The West Is Dead. Long Live the West.

The other day I read Robert Capon complaining about a kitchen knife that was as dull as dialectical materialism. Marx got his version of that from Hegel, modified it so as to make the commies responsible for the deaths of tens of millions, thus making the consequences of dialectical materialism anything but dull. Hegel — back when his dialectical method was as dull as a kitchen knife — taught that a thesis would produce its antithesis, the two of which would then collide, making a synthesis. Still with me? After that, the synthesis would assume the role of a new thesis, producing a new antithesis. They would collide, producing a new synthesis, and so it would go on, with world history ratcheting itself up to the waiting future glories, which turned out to be, for Hegel, Napoleon on the back of a horse. Must have been some horse.

I do have a point, and I am getting to it. Cool your baby jets.

Like all heresies, this dialectal one succeeds by isolating some aspect of the truth, and highlighting it as the expense of other truths. Heresies are caricatures of partial truths. History doesn’t ratchet forward by means of theses, antitheses, and syntheses. Not a bit of it. But there is a recurring cycle that defines human history, and the archetype of this was the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

The key to human history is the pattern of death and resurrection, and this is why faithful believers who are staring at the approach of 2014 with a baleful eye need to cheer up quite a bit. And by “cheer up” I do not intend for anyone to adopt the unsupported optimism of an insufferable optimist. I am talking about understanding history in gospel terms, not panglossian terms.

Think of it this way:

“Christendom has had a series of revolutions and in each one of them Christianity has died. Christianity has died many times and risen again; for it had a God who knew the way out of the grave” (The Everlasting Man, p. 250).

Too many Christians are stuck in the third verse of Longfellow’s poem, and need to finish the song.

And in despair I bowed my head:
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

It is too easy to identify with a recent meme making the rounds — that this was a country founded by geniuses and run by idiots. It is not hard to come up with multiple examples of this — and then to read the story as though it were simply a sad and sorry death story instead of a death and resurrection story.

Far too many of us have lamented with the Psalmist, “I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a green bay tree” (Ps. 37:35). And when the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do (Ps. 11:3)? Their eyes are fat like grease, and their press secretaries lie like dead flies on a window sill. And get away with it!

But remember. God knows the way out of the grave. And not only does He know the way out of the grave, it has been His plan and intention to govern all history by this means. He leads us, always, out of the grave. But first it is His glorious intention to bring us to that grave, and we must always trust Him as we approach it. He has done this countless times for us. He has done this great thing over and over.

I have written this before, and trust that I will have occasion to write it again. The West is dead. Long live the West. And while there are qualifications I could make here — for western civilization is not the same thing as the kingdom of Heaven — I will pass by all such qualifications in serenity and peace. I do this because all the animus that western civ draws from the ignorati is because it reminds them of the kingdom of Heaven.

Consider the broader context of the “green bay tree” passage.

“Wait on the Lord, and keep his way, And he shall exalt thee to inherit the land: When the wicked are cut off, thou shalt see it. I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a green bay tree. Yet he passed away, and, lo, he was not: yea, I sought him, but he could not be found” (Ps. 37:34-36).

Wait on the Lord. Stop chafing, and start rejoicing. Keep His way, follow His Word. What will He do? He will exalt you to inherit the land. The wicked are going to be cut off, and you will see it. Though the wicked currently have their luxuriant leaves, hang on. We have plenty of leaf bags right here, and our gospel pick-up truck is full of rakes.

Theology That Bites Back



Opt-in here and you'll receive a weekly digest of the thoughts and musings from yours truly that wend their way into blog posts. In addition, from time to time, you should also receive notices of new book releases, upcoming events, and continent-sized cyclones on Jupiter.

Congratulations. You did it.

  • timothy

    A beautifully grounded optimism.

  • Laurence

    Yes, supported optimism is best.
    Thanks for the post–I’ll be sharing this with my Omnibus class which happens to be reading Veith’s Postmodern Times

  • sean carlson

    Interesting.  Using similar OT allusions could the Lord’s Church (at least in the West) be in exile?

  • Martin Downes

    Martyn Lloyd-Jones preached from Psalm 73:34-36 when Hitler died and VE day was announced

  • carole

    Thank you. It’s so good to be reminded of the light shining in the window, when we have been sitting in the warehouse for awhile.

  • Jon

    That was well said.  I imagine the West does remind people of the kingdom of heaven insofar as it’s been influenced by it.  I love Chesterton’s application of death/resurrection to the world.

  • Tim H

    Wilson on Schaeffer on Hegel. Hooboy.

  • Jon

    Yes, I recall Schaeffer had something to say about Hegel in “How Shall We Then Live?”  In surveys of Western thought, Hegel and Kant are usually marked out as having really changed the direction of philosophy. 

  • timothy

    Thank you. It’s so good to be reminded of the light shining in the window, when we have been sitting in the warehouse for awhile.

    Amen to that! His yoke truly is lighter.

  • Tom

    Seems like a lot of responsibility of living righteous, by personal effort, for a bunch of sinners dead in their trespasses.

  • josh r

    Seems to me that mosts of the popular fad sin’s of this age do not pass the Darwin test “survival of the fittest”  The wicked bring judgement upon themselves under their own belief system as well as ours..  God’s justice is not negotiable, it is more like gravity.  Denial that the cliff is a cliff does nothing to prevent the splat at the bottom.

  • Kamilla

    WhickWig hick book by Vapon was it?

  • Kamilla

    Apparently, the “Wait,  I just saw a typo!” Button isn’t functional ;-)