Writing in response to "Nihilism: Why America and the West are Committing Suicide," Prof. J. Ward perceptively cut right through to the heart of the matter: "Ms. Kimball sounds what was once a very familiar theme among conservative intellectuals--it is nothing less than the entire history of modernity that is to blame for the decline of the West. Let's call this 'traditional antimodernism.' The practical problem is how to deal with it and its effects politically. Here many traditionalists call for metanoia... but the only serious political take on this is to call for the extirpation of modernity--and this means modern science as much as modern views of morality, politics, theology, and metaphysics. The God-centered world of the High Middle Ages in Christian Europe.... was supported, ultimately, by the power of governments and custom. I'm afraid today's Republican candidates aren't quite up to the task at hand." (Intellectual Conservative.com)
The intellectual conservative movement began coming together at the end of WWII in reaction against the nightmare of destruction in which America and scores of other nations had just participated. As they peered "at the monuments of global conflict (they) apprehensively discerned in the State a landmark on the road to serfdom," wrote George H. Nash, author of "The Intellectual Conservative Movement in America." (p. 30)
Many early Conservatives came from backgrounds of atheism, rationalism, empiricism, progressivism, liberalism, positivism, socialism and communism and as they began to analyze the ideas that precipitated the crisis as well as to reconstruct the foundational ideas that gave birth to Western civilization they concluded that ideas have consequences. Good ideas have good consequences and evil ideas--the very ones previously held but now rejected by early conservatives--- have evil consequences.
Richard Weaver is a representative example of the early conservative intellectual movement. Extremely disillusioned with progressivism, liberalism and socialism, Weaver's profound analysis of ideas became the subject of his book, "Ideas Have Consequences," published in 1948. Concluding that evil ideas are the controlling influence throughout the West, Weaver sees nothing less than "the dissolution of the West".
Weaver traced the beginning of its deterioration to the late 14th century, when, argued Weaver, Western philosophers had made an "evil decision" to abandon belief in transcendent universals and thus the position that "there is a source of truth higher than, and independent of, man...."
The consequences of this abandonment were stark and disasterous. Forseeing the utterly destructive influence of post-modern moral relativism of our own time, Weaver observed:
"The denial of everything transcending experience means inevitably...the denial of truth. With the denial of objective truth there is no escape from the relativism of 'man is the measure of all things." (ibid, pp. 32-33)
Upon rejection of the transcendent Creator man began to imagine nature as a self-contained physical being. Next came the abandonment of the doctrine of original sin. This doctrine was quickly replaced with the 'goodness of man.' With the transcendent closed off and nature elevated in place of the transcendent Creator, man was no longer created in the spiritual image of God. The New Man was spiritually-dead beast-man for whom only the physical world of senses and instincts was held to be real. Rationalism (mind of man over mind of God) arose and materialist scientism became the most prestigious way to study beast-man.
In the final three chapters of his book Weaver offers proposals for reform. Of these the most significant is the need to drive a,
"...wedge between the material and the transcendental." (ibid, p. 34)
In his analysis of the heresies of the modern Liberal Church, "Christianity and Liberalism," (p. 1923) J. Gresham Machen explains the meaning of Weavers proposal. In Chapter 3 â€“ God and Man (pp. 61-66 ) Machen explains that:
"From beginning to end the Bible is concerned to set forth the awful gulf that separates the creature from the Creator. It is true, indeed, that according to the Bible God is immanent in the world. Not a sparrow falls to the ground without Him. But he is immanent in the world not because He is identified with the world, but because He is the free Creator and Upholder of it. Between the creature and the Creator a great gulf is fixed....In modern liberalism, on the other hand, this sharp distinction between God and the world is broken down, and the name â€œGodâ€ is applied to the mighty world process itself â€¦ To this world-process, of which we ourselves form a part, we apply the dread name of â€œGod.â€ God, therefore, it is said in effect, is not a person distinct from ourselves; on the contrary our life is a part of His. Thus the Gospel story of the Incarnation, according to modern liberalism, is sometimes thought of as a symbol of the general truth that man at his best is one with God....It is strange how such a representation can be regarded as anything new, for as a matter of fact, pantheism is a very ancient phenomenon. It has always been with us, to blight the religious life of man. And modern liberalism, even when it is not consistently pantheistic, is at any rate pantheizing. It tends everywhere to break down the separateness between God and the world, and the sharp personal distinction between God and man....According to the Bible, man is a sinner under the just condemnation of God; according to modern liberalism, there is really no such thing as sin. At the very root of the modern liberal movement is the loss of the consciousness of sin."
Early Conservative intellectuals agreed that totalitarianism was an offspring of liberalism (pantheism) and all tended to emphasize two crucial turning points:
1. the troubled Renaissance-Reformation period which witnessed a great falling away from Christianity in tandem with a revival of occultism, i.e., Hermeticism, Kabbalism, pantheism, and reincarnation.
2. the so-called liberal century (19th century). Here lay the germs of twentieth-century madness, with its' illusions of progress.
Early Conservative Intellectuals concluded that at the root of modernity was evil ideas. Evil ideas/evil thoughts had generated evil deeds. This being the case, there was only one thing to do, reassert the truths of Christianity, not because a revival of Christianity was merely useful, but because it was true.
Said William J. Buckley, Jr. in 1951:
"I myself believe that the duel between Christianity and atheism is the most important in the world."
In 1950, Conservative Intellectual John Hallowell wrote:
"Christianity is the most complete and perfect revelation we know of the nature of God and of God's will for man...." It is "the basic insights of the Christian faith (that) provide the best insights we have into the nature of man and of the crisis in which we find ourselves. That crisis is the culmination of modern man's progressive attempt to deny the existence of a transcendent reality...and of his progressive failure to find meaning and salvation...Only through a return to faith in God, as God revealed Himself to man in Jesus Christ, can modern man find redemption from the tyranny of evil." (Nash, pp. 52-53)
Evil said Weaver, is not just a bad dream or the creation of a few antisocial men. It is a 'subtle, pervasive, protean force,' and original sin is a 'parabolical expression' of this 'immemorial tendency of man to do the wrong thing when he knows the right thing.'
The utterly destructive implications of sin were obvious to early Conservatives, thus as Prof. J. Ward pointed out they called for metanoia. In theology, metanoia is used to refer to the spiritual transformation, or change of heart which can only be brought about by repentance.
Without metanoia, the West and America will absolutely fall under the tyranny of evil.