Four decades ago Aldous Huxley wrote his classic forecast of human history, Brave New World, in which Western civilization had become a hideous assembly line producing bottled babies whose physical, mental, and emotional characteristics were precisely controlled throughout their lives. In the plastic but highly contented society that resulted, personality and individuality had ceased to be.

Huxley, observing the state of scientific technology in the thirties, estimated that this world of biological engineering would emerge around the year 2500. He was drastically mistaken. In May, 1971, an article appeared in Look magazine entitled “Taking Life Into Our Own Hands: The Test Tube Baby Is Coming.” Referring to Brave New World, the writer said:

Now more than fifty printings later, passages from the book read like paragraphs from the daily newspaper.… Doctors have already removed human eggs, have fertilized them and incubated them in the lab. Now it is possible to implant a tiny embryo in the womb and create a new life.

Science has translated the fantasies of yesterday into the actualities of today. And just as Huxley predicted, what science has made possible, man plans to use in an amoral manner. Our generation faces an evil that no previous generation has faced. It is the two-headed monster of an astoundingly capable scientific machine in the hands of professionals with a blank conscience.

Dr. Francis Schaeffer, the brilliant modern Christian thinker, warned us in 1970,

Whoever achieves political or cultural power in the future will have at his disposal manipulations that no totalitarian ruler in the past has ever had. None of these are only future; they all exist today waiting to be used by the coming manipulators [The Church at the End of the Twentieth Century, Inter-Varsity, 1970, p. 91].

As if to underscore the truth of Dr. Schaeffer’s warning, two outstanding intellectuals have since stepped forward to put forth some frightening proposals. Dr. Francis Crick, winner of a Nobel prize for his work in unraveling some of the genetic mysteries of DNA, suggested the following to a group of scientists in St. Louis in March, 1971: “Some group of people should decide that some people should have more children and some should have fewer.” He went on to say, “I don’t think you’re going to solve all these problems just by tinkering with the genetic material.… I think really there should be some thinking if we’re to take this new view of looking at man.” Dr. Crick seems to anticipate:

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1. The dictatorship of an intellectual elite who decide who should be born and who the parents should be.

2. Systematic tampering with genetic materials, i.e., programmed babies.

3. “A new view of looking at man.”

What is this new view? It seems to be elimination of the idea that man is an individual, that man has personality, inalienable rights, and essential worth.

Crick is no lone voice in the wilderness. Dr. B. F. Skinner, Harvard’s distinguished champion of behavioristic psychology, writes in his latest book, Beyond Freedom and Dignity, “To man as man we readily say, ‘Good riddance.’ We must delegate the control of the population to specialists.” Skinner believes that freedom and dignity are harmful ideas that have created all kinds of social problems. They must be abandoned; man must be placed in the hands of specialists who will predetermine his characteristics, restructure society, and guide human history from now on.

The philosophical thrust that started with humanism in the fifteenth century has now reached its logical destination. It began with the idea that man is the measure of himself, in fact, of all things. In accepting this it necessarily denied the idea of inspired revelation, absolute truth, and universal moral law. Rabelais, the famed satirist and irreverent Benedictine monk, expressed this leap in the inscription he placed on the gate of his lay abbey (open to both sexes), Abbaye de Theleme: “Do What You Like.”

Rabelais’s agreeable command makes sense if there is no God who watches and weighs the actions of men. The unpleasant fact that some men like to enslave and exploit others may be regrettable, especially to the victims, but in no sense can it be “wrong.” When man is the measure of all things, then right and wrong becomes a matter of taste, of personal choice. We can select our actions as we choose our wardrobe.

Through the centuries between the humanists and today’s builders of the Brave New World, Western culture has tried to preserve the values of right and wrong, the dignity of man, law rather than anarchy; but one central unanswered question has haunted that effort: What authority guarantees the validity of those values?

It cannot be God, for the universe of the humanist and later the rationalist is a closed machine. All knowledge must flow from carefully checked sensory perception or verifiable experimentation. Since God does not seem to have mass or a visible wave pattern, he can’t be there. Of course, the ideals of freedom and man’s inherent worth don’t show up on the spectrograph either. And with God discredited, his so-called Holy Word cannot be used to support such concepts.

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What is left? The eighteenth century answered, “Reason.” Reason will lead men to understand themselves and their environment. Once man understands nature’s laws, he will conform to them in order to secure for himself the greatest possible comfort and well-being. Societies will see the golden dawn of magnificent enlightenment as they stride down the path of reason. But whose reason shall we follow? That of Jesus? Marx? Hitler? Our own?

This last option sounds attractive to those who believe man is basically good. It inspired Rousseau to write, “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains.” He believed that the great evil resides not in man’s heart but in civilization itself, its restraints, its laws, its institutions. Rousseau worked out his theory of social contract, giving his disciples criteria by which to decide whether to allow themselves to be governed or not. He tried exceedingly hard to define good government, which men should follow, and evil, which they should reject. However, he utterly failed to find an authority for these definitions other than himself. Reason ends with an appeal to blind faith in one more man.

The doctrine of Rousseau, Montesquieu, and Diderot helped to blaze the trail of the eighteenth century in France. These thinkers foresaw the French Revolution, but they failed to see its logical climax, the Reign of Terror. Thirty years after Rousseau’s call to faith, Robespierre mounted the rostrum of the French Convention and, following his own reason, declared a new creed: “Terror is nothing else than justice, prompt, secure, and inflexible. It is … an emanation of virtue.” The kind of reason that inspired the struggle for liberty died on the guillotine.

England provides a sharp contrast. Fired by national revival led by John Wesley and George Whitefield, England moved into the nineteenth century examining its conscience by the light of Holy Scripture. Thus William Wilberforce could climax his plea to end the African slave trade with this ringing claim:

There is a principle above everything that is political; and when I reflect on the command which says: Thou shalt not commit murder, believing the authority to be Divine, how can I dare to set up any reasonings of my own against it? What is there in this life that should make any man contradict the dictates of his conscience, the principles of justice, the laws of religion and of God? [an address delivered to the House of Commons, May 12, 1789].
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Wilberforce could appeal to absolute principles of justice because he had the Word of God in his heart. Man’s dignity, rights, and essential worth rest solely on the revealed fact that God created man in his own image.

In tragic contrast to the man with the Bible, twentieth-century man, the heir of five centuries of humanism, rationalism, enlightenment, determinism, and existentialism, stands in an abyss of despair. Philosophy has given up the search for a firm basis on which to build him a morality. Behavioristic psychology defines him as a complex biological machine, nothing more. He looks out into a cold, dark, ugly universe without purpose and shrieks in the knowledge that he has no worth. And so the Skinners, the Cricks, the genetic engineers, the creators of test-tube babies, and the purveyors of unlimited abortion have arrived at the logical conclusion of Western history, the end of the road to which their secular wisdom inevitably leads.

No, not quite the end. The New Testament previews the end in these devastating terms: “God sends upon them … the full force of evil’s delusion, so that they put their faith in an utter fraud” (2 Thess. 2:11, Phillips). The Big Lie and the Great Liar may indeed be waiting in the wings of the final decades of this century.

How shall we react? If we allow the trend of events to paralyze us with dread, Christ will be invisible to our generation. The Body of Christ must not lie down and play dead. The warfare rages on, and the command “Fight the good fight of faith” has not been stricken from the combat manual.

Moreover, we have great news for the man in the street. Modern science tells him he is an accidental arrangement of molecules, but the Word of God proclaims he is crowned with glory and honor. He bears not only the influence of heredity and environment but the very image of God. He has potential for magnificence.

The enemy has established strongholds in the minds of men. By many subtle methods he manipulates their attitudes and their opinions. He uses books, magazines, movies, plays, TV, radio. He uses people in science, business, labor, politics, education, and, of course, religion. He plants deceptive fantasies and fake philosophies in men’s brains, designing these ideas to appeal to man’s pride and lust and yet not offend his conscience. His purpose is to overthrow every trace of God’s authority.

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The brand of Christianity that dismisses man’s mind as irrelevant in the process of salvation actually forfeits the war. Man’s mind is the battlefield. He cannot be saved until at least one idea is crushed: the idea that he can live independently of or apathetically toward God. He must recognize God’s right to be God over all the universe, especially himself. That is why Paul declared, “We persuade men”:

The very weapons we use are not those of human warfare but powerful in God’s warfare for the destruction of the enemy’s strongholds. Our battle is to bring down every deceptive fantasy and every imposing defense that men erect against the true knowledge of God. We even fight to capture every thought [2 Cor. 10:3–5, Phillips].

John Bunyan conveys the nature of the battle in the vivid scenes of Pilgrim’s Progress. The city of Man-soul, once ruled by Emmanuel, has fallen to Diabolus. The evil king cannot kill Mr. Conscience, so he chains him deep in the bowels of the city dungeon. Under Emmanuel’s leadership Captain Conviction leads an assault on Ear-Gate and stirs the sleeping Mr. Conscience to shout so loudly that the entire city mobilizes to overthrow the usurper.

We assault men’s darkened minds and enslaved consciences through personal witness. Undoubtedly the Holy Spirit brings innumerable people to God through person-to-person sharing of Christ. He captures their thoughts when we wield the truth in love. “We can enlighten men only because we can give them knowledge of the glory of God as we see it in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6, Phillips).

Furthermore, when we demonstrate love and unity among ourselves before the watching world we batter the gates of hell to pieces. Real fellowship is so rare in the office, the factory, the country club, the fraternity, the bowling team, that when the worldly onlooker sees it among us he is likely to conclude that Christianity is real. Jesus prayed this amazing prayer: “I in them and you in me, that they may grow complete into one, so that the world may realize that you sent me” (John 17:21, Phillips).

Truth, love, and visible unity are powerful weapons that God has placed in our hands and expects all of us to use dynamically in personal and corporate witness. But as we befriend the children of this age, we must emphasize the doctrine of man’s infinite worth and personify its breathtaking implications of love, joy, and purpose.

Beyond these basic duties, some of us Christian warriors need to step into the arena of cultural life and tackle the difficult job of presenting truth to modern man through secular media. Our culture still gives room to effective spokesmen for Christ. One bitter November night my wife and I, along with several hundred other people, stood in line for forty-five minutes to buy tickets to the movie The Cross and the Switchblade. Night after night the theater was jammed.

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Christianity needs more film producers who can bring the crowds through the turnstiles to see gripping sagas of Christian experience. It needs a few dozen highly skilled writing craftsmen who will launch out beyond the limits of the Christian market and determine to become the John Bunyans and C. S. Lewises of this generation.

Why concede the mass media to Satan? Why default all the university chairs of philosophy, psychology, and social science to men dedicated to secular myths? Why not invade these and other privileged sanctuaries of the opposing forces? The religion departments of the major news magazines seem like a strategic target for sharp reporters who can focus national attention on the remarkable events of spiritual significance happening in our time. The vocal minorities of Christian congressmen, astronauts, athletes, and scientists who make a strong case for biblical Christianity need reinforcements—the more the mightier.

In June, 1971, Jesus made the cover of Time magazine. Our world must remain Jesus-conscious. Not only his name but his personality, his words, and most of all his mission deserve unquenched publicity. The destroyers of man do not control the avenues to men’s minds—yet. Their ideas must compete with ours in the market places of our time. We face two alternatives: invade these secular domains or lose them by default.

Almost immediately after Winston Churchill presented his program of “blood, sweat, toil, and tears” to his threatened nation, France fell, and Britain’s future looked utterly dismal. Churchill again challenged his people not to despair but to fight:

If we fail, then the whole world … will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age, made more sinister and perhaps more protracted by the lights of perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will say, “This was their finest hour” [address to the House of Commons, June 18, 1940].

A greater menace and a more perverted science dare us to cringe at their fierceness, but God has not given us the spirit of fear. He encourages us to be strong and to destroy the tempo of decadence. Let us rejoice that God has chosen us to represent him at this moment of history. Let us confront the Brave New World with a braver Church, a Church filled with a passion to finish its career in a blaze of glory to God. With “blood, sweat, toil, and tears” and with spiritual weapons let us recruit great numbers of the uncommitted to Christ. With his Spirit’s power let us conduct ourselves with such distinction that God’s eternal record books will declare of the Church at the end of the twentieth century, “This was their finest hour.”

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George M. Marsden is associate professor of history at Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan. He has the Ph.D. (Yale University) and has written “The Evangelical Mind and the New School Presbyterian Experience.”

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