The great Protestant Reformation was a powerful movement back to a "theonomy" view similar to diagram 1 (lesson 1). At that timebecause of the Reforming influence of the Bible in societyit was generally accepted that the universe was created by God, and that he has given man the privilege of investigating it. It is no accident, therefore, that many of the early scientists who went to work discovering things, did so because they believed it made sense to do this. They had faith, in other words, that there is order and meaning in the universe because it was created, and is sustained, by God. They also believed that God created men in his own image so that they could learn to understand his creation. What we need to realize is this: the viewpoint set forth in diagram 2 (lesson 1) would never provide the basis to do this. We say this becauseon the basis of autonomythere is no assurance that there is any meaning "out there" in the universe, or that man can ever arrive at any real truth. So it was on the basis of a theonomic view that the great scientific discoveries began to come in the wake of the Protestant Reformation. Man began to advance by great leaps and bounds, as it were, in his knowledge of, and control over, nature.
With the passing of time, however, something began to happen. It came about very gradually. But of one thing there is no doubt: there was a return to synthesis. Again, as in the medieval period, this was done by splitting life into two parts. Things such as scientific work were gradually shifted back to the old autonomous basis, while things such as personal religion and worship were (supposedly) kept on the Reformational basis. Here once again we represent this diagrammatically (diagram 7).
When we stop and think about it, this attempted synthesis is an astonishing thing. Was it not already clear, from the Middle Ages, that theonomy and autonomy can never really be blended together successfully? Was it not equally clear that synthesis is always to the detriment of the Biblical view? This is so because autonomy always tends to become more and more dominant. It becomes the primary thing, controlling everyday life, while the word of God is pushed more and more into the background. As a matter of fact, when you really grasp what has happened, you will also see why the Christian view does not even receive a subordinate position, not really. No, it is actually eliminated because the Christian view does not stand any more when it is made subordinate to human autonomy at any point.
Let us try to see this from a practical illustration. Take the situation in our public schools. In these schools today practically everything is dealt with on the basis of what we label (above) as layer #2 of the synthesis. God is not mentioned in the school classroom because God is not considered important for daily life, or for scientific knowledge. There is no reference to the Bible because the Bible is not considered relevant to scientific investigation. Everything in the realm of science is looked at from the standpoint of man as autonomous. Man starts from himselfand uses only his own resourcesas he seeks to work out his own answers. Religion, then, is treated as if it has nothing whatever to do with the world of science. Take the resurrection of Jesus Christ, for example. Now the truth is that the resurrection of Jesus is a factjust as historical and scientific as any other factbecause Jesus actually rose from the dead physically. How can there be any true science, then, when thisthe most important fact in historyis ignored? But it is ignored in our public school instruction. The result is that the Christian viewthe only view that really is trueis treated as if it was (at best) only a matter of "spiritual concern", something that only has to do with the "inner life" of the individual.
Here, then, is what happens in synthesis. The false view of man as autonomous undermines the true Christian view in a devastating way. Man, beginning from himselfand in dependence only upon human sources and resourcesworks out his own explanation of reality. He decides that nothing can be true except what he determines for himself. And since he does not experience the things the Christian world-view teaches, he insists that they have no proper place in the "real world" of everyday life (layer A, in diagram 4). The ironic thing is that he even thinks he is being generous when he says "you Christians can enjoy your religious freedom in the personal and private realm of faith." But in truth he is not being generous at all. This is what we must see. What he is doing, in fact, demanding is that we deny the truth by accepting this false synthesis. What we need to do as Christians is to turn the tables, and put the biblical world-and-life view back in its rightful place. This meansfirst of allthat we must reject the synthesis now dominating our culture. We must reject it completely. In order to do this we must learn how to discern the things that differ. In the sections below we will deal with this further.