• Materialist Dangers
  • What are the dangers that have come to the West with this pervasive poison of materialism? We could make a long laundry list of unhappy outcomes from a half-century ago, compiled by writers with far more insight than I: CS Lewis' Abolition of Man, GK Chesterton's Orthodoxy, Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, George Orwell's 1984, with even more in recent decades (Ted Kaczinski's rant comes to mind), with their dystopias of a world governed by bloodless materialists. Fortunately, this materialist idol comes with its own, well-deserved, offensiveness, such that for example, few young men I know (though all of those portrayed on TV) take Lucretius' advice to avoid romance by promiscuous attachments. Even the tabloids record that in real life TV stars stubbornly hold to some version of romance and fidelity. No, in real life materialism is more akin to Christianity, widely proclaimed but rarely practiced.

    More often than not materialism provides some patina of intellectual respectability to what used to be called simple vice, as Chesterton commented in his preface to "The Man Who Was Thursday" (1903):
    But this inconsistency of the materialist religion should give us no cause for even cynical rejoicing. As I read CS Lewis' That Hideous Strength, and experienced it as a work of non-fiction, I began to understand that materialism was not itself the nadir of western society. Rather than the final defeat of a rich and decadent culture as I had supposed, materialism was only the siren's song, the promise of freedom from obligation, the ethical license that attracted young sailors to the island of dreams, but something else fed upon them there. It was Lewis who explained the trap.

    In his story the young professor, Mark Studdock, is brought into a room full of surrealist paintings and left for an hour while being initiated into the inner circle of materialists. Lewis wrote this book in 1943, and it has become the most prophetic one I own. Nearly everything he saw 60 years ago and disguised as fiction has become fact today. For materialism in this story is merely the front, the initiation, the first step toward demonic influence of the "Macrobes" of the story. And this is the real unheralded success story of the second half of the 20th century, so for example, when two relatives of mine graduated from a large state University, I had no idea they also graduated from a "women's studies" course that inducted them, like Mark Studdock, into the anti-Christian religion of Wicca, all supported by yours and my tax dollars. It would not have surprised Lewis.

    In Lewis' epilogue to his most popular book The Screwtape Letters, he has Screwtape proposing a toast. The efforts of the demonic research institute were finally successful, said Screwtape, in producing a "materialist magician". The problem with magic was that it brought appreciation of the Greatest Magician who created worlds ex nihilo, but finally, Screwtape reports, they have manufactured a magician who is too sophisticated to accept the divine Word, who can dismiss the greatest story as so much superstition. But it is in Hideous Strength that we learn the purpose behind such a miscreation--the advancement of the kingdom of darkness.

    Evolution & the Culture Wars

    Therefore evolution is not just the front-lines of the culture wars, but the wedge that splits the Christian view of persons in half, dividing asunder soul and body, spirit and strength. It is the embodiment of the Kantian division between noumena and phenomena that has crippled Christianity for 200 years, separating the electricity from the motor, the wind from the sails, the power from the Christian life. This, more than its explanatory power, more than its predictive capability, more than its anything else, is the whole purpose of the theory of evolution: as a metaphysical Trojan horse, bringing with it the inescapable baggage of materialism.

    Yes, despite the vast amounts of propaganda circulating out there, careful historical accounts of the evolution of Evolution (e.g., John Brooke's A Historical Introduction to Science and Religion) show that Darwin was rarely accepted or even evaluated on his scientific merits. That is, as we learn from Jonathon Wells Icons of Evolution, the theory has been riddled with inconsistencies, fabrications, and lies from its very inception, for its appeal lies not in facts but in myths, not in physics but in metaphysics, not in explanatory but in consequential power. Over and over we are told that evolution is not a perfect theory, but it is the only theory, everything else is (pause) creationism. And in this whispered threat lies a hatred, or more likely, a fear of Christianity. Like Studdock, we are suddenly struck with the question, "How can you hate it so much, I thought you didn't believe in that sort of thing!"

    I am reminded of the story told of Niels Bohr, widely viewed as the father of quantum mechanics, who nailed a horseshoe over the door of his Copenhagen Institute. "What is that for?" asked his European friends. "Oh, an American gave it to me," he replied, "I'm told it will bring good luck." "Why Niels," they remonstrated, "surely you don't believe in such things!" "I'm told," said Bohr, "that it works even if you don't believe in it." What Bohr meant as a joke, or perhaps a lesson in the paradoxes of QM, we take as a far more sinister act, which ties together unbelief and superstition in that peculiarly modern chimera Lewis warned us about. For our western materialist culture has elevated skepticism to the highest attribute of man, as Chesterton immortalized in the phrase "the respectability of atheism". Rarely in written history has skepticism been so transcendent. On the contrary, Jesus' words come with all the force of five millenia, "Unbelief is a sin." For unbelief is not, as is widely supposed, a virtue, but a decision, a commitment to resist, a nascent rebellion, a guerilla revolution, such that materialism of the 1950's has become the Wicca of the 1990's. They are of a single cloth, woven of the same thread. As Lewis writes in Hideous Strength

    Reformation Roots

    So the Reformation fueled Enlightenment rationalism that brought the incredible advances of the 20th century has also moved from its quasi-neutral stance into that keen darkness of the neo-pagan Nazis, the now defeated Stalinists, and the soon-to-be defeated Maoists. And here, at the beginning of the 21st century, we are seeing resurgence of anti-realism, post-modernism, New Age and Wicca. What began as an amicable separation has become a bitter divorce. "He who is not for me," said Jesus, "is against me. And he who does not gather with me, scatters."

    What has been the response of the Church to this growing cultural animosity? Sadly in the West we see only capitulation. Most bishops of the Episcopal Church, for example, espouse an "ecstatic" theology that appears to be warmed over gnosticism, a post-modern successor to German liberalism that uses all the right words with all the wrong meanings. It is the proper heir to Bultmann's materialism, espousing all the fervent devotion of a Jungian for symbols without a corresponding fear of the God who instructed us in their meaning, thus fitting perfectly Lewis' prediction of the materialist magician. And now no Episcopal conference is complete without a "labyrinth" walk, as if the Church had need of another golden cow-headed goddess! And sadly, where the Episcopal church leads, the remaining mainline denominations follow. Can any church today make a separate peace with culture, can any denomination embrace materialism?

    No, the function of materialism and the theory of evolution is clearly to oppose Christianity, and simultaneously cut off the energy source of the Christian life. This both empowers neo-pagan and satanist religions, as well as emasculates Christianity. The sad story of the 20th century is just how successful this subterfuge has been both within and without the evangelical Church. The surge of global mission work after WWII is now about spent. Organizations have ossified, overhead has soared, direct mailings have multiplied, our focus shifted inward, and our prayers have dwindled. Is there any hope for orthodoxy, any future for Evangelicals?

    Yes! For the Church of God marches onward, with 3rd world churches now sending missionaries to the West, so that the split-off Anglican Mission in America comes under the care of a Rwandan bishop! And without fail, every 3rd world Christian I speak with immediately sees the connection between evolution and witchcraft, between anti-spiritual Christianity and anti-Christian spiritism. What is so murky to an American evangelical is crystal clear to a Tiawanese or Sri Lankan Christian.