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Richard Weaver first made a name for himself when he published his seminal work, Ideas Have Consequences. It is a brief work with ideas that are still reaping consequences. He was to the secular academic world something of a Francis Schaeffer, introducing thousands to the concept of worldview, arguing that what we think about little things, more often than not, is determined by what we think about big things. Weaver demonstrated how a modernist worldview was not something academia simply studied, but it was instead something that shaped academia. Indeed, modernism is academia’s mother. You wouldn’t have the latter if you did not first have the former. Schaeffer named many of the strongholds we are called to tear down, the sundry “isms” that we in the evangelical world carefully study, the same ones we once studiously ignored.
While I don’t deny the importance of the study of worldviews, I’m afraid there just might be something modernist about our modern fascination with “isms,” whether we’re fighting or promoting them. The Bible does argue that we fight against every lofty thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, but on the other hand, it spends far more time worrying about sins on a grand scale. The children of Israel, for instance, are never sent a prophet who thunders against them because they have embraced behaviorism. He never destroys a city with fire and brimstone because the citizens there believed in utilitarianism. No, the problem doesn’t have much academic allure. The problem was always idolatry. Nations rise and fall, cultures ebb and flow, based on this simple question: do they worship the true and living God? Worldviews may shape how we see the world, but theology shapes our worldviews.
We are a schizophrenic people. We have a love/hate relationship with our own nation/history/culture. We, at least within the church, prefer to define ourselves in light of the heroes of our past. We are the heirs of the Puritans and the Pilgrims, faithful men and women. We are the children of Cotton Mather, Jonathan Edwards, George Washington. We were, and there is the heartache, were, a great people. Today we are a nation of looters and rapists. We are child predators and baby killers. Today, third world nations, with pity in their hearts, send missionaries here, for the sake of our souls. And so we want to know where it all went wrong. When did our city on a hill become Sodom and Gomorrah?
Of course, since the fall of Adam, wherever we were, there we would find the seed of our own destruction. But such doesn’t mean we can’t look for particular forces that toppled us in a particular direction. Some, for instance, see the war between the States as the great moment of national apostasy. Others look to the Scopes “Monkey” Trial as a watershed moment when we turned our backs on the God who had so blessed us. Still others think it all went wrong when prayer was removed from the state’s schools. A few might argue that it was January, 1973, when the Supreme Court handed down its decision in Roe v. Wade.
I’d like to posit a different theory. The handwriting was already on the wall, we had already been tried in the balance and found wanting, when our New England forbears jettisoned not just the rugged Calvinism that had sustained them in times of hardship, but when they began to embrace Unitarianism. Here the problem isn’t simply the playing fast and loose with the Bible. The problem wasn’t merely the Pelagian revival, the notion that culturally speaking, we could create the New Man, and usher in paradise on earth. The problem wasn’t the smug pride that drove the rejection not only of the Bible, but of the wisdom of our fathers in church history. The problem was this, we stopped worshiping the true and living God. The evil of Unitarianism is that it isn’t Trinitarianism.
So now what do we do? We do not simply change our worldview. We do not simply elect better politicians. We do not merely refute Darwin or Skinner or Derrida. All of this is lopping the tops off of dandelions, bandaging cancer cells. No. There is but one way for us as individuals, as families, as churches, as a culture, to become once more pleasing in God’s sight. We must worship God in spirit and in truth, which means we worship Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We repent for our idolatry, and we turn away from it.
The historians will argue for centuries over what brought about the downfall of this once great land. Dissertations will be written, and tenures will be denied. Great schools of thought will do battle with competing schools. Arguments as elaborate and as rickety as the tower of Babel will rise and fall, like rising and falling empires. But there is only one thing that exalts a nation, one way for a nation to enjoy blessing from the true and living God, and that is our worship of Him and Him alone. We will only enjoy His blessing when we pray, “And may the blessing of God Almighty — Father, Son and, Holy Spirit, abide with you now and always.” So let it be done, for the sake of our fathers, for the sake of our children, and for the glory of our triune God.