My first semester as a college freshman consisted of a Latin class and four inter-related classes (called a Colloquium) on the Renaissance. Within this Colloquium, my classmates and I took Political Science, English Literature, Art History and Philosophy. Our Philosophy class also served as a sort of “home base” where we synthesized the four disciplines. Early on, the Philosophy professor taught that the cornerstone of Renaissance thought hearkened back to an ancient Greek philosopher, Protagoras, who said “Man is the measure of all things.”
This revival of viewing man, rather than God, as the focal point of life has continued, in varying degrees, to permeate Western Civilization since the Renaissance. It seems to me that the idea enjoys a present resurgence in our postmodern culture. The current twist to this ancient maxim presents personal experience, as opposed to objective fact, as the means of determining “truth.” Hence the familiar saying, “What’s true for you may not be true for me.”
That subjective measuring rod frequently offers non-Christians a convenient buffer against the Gospel’s authority. If they can discount Jesus’ claim of being Truth Himself (John 14:6), they can dismiss His right to command their obedience. They essentially declare themselves as lords over their own lives (while rarely using that terminology, of course). Like Protagoras, and the Renaissance scholars who dredged him up, they reject Him as Lord in deference to their own self will.
The Christian response, however, must stand firm against man-centered philosophy. We have the responsibility to firmly stand for the truth of God’s Word, which has always contradicted humanistic thought. Paul’s charge to Timothy applies to all Christians since we each bear the responsibility to proclaim the Gospel.
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. 5 As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. ~~2 Timothy 4:1-5 (ESV)
As Bible-believing Christians, we understand that humanity has fallen because of sin. Every aspect of our being has been corrupted, taking us far away from the holy beings that reflect God’s holy standards. If we are the measure of all things, we surely deny the goodness of God’s creation. Obviously, our very sinfulness gives evidence to the fact that we must never flatter ourselves with the myth of Protagoras. We must reject such pride and humbly confess our desperate need for a Savior .
And we must boldly preach the truth that men and women need salvation from their inherent sinfulness. As I’ve said so often, the Good News of the Gospel begins with the bad news of our unrighteousness.
The Renaissance may have accomplished many wonderful things, and I will always love Italian Renaissance painting. But my love for Christ necessitates that I believe His Word…even when it is “out of season.” Only one Man, because He lived a sinless life, died in the place of sinners and rose from the dead, possesses the ability to be the Measure of all things. Please look to Him as your Standard.