NOTICE: Store prices and specials on the Banner of Truth UK site are not available for orders shipped to North America. Please use the Banner of Truth USA site .

Section navigation

Our Earth Bound Society

Category Articles
Date May 30, 2003

As our western society sinks ever deeper into materialism and hedonism, the church must take an uncompromising stand, as Paul did on Mars Hill, and confront the secular establishment with the truth

by Dr. David N. Samuel, Devizes, Wiltshire

The prevailing philosophy and outlook of our age is secular and materialistic. This view has gained ground steadily over the last one hundred and fifty years. In a sense there is nothing new about it; it is the age-old philosophy of Epicureanism, which was popular in Greece and the ancient world when Paul preached on Mars Hill in Athens. Epicurus, who lived 341-270 BC, adopted the theory of atomism and related it to ethics. The tenets of his philosophy have a remarkable resonance with the general philosophical outlook of our society today. He claimed that the universe consisted merely of matter and emptiness. Matter is indestructible and consists of atoms, which make up all that exists. Atoms and their movements are therefore the ultimate fact about the way things are, but their movements and combinations are the result of complete randomness. There is, of course, no Creator, no divine power that brought atoms into existence. All combinations of atoms, according to Epicurus, are not only random but of limited duration, and life being just a complex of these atoms will eventually become extinct when they disperse.

It cannot be denied that such a philosophy sums up pretty well the outlook of people generally today in the western world. They may not think deeply about these matters, but these are the principles, which seem to guide their thinking and actions. How did our society come round full circle from the divine principles of Christian theism, which Paul preached on Mars Hill, which conquered the world, certainly western civilisation, to the base materialism of Epicurus? There are several answers that we can give to this question.


1] The first is that we often see in history a cyclical movement in thought. Philosophies go out of fashion and come back in. As the wise man of Israel said, "there is n0 new thing under the sun. Js there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us.,, (Ecclesiastes 1:9-10).


2] Secondly, the fallen mind of man has an aversion to revealed truth. "Because the carnal mind is enmity against God." (Romans 8:7). It refuses to give God the glory and to attribute the creation of the world to God himself. The instinct of Adam after the fall was to escape from God and to hide from Him. It is the same instinct and motivation that man has had since, and still has today, to seek out some refuge from the truth that there is a God, who is the Creator of all things, and to whom man is answerable.


3] Thirdly, the speculations of Darwin in the nineteenth century provided the perfect excuse and alibi for resuscitating the corpse of Epicureanism. Hume, a thorough going sceptic, sought to broach the matter in the eighteenth century in his ‘Dialogues on Religion’, but had nothing to harness his speculations to. Darwin found the perfect vehicle for his purpose in the supposed evolution of species by chance variation and natural selection. The evil ingredient in Darwin’s scheme was ‘chance’. This gave it its affinity with Epicureanism. This, for those who have embraced his philosophy, and that is most of our contemporaries, makes the world and human life meaningless and purposeless.

In such a world, the only thing of which we can be sure, they would argue, is pleasure, as indeed did Epicurus. The rich live for their refined pleasures, and the underclass for their boorish pleasures. This view of human existence has gripped the contemporary western world, and is responsible for the hedonism and so-called permissiveness of society. The late Roy Jenkins, afterwards known as Lord Jenkins, and his associates in the Labour government of the sixties, did much to effect the transition from the former view of society, as based upon Christian values, to the godless, secular, so-called libertarian view of society. In fact, it is true to say, that the permissiveness which Jenkins, and the liberal elite like him, succeeded in bringing in, has dissolved the cement that held society together, and created the modern jungle that life has become for so many in our cities today. At one stage he had the affrontery to call what he created ‘the civilised society’. On the contrary, permissiveness leads straight to the free-for-all society where life is ‘nasty, brutish and short’.

The only way out of the jungle which has been created by modern secularism and unbelief is to embrace once again the teleological view of man and the world, which is given to us by God Himself in Scripture. There man and his environment are matched and both are given purpose and value by the God who made them for His glory. Evolutionism or Epicureanism has become an excuse to justify man’s rebellion against his Maker, and to assert his independence and autonomy. "The fool hath said in his heart There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good." (Psalm 14:1) Such is the wilderness man is now creating in the modern world.

It is, of course, true that there can be no perfect society in this present evil world, but order and purpose and value there can be. It stands to reason that you will not get them while you make their opposites your creed, and attribute the order and design we see in the material world to blind chance. This is not only perverse and unreasonable, but also evil and those who so believe and act will bring chaos and disorder to the world and human society.

As our western society sinks ever deeper into materialism and hedonism, the church must take an uncompromising stand, as Paul did on Mars Hill, and confront the secular establishment with the truth. Modern scientific humanism is unsustainable and society is collapsing into a new dark age. Human reason and autonomy cannot save mankind; that is an illusion. Salvation is through Jesus Christ alone and the Good News that He brings in His own person. The time is coming when God will strip away the refuge of lies and all illusions, for He has appointed a day when He will judge the world by Jesus Christ. God has given assurance of this by raising Him from the dead.

Our Inheritance, Spring 2003, 12 High Street, Polegate, BN26 5AA

Latest Articles

How to Read a Soul-Improving Book 20 June 2024

The following, which appeared in Issues 611–612 of the Banner of Truth Magazine (Aug–Sep 2014) is from John Angell James, Pastoral Addresses, Series I (1840). We are grateful to Mr Martyn Jolly for bringing this extract to our attention and supplying the text. It may seem strange to some persons, that I should give directions […]

The Real Evidence about Scripture and Homosexual Practice 1 June 2024

1. Jesus Claim: Jesus had no interest in maintaining a male-female requirement for sexual relations. What the evidence really shows: Jesus believed that a male-female requirement for sexual relations was foundational, a core value of Scripture’s sexual ethics on which other sexual standards should be based, including the ‘twoness’ of a sexual union. Jesus predicated […]