Cosmos or Chaos?
One of the central things I attempt to highlight in my book Politics & Evangelical Theology is that the difference between Christian and progressivist views (and, yes, I firmly believe that dichotomy) extend backward to the most foundational questions about reality:
Is the universe a creation?
Is it meaningful?
Is there a purpose?
The Christian says yes to all three questions. This is a designed universe; it is cosmos, not chaos. That means that we human beings do not create the basic structures of reality and we do not supply existence with meaning or purpose. We encounter a world of design, meaning, and purpose. When it comes to the essence of the cosmos, there is built-in hardware, or (perhaps better) design features.
Essential to progressivism, on the other hand, is the conviction that reality is chaos, not cosmos. We exist in a reality that must be given order, meaning, and purpose. And human beings are, in this view, the "Prime Movers," the gods who must first manipulate reality to reflect their own concepts of the good, the true, and the beautiful.
This is the progressive fantasy. Dispensing with the "old" God, the "Maker of heaven and earth," the One who originally endowed his creation with order, meaning, and purpose, humanity collectively rises up to take his place. This is what Nietzsche described as the "Superman" and Hegel identified as the divine State. The universe is all manipulable software, able to be reprogrammed on a whim, rather than a reality of built-in hardware. Human sexuality can be reimagined; economic realities can be jettisoned for pipe-dreams of a world without private property; and "justice" can be reimagined as absolute egalitarian equality.
I argue that these fantasies are, at the end of the day, profoundly dehumanizing. They run counter to the built-in definition of what humanity was created to be: "image-bearers" of the transcendent Creator himself.
Imagine, then, my delight in obtaining Wesley J. Smith's outstanding book, A Rat is a Pig is a Dog is a Boy: The Human Cost of the Animal Rights Movement (now in paperback). While the book itself is well worth it, I found its preface particularly poignant. To my great surprise, it was written by a renowned author of bestselling pot-boiler thrillers: Dean Koontz.
Koontz artfully expresses my own convictions:
Truth is what it is. The small truth of any mundane event and the ultimate Truth, which is the meaning and the way of the world, cannot be crafted [....] By embracing fiction as truth, we surrender our connection with the transcendental and therefore with nature in all its layered mystery. Truth is always stranger than fiction because we craft fiction to fit our preferences, but we have no control of the truth. The universe does not exist to fulfill our cherished expectations, and therefore truth frequently surprises us, bursting into our lives from the least expected source.
This belief in a cosmos, not chaos, is what ultimately underwrites our concepts of human dignity and freedom:
But recognizing a vertical of sacred order, I must also believe that rights do not come from men or courts, or from governments, but only from God. Rights granted by men, courts, and governments are not rights but merely privileges that can be modified or denied according to the whims of those in power.
Ultimately, for Koontz, the alternative (in this case specifically, the loss of human exceptionalism in the radical animal rights movement) leads to hollow nihilism:
[T]he movement to deny human exceptionalism [is rooted] in a desire to deny the roundness of creation and to force upon society a simple and intellectually hollow materialism that reduces nature to a machine lacking in mystery and reduces all the splendid, diverse creatures on the earth to one and the same thing: meat. It is a denial of the world's profound depth, of meaning and sacred order. Like every antidemocratic ideology, this one is by definition antihuman, and like any antihuman ideology, it ultimately deteriorates into a nihilistic bitterness that is anti-life.
This is but a taste of Koontz's remarkable essay, which is alone worth the price of the book. And then, of course, you get the brilliant Wesley J. Smith on top of it, who ably dissects the distinction between animal welfare, on the one hand, and the truly radical, dehumanizing ideology of the animal rights movement on the other. I cannot recommend this book more enthusiastically. And that is not simply because it so thoroughly echoes my own efforts at identifying the ideological divide between the humane worldview of Christianity and the inhumane worldview of progressivism.
But it certainly doesn't hurt.
Thanks to Wesley J. Smith for linking this post at the Discovery Institute! I highly recommend heading over there for outstanding resources on science and intelligent design.