Sunday, October 26, 2014

Another great awakening?

Economist editors John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge shocked the secular West in 2009 by announcing that God Is Back—starting with China, of all places. Here were two epitomes of British reasonableness explaining that Europe was the modern exception in viewing God as dead, an irrational shadow of the past, with its Continent declining in population and power, and the rest of the world resembling America in having religion as a part of their cultural dynamism.

China’s atheistic communist government conceded that its Christian population had doubled to 21 million over the past decade, worshiping in 55,000 official Protestant and 4,600 Catholic churches. The underground church, it’s widely known, was much larger—by foreign estimates perhaps 77 million, which means larger than the Communist Party. A Pew Global Attitudes study found only 11 percent of Chinese saying religion was not important in their lives, compared to 31 percent saying it was very or somewhat important. Indeed, everywhere the authors looked outside their European homeland, religion was booming in the early 21st century world.

From the comments:

No matter how repressed, somehow “the flotsam of natural law—all those corks of truth” cannot “all be kept down at once.”
This is such a great metaphor. In case it’s unclear, the quote comes from What We Can’t Not Know: A Guide at 223-224, where Budziszewski articulates a process-of-elimination argument for natural law:
[In defending natural law to a skeptic, a]ppealing to … witnesses is fruitless; all we can do is show him that his assumptions are in conflict with each other, as inevitably they will be…. When every intellectual refuge has been destroyed, one by one, then finally he may be ready to embrace a sane view of moral reality. Sometimes this approach to persuasion is called “presuppositional”.
* * *
[R]eality poses a constant problem for fallen man. He wants to acknowledge some of the truth which presses in on him, but taken together it points too strongly to other truth which he resists with all his might. In the end, he must deny so many obvious things that the work is just too much. He is like a man in a bathtub, surrounded by dozens of corks, trying to hold them all down at once. Whenever he pushes one down, another somewhere else pops right back up. This is the reason why his worldview in inevitably incoherent, for bits of truth get into it that he does not intend, clashing with the things he does intend.
I’m reminded of C.S. Lewis’s account of his conversion to faith: “You must picture me alone in that room at Magdalen, night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England.” (Surprised By Joy, ch. 14, at 266).
I'm currently reading Lewis' "Mere Christianity," so this discussion is very interesting indeed in light of all that.


  1. I have to wonder if the same philosophy applies to those who take the bible as literal (or other holy book) . Many biblical "truths" can be easily refuted. At some point, one has to determine what to believe, if anything. I've chosen to accept the possibility, without knowing the nature of that possibility.

    1. You and many others as well. It's a fascinating question, and one that bears considering from all angles.

  2. If you like C S Lewis, then I most heartily recommend G K Chesterton.

  3. How pleasing - and somewhat astonishing - to find reference to J. Budziszewski (pronounced, btw, "boo-je-sheff-ski") in a popular blog.

    I heartily recommend his first book, The Revenge of Conscience; Politics and the fall of man. The introductory sections details his conversion experience while developing his bona fides as a professor of nihilistic philosophy in application to UT Austin. Budziszewski is the real deal, a true blue-collar self-educated wise man whose atheism collapsed of its own weight as he honestly tried to justify it.

    Plus he writes like an angel.