Once upon a time, there was a man in Western Europe who was caught between two worldviews. There was the old and comfortable medieval view of the world, but it was being slowly supplanted by this new view called the Enlightenment. He wrote a book, Don Quixote, in which he ridiculed the old thinking, but wistfully because he did not have especially good things to say about the new way of thinking either.
In the story, Don Quixote fills his mind and heart with the Medieval Romances that tell him all about Knights Errant, Damsels in Distress, Giants and dragons and a well ordered society of Lords and serfs. When he saddles up with his faithful “squire” Sancho, his friends think he has gone mad. Naturally, the first thing he runs into is a group of ruffians who laugh at him, beat him up and leave him for dead. This does not deter Don Quixote. In fact, he rambles on for a thousand pages and never does come to a conclusion about which view makes the best sense of the world.
What Don Quixote does do is point out how unsettling it can be to live between two competing worldviews. It is difficult to give up the old ways of thinking. It is difficult to restructure the mind and heart to new ways of thinking. It will be difficult for anyone wanting to become a disciple to give up worldly thinking of whatever stripe and take on Godly thinking. And to be clear, neither the Medieval view nor the Enlightenment view is God’s view. God’s worldview is something altogether different from human worldviews and so we might even call it a third way, or as Jesus said a more narrow way—and one Cervantes never touched upon.
Also, to be clearer still, we are presently struggling in this age between two competing worldviews. We are like Don Quixote, trapped between Modern and Post-Modern thinking, and neither one is the same as God’s thinking so frankly I don’t care about arguments as to which is more right or the best way to live, or which makes the best sense of the world.
What I know is I feel the pull and tug of both views of the universe (views of reality) and I constantly have to remind myself that God’s view of reality is something altogether different. To better explain what I am talking about, see if you can see yourself in one or the other or a bit of both of the following:
Modernism This worldview is the true child (result) of the Enlightenment. The word I most closely associate with it is “Progress” though “Law” might work as well. The person I associate with it is Isaac Newton, and here is why: Newton embodied in his work the epitome of Scientific thinking. He saw the entire universe ruled by “Laws” (absolutes) and he “progressed” the cause of science and understanding. After Newton, we all began to think that one day science might know everything about everything.
More than just Science, though, the human race was seen as progressing on every front. Natural law, so-called, even encompassed ethical and judicial law. We were getting better, more “civilized” and less “Primitive.” And progress as a way of thinking reared its head in all sorts of ways. Darwin thought that nature itself was “progressing” toward higher forms of life. Marx thought society was “progressing” economically toward the communist ideal. America’s founding fathers were progressives in their day and in their own way. Their notion was to “form a more perfect union.”
Modernism, by its nature, implies better and worse, whether one is speaking of civilizations or individuals. It justified colonialism and drove the missionary movements of the 18th an 19th centuries. Indeed, not only were these things NOT wrong, they were moral imperatives: to bring civilization (progress) to a world full of backwards people and “primitives.” Modernism also justified slavery for a time before it gave up slavery and patted itself on the back for making such “moral progress.”
Post-Modernism Now, the modernist way of thinking is under attack by a new mindset. The word I most closely associate with post-modernism is “Relativity” and the corresponding person would be Albert Einstein. Though still a scientist, Einstein showed that the universe is not progressing, exactly. It is more relative. Time and space themselves are not constants.
The whole universe is suddenly in flux, and the human universe in particular. Cultures are no longer better or worse (civilized or primitive), they are equal, just different. Thus post-modernism is multi-cultural and diverse in its thinking. Indeed, any judgment on (almost) any level is considered “judgmental” and intolerant. Truths are no longer self-evident. They are relative: subjective matters of opinion. And while this relative thinking has not worked its way down into certain scientific and social “theories” such as evolution or Marxism, it will only be a matter of time.
Absolutes (law) is flatly rejected. Nothing is absolute. Everything is relative. Natural law as a matter of ethics is scorned. Judicial law is seen as flexible (breathable documents) and otherwise an imposition. Objectivity is also scorned as unworkable. Check out the news, newspapers and magazines only if you want subjective opinion. Everything is relative in post-modernism. You have your opinion and I have mine and that is that.
By contrast: How does God understand life, the universe and everything and how can we see it the same way?