideologies. I stand with Scripture against scholars (of whom I count myself) who degrade the trust worthiness of the text. I stand with Scripture against myself… my own heart, my own mind, my own sensibilities. I stand with Scripture as true, even when I am less than true.

Let God be true and every man a liar.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

%d bloggers like this: