The Enlightenment, or Age of Reason, stands out in history as a time between the late 17th century and early 19th century when intellectuals deduced that rational thinking and the scientific method could sufficiently lead humanity to the answers of life’s most pressing questions: Who am I? Why am I here? Under what standard should I live this life?
While rationalism—practical knowledge and methods of academic inquiry —contributes valuable insights to science, mathematics, history, business, and medicine, it blunders when illustrating its answers to the question of human origin, existence, and ethical behavior.
Where Rationalism Went Wrong
The philosophical blunder articulates itself through the common worldview of a few notable Enlightenment thinkers like Voltaire, Edward Gibbon, and René Descartes: atheism. Not every enlightenment intellectual held an atheistic worldview, but a concerning amount swept God out of their philosophical pursuits.
For a movement based on rational principles, the Enlightenment swiftly came to such an irrational conclusion that there is no God—something even demons cannot delude themselves into conceiving (James 2:19). Thus, any Enlightenment absent of God will produce a philosophy that ultimately complies with Satan’s philosophy to steal, kill, and destroy.
What I’m positing here is not anti-intellectualism; instead, I intend to demonstrate that mathematical, philosophical, and academic endeavors cannot replace God’s revelation to humanity through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. No amount of calculus, Socratic debate, or scientific research can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with God’s redeeming grace, Jesus’ resurrection, and the Holy Spirit’s transformative power.
Redemption Over Rationalism
Therefore, God’s good work in on our lives begins when we draw near to him in dedicated dialogue with him. Prayer, meditation on scriptures, and simply quieting oneself before the Lord permits the Holy Spirit to communicate God’s will and truth into our lives. That’s our enlightenment! Paul prays for these traits in believers,
17 “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, 18 the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power 20 which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places.” -Ephesians 1:17-20 (emphasis added)
This verse uncovers every philosophical treasure which Enlightenment philosophers sought: wisdom, knowledge, and understanding. Through the Holy Spirit, believers can converse with their Creator and Redeemer, securing insight into God’s will for their daily circumstances. What a privilege to be privy to the workings of God’s power in our lives! With this revelation, we can…
- Comprehend the hope of our calling in Christ.
Our calling in Christ anchors us into eternal life, and when the enemy comes to kill, steal, and destroy, we can cling to the hope found in Jesus Christ’s paid ransom for our lives.
2. Uncover the riches of our inheritance in Him.
Ephesians 1:3 notes that God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in Christ, so we are neither underequipped nor outgunned in our spiritual battles. Instead, we are ingrained with the DNA of overcomers by the blood of the Lamb.
3. Consider the working of God’s power in our lives and that of Christ’s.
God’s power carries us through tribulations and works in us to display His glory to our peers. The same power that raised Christ from the grave resides in our inner man, and if our faith’s foundation rests on Christ’s resurrection, then surely our God will complete His good work in our lives.
What this Means for Us
In a world snake-bitten by hyperactivity and pressure-packed deadlines, we can rest in the peace of God that surpasses understanding. Every man and woman seeks peace and desires love. By living out Ephesians 1: 17-20, we can rest in God’s goodness—a critical practice in a despondent world—and sincerely adore God for who He is.
Revelation follows adoration, and loving God naturally produces faith in Him. The believer who has faith admits Himself into God’s trust. Since our God has communicated His will to us on a macro scale through the Bible, He unreservedly awaits open ears toward His will for our personal circumstances.
Be forewarned: One must believe that God exists in order to gain access to the riches and glories of His inheritance, for “enlightenment” does not replace salvation. In essence, “enlightenment” in this context could be defined simply as God’s medium of communication with His elect. Whatever one chooses to name it, God’s working grace in our lives separates itself from any man-made philosophical pursuits, and that’s the type of enlightenment we can count on.
Kevin Cochrane is a nineteen year old writer with the distinct purpose of radically restoring everyone with exposed ears to the original testimony of Jesus Christ. The great pursuit of his life is to live by the words he writes—which is currently an ongoing project. For updates on his latest blog posts, you can follow him on Twitter @RunFree_KC or click the follow button at the bottom of the page to receive notifications by email.