Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: René Descartes

Consequences of a false gospel

Several weeks ago I wrote about the effect on education of René Descartes’ belief in the ability of the human mind to discover all truth through the exercise of reason. That belief has worked its way into every aspect of Western civilization. It is found in our media, our social institutions, our ideas about business, religion and politics.

I may as well come right out and say it – There are times when it appears to me that Donald Trump is the only sane political leader in North America. Everyone else is so caught up in trimming their sails to catch the latest wind of political correctness that they have no idea where those winds are coming from or towards what destination they are being driven.

This was a gradual development, but the point where it hit mainstream North American culture began with Walter Rauschenbusch and Charles Sheldon. Rauschenbusch was a Baptist minister who came to believe that sin was not a personal matter but something rooted in society. He coined the term “social gospel” around 1892, teaching and writing extensively on the subject. He taught that there was no such thing as a sin against God, all sins are against our fellow humans. In fact, he ceased to believe that God was a real Being. He was just a social construct, created in men’s minds to give some coherence to their beliefs.

Rauschenbusch saw private ownership of business as the great sin and the root of all evil. He went as far as to describe a privately owned business as an “unsaved” business and a collectively owned business, either by government or a co-operative, as a “saved” business.

Sheldon’s book, In His Steps, appeared in 1896. I have read it four times from cover to cover, searching for some trace of the Christian theme that many profess to find in it, and came up empty every time. There is Christian window dressing, but that’s all it is. The characters in the book read the Bible, but find nothing to guide their actions; they pray, but receive no guidance; they are moved to tears by hymns, but hear nothing to move them to action. It’s all just camouflage. The answers come when people ask themselves “What would Jesus do?” and answer by their own power of reason. This is following René Descartes, not Jesus Christ. Once again, the real culprit is privately owned business; salvation comes to Raymond when the owner of the daily newspaper decides to turn the business into an employee-owned co-operative.

Sheldon described himself as a Christian socialist. That is revealing. The Christian label was only camouflage to introduce socialist ideas to a North American populace that was largely composed of church-going people.

Thanks to Rauschenbusch and Sheldon, Marxist economic theories and the concept of class struggle took root in many of the largest denominations. Those denominations then moved into social activism, urging governments to set to right social injustices. The list of social injustices grows ever longer and the pressure on governments to fix things ever stronger.

Many major US foundations, now in the hands of Marxist administrators, are funnelling money into Canadian protest movements. Many movements are ostensibly grassroots indigenous protesters, but the money and the tactics are coming from US foundations. The money is channelled through a tangle of entities in an attempt to camouflage its source. But they are becoming bolder, to the point of openly declaring their aim to shut down Canada. Why? I suppose because Canada is seen as a soft target, the low hanging fruit. If they would succeed in imposing their collectivist Marxist principles in Canada, they would move on to target the USA.

Actually, they have already made great headway in the USA. Make no mistake about it, the protest movements, whether their stated aim is to stop climate change, save the animals, create equal rights or better access to health care, do not care for individual people, these are only ruses to impose a collectivist agenda.

What is the best response of Christians to these dangers? Lets go back to being Christians, followers of Jesus Christ. It is not for us to reform society. The history I have briefly sketched shows what happens when Christians take that detour.

When I hear those who profess to be Christian expressing indignation, vituperation or even hatred, for or against Donald Trump, for or against the various protest movements, it raises questions. How well do they understand what it means to be a Christian? Are they truly following the leading of the Holy Spirit?

It may seem folly to say that Christians should have a peaceful attitude toward everyone, but that is what the Bible says. If Christians had done that 100 years ago, would we be in this mess today?

How did our education system get where it is today?

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The best description I have read of the thinking behind our public education system is Les déshérités (The Disinherited) by Francois-Xavier Bellamy, published in France in 2014. Bellamy traces the root of modern educational thinking to the philosophies of René Descartes and Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

René Descartes (1596-1650) believed that all knowledge could be attained by deduction. The human mind has the capacity to discover all truth, solely through reasoning with no outside input.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1798) went a step further. He believed that we are all born pure and all the problems of mankind are the result of impure ideas taught by our society. Therefore it would be best to let a child grow with the least restraints and the least teaching possible. In the purity of his simplicity he would be able to discover all that he needed for a fruitful and happy life.

In France, Pierre Bourdieu taught that the inequities in society were a result of the things inherited from the past. If we could avoid passing on the antiquated ideas of civil society, morality and religion, those inequities would disappear. In the English-speaking world, each country has had its own Bourdieu, but Descartes and Rousseau laid the foundation for the philosophy that prevails in most of the world.

Teachers in France today are told that they have nothing to pass on, their job is simply to help students discover for themselves how to read and write, how to do math and science, and to determine for themselves what is right and wrong. Those ideas are not unique to France. Wherever we live, we can see evidence of that kind of thinking and what it has led to.

M. Bellamy writes that we have finally come to the era that Rousseau dreamed of. People today have been disinherited of all the values of the past, and the result is not the benign bliss imagined by Rousseau. He dreamed of the noble savage (le bon sauvage in French), an outsider who has not been corrupted by civilization and thus symbolizes the innate goodness of mankind.

What we have wound up with is a generation of savages who are not very noble. The inequities in society have not disappeared, but rather seem to have become worse. The thinking of our day goes so far as to say that it is wrong for gender identity to be imposed on children. They must be free to choose their own gender. This is not liberating them, it is setting them loose in a labyrinth with no exit.

Bellamy says we urgently need to resume teaching our intellectual, moral and religious heritage. It does not liberate children to leave them free to discover math, grammar and spelling on their own. In fact, it tends to perpetuate divisions in society. Children of more prosperous parents will get help at home to make up for the shortcomings of the education system, while children from poorer families, or immigrant families, will not be taught the skills they need to escape poverty.

When one has been taught a value system which they believe to be liberating, they are blind even to such self-evident truths. Beyond that, they are blind to the values of history, culture and religion which enabled society to function in a more or less orderly fashion in past generations.

I found this book illuminating. It explains so much that is happening around us today. It explains why those who graduate from university with a bachelor of education degree have not been taught anything about the subjects they are to teach, or how to teach them. That’s not their job. Their job is to stand back and facilitate “discovery learning” in the children in their classes.

If we think that the public educations system has strayed far from its original purpose, we are badly mistaken. If we read what was said by the founders of public education we see that today’s system is what they had in mind all along. They saw family, religion, history and tradition as barriers to freedom. That teaching began in universities and has taken a century and a half to filter down to all levels of society. Useful, practical education was never the primary goal of public education. Public schools were intended to be the means of introducing modern thinking to society. By modern thinking they meant the philosophies of Descartes and Rousseau.

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