Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools- Romans 1:22 KJV
The enlightenment era is sometimes called the “great age of reason”. During that time people began to understand the natural world is governed by rules, laws and forces rather than powers, magic or happenstance. Thanks to enlightenment academics we understand objects fall to the ground due to the natural law of gravity. It is microbes not demoniac forces that make us ill and its recessive genes rather than bad luck that causes children to be born with red hair seemingly out of nowhere.
The enlightenment age is at the root of the logical, methodical and organized approach to life and problem-solving we are all familiar with today. The enlightenment was a big-stinking breakthrough in human civilization.
The Enlightenment age did create some issues that are now coming home to roost. For one, the Enlightenment conditioned us to believe there is always a formula to solve a problem or accomplish a task—we just have to find it. As a result, modern humans are firmly entrenched in the mindset that the key to solving any problem is simply finding the right set of principles to apply to said problem.
Sometimes it works.
The systematic analysis of microbes led to the invention of antibiotics, antibiotics solved many vexing health problems. Modern farming techniques more-or-less eliminated the problem of wide-spread starvation. The methodical evaluation of human behavior led to modern psychology. Psychology has effectively explained the why of what people do thus solving many mental health issues.
The ability to solve some problems using science generated a belief that all our most pressing problems can and should be solved using our known understanding of a given subject. When our wisdom doesn’t solve the problem at hand we go into a weird kind of denial where we keep doing the same things over and over again hoping at some point we will get the result we think we ought to be getting (Proverbs 3:5-6).
COVID-19 is a real-world example of this. Medical professionals and scientists were originally convinced COVID would be beaten through a combination of contact tracing, masking, social distancing and social isolation (lockdowns). Those methods failed. Covid continued to spread like wildfire even among those who were resolutely following “the rules” of covid. When a vaccine became available initially the new solution was to vaccinate at least sixty percent of the population. That solution failed. Some of the most vaccinated countries on earth (Israel, Ireland, Gibraltar) are still recording a record number of covid cases. We are now fully in denial and doing all the stuff we’ve already done harder and faster (metaphorically speaking). This means even more vaccinations, even more masking, even more social isolation and in some places more lockdowns. The prideful and stanch belief we know everything about covid has us caught in a peculiar loop. We just do the same things over and over again expecting a different result.
Christians who place their confidence in formulas can easily fall into a kind of practical atheism. They profess to be Christians but live as if God is irrelevant to their lives. The say they love God but do everything in their own power depending entirely on human methods to get the job done. Instead of fostering a relationship with God and loving Him simply for who He is. They seek God solely for solutions to their problems. When He doesn’t provide the desired solutions, they turn away from Him altogether or remain in the church but become perpetually angry at God for His lack of willingness to bless the formula.
Confidence in formulas can lead to serious issues with pride, self-reliance and stubbornness. When Christians believe that doing everything “right” or according to the “formula” will ALWAYS lead to the “correct result” they become angry or go into denial anytime there is a “bad” or “unexpected “outcome. This causes them to keep doing the same thing over and over again or give up rather than seek additional wisdom from God. Belief in formulaic solutions can cause Christians to become very judgy towards those who experience “failure” in their childrearing, finances, marriages or other relationships. Unwavering confidence in formulaic solutions leaves no room in our thinking for free will or the free agency of human beings (Matthew 7:1-4, Deuteronomy 30:19).
In a fallen world there will not always be solutions to all our problems (Genesis 3). Sometimes people get sick and don’t get better. Kids who were raised right still go astray and sometimes you do everything right and everything still goes terribly wrong. That’s where God comes in. We must seek Him, not for what He can do for us but because it is in Him we find peace, joy and rest for our souls in the midst of an uncertain and scary world (Jeremiah 29:13).