“If a soldier is imprisoned by the enemy, don't we consider it his duty to escape?. . If we value the freedom of mind and soul, if we're partisans of liberty, then it's our plain duty to escape, and to take as many people with us as we can!”
― J.R.R. Tolkien
There’s a great absence of transcendence in the Western culture; we no longer see God's grace in the everyday parts of our lives, both in our society and in the Church. We practically embrace materialism no matter what we profess.
The great transcendentals of truth, goodness, and beauty have been disassociated from reality or discarded completely. The great virtues of faith, hope, and love are no longer relevant. All this has come about because thinking about reality has been unhinged with the bipartite path of secular Enlightenment philosophy.
The first path of secular modernity includes all the ideas bound up in Empiricism, Rationalism, and Naturalism- that all that we can know are scientific or mental constructs, and all that we are is meat machine; so we might as well follow the programming- there is no room for wonder and imagination because that isn’t real. The universe is closed, man is merely an evolving biological machine.
The second path is the Romantic reaction to Enlightenment reductionism. While proper in reacting against the Rationalism and Empiricism of the Enlightenment, Romantic philosophers began to accept Kantian idealism and his split view of reality. Instead of returning to the holistic thinking of the medieval transcendent-centered cosmos (which they already idealized), the movement grew into a human-centered cosmos: they ought to preserve human dignity by suggesting that human beings are a purpose unto themselves. Thus, Idealism and Humanism developed into Existentialism and Postmodernism. Humans can create a life of value by celebrating those things that bring health, wealth, and happiness which in actuality is distorted purpose, pleasure, and passion. Ultimate purpose here is to live one’s own personal truth because existence precedes essence. Life is what you make it. There are no universal narratives and all truth is culturally relative. Man and the universe are one.
In the end, these philosophies result in despair. They offer no hope, because they do not start with a personal God, but man. They offer only the darkness of nihilism, the false hope of existentialism, an unintelligible pantheistic union… or just an ultimate nothing; and beyond that, even the darker false hope of humanistic narcissism, which offers the transformation of the human being into his own creator-god.
Modern man is stuck in Plato’s cave where the materialistic worldview is portrayed as reality, but it is nothing more than a puppet show and shadows brought about by the Enlightenment project.
Worse yet, there are Christians stuck in the cave of modernity too. They have accepted the modernist mindset which has exceedingly great consequences for their views of human nature, Scripture, morality, and ultimately, God.
But this is not a mere theological or apologetic issue; it is an issue of living life in reality. As G.K. Chesterton said, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.”
What Plato had wrong is the answer to the cave. The answer isn’t in knowledge for its own sake.
Further, the answer isn’t in religious practice alone. Neither is it in human wisdom or education. . Nor is it in action or emotion. The answer is in person. That is, A Person. That is, The Person.
At the center of all things, the grounding for all good things, is Jesus Christ, Light of the world, the Way for Life, and Truth Incarnate. The Incarnation is the very center of history, and through it, we can apprehend the proper telos for all thinking, acting, feeling, and living of life. He Alone is the fulfillment of our purpose and function. He Alone is the fulfillment of all religion. He Alone is the fulfillment of all knowledge. And the way out of the cave begins when we understand that by joining Himself to human nature, He has made a way for man to come into relationship with his Creator. In Him we move and have our being. This is the way that we become fully and truly human, by losing ourselves and coming into obedience under the King. The beauty of the path of obedience is that in serving the King, man may also be adopted into the Kingdom and as radical a statement as it is… He makes such men co-heirs.
“The Son of God became a man to enable men to become sons of God.” ―C. S. Lewis