From “God, Revelation and Authority”
by Carl F. H. Henry, 1913-2003
The crisis of word and truth is not, however, in all respects peculiar to contemporary technocratic civilisation. Its backdrop is not to be found in the mass media per se, as if these sophisticated mechanical instruments of modern communication were uniquely and inherently evil. Not even the French Revolution, which some historians now isolate as the development that placed human history under the shadow of continual revolution, can adequately explain the ongoing plunge of man’s existence into endless crisis. Why is it that the magnificent civilisations fashioned by human endeavour throughout history have tumbled and collapsed one after another with apocalyptic suddenness? Is it not because, ever since man’s original fall and onward to the present, sin has plummeted human existence into an unbroken crisis of word and truth? A cosmic struggle between truth and falsehood, between good and evil, shadows the whole history of mankind. The Bible depicts it as a conflict between the authority of God and the claims of the Evil One. Measured by the yardstick of God’s holy purposes, all that man proudly designates as human culture is little but idolatry. God’s Word proffers no compliments whatever to man‘s so-called historical progress; rather. it indicts man’s pseudo-paradises as veritable towers of Babel that obscure and falsify God’s truth and Word.
We need therefore to abandon the notion that modern science and its discoveries are the major obstacles to a living faith in the God of revelation and redemption. In earlier prescientific times, men negotiated their spiritual revolt just as vigorously and did so without invoking science and technology as a pretext.
Oscar Cullmann writes with discernment: “We must reject the false notion that our separation from the biblical witnesses has been caused by the progress of modern science so that today we cannot believe in salvation history because our world-view has changed. We must see clearly that the most recent discoveries in no way make faith in salvation history more difficult than it was for men during the days of early Christianity. This faith was just as difficult for men at that time and for philosophers of that age as it is for us, even though their philosophy was different from that of our age” (Salvation in History, pp. 319 f.).
In other words. the modern crisis of truth and word is not something historically or culturally unique.
Despite the agelessness of man’s predicament, its modern guise exhibits something new, however. Scientific ingenuity and technological genius have added novel and overwhelming dimensions to our spiritually imperilled life. By their worldwide coverage of breakthrough events, the mass media lend to the scientist a cloak of omnicompetence and latent omniscience. The atomic bomb erasure of entire cities like Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the incredibly accurate propulsion of missiles and men onto the surface of the moon and the virtual resurrection of the doomed and dying to life by organ transplants attest the scientist’s astonishing access to secrets of the external world. At distances ranging from hundreds and thousands of miles on our own planet to hundreds of thousands of miles into space, earthlings can witness the ongoing scientific penetration of new frontiers and hitherto obscure boundaries. An estimated five hundred and twenty-eight million television viewers watched the departure of the first astronauts for a mission on the moon. The fact. however, that the last moon mission lacked sufficient audience interest to justify full network coverage of the return to earth indicates how quickly the novelty of new scientific spheres is absorbed into people’s everyday expectations. The man in the street quickly absorbs the secular humanist’s trust in scientific ingenuity and technocratic planning as the only guarantee of a rewarding future; he buries heretofore unknown possibilities for human destruction under the prospect of earthly utopia.
It alters nothing to emphasise that the Christian doctrines of God and of a creation pervaded by intelligible continuities long supplied metaphysical supports for Western scientific developments and did so without issuing in notions of scientific omnicompetence. There was indeed a time when a crowning belief in the acting and speaking God of prophetic apostolic revelation, supremely manifested in the resurrection of the crucified Jesus, held far greater fascination for the mind and will of the multitudes than does even technological science today. Not only the common people but also the noblest and most discriminating began the day with prayer, offered thanks to God at table, welcomed scriptural guidance amid the daily pursuits and exigencies of life, walked in fellowship with God throughout the day, and faced death with sure confidence in a blessed afterlife. Today. however. many accept not the Spirit-breathed Word of God but the experimentally based pronouncements of science as the one and only avenue to truth and life.