I believe Western civilization was born in 1517, when Martin Luther ignited the fires of the Protestant Reformation. When Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Theses on the door of All Saints' Church in Wittenberg, Germany, he was declaring that truth is found not in any governmental or church authority, but in Scripture. In Theses 1 through 40, Luther criticized the Roman Catholic Church for teaching people to rely on the corrupt church practice of selling indulgences rather than teaching them the gospel of repentance and forgiveness of sin laid out in the Scriptures. Luther was teaching the importance of objective truth, human freedom, and equality before God.
In Theses 41 through 52, Luther accused the church of building its edifices from the "skin, flesh, and bones" of God's people. This is an early assertion of human rights—the right of the people to be taught the truth of God, and not be exploited for ungodly profit. In Theses 53 through 66, Luther returned to the theme of truth, stating that the treasure of God's church is not silver and gold, but the truth of the gospel. In Theses 67 through 91, Luther made several devastating rational arguments against the selling of indulgences. If the pope had the authority to take away guilt for sins, Luther asked, why did he do so only for money?
In Theses 92 through 95, Luther exhorted all believers to imitate Christ, to exemplify a life of repentance, and to avoid placing any reliance upon the false security of indulgences. In short, Luther argued that the behavior of the church should be determined by the truth of Scripture, not by the corrupt will of man. Because there is no biblical basis for the practice of selling the forgiveness of God for cash donations, such practices have no foundation in God's truth. Anything that does not align with the truth of God's Word is falsehood.
Luther taught the church and European culture to respect truth and anchor it to Scripture. Western societies have operated on a foundation of reason and objective truth ever since—that is, until the past 50 years or so. The change began in 1967. That was the year an entire generation—the Baby Boom generation—was profoundly affected by a new way of looking at reality. That was the year our culture began to abandon objective truth in favor of feelings and subjective experience.
Why was 1967 so significant? That was the year Dr. Timothy Leary told the 30,000 gathered for the first Human Be-In in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park to "turn on, tune in and drop out." The year before, Leary had begun touring the country, presenting a psychedelic light-and-sound show he called "The Death of the Mind" meant to simulate the experience of being on LSD and to encourage audiences to experiment with the drug as a means of detaching themselves from cultural conventions and objective truth.
Leary's message in January 1967 was followed by the "Summer of Love," when hundreds of thousands of hippies converged on cities across North America and Europe. The biggest gathering was in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury district, where 100,000 hippies staged a mass experiment with psychedelic drugs, acid rock music, promiscuous sex and political rebellion. Years later, Time magazine said that the overriding theme of the "Summer of Love" was "trust your feelings."
In August 1967, the Beatles met with the Indian guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and began preaching Eastern religion to an entire generation. Those three events—the tours of Timothy Leary, the drug-drenched "Summer of Love," and the Beatles' "magical mystery tour" message of drug trips and Eastern mysticism—infected the 60's generation with a deadly message: Turn off your mind. Abandon objective truth. Trust your feelings. The events that followed—urban riots, the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr., stagnation in Vietnam, a gas crisis, Watergate—further disillusioned many Baby Boomers. Instead of seeking truth from traditional sources, they embraced the call to make their own feelings the final authority.
A decade later, the George Lucas film "Star Wars" reinforced the message, as the mystical Jedi master Obi-Wan Kenobi advised a young, uncertain Luke Skywalker, who was preparing to fire on the Death Star from his aircraft while warding off attacks by other pilots, "Trust your feelings!" Today the hippie generation that bought into that irrational, anti-truth message has turned gray and lives on Social Security—but they have taught this antirational message to their children and grandchildren. The message has spread. It now infects not just a generation, but our entire culture.
"Trust your feelings." What kind of message is that to build a civilization on? If your teenage daughter is going out on a date with a boy, would you give her that advice? "Have a good time—and whatever you do, don't think! Don't trust your good sense and the godly principles we have taught you. No, trust your feelings!" What loving parent would give such advice to a daughter?
Or suppose a driver cuts you off on the freeway—how should you respond? Should you rely on reason and sound thinking? Should you rely on biblical principles of good judgment and self-control? Or should you "trust your feelings"? There's a name for the way people act when they trust their feelings on the freeway. It's called road rage.
And what if your spouse came to you and confessed, "I've been having lustful feelings for someone at the office. I think I should change jobs and remove any temptation to be unfaithful." What would you tell your spouse? "Oh, no, honey! Don't trust your thinking! Trust your feelings!" What sane wife or husband would ever say such a thing?
Yet the notion that we should trust our feelings is promoted as wisdom in our culture today. Many people from the "trust your feelings" generation are now political leaders, business executives, journalists, TV producers and university professors. They are relying on their feelings to make decisions and promote ideas that should require logic, rational thinking and a concern for others.
If the year 1517 marked the beginning of Western civilization, it might well be that 1967 marked, if not the end of Western civilization, then perhaps the beginning of the end.
Adapted from The Hidden Enemy: Aggressive Secularism, Radical Islam and the Fight for Our Future by Michael Youssef, releasing March 6, 2018. Courtesy Tyndale House Publishers. All Rights Reserved.