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History 2: Modernity

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  1. Lesson 1: Orientation
    11 Steps
  2. Lesson 2: The Great Stage: Introduction to the West
    13 Steps
  3. Lesson 3: Ideas Have Consequences: The Enlightenment
    11 Steps
  4. Lesson 4: The Sacred & the Secular: Empires, Pirates, and Rulers
    11 Steps
  5. Lesson 5: Royal Science: The Scientific Revolution
    11 Steps
  6. Lesson 6: The Creators: Pascal, Vermeer, Johnson, and Bach
    11 Steps
  7. Lesson 7: The Devil Has No Stories: The French Revolution
    12 Steps
  8. Lesson 8: I Am The Revolution: Napoleon Bonaparte
    13 Steps
  9. Lesson 9: Deus Ex Machina: The Industrial Revolution
    11 Steps
  10. Lesson 10: The Antiquary & the Muse: Scott, Austen, and the Romantic Poets
    12 Steps
  11. Lesson 11: No Vision Too Large: Wilberforce & Chalmers
    10 Steps
  12. Lesson 12: Culture = State: Nationalism
    12 Steps
  13. Lesson 13: Eminent Culture: Victorianism
    11 Steps
  14. Lesson 14: The West and the Rest: Victorian Missions
    13 Steps
  15. Lesson 15: The New Priesthood: Scientism and Darwinism
    11 Steps
  16. Lesson 16: The Square Inch War: Kuyper and Wilson
    12 Steps
  17. Lesson 17: The Pity of War: World War I
    11 Steps
  18. Lesson 18: Domesticity Versus Tyranny: Versailles, Dictators, and America’s Roaring Twenties
    12 Steps
  19. Lesson 19: Modern Art and the Death of Culture: Art and Architecture
    11 Steps
  20. Lesson 20: I’ll Take My Stand: The Thirties
    11 Steps
  21. Lesson 21: The Lost Generation: Literary Converts
    12 Steps
  22. Lesson 22: The Wrath of Man: World War II
    11 Steps
  23. Lesson 23: The Cross and Perseverance: World War II, Bonhoeffer, and Churchill
    13 Steps
  24. Lesson 24: Personal Peace and Affluence: The Fifties
    11 Steps
  25. Lesson 25: The Great Divorce: The Sixties
    11 Steps
  26. Lesson 26: The West Like the Rest: The Seventies and the End of Modernity
    11 Steps
  27. Lesson 27: The Triumph of the West: The Fall of Communism and Postmodernity
    12 Steps
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The following transcript was automatically generated and may contain errors in spelling and/or grammar. It is provided for assistance in note-taking and review.

Welcome to our first regular lecture. As usual, we’ll start out with the title and go into our topic we’re going to be covering. We’ll also take a look at the principles, what this first video is going to be all about. what was kind of the big main idea we want to get to today. Now I like to start out by explaining and actually giving you first of all the title. Now the title for this is called The Great Stage and our actual topic is called Introduction to the West. This is kind of a hodgepodge lecture. We’re going to be looking at some big ideas, some big general things in history with some specifics of course thrown in there as well, but this is almost an introduction to the rest of what we’re going to be looking at throughout this year of our study in modernity. Now to explain this actual title, “The Great Stage,” I have a quote here I want to read to you by one of the main characters we’ll take a look at today. His name was John Amos Cominius. He was a great Czech preacher and teacher from the 1600s, somebody who really figures prominently into this time period. So let me just begin with this quote, give you an idea. This, by the way, is from Restoring Cominius by Benjamin Kieras, and he opens up the book with this quote by Cominius that says, “We all stand on the stage of the great world. “Whatever takes place here concerns us all.” This is a uniquely Christian view. It’s something that causes me to pause and causes me to think about my failures to consider the rest of the world or to consider the rest of what even people in my own town are actually going through.

But what Commendius reminds us of is something that the scriptures are constantly reminding us of, and that is to consider others. That is to consider not just those that we actually interact with on a regular basis, such as the people we live with and the people we interact with, whether it be through school or through work, but to consider the people that we just kind of brush shoulders with in the community, as well as considering people that are all the way on the other side of the world that may be going through very different challenges than what we are actually facing.

That’s the brilliant thing about Cominians. That’s the brilliant thing about Christianity is that it forces you to go beyond yourself. It forces you to consider the fact that the world is a great stage. And whatever happens in one place actually affects us over here. Especially when you start considering the fact that we’re not just looking at the history of the West. I mean, that’s going to be our focus this year, But we have to understand that the Church, the whole story of the faith from the Garden of Eden right down to the present day, that’s a story that does not just take place in this idea that we call West. It’s a story that takes place all around the world. And that’s really kind of what we’re going to be trying to follow in certain, as certain lectures throughout this course this year, is how has the Gospel actually gone forth?

How has the church actually positively affected other cultures all around the world? And honestly, we’re just going to be able to scrape the surface. There is so much here. It’s like the rest of history. There’s so much to learn. There’s always more to know. And if you’re like me, you’re going to be constantly wanting to read more. You’re going to be constantly refining your opinions, finding new details, finding new nuances. Hopefully you’ll figure out, like in most subjects, there’s no way you can really ever know all of this stuff. You must be a lifelong student. Well, with that kind of said, at the very beginning to explain our whole idea of this topic, let’s go ahead and talk about what the West actually is. And so, ask this question right away. What do we actually want to define as the West? We could simply define it geographically. And if you ever take a course in Western Civilization or a course that mentions Western Civilization, which by the way has become increasingly unpopular, most of the great universities here in the States no longer really have focuses upon Western Civ, or Western Civilization as they used to call it.

That has changed much. Part of the reason for that is because Western Civilization was typically seen as Europe and then the United States. And in a sense, that’s kind of where Western civilization was geographically situated. But in another sense, that’s really too small and too narrow for the focus that I want you as the student to be thinking about. We need to think about it as something bigger than that. J.R.R. Tolkien, the great author of Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, he described this idea of “Western-ness,” which was partly based upon these cultures of Europe that he so admired and loved to read their old tales of and liked to model his own stories after, but again, it was something bigger than just old, ancient, long-gone Europeans.

If we look at the scriptures and we study the idea of West, especially in the book of Genesis, we come across this very intriguing idea.

For example, the direction of West, throughout antiquity actually, was often seen as the direction of things ending. It was seen as the direction of death. After all, that’s where the sun sets. Whereas the East was always seen as the direction of beginnings. It was seen as the direction of Eastern things. So the Mesopotamians, for example, had the goddess Ishtar, who was the goddess of new life. A more modern name for her would be Esther, which literally means “star of the east” or the “morning star,” which, curiously enough, is a title attributed to Christ. We look at Christ, we see that his birth is heralded by a star in the east, so that’s a beginning there, a sign of new life. We look in the book of Revelation, we see that Christ will return from the east. We also can take a look at the story of the garden and see that it was planted in the east. Now there’s this curious thing in Genesis, particularly in what happens after the garden, after the fall. Specifically in the fact that characters such as Abraham are actually called to travel west, away from the garden. Whereas characters such as Cain, characters such as Lot, characters such as the people who built the Tower of Babel, they all head east. There’s There’s kind of this interesting divide here, this antithesis we might call it, where you have two different ideas that are really warring against each other.

And what’s curious about that is that we see throughout Genesis, we see people going towards the East, going towards a place where there is new life, where there is beginning, where the Garden of Eden had once been.

But it’s always done out of a type of disobedience. The characters of Cain and Lot and the people that built the Tower of Babel are not the people that we want to hold up as heroes of the faith or those who are actually following God in any kind of significant way.

Whereas Abraham is called to go west, he’s actually called to go towards the direction of death. It’s kind of this incredible test of faith. Will he actually trust God to actually save him apart from going and pursuing the garden of his own or pursuing a great tower like the people of Tower of Babel did or even what Lot did, which was choosing what he saw as the best lands, right over by Sodom and Gomorrah.

So it’s this interesting, this concept here, that West was kind of seen as this direction of obedience. It was seen as this direction of following God even into death, recognizing that he actually had resurrection past that actual death. So that’s an important thing to keep in mind as we talk about what the West actually is. It’s not just geography. It’s not like you listen to this and you suddenly think of East as evil. It’s not that simple. It’s much more complex than that. It’s just that we have this type or this symbol in Genesis that connects the idea of moving West with the idea of obedience to God, at least in the book of Genesis.

What I think though is most curious is what the Indian author and and Christian, Vishal Mangawati actually says about the West. And this is the principle for today. I’ll give it to you in a single sentence. Vishal Mangawati says that the Bible is the soul of Western civilization. So Western civilization is not limited to a certain geography. It is not simply Europe and the Americas or even just the United States. It is much bigger than that. geographically and even time-wise. What he’s saying is that this whole idea of Western civilization, when you see its highlights, when you see the best parts of it, we have to understand something.

We’re gonna be seeing a lot of dark times this year. We’re going to see a lot of fallen heroes even, or even fallen Christians. It’s not like the characters we’re going to study are somehow these perfect people. That’s never a correct picture of history. But what Mangawati understands is that the actual message contained within the scriptures, the message where God actually says who he is, where he actually says who we are, and he actually provides a solution for us to spend life in eternity with him, since he is, after all, our entire goal.

He says that that idea right there, that whole communion with God, that is the soul of Western civilization. It’s really the soul of Christian civilization. It’s really the soul of what civilization actually meant to be. I’m going to go on to actually in his great book, the book that made the world. He quotes H. Grady Davis who says this about how the Bible changed the world, particularly when cultures of Europe and the Americas began to spread all throughout the world, throughout modernity as we’ll see this year. He said 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.

So right away that the scriptures affected the way that people thought. The scriptures began to give new categories for how to think about things. The scriptures provided a worldview to actually make sense of who we are, to actually make sense of why this world is the way that is, and to actually even and give an intellectual hope for something beyond this world.

I’ll go on with a quote. “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, most familiar, and most dependable source and arbiter of intellectual, moral, and spiritual ideals in the West.

” It is the best-selling book of all time. It is the book that has been the most influential on how a people should live, and it has never been as simple as just prescribing certain rules.

If somebody thinks that the Christian story or the gospel story is simply about doing certain things and not doing other things, they’ve really missed the entire point. Because the entire scriptures are presented as a tale, as a story of a God who desperately loves his people, not because he has to, but because he wants to.

That’s an incredible thing. Now, in order to unpack this even further as part of our principle here, I want to talk a little bit now about why or what the Bible is, how we actually know that it’s authoritative and so forth. And that key word, authoritative, that’s essential right now. In fact, we need to understand that the entire history of mankind and especially the history of modern cultures often asks the question of who has authority or by what authority do governments and people rule.

In fact, one of the great themes we’re going to see as we study modernity is the theme of revolution, the theme of overthrowing an authority and replacing it with another authority or the theme of determining by what standards we actually decide what is right from what is wrong.

This goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden when Satan challenged the authority of God and asked Eve, “Did God really say that you can’t do these things? Did he really give you this warning?” That very authority has been questioned from the very beginning. It’s something that we naturally buck against. It’s something that my own children are often asking when I tell them to do something, “Why?” And it’s a fair question. It’s a question that must always be answered. The curious thing about it though, of course, is that we often find, paradoxically, that sometimes the answers for why we do these things are found by actually obeying them.

It goes back to Anselm’s great quote where Anselm, the great medieval philosopher, said that we must first believe in order to understand. There’s something incredible about how the faith actually allows for proper understanding and likewise how obedience actually understands or allows us to understand the proper basis of authority in the first place.

I was curious too about this time of modernity that we’re looking at is we see things like the Westminster Confession of faith, which in fact you’ll read the very first chapter of that confession, which was written in the 1640s in England by a series or by several different clergy members from all around the British Isles.

But it begins with the question of authority, because the very first chapter deals with the authority of the scriptures. Why the scriptures are necessary, what actually makes the scriptures authoritative, essentially answering the question, “How do we know what we know?” How can we actually trust the scriptures as we know them? One of the things we have to answer first of all, one of the things I want you to put down here in your notes, is the whole distinction between what we call general revelation and special revelation.

You may be very familiar with this idea already. General revelation is essentially what we can see in creation. And general revelation tells us that when we look at the creative world, when we look at the universe and so forth, we have an inkling, even though evolution may say otherwise, we have an inkling that this was created, that this was made, that by sheer magnificence, by its sheer grand scope and so forth, there must have been something extremely powerful behind it.

Commonly in Romans, that’s always seen as God himself. General revelation can also be, however, something like our own conscience. For example, we have a conscience no matter what culture we come from, we have a conscience where we understand that certain things are wrong and that certain things are actually right.

We may have sometimes deadened our conscience, we may have sometimes allowed ourselves to accept things that are not actually correct or true, but all the same, we have a conscience.

That’s all general revelation. revelation is something very unique. A special revelation would be the actual works of the scripture, those actual 66 books, the canon of the Old and New Testaments. Those books themselves are the actual words of God, how he actually reveals himself to his people, how he actually, what he actually wants us to know about who he is, who we are, and how he has actually reconciled us to himself.

They’re incredible because they use multiple authors, and they use the gifts and the education and the style and the personality, the word choices of those authors, but they’re done as God’s Word through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and thus they can actually be trusted. In fact, that really is the big question. How can the scriptures themselves actually be trusted? This is, of course, is something I’m just gonna kind of briefly touch on. This is a huge, huge question. Something that needs to be taken into greater scope, which is actually something I do when I teach medieval history and early church history. We take a whole lecture, for example, on the authority of the New Testament. Well, today we’re just gonna have to cram it into our principle here. There’s a few scriptures I want to point out because one of the curious things about the authority of the scriptures is that the scriptures themselves attest to their own authority.

It’s kind of this curious thing where they actually describe how they themselves are authoritative. For example, we have 2 Timothy 3.16 that tells us that all Scripture is God-breathed. It’s all from Him directly. We have 2 Samuel 23.2 where the Old Testament itself is called the Word of God. Or, for example, we have several references in the New Testament that accept the Old Testament as being authoritative, the actual Word of God. We We have Luke 1, 68-79. We have Matthew 5, 18. And we have Acts 4, 24-25. We also have examples like the letter of Peter, 2 Peter 3, 16 specifically, where we see that the apostle Peter treasured the writings of other apostles and considered them to be authoritative.

He considered them to actually be the Word of God. And so sometimes what’s curious about modern scholarship is when they look back at how the Bible came to be, they often say, “Oh, well, the Church determined at a certain point in time.” Say, for example, 325 AD when the Council of Nicaea occurred. They’ll often say, “The Church determined at that time what the books of the Bible were and which books were not actually Scripture.” But that’s a very simplistic view, and it really doesn’t take into account the many different writings that praise scripture as the Word of God prior to that date. In fact, it wasn’t really the church that determined what was scripture. The church simply recognized what people already saw in the church throughout time as scripture. So these books have been handed down century after century from generation to generation as the Word of God. The other thing to think about the scriptures too. So the scriptures are not necessarily this magical text that somehow automatically converts someone. One of my favorite tales is the story of Augustine, the great North African pastor and writer and theologian of the early church. He was somebody who had memorized large portions of scripture. He was somebody who knew the scriptures better than most of us know them, and yet he was completely lost. He was completely trapped by his own lust, his own passions, his own sins. And it took a miraculous conversion. In other words, it took the Holy Spirit to actually convince him of the authority and of the need of God through the Scriptures. That’s why, for example, the leaders throughout the history of the church have often called the Scriptures the school of the Holy Spirit. That’s why we’re encouraged often by our pastors and by other leaders in our church to actually make prayer an essential part of how we read the scriptures so that we begin to actually understand them on the basis of belief.

And when of course we struggle with things like unbelief, as we all are want to do, we can pray like the person who spoke to Christ prayed, “Lord I believe but help me in my unbelief.” Another thing that’s incredible about the scriptures is that they are ultimately internally consistent. They agree with each other. We could, of course, take apart different case studies and talk about how certain verses seem to be at odds with each other, but the thing is this, we use scripture to actually interpret other scripture.

In other words, this book that has some of the most copies of it of any other work in all of history. This book that’s been translated into more languages than any other work, this book that has sold more copies than any other work, has been found to be internally consistent, but it’s also been found to be consistent with the experiences that we have in this world. In other words, the Bible properly explains to us who we are and why we experience this fallen world the way we experience it and it provides an actual workable solution for death because the solution does not depend upon us.

The solution is entirely dependent upon a God who is entirely outside of us and can do what he wants because he is infinite. And what’s marvelous about this is if you look at the history of the church you would almost think that the church has this almost disposition to just kind of sit back and let things happen, but you don’t actually see that, at least not with the majority of the church. What you see throughout the history of time, and you do of course see that tendency, but what you often see is you see a church that’s active. You see a church that goes out on missions. You see a church that actually sacrifices their own time, their own fortunes, and even often their own lives in the service of others. So it’s far from actually sitting back and letting God do all of the work. And yet at the same time, it recognizes that God does do all the work. And so therefore we can actually go out and do work in the world, knowing that the Holy Spirit will see it through. It’s an incredible thing. But just keep this in mind, as we take a look at modernity When we take a look at the spreading of Western culture, which soul was the scriptures according to Vishal Mangalwadi, which provided a proper authority for how to understand right from wrong and understand ourselves and this world itself, these are the things that stamped modernity.

For good or ill, they stamped it when they were applied either rightly or wrongly. But that really is the story we’re going to be looking at this year.