Thought Bomb #1

When looking around the ruins of Western culture, and while strolling through the dilapidated remains of the Western Christian church, we might do well to ask, “How did it come to this?”

In fact, it is no mystery how things came to be as they are. The real mystery is how to fix it.

One can trace our modern predicament back through a series of ‘thought bombs’. The thinking of several philosophers, politicians, psychologists and artists reshaped the world as we know it.

Probably the first bomb to begin the others was William of Occam.

To understand his influence, it is necessary to imagine life through the eyes of Medieval Man. To him, the world was a world created by, and ruled by, God. God was both transcendent and worthy of worship, while being involved in earthly affairs through Providence or miracle. Jesus Christ was the God-man. Man was sinful, dependent on God, and in need of grace. The universe was an ordered place, where God’s moral laws held sway over all.

Probably most significantly different from the modern’s was the view that the universe was filled with mystery and could only be understood by revelation. Thus, the primary way of understanding reality was not by observing it with the senses, but by faith in what God had revealed to be true of it. Though not all who held these views were regenerated Christians, this was the essential view of Western medieval culture.

William of Occam was a monk who lived from 1288 to 1348. William pioneered an altogether new way of perceiving reality. He contended that the universals which medievals regarded as giving the universe order (the true, the good, the beautiful) did not exist except in people’s minds. Knowledge was discovered not by using universals to understand particulars, but by examining particulars themselves. In William’s mind, particulars were the only things one could observe and know with certainty.

It’s hard to describe the explosion of this thought bomb in a few sentences. Richard Weaver took a whole book to describe it. It’s important you read this book at some point.

But if we are to try to capture the explosion with the limitations of our cameras, it might look like this: man’s focus moved away from the transcendent, eternal, permanent and absolute things towards the immanent, temporary and imperfect things. The organ of knowledge would inevitably shift away from faith toward sense experience. Man began to think of the universe with himself at the centre. God was bumped, and increasingly became something other than the purpose of man’s existence.

Thought bomb #1 would set off a chain reaction of other thought bombs.

The debris you call the world is the fallout.

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