Christianity vs. 21st Century

In Christianity and Liberalism, Machen speaks about the cultural influence of Christianity, and how that has been lost over the past two centuries in the United States. I should mention that much of what Machen has to say is subjective, and in some ways close minded, but nonetheless thought provoking.

A specific point that Machen makes is this. “Our simple Christian, whether rightly or wrongly, whether wisely or unwisely, has as a matter of fact connected his religion, in a way that to him seems indissoluble, with convictions about which science also has a right to speak.” (Machen 10). He then goes on to pose this question… “What is the relation between Christianity and modern culture; may Christianity be maintained in a scientific age?” (Machen 11). A better question to ask might be, does the sciences in the modern age exist in direct opposition to Christianity?

I would argue that science does not exist in contrary to Christianity. There is a growing notion in the faith world that one must discredit all science, because it seeks to disprove the existence of God. In reality though, would it not be wise to recognize that science tells us something that we already know? The argument often made is that concepts such as creation theory, and the virgin birth, death and resurrection of Jesus are simply impossible. Is this not the point of our faith though? That what God does and has done is extraordinary? That is beyond our understanding of how the world works?

Another point that Machen makes, is that while our modern world represents improvements in the quality of life, it has resulted in a decline in the intelligence of life. He goes as far as to say “Gone are the great painters, and the great musicians and the great sculptors.” (Machen 17). I find this statement frustrating, because it comes from a place of sentimentalism, and ignores the accomplishments of modern artists. Machen would view a composer such as Ludwig Van Beethoven and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart as the greats. But what about modern composers such as John Williams or Hans Zimmer? Machen would view authors such as H.G. Wells to be one of the greats, but discredit more recent authors such as C.S. Lewis and J.R.R Tolkien, and modern authors such as Stephen King and JK Rowling.

These arguments are almost presented as an artificial culture war between the old and the new, that somehow the modern arts are of a moral corruption. And yet, not every work of a “great” artist as Machen would put it is theological in nature. Trying to find theological and faith based value in the music of Mozart would be like trying to find such value in a Disney movie. Instead of reminiscing in the past, why not look to the future to see how our faith can be a beacon of hope?

I finish my thoughts with this quote from Walt Disney, “We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” We shouldn’t treat curiosity and optimism as evil, such concepts are the very things that brought Christianity to the New World in the 1600s.

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