Western Civilization is Not Christian: The Big Difference

By Ed Hurst | Posted at 5:17 AM

We might wonder, if it mattered so much, why Paul did not more pointedly address the huge difference between the intellectual culture of the Bible against the rest of the world. His choice not to spend too much time teaching the cultural background of Christian faith in his letters was no doubt the best choice at the time. He wasn't writing to scholars. It's quite likely he did go into detail with some of his better students, like Timothy. Apollos clearly understood it, if we accept him as the author of Hebrews, for he rejects the Alexandrian content, but uses the Alexandrian style of presentation. Still, for us to ignore how thoroughly Christian teaching assumes a radically different orientation in thought would be thoughtless.

It's not enough to note the essential differences between inductive and deductive reasoning. Both East and West contained a great measure of each. Rather, it's the proper place of human reasoning as a whole — subservient to revelation. The reasoning faculty is provided by God as a gift, but it's purpose is to serve His Spirit. Thus, ultimate Truth is revealed from above. Not static, as a series of mere propositions, but a living Voice from above. For posterity, the record of revelation comes in the form of narrative. To say Scripture is simply propositional truth is to miss the point much of the time, and adopts the Pharisaical view. Ultimate Truth is ineffable — can't be told — which surely means it can't be known and memorized in the intellectual sense. In its own Semitic context, such a notion would be regarded silly.

What matters most is the source of Truth: God, and God alone. He is the living standard of all things. He is Truth in Person. Truth about the world is not a result of the Scientific Method. To examine all the particulars available, then build a logical framework to categorize and explain those particulars, will only take you so far. Indeed, such an approach may well take you contrary to Truth. The obvious mistake is assuming your observation can capture all the particulars. No matter how many observers you get, spread over any number of years and observations, you cannot assume to have observed it all. You are forced to remain tentative throughout. With God's revelation, we have the Truth, and it often appears contrary to observed particulars. Know the forest as a whole, then make sense from there of the individual trees. Particulars can deceive, since He sometimes calls us to fight the circumstances by faith, and at other times to accept them by the same faith. The controlling factor is Himself, not rules.

A purely observational basis will lead unfailingly to materialism. You cannot measure spirit, nor quantify faith. Perhaps we can quantify some of the activity those things produce in humans, but you and I know they can be faked by mere activity alone. We know from the Word there is a warning activity alone means nothing. To the Aristotelian, observable behavior is all their is. What we make of it is just a logical construct. Judgments of whether the actions, or their results, are “good” or “bad” are also mere logical constructs. The primary mission of the intellect is to discern the nature of a thing. Attempts to claim one has moved away from Aristotle and Eastern together, claiming some neutral ground, are self-deceptively Aristotelian in themselves. God is not impressed.

In our hearts, either our God is of our own making, or He is the one revealed long ago. It makes no sense on a human level that He does not incinerate the whole lot of us, should He notice us at all. That He should hold us accountable is not too surprising, but then to leave us no power to please Him seems unfair. Then to turn around and bear the pains of our sin in Himself is incomprehensible. From a human standpoint, it's amazing anyone serves Him at all.

His service includes giving Him absolute authority in all our possessions, our actions, our thoughts, and anything else that seems under our control. He demands from us a host of things not under our power, then insists we get those things from Him. Everything is demanded, yet nothing is truly acceptable without His touch. You can never see Him with your eyes, yet never leave His sight. Paradox upon paradox, life is a riddle under His hand. Life remains a tension of unresolved questions until it is over, in which case it has just begun. With words and propositions which have no sensible meaning in human conversation, yet bear the absolute Truth of all things, we speak the whole thing in parables because the Master did. He wanted all to follow Him, yet left them in complete confusion more often than not.

In our Western world, we demand clarity and precision. Words must be assigned meanings that don't shift too far with differing contexts, lest they mean nothing at all. Statements must assume they can be verified to some useful extent. We are told to question every authority, to verify the assertions by duplicating the experiment for ourselves. The Kingdom of Light agrees we should question human authority, but accept divine authority without question. At the same time, we are taught to assume the veracity of those who claim a common faith. We are each unique in Him, experience Him individually, yet must work together for a common good which remains somewhat ill-defined. While we presume God will work miracles large and small through others, we cannot reject people for any failure, no matter how costly. There are some clear standards, yet there must be forgiveness.

The concept of a thing's value has nothing to do with economic circumstances, but it's usefulness to this undefinable Kingdom. We hold the smallest part of Creation precious in His sight, even while we quickly pass off great chunks of wealth to strangers, and are told to have no remorse if it is apparently wasted. Life is precious, and we make all manner of trouble for others to preserve the most miserable specimens of humanity, yet embrace our own extinction as a relief. We love the unlovely; we sacrifice much for the least deserving. We go out of our way to become close friends of those with whom we have no common ground aside from this self-proclaimed Kingdom citizenship.

We persist in kindness to those who hate us. We claim all these things and routinely fail at them.

Ed Hurst is Associate Editor of Open for Business.