The Book that Made Your World - How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization
How much do I want to read more? 8/10
That's a surprising book. It really tickles what religion is all about.
I never understood what Nietzche really meant by "God is dead". People don't believe in the Bible anymore. And without God, there can be no self. The dissolution of the self leads toward Buddhism.
FOREWORD - J. STANLEY MATTSON
In What’s the Use of Truth?, Rorty contends that there is no privileged position, or any kind of authority, that can provide a rationally justifiable standpoint from which one can know the “real” world. The word truth, he insists, has no significant meaning. Traditional distinctions between true and false must be abandoned. In their place, we can only think and speak in terms of webs of language that display greater or lesser degrees of “smoothness” and homogeneity. For Rorty, every assertion of truth is only provisional—at its very core, a form of make-believe—because language itself is merely a product of human society. Our words refer to nothing except insofar as they interpret our experience.
Predictably, Rorty’s work, and that of his peers within the academy, has led to a wholesale abandonment of any aspiration to pursue truth, knowledge, and rationality as understood over the long course of Western civilization.
Clearly, our “ironic age” desperately needs a more reliable mirror by which to recover and assess our almost forgotten past. We need to re-envision a common and universal hope for human society. We need to learn again from the sources that once so deeply captivated our imaginations, ordered our reason, and informed our wills. It was from and through these very sources that the West realized the transformation of individual lives, families, and whole communities that gave shape to the modern world as we know it. Given the increasing intellectual and spiritual chaos of our time, it strikes me as extremely worthwhile to trace those unique features of the West that helped foster these fertile changes.
he documents that the Bible, understood to be the revelation of God to humanity, provided the basis for an admittedly imperfect but nonetheless remarkably humane society. It was, above all, a civilization in which truth was understood to be real, where the collective pursuit of virtue shaped behavior, and the redemptive work of God in the person of Jesus Christ provided a radical and historically verifiable transforming response to the abyss of human selfishness, corruption, and sin.
Prologue - WHY THIS JOURNEY INTO THE SOUL OF THE MODERN WORLD?
The Bible created the modern world of science and learning because it gave us the Creator’s vision of what reality is all about. That is what made the modern West a reading and thinking civilization.
This book is being published with a prayer that it will help revive a global interest in the Bible and in all the great books.
Part I - THE SOUL OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION
The Bible brought its view of God, the universe, and mankind into all the leading Western languages and thus into the intellectual process of Western man . . . Since the invention of printing, the Bible has become more than the translation of an ancient Oriental literature. It has not seemed a foreign book, and it has been the most available, familiar, and dependable source and arbiter of intellectual, moral, and spiritual ideals in the West.
—- H. GRADY DAVIS
Chapter One - THE WEST WITHOUT ITS SOUL - FROM BACH TO COBAIN
For two hundred years we had sawed and sawed and sawed at the branch we were sitting on. And in the end, much more suddenly than anyone had foreseen, our efforts were rewarded, and down we came. But unfortunately there had been a little mistake: The thing at the bottom was not a bed of roses after all; it was a cesspool full of barbed wire . . . It appears that amputation of the soul isn’t just a simple surgical job, like having your appendix out. The wound has a tendency to go septic.
—- GEORGE ORWELL
Cobain, the lead singer and gifted guitarist for the rock band Nirvana, captured his generation’s loss of anchor, center, or soul so effectively that their album Nevermind sold ten million copies, displacing Michael Jackson at the top of the charts.
The phrase “never mind” means “don’t bother,” “don’t concern yourself.” Why should you mind, if nothing is true, good, or beautiful in any absolute sense? Should a man be bothered about his adorable daughter’s ongoing need for a father? “Never mind” is a logical virtue for a nihilist who thinks that there is nothing out there to give meaning and significance to anything here—be it your daughter, wife, or life. In contrast, the modern West was built by people who dedicated their lives to what they believed was divine, true, and noble.
Nirvana is the Buddhist term for salvation. It means permanent extinction of one’s individual existence, the dissolution of our illusory individuality into Shoonyta (void, nothingness, or emptiness). It is freedom from our misery-causing illusion that we have a permanent core to our being: a self, soul, spirit, or Atman.
As the news of Cobain’s suicide spread, a number of his fans emulated his example. Rolling Stone magazine reported that his tragic death was followed by at least sixty-eight copycat suicides.
Kurt’s mother started dating younger men. His father became overbearing, more afraid of losing his new wife than of losing Kurt. That parental rejection left him displaced, unable to find a stable social center, incapable of maintaining constructive emotional ties either with his peers or with his parents’ generation. That instability inflicted a deep wound in Cobain’s soul that could not be healed by music, fame, money, sex, drugs, alcohol, therapy, rehabilitation or detox programs. His inner anguish made it easy for him to accept the Buddha’s first noble truth that life is suffering.
secular psychology is now a discipline in decline. Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung believed in the existence of self, but their followers now recognize that their faith in “self” was a residual effect of the West’s Christian past.
Six centuries before Christ, the Buddha already knew that if God does not exist, then the human self cannot exist either.
When one starts peeling the onion skin of one’s psyche, he discovers that there is no solid core at the center of one’s being. Your sense of self is an illusion. Reality is nonself (anatman). You don’t exist. Liberation, the Buddha taught, is realizing the unreality of your existence.
MUSIC AFTER GOD’S DEATH
German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (AD 1844–1900) realized that having killed God, Europe could not possibly save the civilizational fruits of its faith in God.
But not even Nietzsche realized that one philosophical implication of God’s demise would be the death of his own self. For fifteen hundred years prior to Nietzsche, the West had followed St. Augustine (AD 354–430) in affirming every human being as a trinity of existence (being), intellect, and will.
After denying the existence of the Divine Self, it became impossible to affirm the existence of the human self. Therefore, many intellectuals are reverting to the Buddhist idea that the self is an illusion. As contemporary Jungian psychologist Paul Kuglar explained, in the postmodern philosophy, Nietzsche (the speaking subject) is dead—he never existed, for individuality is only an illusion created by language.
Deconstructionists blame language for creating the illusion of the self, but the Buddha blamed the mind. It cannot be God’s image. Therefore, the mind had to be a product of primeval cosmic ignorance, Avidya.
Augustine affirmed the certainty of the human self because the Bible taught that God existed and had created man in his own image. Augustine also affirmed the validity of words. He believed language can communicate truth because communication is intrinsic to the triune God and man is made in the image of a God who communicates.
Now, having rejected those biblical foundations, the West has no basis for escaping the Buddha’s radical pessimism.