The second thread of thinking concerning worldliness came from Richard Weaver’s Ideas Have Consequences. In it, he critiques the pure empiricism commonly found in modernism. In the process, he ends up critiquing most of postmodernism as well… many years before it became recognized as a philosophy. Some of his material, although intended to be primarily political and social, actually represents the Scriptural concept of “the world” quite well.
I’ve succinctly defined “the world” elsewhere as “the system Satan uses to deceive and destroy.” Here I would emphasize that this is the system that Satan has used throughout history to deceive and destroy. Though the the principles by which this system operates remain constant, the particulars of its operation change. In our age, the system has taken on particularly diabolical characteristics. What are they?
Weaver points out that the driving force behind the gradual destruction of society is what he calls “The Great Stereopticon”… essentially mass media. In his age it was the motion picture, the radio, and the news organizations. He saw in his day that these three were conspiring together to change man’s focus to empirically observe particular things, instead of pondering universal concepts. In this way a great many things are undermined, not the least of which is Christianity.
The Stereopticon has become even more of a beast in our day and age. Think about the gluttony of Hollywood, or the depths of depravity found in the internet. My generation, and the one after mine, faces an all-out assault on our senses that desensitize us to pondering the bigger things in life. The Christ along with the non-Christian begin to think of their senses as the ends instead of the means. It manifests itself in a thousand ways: the unwillingness to carry our cross. The preoccupation with material things. The destruction of our families in the name of self. The dissolution of our churches as people are overlyfocused on things and people… instead of God.
Weaver says it this way:
The unexpressed assumption of empiricism is that experience will tell us what we are experiencing. In the popular arena one can tell from certain newspaper columns and radio programs that the average man has become imbued with this notion and imagines that an industrious acquisition of particulars will render him a man of knowledge… He has been told knowledge is power, and knowledge consists of a great many small things.
When our knowledge is so narrow that all we can see is a great many small things, then we cannot respond to anything bigger than what our senses can apprehend. How can we worship God when our minds, and therefore affections, are focused on what is in this world? This is the world system does… The Great Stereopticon of every age. We must resist it. And, I believe, we must fight against it. How should we as Christians do this? I’ll explore some ideas I’ve had along those lines in my next blog post.