“Modern man and his categories of thought” was published in the book C. S. Lewis: Present Concerns. A collection of ethical essays. It was edited by Walter Hooper in 1986, although written in 1946 at the request of Bishop Neill for the Study Department of the World Council of Churches.
The book deals with Lewis’s concern on how best to reach the “unconverted” by adapting the Gospel principles to the “changing conditions of history” (p.61).
Lewis notes that the earliest missionaries (the apostles) preached to three classes of people: (1) to Jews; (2) to converted Gentiles (the metuentes) and (3) to pagans. “All were conscious of sin and feared divine judgment” (p. 61). However, “The world which we must try to convert shares none of these predispositions” (ibid). He found that in the last 100 years (i.e. back to 1850) man’s way of thinking had changed in several ways:
- Education of the higher classes, which formerly studied the “ancients” and, instead, has now isolated its interests to its own age;
- The emancipation of women, such that men now seldom speak with each other without women among them and this leads to a “scene of wit, banter, persiflage, anecdote…rather than prolonged and rigorous discussion on ultimate issues…” (p. 63).
- Develpmentalism or Historicism, not as an objection to Darwinianism as a theorem, but to it as “the key principle of reality” (ibid). The modern man sees the cosmos as originating from chaos, life from the inanimate, reason from instinct, civilization from savagery and virtue from animalism. It follows the general principle that “Almost nothing may be expected to turn into almost everything” (p. 64).
- Proletarianism, in which “They are convinced that whatever may be wrong in the world it cannot be themselves” (ibid) and instead of God being the judge, they are the judge of God. “Religion” is their secular salvation as long as it contributes to their ends.
- Practicality, where modern people are not interested in investigating if something is true, but rather, if they approve or disapprove of it. This popular view, Lewis says, is “unconsciously syncretistic: it is widely believed that ‘all religions really mean the same thing’” (p. 65).
- Skepticism about reason, with “vague notions of what Freud, or Einstein… [said, producing] belief that reasoning proves nothing and that all thought is conditioned by irrational processes” (p. 65).
These six characteristics are the climate in which the modern evangelist must work. Lewis wonders if it might not be easier to work with them if they were in fact real pagans. However, he sees his own gifts as “a predominantly intellectual approach”, although he believes an emotional approach works wonders with a modern audience
“But best of all is a team of two: one to deliver the preliminary intellectual barrage, and the other to follow up with a direct attack on the heart” (p. 66).
It is interesting and, hopefully, instructive to consider “education” at many American secular universities (those that claim little or no influence or interest in a Christian perspective):
- Sexual ‘orientation’: They must be tolerant of any aberrant sexual viewpoint, endorsing the homosexual, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual, and whatever else crops up in the future. A student applicant can refuse to divulge ‘its’ sex and sue the university (with government assistance and backing) if judged as male or female.
- An often vicious hatred of Christianity and the insistence upon absolutes, and especially claiming that there is one God and his son Jesus is the way of salvation. The exaggeration of separating church and state has resulted in thwarting the honest participation of Christians in the open square and an elevation of secularism.
- A dumbing down of academic requirements, particularly if it seems that the student comes from an ‘unfortunate’ (meaning poor) environment. The student grades the university, not the reverse.
- The elevation to a divine status the matter of sports and their stars. The coaches receive ten times, often much more, salaries than the working instructors. Athletes must receive remuneration and great teams bring in extra revenue for the school.
- The gradual erosion of foreign languages from the curriculum and the acceptance of any form of English as ‘approved’ in the sense that one sentence is as good as the other.
- The fostering of rebellion toward the government, with decrees based on activities by throngs with their ‘progressive’ professors a part of them.
- The proliferation of ‘disciplines’ like gender studies, de facto racial segregation, feminine studies, political factionists, and the like.
- An electronic dependency that provides instant, albeit, bite size, information transfer. Students cannot live without it.
It seems that the future of American tertiary education is not in a crisis mode; rather it is now in free fall, leading to the gradual but certain disillusion of democracy and freedom as we once knew it. God cannot help such universities—to call on him would require repentance.