Exponents of the Christian world view, stressing God’s intervention in the lives of sinful men through Jesus Christ’s mediating presence and atoning death, often do little more than define humanity’s miasmatic condition.

For all who by taking thought would seek truth, the persisting puzzle of this world arises from the traces of order amid seemingly illogical chaos. But because Christianity has not always given a clear explanation of this order, and this chaos, it has often faced formidable challenges from competing secular attempts to explain reality.

For centuries the outstanding challenger was humanism. Here Christianity reacted not so much by articulating an alternative view as by rejecting both the challenge itself and (by implication) the world. John Bunyan’s pilgrim portrays this response; Christian makes his perilous way through sloughs, past obstacles, around temptations. Along with the King James Version, this flight from the world has been the stock in trade of practical and practicing conservatives ever since humanism threw off its medieval chains in reviving antiquity’s love of understanding man as he is.

Today scientism is thought by many to have replaced humanism as the major competitor of the Gospel. Orthodox Christianity has always had an intellectual element that sought the right to understand the mechanics of the universe, God’s morally neutral handiwork. Many non-believers, however, viewed physics as a way of speaking of purpose, and the legitimate study of the universe as a showplace for God’s glory became in secular life an attempt to express the meaning of reality, apart from God and from theological concepts derived from Scripture.

A series of trials made their changes and took their toll. Christians ...

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