Our previous post asserted that contemporary American culture is bipolar. The depressive side of our culture is found in materialism, the theory that only matter and energy exist.
The previous post described the depressive aspects of materialism such as depriving people of their soul, demoting them to biological machines with no capacity for freedom and dignity, devaluing them to the animal category, and so forth.
However, materialism does have a good side, though, as we will see, it is not good enough to support a healthy culture. Nonetheless, understanding the disastrous nature of the manic component of our culture requires awareness of the good side of materialism. Since materialism is still around and continues to wield substantial influence in our culture, a working knowledge of this perspective is required to understand our society.
The positive aspect of materialism is found in its emphasis on a rational approach to life. As we have emphasized numerous times across the past number of posts, rational analysis constitutes a God-given capability that enables us to identify and live within the realm of reality. Therefore, a culture stressing the importance of reason will enjoy superiority over those that do not. Consider the ancient Greek civilization. Too bad contemporary Greek society doesn’t apply a little reason.
Unfortunately, materialists would not allow reason to lead them to its logical destination of the existence of God and the validity of the Bible. Instead, they rejected that conclusion. Think of a two story house with God living on the second floor. Materialists applied reason to the bottom part of the house, but refused to follow it up the steps.
Nonetheless, to the extent that they followed it, this rational approach to life proved advantageous for materialism. In other words, reason leads to a somewhat acceptable lifestyle on the first floor. For example, it promotes education, science, medicine, a rational approach to governance, and other horizontal rational pursuits.
A rational perspective even provides at least some basis for morality. For example, any reasonable analysis of homosexuality would conclude that this does not represent a healthy approach to life. As a result, up until the 1980s the American Psychiatric Association categorized homosexuality as a pathology. Likewise, a rational consideration of abortion would reject it on numerous counts such as the right of the baby, the health of the mother, the brutality of the procedure, the impact on the health of society, the effect on population growth, etc.
However, this materialist emphasis on reason is inadequate to provide a fully functioning worldview for at least three reasons.
First, the Bible tells us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and of knowledge. Among other things, this teaching connotes that the foundational truths of any field cannot be humanly discerned but must come from God’s revelation in Scripture. Philosophy without a scriptural foundation results in confusion. Likewise with psychology and sociology. We see the need for revelation also in science, especially in the area of origins. Once we establish scriptural foundations in these disciplines, human intelligence is adequate to build a rather respectable edifice. However, the absence of a biblical base leads to error and chaos. Consider the many theories of psychology that change with the weather.
A second factor preventing materialism from reasoning its way to an adequate worldview comes from the irrationality resulting from the rejection of God. Removing God from the center of one’s worldview leads to large doses of irrationality to fill up the void that is left. In other words, rejecting the existence of God on the second story of the building even distorts our view of reality on the first floor because we have to make up stories about the purpose of the staircase, the footsteps heard above us, and other indications that a second story exists. For example, rejection of God has brought us the evolutionary hypothesis. This erroneous theory has been allowed to influence many disciplines beside biology. One practical outcome of this influence is found in the racist designs of Margaret Sanger, the mother of Planned Parenthood. Think of the millions of lives that might have been spared had she and others held a biblical view of humanity.
A third problem with materialism is found in human depravity. Remove God’s moral law and the specter of divine judgment and people soon begin to abandon reason and bend reality to suit their desires.
Therefore, though reason as espoused by materialism provides some value, supplying at least some mechanism for connecting with reality, it is inadequate to provide a wholesome worldview, instead leaving human beings with a depressive perspective on life.
As we discussed in yesterday’s post, the manic phase of bipolar disorder severs the person’s ties to reality. We will find that to be the case also regarding the manic side of American culture. I plan to address that topic next week.