Ideas have consequences. Just ask Pandora, Isildur, or better yet, Eve. For Pandora, the idea of knowing what was inside the mysterious box vexed her. For Isildur, the lure of ultimate power seduced him. For Eve, the idea of the wisdom of God tempted her to eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil (Gen 3:1-6). Some consequences, are disastrous.
The Enlightenment is Pandora’s box (Kant’s philosophical box). All manner of hopeless philosophies entered the world through it. The Enlightenment is man’s grab for ultimate power, to be the god of one’s self and nature, it was an attempt at ultimate power and a hope for control over all things.
Now, there’s a great absence of transcendence in the Western culture; we no longer see God’s grace in the everyday parts of our lives, both in our society and in the Church. We practically embrace materialism no matter what we profess. The great transcendentals of truth, goodness, and beauty have been disassociated from reality or discarded completely. The great virtues of faith, hope, and love are no longer relevant. All this has come about because thinking about reality has been unhinged with the bipartite path of secular Enlightenment philosophy.
The first path of secular modernity includes all the ideas bound up in Empiricism, Rationalism, and Naturalism– that all that we can know are scientific or mental constructs, and all that we are is meat machine; so we might as well follow the programming- there is no room for wonder and imagination because that isn’t real. The universe is closed, man is merely an evolving biological machine.
The second path is the Romantic reaction to Enlightenment reductionism. While proper in reacting against the Rationalism and Empiricism of the Enlightenment, Romantic philosophers began to accept Kantian idealism and his split view of reality. Instead of returning to the holistic thinking of the medieval transcendent-centered cosmos (which they already idealized), the movement grew into a human-centered cosmos: they ought to preserve human dignity by suggesting that human beings are a purpose unto themselves. Thus, Idealism and Humanism developed into Existentialism and Postmodernism. Humans can create a life of value by celebrating those things that bring health, wealth, and happiness which in actuality is distorted purpose, pleasure, and passion. Ultimate purpose here is to live one’s own personal truth because existence precedes essence. Life is what you make it. There are no universal narratives and all truth is culturally relative. Man and the universe are one.
In the end, these philosophies result in despair. They offer no hope, because they do not start with a personal God, but man. They offer only the darkness of nihilism, the false hope of existentialism, an unintelligible pantheistic union… or just an ultimate nothing; and beyond that, even the darker false hope of humanistic narcissism, which offers the transformation of the human being into his own creator-god.
Modern man is stuck in Plato’s cave where the materialistic worldview is portrayed as reality, but it is nothing more than a puppet show and shadows brought about by the Enlightenment project.
Worse yet, there are Christians stuck in the cave of modernity too. They have accepted the modernist mindset which has exceedingly great consequences for their views of human nature, Scripture, morality, and ultimately, God.
But this is not a mere theological or apologetic issue; it is an issue of living life in reality. As G.K. Chesterton said, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.”
‘The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater.’— J.R.R. Tolkien, Fellowship of the Rings
When Pandora opened her box all manner of atrocities entered reality. But the very last thing to exit was hope. When Ilsidur lost the ring, it would pass through Gollum to an unlikely hero offering hope from the least capable of beings. And in our world, when all creation was cursed as Adam and Eve fell into temptation a glimmer of hope arises in the protoevangelium of Genesis 3:15 when God announced that the seed of the woman would crush the head of the seed of the serpent.
What Plato had wrong is the answer to the cave. The answer isn’t in knowledge for its own sake.
Further, the answer isn’t in religious practice alone. Neither is it in human wisdom or education. . Nor is it in action or emotion. The answer is in person. That is, A Person. That is, The Person.
At the center of all things, the grounding for all good things, is Jesus Christ, Light of the world, the Way for Life, and Truth Incarnate. The Incarnation is the very center of history, and through it, we can apprehend the proper telos for all thinking, acting, feeling, and living of life. He Alone is the fulfillment of our purpose and function. He Alone is the fulfillment of all religion. He Alone is the fulfillment of all knowledge. And the way out of the cave begins when we understand that by joining Himself to human nature, He has made a way for man to come into relationship with his Creator. In Him we move and have our being. This is the way that we become fully and truly human, by losing ourselves and coming into obedience under the King. The beauty of the path of obedience is that in serving the King, man may also be adopted into the Kingdom and as radical a statement as it is… He makes such men co-heirs. At the center of all things, the grounding for all good things, is Jesus Christ, Light of the world, the Way for Life, and Truth Incarnate. The Incarnation is the very center of history, and through it, we can apprehend the proper telos for all thinking, acting, feeling, and living of life. He Alone is the fulfillment of our purpose and function. In Him, we live, move, and have our being…. He has made away for us towards this hope, through his life, death, and Resurrection….
“The Son of God became a man to enable men to become sons of God.”―C. S. Lewis
Looking back through the annals of time we can reflect on the men and women who stood up for the Truth and the Way, even if faintly grasped through a darkened prism, inspired by hope, impacting their culture through transcendental writings of philosophy, theology, poetry, and narrative.
Consider the classical works of Aristotle, Athanasius, Augustine, Anselm, and Aquinas. Or the Works of the Poets, the Story-Tellers, and the Artists of the Great and Classical Christian Tradition. Under the same umbrella are the Imaginative Literary Giants of the 20th century (such as G. K. Chesterton, C. S. Lewis, and J.R.R. Tolkien) who stand out as witnesses to this philosophical/cultural tradition in which reason, revelation, mystery, and imagination all speak to a unified worldview… all under the Lordship and Light of Christ and His Kingdom.
Some have called this, “The Great Conversation.” Others may call it “The Western Tradition.” Here, I call it The Fellowship (in honor of The Inklings mentioned above) The task set before us in joining them is to reconcile Faith, Reason, Imagination, Mystery and Revelation in the pursuit of what is True, what is Good, and what is Beautiful; here I approach the pre-Enlightenment tradition knowing that all truth is God’s Truth. Athens and Jerusalem were indeed created by the same God and all that is true finds its fulfillment in Jesus Christ.
“In the case of good books, the point is not to see how many of them you can get through, but how many can get through to you.”— Mortimer J. Adler, How to Read a Book
Of course, the most amazing work of classical literature is Holy Scripture itself. And Holy Scripture is part of the canon of Great Works, in fact, its the epitome of the Great Works. God did not neglect beauty when He created the world, and He did not neglect it when He inspired the composition of the Bible. The literary parts of the Bible are replete with artistry, and to pay attention to it and unfold it through analysis is an important part of understanding the Truth, the Life, and the Way. Not only are the individual books of Scripture great literature, but taken as a whole, the Bible represents the human story- from tragedy to triumph; the Bible as a whole is the true Great Classical Comedy of Reality- all is Restored at the End.
“Visit many good books, but live in the Bible.”— Charles Spurgeon
Today, we join The Fellowship to recapture the wisdom that lies in the works of its greatest thinkers, appreciating how God has used the sharpest minds and noblest ideas of the past 2,500 years to point to timeless gospel truth. Here, I seek to join in this Great Conversation observing those who wrote in this classical tradition seeking their God-given wisdom to impact the culture of today, ultimately for the cause of Christ and His gospel message.
“Taking Captive the Noblest and Greatest Ideas of the Classical World: Making them Obedient unto Christ. Reflecting on Faith & Culture. Re-integrating Reason, Revelation, Mystery & Imagination to Exhort Biblical Truths in a Disenchanted World” — Jamie Bennett
My Purposes for Writing Here Are:
- To Fellowship with the Great Thinkers of the Past through the Great Books
- To Expound, Exhort, Read, and Discuss the Truths found in Holy Scripture
- To Explore the Wisdom, Wonder, & Reality of the Biblical Worldview
- To Exhort Gospel Truth to a Disenchanted World
- To Rescue People from Plato’s Modern Cave (the un-Enlightenment of Modernity)
- To Engage with the Heroes of the Great Classical & Christian Traditions
Jamie is a follower of the King, Jesus Christ; a husband, a father, and a classical theologian. Further, he enjoys writing on cultural content and how the gospel compels us to enter into the social dialogue to announce the presence of the kingdom and the return of the King. He currently resides in the state of Florida. He and his wife met in high school and celebrated their 20th year of marriage in 2020. They have two children, a 11-year-old daughter, and a 15-year-old son. He is currently pursuing a Master of Divinity degree from Houston Baptist University.
Jamie’s desire is to impact the culture and the church by equipping Christians with a firm foundation of knowing what they believe and why they believe it and how to define, defend, and think about it. He hopes to help the Church think critically about their faith and to help the culture think Christian-ly about faith and the world around us. Further, to help the Church live fully and gratefully as Kingdom participants living to the calling of the Great Commandments and the Great Commission. Finally, his ultimate and chief end is to glorify God and to make the name of Jesus famous!