O simple ones, learn prudence; O fools, learn sense. (Prov 8:5)
My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge (Hosea 4:6).
Sha'i ben-TekoaIf articulates truth here in his editorial entitled "The Election's Ominous Results"
Many people who go the polls in our generation are simply not thinking. They are less informed and thoughtful citizens than idolaters.
This is not what the Framers of the U.S. Constitution had in mind in Philadelphia in the summer of 1787 when those fifty-five remarkable American men of achievement -- businessmen, doctors, lawyers, farmers, and scientists, argued and drafted that document that has served America so well ever since.
... Jefferson agreed that democracy, in which the demos is the source of authority, would not be possible with a nation of illiterate, uneducated peasants. But, he said, Americans were different. Unlike the illiterate commoners and even serfs still so prevalent in Europe, Americans were, on the contrary, overwhelmingly literate, self-sufficient, independent farmers; a husband and a wife with an ax, some seeds, a plow, rifle, ammo, forty acres and a mule. Some 93% of Americans at the time of the Revolution were such yeoman farmer families. They knew essential math. They could write and keep records. They all had a Bible. They worked together in friendly and communal barn-raising parties; they built churches together and schools for their children. The common man in America was most certainly capable of self-rule, Jefferson said. The Colonial Period had lasted 150 years and self-ruling communities, relatively free of a central power, were the rule.
Now flash forward to our time, and ruminate on the recent election with its astonishing tens of millions of Americans who cast their ballots for that criminal woman with no record of accomplishment as a senator, and a record as secretary of state of one foreign policy calamity after another; she who had been recklessly irresponsible in using a private, secret email server that surely exposed the entirety of State Department communications to hostile foreign powers; this influence peddler who stuffed her payoffs into a charitable foundation, then billed her daughter’s wedding to it. One can only puzzle over the possible reasons that tens of millions of Americans voted as they did when all this was public knowledge.
Some of her supporters, the poorest, likely voted for her in the belief that she would continue the food stamps and disability payments and any other government handouts to them.
Others, though, seemed to have voted for an image of Hillary Clinton completely divorced from who she really is. They voted for what she represented. They voted for an idol. Americans have become a nation of idol worshippers “…as seen on TV!”
... The Framers of America’s democratic republic, up there in Heaven for sure, cannot be pleased with the quality of American voters today. Perhaps on their celestial TV sets they can pick up one of the most important television journalists of his generation, Jesse Waters on FOX-TV, who interviews the man-in-the street and exposes his mindboggling, frightening ignorance about American history, laws and principles.
One hopes President Trump takes cognizance of this looming disaster. If current trends continue, future elections will find ever-growing numbers of American blockheads incapable of critical thought and intelligent self-rule -- just as those European intellectuals feared three centuries ago.
In this age of unparalleled access to information, the willful ignorance of the typical American is astonishing. And dangerous. With a public education system increasingly focused on social issues instead of rudimentary education, the culture has significantly dumbed down from previous generations.
Susan Jacoby, author of The Age of American Unreason, wrote in an article in the Washington Post, "Dumbness, to paraphrase the late senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, has been steadily defined downward for several decades, by a combination of heretofore irresistible forces. These include the triumph of video culture over print culture; a disjunction between Americans' rising level of formal education and their shaky grasp of basic geography, science and history; and the fusion of anti-rationalism with anti-intellectualism."
There has been a long tradition of anti-intellectualism in America, unlike most other Western countries. Richard Hofstadter, who won a Pulitzer Prize in 1964 for his book, Anti-Intellectualism In American Life, describes how the vast underlying foundations of anti-elite, anti-reason and anti-science have been infused into America’s political and social fabric. Famous science fiction writer Isaac Asimov once said: "There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."
Mark Bauerlein, in his book, The Dumbest Generation, reveals how a whole generation of youth is being dumbed down by their aversion to reading anything of substance and their addiction to digital "crap" via social media.
Journalist Charles Pierce, author of Idiot America, adds another perspective: “The rise of idiot America today represents--for profit mainly, but also and more cynically, for political advantage in the pursuit of power--the breakdown of a consensus that the pursuit of knowledge is a good. It also represents the ascendancy of the notion that the people whom we should trust the least are the people who best know what they are talking about. In the new media age, everybody is an expert.”
It is not just the culture; the church too is declining - see here. The graph of this index tells the story of the rise and fall of religious activity. During the post-war, baby-booming 1950s, there was a revival of religion. Indeed, some at the time considered it a third great awakening. Then came the societal changes of the 1960s, which included a questioning of religious institutions. The resulting decline in religion stopped by the end of the 1970s, when religiosity remained steady. Over the past fifteen years, however, religion has once again declined. But this decline is much sharper than the decline of 1960s and 1970s. Church attendance and prayer is less frequent. The number of people with no religion is growing. Fewer people say that religion is an important part of their lives. All measures point to the same drop in religion: If the 1950s were another Great Awakening, this is the Great Decline.
From the Winder 2008 issue of Bible And Spade ...
One of the most serious problems facing the Church in the 21st century is the problem of Biblical illiteracy. Simply put, most professing Christians do not possess a sound and coherent understanding of the Bible, beginning with sound doctrine and general Biblical history. Evidence for this sad reality is quite overwhelming. And there are several salient reasons for this dangerous trend.
The Church Has Been “Dumbed Down” by the Culture
The public education system has churned out millions upon millions of young people, while holding to relatively low standards of achievement. We live in a society today where challenging children and teenagers with high standards is considered harmful to their “self-esteem.” Bad grades written in red ink are considered a cause for counseling. Instead of pushing children to excel, standards of academic achievement are lowered. Failure and difficulty, properly controlled by loving parents, should be used to motivate and develop character. Christian children are not immune to these lowered standards. Children in the Church are not properly challenged to learn fundamental doctrine and matters of Biblical history. They are also not properly taught to pursue personal holiness. Instead, Sunday school is designed to keep children entertained. Like most of our society, many Christian parents seem more concerned with appeasing children and entertaining them as opposed to disciplining and educating them. This culture of entertainment creates short attention spans and an aversion to learning.
Regarding the educational and intellectual state of the Church, Daniel Wallace succinctly says:
Those in ministry must close the gap between the church and the academy. We have to educate believers. Instead of trying to isolate laypeople from critical scholarship, we need to insulate them. They need to be ready for the barrage, because it is coming. The intentional dumbing down of the church for the sake of filling more pews will ultimately lead to defection from Christ (2006: 337).
The Church Has Adopted the Cultural Mandate to “Feel Good”
Experience rules supreme in today’s culture. “If it feels good, do it,” and forget the consequences! This mindset is at its worst in the entertainment world, particularly with reality television. One of my favorite pastimes is watching NFL football. I marvel at the athletic ability of the players, the required mental toughness and the nature of the sport. However, these days I have to tolerate players dancing around like they just won the championship after making routine plays that require no such celebration. This chest-pounding, self-aggrandizing behavior is all about doing what “feels good.”
This type of “feel good” approach to life has also infected the Church on a massive scale. Sunday sermons are no longer designed to give praise to a just and holy God and call sinners to repentance, but to make Christians “feel good” about themselves. “God wants us to be happy,” we are told. Experience matters most. This teaching is totally antithetical to what the Bible teaches about man and his relation to God. Randall Price has said it well: “[T]he church remains in a crisis with an experientially oriented evangelicalism” (2007: 26).
Personal experience is important for the individual Christian, but should not hold a place of primacy in the life of the believer. “Christian faith is not being built on the firm foundation of hardwon thoughts, ideas, history, or theology. Spirituality is being built on private emotional attachments,” writes Gary Burge. “In short, the spiritual life has become less a matter of learning than it is a matter of experiencing” (1999).
The mandates for Christian thinking and holy living are found within the pages of Scripture. Therefore, believers must have a fundamental grasp of Biblical teaching as they walk through the process of sanctification, which means they must study it to understand its meaning! And leaders in the Church must teach it to them so they can properly understand it! “Experiencing God” and having good feelings can be dangerously misleading due to the influence of the sin nature and evil forces in the spiritual realm. Gary Johnson explains the pervasive problem in overemphasizing experience and essentially promoting antiintellectualism in the modern American church:
the idea that faith must be accommodated to culture has undermined the teaching of the church’s faith. Popular evangelical faith has developed a bias against theology (not to mention the intellect) and has elevated the bias to the level of a virtue…This is reflected more and more in the pulpits of professing evangelical churches. Doctrine…is purposely avoided (2005: 1).
They focus on practical matters, such as family concerns and personal growth, not doctrine, sometimes mixing psychotherapeutic concepts with biblical teaching. They often emphasize religious experience. They seek to feel God’s love, not understand church theology, a theme that plays well with the decreasing importance of denominational doctrine among baby boomers (Cimino 1998: 2).
I recently received Donald G. Barnhouse’s Romans commentary for Christmas from my wife. It was published in the early 1950s. The preface provides an explanation and background for the writing of the series, which is opposite to the culture of the church today:
When I first became pastor…I began my ministry by preaching on the epistle to the Romans. My first Sunday in that pulpit found me giving an exposition of the first verse of the epistle. The second Sunday I started with the second verse; for three and one half years I never took a text outside of the epistle to the Romans. I saw the church transformed; the audience filled the pews and then the galleries; and the work went on with great blessing” (1952: i; emphasis added).
The modern evangelical Church often claims that this type of teaching is not needed to draw people into the Church. In fact, as stated by Gary Johnson above, this type of teaching is avoided by the Church, for fear of empty pews. The fact of the matter is, that is the exact type of teaching needed to bring about real transformation in people’s lives. The Word of God has divine and mysterious power that radically transforms people. Entertainment programs, comfy couches, soft lighting and candles do not change lives. This is a shallow and unchallenging Christianity that ultimately discourages churchgoers and leaves them unchanged. As a result, churchgoers are not equipped to defend the faith, live holy lives, and profess the good news of the Gospel to a lost world.
The Church Has Allowed Elements of Unbiblical Worldviews to Infect Its Teaching
Most Christians integrate unbiblical worldviews into their thinking without even realizing it. “Christians today have accepted and combined so many ideas from other worldviews and religions that they have created their own faith system” (Vlatch). What’s worse is that church leaders do the same thing, unwittingly leading people to believe things about themselves, the world, and the nature of truth that are contradictory to what the Bible actually teaches. Theistic evolution, long-age reinterpretations of the first chapter of Genesis, “local flood” nonsense, the sundering of much of the Old Testament from its historical connections, postmodernism, relativism, New Age beliefs, and a multitude of other unbiblical ideas have been unwittingly propagated in the Church for decades.
Contentious social and political issues are avoided, although they are explicitly addressed in Scripture or deduced from Biblical teaching, such as just war theory, abortion, homosexuality, the definition of marriage, the nature of man, the problem of evil, the proper role of government, capital punishment, property rights, corporal punishment and the raising of children, etc. Scripture touches upon all areas of life and reality, and is absolutely authoritative in its assertions. Christians must learn to reject views that are antithetical to Scripture, but they must be taught to do so by Church leadership. Instead of inculcating these unbiblical worldviews into individual minds and creating confusion, the Church should be challenging its members to reject anti-Biblical views and allow the truths of Scripture to renew their minds.