By Louis DeBoer

Back in the nineteenth century conservative Presbyterian theologians were fond of calling theology the “queen of sciences.” We do not tend to think of theology as a science. They did. As they put it, in the same manner that a secular scientist approaches natural revelation, God’s testimony in his creation, and studies it, so the theologian approaches special revelation, the Scriptures, and studies it. However we might feel about such concepts and the limitations of such comparisons, the point they were trying to make is clear. And that point was that the most important study for man is the study of God’s word.

Although in the nineteenth century conservative Presbyterians were still contending for the primacy of theology, that position had largely been undermined in society at large ever since the eighteenth century. The philosophies of materialism, that matter is all that is, or at least all that counts, and of empiricism, that only that which can be physically experienced and verified is true, began to dominate men’s minds. These schools of thought were essentially atheist, teaching that man has no soul and is simply an animal, nothing more than a biological machine. The French Revolution, the prototype for the later Bolshevik revolution, with its atheistic philosophy, greatly advanced this type of thinking. Men came to believe not in a Creator, but that life could be generated spontaneously. Many so-called scientists believed this, and some even claimed they had performed experiments generating life from organic matter. Rene Descartes and Isaac Newton held such views. (Note: it is a travesty that the curricula in many Christian schools hold forth the Unitarian, Newton, as a great Christian scientist!) Darwin popularized this view in his “The Origin of the Species,” allowing a small part to God for possibly creating the “germ of life” while evolution did the heavy lifting. Actually, privately Darwin was a complete materialist, the stealth approach of not directly confronting issues like theism generally serving heretics and apostates best.

All this has brought us to the twentieth, and now the twenty-first century, where science is completely dominated by materialistic philosophy and empirical methodology, and where theology is relegated to the domain of the irrelevant, if not openly disdained as a counterproductive superstition. So, let us examine the result of all this. What has been the consequence of forsaking theology as “the queen of sciences,” and enthroning a secularized science in her place?

And in this inquiry let us, for the sake of argument, give the materialists every advantage. We will limit our arguments to what are the empirical, demonstrated results of this new philosophy. We will examine what are the material consequences of this new faith. We will leave the prime issues of salvation and of men’s fate in the world to come out of view momentarily, to see what these materialists have produced in the material world.

We will even neglect to point out that atheistic science is somewhat of a logical contradiction. Only a created order, under God’s law and sustained by his providence can provide the underpinnings for true science. The world of the materialists, ruled (if you can even use that word) by chaos and chance, makes science an illogical affair. If all events, including scientific experiments, are dependent upon chance, and the results occur randomly, then technology based upon the repeatability and reliability of scientific observation becomes improbable at best. The material world of the atheist still depends upon a created order, an orderly creation, a sustaining and governing providence, a world under law. And finally, we will not dispute how much of our technological progress has been achieved by godly men and is due to true science based on a Christian world view, and how much is due to atheistic science as pursued by materialists. We will give them all the credit and see if they can defend what they have wrought.

According to the Scriptures the family is the basic building block of society. God instituted three organizations, the family in Eden; civil government after the flood, and the church in the time of Abraham. The latter two were established to serve the former. Civil government was instituted to protect the family from the violence of ungodly men and be an earthly ministry of justice. The church was instituted to minister to the spiritual needs of the family in a world filled with idolatry and false religions. To gauge the health of a society one needs to see how the family unit is faring. That will be our standard.

Let’s examine transportation technology which has exploded over the last century. When my father was born in a rural village in the Netherlands in 1898 neither the airplane nor the automobile had been invented. There were no eighteen-wheelers and goods moved by barge on a system of canals. People traveled by train, and to get to the train station, miles away, they took a horse drawn trolley. One result of all this is that families pretty much stayed together. You knew everybody in town and had a support system consisting of an extended family of aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, etc. It also helped to keep you in line. Any moral lapses were soon known by the whole town and you were publicly shamed and under family pressure to reform. Now you can go to the big city, live as you please, and nobody knows. The family unit has disintegrated as modern transportation has made possible the atomization of the family unit. There are great benefits to the revolution in transportation technology, but is the family better off for it? I’m doubtful. We are now a nation of individuals with no sense of community and barely aware of our extended family. Personally, I miss what we have lost, and am not sure that even a GTO convertible was worth it.

Then let’s examine the revolution in communications. The telegraph, radio, television, and the internet are all relatively modern inventions. Before all that, people wrote letters, long, thoughtful letters that people treasured and kept for decades. Literate letters that recorded much of one’s life as well as one’s character. People had to know grammar and how to spell to write such letters. And since they were one-sided (until the next exchange) you had the time to fully express yourself. If a friend or parent wanted to deal with a deep issue they could without being shunted off by an embarrassed or annoyed listener. By contrast, most of today’s instant communication seems shallow and superficial. And think of radio. Yes, it has been great, especially for news, sports (remember those world series games on summer afternoons?), and weather. But then reflect that without radio the rise of Adolph Hitler, a galvanic speaker who could electrify the masses, would have been impossible. Radio in the hands of a Hitler and a Goebbels was the perfect medium for Nazi propaganda, and we all know the results—an estimated 40-50 million deaths in Europe alone. Currently, talk radio, dominated by neoconservatives, is a jungle of arrogant, opinionated, self-appointed experts, whose ignorance of our history, traditions, beliefs, and of economics and political science is abysmal. They serve only to stir up passions and sectarian strife while peddling simplistic solutions that can only lead the nation to spiritual and economic disaster. Except for Red Sox games when one is driving about, radio is a wasteland.

And let’s consider the advent of television. It’s a marvelous invention, and yes it probably has the potential to be family friendly. Back in the fifties when programming was still “decent” and choices were limited, families frequently watched their favorite show together. I grew up in Canada, where everyone watched the Toronto Maple Leafs every Saturday evening on Hockey Night in Canada. And everyone watched together with bated breath in the sixties when the American astronauts’ landing on the moon was televised live. Now we have a hundred channels and families are more fractured than ever as they have multiple television sets so everyone can watch their individual programming choices. And while the technology continues to impress, from color television, to flat screens, to giant projection screens, to HDTV, the programming has become atrocious. The technology has completely outraced the capacity of our culture to produce worthwhile programming, or for that matter, programming of any kind, so that during the night insomniacs are treated to an array of infomercials. Current programming is spewing an avalanche of morally subversive propaganda designed to normalize fornication, adultery, and sodomy, while ridiculing traditional moral values and providing a very distorted view of the real world. A generation of children raised on such fare are not only physically degenerating into exercise-deprived obese sloths, but are significantly morally and intellectually challenged while being programmed into the culture and worldview of a secular elite. A generation ago families interacted, played games together and functioned as a unit in their recreational activities. Family members got to really know each other as they entertained each other. Television changed all that. Television has been a disaster for the family.

Finally, let’s look at that most modern of communication technologies, the internet. Again, one has to admit that this is marvelous technology. Information has never been more accessible and Christians have used this technology to great advantage in spreading the truths of God’s word. You are probably reading this very article on line! Nonetheless, we have to look at the overall impact of this technology and how it is being used by society at large. And the long and the short of it is that the internet is an amoral jungle, where scams, frauds, gambling, and pornography all thrive, to say nothing of sexual predators, prostitution services, and new age cults.

None of the above is designed to deprecate technology, minimize its benefits, or ignore its potential for good. The common denominator in all the above is that how a technology is used transcends in importance the details of its abilities. If you are heading in the wrong direction, traveling in a race car, or on a jet plane, or on the “Enterprise at warp speed,” only compounds the problem. You’re far better off merely walking if you are at least going in the right direction. Now it is your theology, your worldview, the set of values and principles by which you operate, that determines your direction. Technology just gets you there faster, cheaper, and with less effort. That is why your theology will trump your technology every time. Ultimately, it’s not the impressive attributes of your technology, but what you do with it that counts.

And that brings us squarely to the question, “What direction is our current popular ‘theology’ taking us?” Let’s look at a few issues.

The bedrock of the family is the institution of marriage. Biblical law is designed to support the family and undergird marriage. The Scriptures set forth a family friendly theology. But our contemporary “theology” is radically different. First of all, we have had the decriminalization of adultery. Adultery is probably the single most effective way of destroying the family and we have essentially legalized it. Not only have we removed any judicial restraints to this destructive practice, but our culture simply screams at us that adultery is fine, that it can be fun, that you have to do your own thing, and that “love” can not be denied, and certainly not by the restraints of marriage. And for those families that have resisted the siren call to indulge one’s desires irrespective of the bounds of marriage, we have instituted no-fault divorce. Now, either partner can dissolve the marriage any time, for reasons sufficient to themselves. The marriage contract has been essentially rendered null and void. Marriage in our society is strictly a voluntary arrangement to last only as long as both partners find it acceptable. As Robert Dabney prophesied over a century ago, the women’s rights movement would reduce marriage to vagrant concubinage. Current rates of divorce and illegitimacy testify to the fact that the family is reeling under these kinds of assaults. And does anyone think that this can be compensated for by science and technology? Truth be told, in our culture technology is used to assist in driving this agenda.

A generation ago, when America still professed to be a “Christian nation,” when prayer and Bible reading were still mandated in all public schools, when Biblical law was still the acknowledged foundation of our moral code, and when marriage and the family were prized and protected, we had a different country. A man could raise a family, with a full-time wife and mother, drive a recent model Ford or Chevy, put his children through college, and live in a decent home with a reasonable mortgage, all on a single paycheck from a blue collar job. Since those days what has happened? We have forsaken a Biblical family structure in favor of feminism, and many women have scorned the roles of wife and mother as insufficient and unsatisfying in favor of careers. A corrupt government forsaking Biblical admonitions of honest weights and measures has progressively inflated our currency to relative worthlessness. (An American dollar is now worth only 2% of what it was worth a century ago.) An unscriptural anthropology, stating that man is basically good, in violation of the Apostle Paul’s precept that “he that will not work, neither should he eat,” has instituted a host of expensive social programs. We are now subsidizing every imaginable vice and shielding people from responsibility for their actions, and as a result have raised taxes to exorbitant levels. Has this “theology” helped the family? Not at all! Now, even with both parents working outside the home, the middle class is economically squeezed as never before, with inflation driving home prices through the roof, with ever-escalating taxes, while wages are actually declining when adjusted for inflation. The fact that the architects of this new order are reluctant to admit is that their materialistic philosophy has produced a declining standard of living, even when judged by strictly material standards.

Let’s take a look at another aspect of this unscriptural anthropology—rising crime statistics. The view that man is basically good has led to very tender treatment of criminals. Today parents are frightened to let their kids go off and play unsupervised as we did for hours, exploring old barns and woodland trails on our own. The cause is the release back into society of a myriad of convicted sexual predators, who even by the government’s own statistics are likely to strike again. As Solomon stated it, “The tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.” For it is cruel to subject children and families to this kind of onslaught, that makes headlines regularly.

The view that there is no God, that there will be no giving of account at the end of one’s life, and that we will not all have to someday stand before the judgment throne of Jesus Christ has real world consequences. People behave as if this life is all there is and you have to make it count because you only go around once. This has led to general decline of ethics, witnessed in the recent corporate scandals, where the pensions of thousands of workers have been stolen by greedy executives, getting what they can while they can. The entire American economy and the stock market, etc. are based on the fact that there is a basic integrity in the system and that corporate reporting is a reliable basis for investment decisions. When that sense of trust is eroded, business becomes progressively harder to conduct. The reason that the Russian economy has continued to stagnate after the fall of communism, has been because the nation is so morally corrupt that contracts are meaningless, the courts unreliable, and investment is way too risky. It takes more than democracy and free enterprise to undergird an economy; it takes a moral foundation of honesty and integrity.

Additionally, let’s look at the implications of the statement of the Apostle Paul that “the love of money is the root of all evil.” We have the most amazing medical technology in history. We have by far the most expensive health care system in the world. And we have record epidemics of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, and a host of other diseases. We are becoming progressively a sicker and sicker society. Why is this? The main reason that I can tell is what Paul alluded to, “the love of money.” Back in the eighties my mother developed cancer of the uterus. After major surgery, and after a full regimen of radiation treatments, the cancer returned and she was sent home to die. We went to an alternative therapy doctor in the Netherlands who cured her. This doctor had a waiting room full of patients with similar stories. Nonetheless he was ignored. The medical societies did not write up his successes in their journals. He won no awards as “Oncologist of the Year.” Instead he was hounded and persecuted by the medical authorities most of his career. You see, he cured people with diet and homeopathic medicines, and without drugs. There was nothing there that could be patented. He was a threat to a multi-billion dollar cancer industry. He had to be destroyed. The love of money won out over the reality of what he was accomplishing. This is why cancer patients are stuck with the horrendous choices of drastic surgery, toxic radiation, or toxic chemotherapy treatments. The only effective alternatives that exist would wipe out the industry. The same scenario is played out over again and again, not only for other diseases, but for other industries. Powerful lobbies and interest groups protect their turf and their profits while viable alternatives languish because there are no powerful interests that can profit from them. Any society driven by the love of money will experience such ills. All our vaunted medical technology can not save our health care system from horrendous failure as long as we lack the moral courage to do what is right. Out theology will win out over our technology every time.

The materialist worldview states that we are to live for this world only. The Christian worldview states we are to live to the honor and glory of God, according to his law, with our ultimate hope in the world to come. However, it is the Biblical worldview that historically has produced a better life in this world, even when that life is judged by material standards. As Paul stated it, “For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.” (1 Timothy 4:8). And as Christ taught, “Seek ye first the kingdom of heaven and his righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.” Conversely, when we forsake God’s law we are not only condemned in the world to come, but progressively come under his providential judgments in this life. Moses spent most of Deuteronomy chapters 27-28 warning Israel of the material consequences of breaking their covenant with God. Those who preach that materialism will produce material blessings wind up destroying a nation both spiritually and economically.

Technology may be neutral, but the way it is used is definitely not. Men can use it for good or for evil. This is one of the reasons that theology is the “queen of sciences.” Our theology, our worldview, the faith that informs our ethics, determines to what use we put our technology. And as men become more and more spiritually corrupt and morally bankrupt, advances in technology only serve to give them more effective tools in implementing their wicked schemes. It is for this reason that “realistic” socialists and evolutionists such as George Orwell and Aldous Huxley saw the future in very grim terms. After all, without radio and modern communications a man like Adolph Hitler would have remained a small time beer hall politician.

One can look at this, that is the material state of this present world, as a race between theology and secular science. The question being, will the material consequences of the decline of the former be outpaced by the technological advances produced by the latter. No Christian should have any illusions about where this is headed, or that the results will be anything less than sociological, cultural, and national disaster. Secular history itself bears this out and of course sacred history demonstrates that there are no technological defenses against the holy judgments of a righteous God. History is replete with instances of advanced civilizations collapsing suddenly without apparent material causes. The Anastazi cliff dwellers of the southwest are a good example. They disappeared mysteriously, abandoning their sophisticated pueblo communities. The most significant clue that archeologists have been found to explain all this is that they appear to have practiced human sacrifice. Their “theology” trumped their “science” and they vanished as a culture. The lesson is clear. What you believe is more important than what you know. Your faith trumps your technology.

The most dramatic instance of this is probably the fall of Egypt recorded in scripture. They were the most advanced and powerful civilization of their day. Their sudden collapse, decline, and domination by primitive foreign kings, the Hyksos, seems inexplicable. Their confrontation with Jahweh and their commitment to their idols and their god-king Pharaoh spelled their doom as God rained his plagues upon them. With Egypt destroyed, with Pharaoh and his army at the bottom of the Red Sea, they were easy prey for the Hyksos, the Biblical Amalekites. It was centuries before they were free again, not expelling the Amalekites until the days of King Saul. Their power, wealth, technology, and civilization could not save them. Their theology spelled their doom. For them the handwriting was on the wall, as it was in Daniel’s day, when God judged the neo-Babylonian empire, and found it wanting. Babylon’s fall was determined not by Belshazzar’s army, but by his impiety, not by his worldly might but by his faith. His blasphemous use of the temple vessels to toast his pagan gods was more significant than ten legions of troops. The decline and fall of the Roman Empire provides another signal demonstration of this truth from secular history. Despite Rome’s unparalleled military and economic power and the extent of its dominions, it could not survive the consequences of the moral rot within. The abandonment of their ancient republican virtues for luxury, vanity, and hedonism, assured their ultimate fall. Like dry rot in a mighty oak, their internal moral decay led to their external national fall. A nation’s moral state is more important that the number of its legions or the coins in its treasury.

Christians are called to be the light of the world and the salt of the earth. That is because theology is truly the “queen of sciences.” It is the truth that sets men free. It is the truth that is the basis for hope in this life and for that life which is to come. When the salt has lost its savor, then society is on the way to both material and spiritual collapse. It is not “other worldly Christianity” versus material prosperity. Christianity is the basis for material prosperity. Look at the societies that other faiths such as Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam have produced. Even the leadership of communist China have noted this. A former head of the communist government there stated that if he had to pick a religion for China it would be Christianity. He said this based on the success of western civilization versus all other societies based on rival faiths. If he can see it why can’t America?