Jun 27, 2011

Ideas Have Consequences

2 Min Read

In 1948 the brilliant Richard Weaver penned his important book Ideas have consequences. In this book Weaver demonstrated the moving worldviews of the day and showed where they were taking us. Weaver was trying to articulate the big ideas that shape our culture. In the last 25 years several Christian thinkers have focused on different angles of this issue.

  • R.C. Sproul's penned Lifeviews 25 years ago . It is an excellent examination of secularism, existentialism, humanism, pragmatism, hedonism and much more.
  • The late Dave Breese wrote Seven Men Who Rule the World from the Grave in 1990.  This is a fine introductory overview of the worldviews of Darwin, Marx, Wellhausen, Dewey, Keynes, Kierkegaard and  Freud.
  • The British Roman Catholic Paul Johnson published Intellectuals in 1988 focusing on the philosophies of Marx, Sartre, Tolstoy,  Brecht, Ibsen, Rousseau,  Bertrand Russell and their (often rancid) personal lives.

Dr. Benjamin Wiker has added to this catalog of titles with his brief (260 pages) and eminently readable tome 10 Books That Screwed Up the World (and 5 Others That Didn't Help), herafter 10/5.

Wiker is a Roman Catholic theologian and apologist, and his Catholic theology does show up in certain portions of the book. But, what makes 10/5 so helpful is that it is like a Great Books course in one book! Instead of just focusing on the men/women (like Breese or Johnson) OR on the "idea" (like pragmatism), Wiker zooms in on the specific work that has wrought so much damage. So, In his examination of Machiavelli's The Prince, Wiker demonstrates the foundations of practical atheism in the public square. When Wiker puts the magnifying glass on Descartes' Discourse on Method, he not only shows how flawed Descartes' skepticism is, but shows the horrible fruit it produced (namely, subjectivism).

In several following chapters Wiker gives a fine introductory overview of:

  • Rousseau's Discourse on the Origin and Foundations of Inequality among men
  • Marx's The Manifesto of the Communist Party
  • Darwin's The Descent of Man
  • Nietzsche's Beyond Good and Evil
  • Margaret Sanger's The Pivot of Civilization
  • Freud's The Future of an Illusion
  • Margaret Mead's Coming of Age in Samoa
  • Alfred Kinsey's Sexual Behavior in the Human Male
  • Betty Friedan The Feminine Mystique

One of the fascinating running themes of 10/5 is how often Wiker points out that the disciples of these "masters" do NOT want the founder of the movement cited! In the case of Margaret Sanger (who was the founder of Planned Parenthood), the organization she founded distances themselves from her racist and eugenic writings. And the Kinsey Institute regularly refuses permission to quote the writings of its founder!

This book can and should be read by evangelicals with great profit. A caveat: 10/5 is long on description, but short on rebuttal and prescription. For that, you're going to need to look elsewhere.