The Descent Into Unbelief, Part IV
The following is excerpted from The Descent Into Unbelief: When Christendom Produces Cultists, Mockers and Atheists, by Jonathan Rice which originally appeared in the SCP Journal (29:2-29:3) . (Reprinted with permission). (Also check out Part I, Part II and Part III). Last week, we saw some of George Eliot's youthful love of God. This week, we see her walk from it entirely and take a peek at the moral decline following the great period of the Evangelicals of the Victorian Ages.
What was it that had shattered Evan’s faith? She read two books of biblical criticism, Charles Hennell’s Inquiry Concerning the Origins of Christianity, and David Strauss’ Life of Jesus. Utterly disillusioned, she abandoned the faith. She tried her utmost to live a moral and selfless life without divine assistance, but failed miserably. In the 1850s, after she had become a successful author, she met philosopher George Lewes. He was a married man, but they “fell in love.” Since Lewes had no legal grounds for divorce he simply abandoned his wife and moved in with Evans. They lived together as though married until his death in 1878, all the while trying to pretend that Lewes’ real wife didn’t really exist. What a tragic end to what had seemed to be such a promising life.

Truly appalling is the fact that Evans lost her faith through reading Hennell and Strauss, men whose ideas are no longer taken seriously, as their works have been refuted. No careful, thinking person today could ever lose faith by reading the works of these men. Why didn't the nineteenth-century English Evangelicals produce solid responses to Strauss and the others like him? Why were they so ineffectual in this key area when they were so very diligent in every other aspect of life?

Why did a whole generation have to be robbed of their faith? Was it really necessary for a godly young lady like Mary Ann Evans to become deceived, forsake her faith and then live a life alienated from God as the mistress of another woman's husband? True, Evans and the others were adults, accountable to God for their actions and their beliefs. But from a bibilical perspective they were also sheep whose shepherds had failed to protect them from the wolves.

The book's conclusion left me feeling deep grief for a generation now long dead. But much worse was the story of the following generation, the great-grandchildren of the first-generation Evangelicals. In her monumental essay "From Clapham to Bloomsbury: A Geneology of Morals," Gertrude Himmelfarb traces the lineage of the original "Clapham Sect" Evangelicals (so named for their custom of meeting at Henry Thornton's house in the London neighborhood of Clapham to pray, study the Bible, and strategize social, political and economic reforms), down to the Bloomsbury literary/artistic group which flourished 100 years later, and was so named for being centered in the neighborhood of Bloomsbury. Many of them were the direct descendants of the orignal Evangelicals (Himmelfarb notes that "not all the members of Bloomsbury traced their descent from Clapham. But most of them were related to that 'intellectual aristocracy' which, by the end of the centruy, included some of the most notable Victorian names...").

The Bloomsbury Group was to become a major catalyst for the degeneration of Western civilization. The seeds they planted in the early twentieth century have progressively born fruit beginning especially with the 1960s counterculutre and continuing to this day. Theirs was a vision of moral anarchy (amoral rather than immoral) and absolute hedonism. The Bloomsbury Group set "the tone and agenda for the cultural 'vanguard' of the nation. Where Clapham had inspired a moral and spiritual reformation, Bloomsbury sought to effect a moral and spiritual liberation--a liberation from Clapham itself and from those vestiges of Evangelicalism and Victorianism that still persisted in the early twentieth century." [i] They claimed poetry as a new foundation for ethics and art as the new basis of religion. Many of them were promoters of an "in-your-face" homosexuality, which, along with their belief in instant gratification in all areas of life, helped spawn a new economic system:

In fact, something of the “soul” of Bloomsbury penetrated even into Keynes’s economic theories. There is a discernible affinity between the Bloomsbury ethos, which put a premium on immediate and present satisfactions, and Keynesian economics, which is based entirely on the short run and precludes any long-term judgments (Keynes’s famous remark, “In the long run we are all dead,” also has an obvious connection with his homosexuality—what Schumpeter delicately referred to as his “childless vision”). The same ethos is reflected in the Keynesian doctrine that consumption rather than saving is the source of economic growth—indeed, that thrift is economically and socially harmful. In The Economic Consequences of the Peace, written long before The General Theory, Keynes ridiculed the “virtue” of saving. The capitalists, he said, deluded the working classes into thinking that their interests were best served by saving rather than consuming. This delusion was part of the age-old Puritan fallacy.[ii]
Today’s English, now roughly 200 years removed from their Evangelical ancestors, have for the most part followed the Bloomsbury ethos. It is unlikely that many of them even know the meaning of the term “Clapham Sect.” This is an England where the Royal Family has degenerated into tabloid reading, where rock star Mick Jagger has become a knight, and where instead of Christianity they follow everything from Hare Krishna to Harry Potter. Whether or not Elton John has ever studied the Keynesian economic system, his life exemplifies it perfectly. Having the visage of a frumpy middle-aged woman, the celebrated homosexual rock musician lives out his “childless vision” by indulging in mindless shopping sprees, annually incurring hundreds of thousands of dollars in credit card debt. And don’t forget those who go the other extreme and convert to Islam, like shoe-bomber Richard Reed. What a travesty.

[i] See Gertrude Himmelfarb’s “From Clapham to Bloomsbury: A Genealogy of Morals
[ii] Ibid.

First photo is of John Maynard Keynes.
Second photo is of Mick Jagger after receiving his knighthood for his service to popular music.
Last week, an anonymous commentor relayed some concerns about our abilities to direct the spiritual paths of our children. While we cannot make their decisions for them, there is much we can do to teach our children diligently so that they have all the tools necessary to make a wise decision on their own. It is also important to note that for the most part, these great Evangelicals sent their children off to boarding school. While the education there may have been excellent, it denied them that aspect of childhood that is most important: a relationship with their parents. George Eliot was schooled thus. It is important for us to search ourselves and our motivations and our methodology as we strive to teach our children. But just because these well-known evangelicals from a former age lost their children spiritually does not mean that we who have less "credentials" are doomed to failure. As Titus 3:5 says, it is not our work, but His mercy that saves.

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