Janie B. Cheaney - This old house | WORLD
Sound journalism, grounded in facts and Biblical truth | Donate

Janie B. Cheaney - This old house


WORLD Radio - Janie B. Cheaney - This old house

The worldly home built by Western ideals is slowly crumbling

marchmeena29/iStock image

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Wednesday, February 2nd. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. Here’s WORLD commentator Janie B. Cheaney on foundations that don’t collapse.

JANIE B. CHEANEY, COMMENTATOR: Is it just me, or is our house falling apart?

From my perspective of seventy-plus years, the 1970s were objectively worse than today. But seeds sown then appear to be re-seeding themselves now. I’ve always been interested in the history of ideas. But try to explain big philosophical/worldview trends to your average library book club. Is there a concrete image that can help us understand what’s happening?

Well, try this:

Imagine Western civilization as a house built on the ruins of Athens and Jerusalem. The foundation is Biblical truth applied to a civic understanding of all things in subjection to God. These truths are not quite self-evident and human selfishness and cruelty applies them haphazardly at best. Nevertheless, islands of mercy dot the landscape and universities are springing up, offering knowledge to anyone lucky enough to get there.

By the time of the early Renaissance, the house is solid and ready to expand. With the Reformation, literacy explodes. The foundation is still Biblical truth, the roof is God’s abiding presence, and the walls are geographical boundaries: almost all of Europe, soon expanded to North America.

“Revolutions” begin to hammer on the roof in the 1700s: scientific, rational, romantic. None of them could have come about without some unifying sense of spiritual reality. But by the time Darwin arrives, the shingles are gone and timbers are splintered. If evolution can explain the universe, who needs God? Marx and Nietzsche concur, and by the end of the 19th century the roof is gone, leaving the West open to the blinding sun of modernist materialism.

Materialists deny supernatural reality, but not objective reality. All that’s needed, they believe, is for science to explain everything in materialist terms, and then everyone will abandon their superstitions. On we go to a bright new world. Only it didn’t play out that way: Two world wars and massive destruction led to disenchantment with reality. What if everything we took to be real is only a social construct? Postmodernism began simmering in academic circles. If social realities can be constructed, they can also be deconstructed.

Modernism removed the roof. Postmodernism took away the floor.

The house of the West now looks like rickety walls surrounding rickety platforms built by warring tribes. The woke, the unwoke, the privileged, the marginalized, are all feverishly trying to reinforce their scaffolds with timbers taken from other scaffolds. It’s no way to build; in fact, it looks a lot like collapse.

But there’s another house. “As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (I Peter 2:4-5). It has a sure foundation, leakproof timbers, solid walls.

Can you see it?

I’m Janie B. Cheaney.

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.


Please wait while we load the latest comments...