A Brave New World is Here

I ran across this piece at the Gospel Coalition website.  Aldous Huxley, it turns out – not George Orwell – was spot on with his prediction of modern America.

 

Kyle Smith has a helpful piece in the New York Post exploring various parallels between Aldous Huxley’s 1932 sci-fi dystopian novel Brave New World and the reality 80 years later. Here’s the opening:

If Orwell’s “1984″ is a cautionary tale about what we in the capitalist West largely avoided, Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” is largely about what we got — a consumerist, post-God happyland in which people readily stave off aging, jet away on exotic vacations and procreate via test tubes. They have access to “Feelies” similar to IMAX 3-D movies, no-strings-attached sex, anti-anxiety pills and abortion on demand. They also venerate a dead high-tech genius, saying “Ford help him” in honor of Henry Ford just as today we practically murmur “In Jobs We Trust.”

In many ways the book, which was published 80 years ago this winter, has become sci-non-fi. It is still developing, taking on additional richness according to the times in which we read it.

You can read the rest here. One more excerpt:

Huxley also foresaw a disturbing partnership between the state and capitalism but didn’t anticipate how little need for government collusion sophisticated marketers would need to reorder society. In “Brave New World,” the state has suppressed all simple sports because they don’t require lots of expensive equipment to keep the economy humming. Instead, it relentlessly hypes complicated tech-y activities such as “electromagnetic golf.” A couple of generations ago, kids might have bought one baseball glove and one bat that would last for years. Today they instead spend hundreds of dollars on Xbox 360s and games that quickly become boring and demand to be replaced with upgraded versions.

Thanks to subliminal messages repeated thousands of times in nurseries while kids sleep, the “Brave New World” characters grow up conditioned to accept a disposable society in which everyone is always hungry for the latest thing and simply discards the old. Huxley would be surprised to see that no such indoctrination is necessary to make people throw away an iPhone that was state of the art three years ago and line up overnight to get a slightly improved version.

In his classic Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business Neil Postman argued that Huxley’s dystopia was coming to fruition more than that of Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949):

Contrary to common belief even among the educated, Huxley and Orwell did not prophesy the same thing.

Orwell warns that we will be overcome by an externally imposed oppression.

But in Huxley’s vision, no Big Brother is required to deprive people of their autonomy, maturity and history. As he saw it, people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think.

What Orwell feared were those who would ban books.

What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one.

Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information.

Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism.

Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us.

Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance.

Orwell feared we would become a captive culture.

Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny “failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions.” In 1984, Huxley added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure.

In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us.

Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us.

. . . Huxley, not Orwell, was right.

Trouble in England! (Taking an Ax to Your Own Beliefs).

What happens when the world’s greatest atheist and England’s top churchman sit down together to discuss religion?  Not dig-your-heels-in, come-out-swinging debate, in this case.  Both men, I believe, took an ax to their own belief system.

The atheist to whom I refer is Rickard Dawkins, long regarded as the most famous atheist in the world.  He is an evolutionary biologist and professor emeritus at Oxford University.  The leading British churchman is Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury.   The two conversed recently as part of a public dialog regarding the role of religion in public life in Britain.  Their topic of debate was “The nature of human beings and the question of their ultimate origin.”

The Archbishop of Cantebury Rowan Williams (R) and atheist scholar Richard Dawkins pose for a photograph outside Clarendon House at Oxford University, before their debate, February 23, 2012.

Shocking the world, Professor Dawkins confessed that he is less than 100 percent certain that there is no creator.  An incredulous Sir Anthony Kenny (a philosopher who chaired the debate) replied: “You are described as the world’s most famous atheist!”  Professor Dawkins acknowledged his precipitous fall from atheism into the muddier world of agnosticism – not being sure.  He was quick to add that he is “6.9 out of seven” sure of his belief that God doesn’t exist.

Wow!  That 0.1 difference may well be infinite.  An atheist says with conviction, “God does not exist!”  Opening up the possibility that he might exist reveals a massive shift in thinking.  Could it also signal the presence of the Holy Spirit’s secret work of regeneration in Richard Dawkins’ heart?  Regeneration is the supernatural, God inspired moment when the Holy Spirit breathes new life into a spiritually dead sinner.  As a direct result of new life, the new creation then exercises the gift of faith and responds affirmatively to Jesus’ command to “repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15).

Time will tell with Professor Dawkins.  We should pray for his salvation, and we should also rejoice that news of his leap from the pinnacle of atheism is sending thunderous ramifications through the world of unbelief.

If Richard Dawkins took an ax to his own belief system, Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, wielded an even greater ax.  Imagine the awesome opportunity.  England’s top churchman is sitting with the world’s greatest atheist at the moment he confesses a chink in his atheistic armor.  Surely, a Christian would lovingly and boldly step in with the gospel.  Surely, he would sense the presence of God’s Spirit and join him there.  Regrettably, Archbishop Williams revealed that he isn’t a believer, either!  Here is a smattering of inconceivable comments made by the Church of England’s top minister.

  • The Archbishop said he believed that human beings evolved from non-human ancestors.
  • He also said that the explanation for the creation of the world in the Book of Genesis could not be taken literally.
  • When Professor Dawkins suggested that the Pope took a rather more literal view of the origin of humans, the Archbishop merely joked, “I will ask him some time.”

If the Archbishop’s comments had been made in the context of international politics, he would have revealed himself as a traitor to his own country!  Williams is supposed to be a heartfelt defender of the Bible.  He is supposed to know the depravity of men’s hearts and believe that Christ is the only source of rescue and hope.  He is supposed to share the gospel that men might hear, repent, and believe.  Instead, he took an ax to the gospel and missed a significant opportunity to give Richard Dawkins what he needed most.

This sad exchange reveals the tragic state of affairs when men begin to arrogantly think they can pick and choose what to believe in the Bible and what not to.  Once we afford ourselves this kinglike freedom, we render the Bible’s power – in our own hearts and minds – powerless.  Obviously, Archbishop Williams no longer believes.  Is it any surprise that less than 2 percent of England’s population worships at church on any given Sunday?

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Whitney Houston Dies at 48.

Like most of America, I awoke Sunday morning to news that Whitney Houston had died the night before.  Here is the opening paragraph I read:

“Whitney Houston, who ruled as pop music’s queen until her majestic voice was ravaged by drug use and her regal image was ruined by erratic behavior and a tumultuous marriage to singer Bobby Brown, died Saturday. She was 48” (www.billboard.com).

What a tragic end to a success story that unraveled too quickly and fell apart in embarrassing fashion.  Her death reveals that God’s timeless wisdom shows itself true and trustworthy even when the “wise” world views it as foolish.

The apostle Paul said, “The foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Cor. 1:25).  He was speaking to Christians living in the flourishing, materialistic city of Corinth (in modern day Greece).  They were falling back in love with the world and turning their backs on the gospel-driven lifestyle.  Getting it all backwards, they saw God’s ways as foolish and the world’s ways as wise.  Recognizing the practical, even eternal, hazard of their worldview, Paul warned:

Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness” (1 Cor. 3:18-19).

The final quote is from the Old Testament; it’s a hunting metaphor, which speaks of how easily a human hunter takes advantage of the natural cunning of a predator in order to capture and kill it.  A coyote, for instance, will cleverly stalk a wounded prey animal, not knowing that he is actually walking into a trap laid by a hunter.  God just as easily “catches the wise in their craftiness.” Paul’s point is that the unbelieving world deceives itself – thinking its ways are wise and God’s foolish – but God always wins.

Whitney Houston’s tragic life is a sad example.  Her magnificent voice and fresh, youthful looks shot her to stardom.  She was apparently ill prepared, though, to handle fame and fortune.  I don’t pretend to know the details of her life, but the media’s coverage through the years reveals the heartbreaking tale of a tragic butterfly buffeted by the cruel gales of evil forces for which it is no match.

Houston’s marriage to singer Bobby Brown represented – by almost all accounts – the beginning of her tragic descent into a living hell.  Drug use and abuse quickly followed.  Her once angelic voice, which soared to the heavens, crashed back to earth.  She was booed off stage at recent concerts, not able to hit her signature high notes.  She forgot lines and appeared lost in a drunken haze.  Was Sunday’s headline of her death truly a surprise?

People can laugh at God all they want; they can cunningly avoid Him, explain Him away, and ignore Him, but His ways and wisdom always prevail.  Human wisdom always, in the end, finds itself hopelessly ensnared in the Lord’s wise trap.  We can only imagine her story had Whitney Houston known and followed Christ, but if God’s Word is any indicator, she would be alive, singing, and blessed.

I am happy to hear from readers.  Please go to the “Contact” tab on this web site and send me a message.