Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Rage Against the Machine: On the Search for the Voice of True Reason

Written by: on February 24, 2020

The invasion of the sacred sanctum of my world has commenced once again. Within the internal hallways of the temple lies the battle between intellect and spirit, and society and kingdom. For the sake of education and knowledge, I have embarked on this journey, but in no fashion is this an enjoyable encounter. Sometimes, the cost of the odyssey appears too high. Therefore, I rage against the machine of the modern ways of thinking and push onward in search of the voice of the purest form of reason, the wisdom of God.

The past couple of reading assignments for the global leadership doctoral program have presented to be difficult reads since the books pinned the reader in a position to battle the intellect of man and the wisdom of God. Since the program’s intentions to introduce the leader to think outside of one’s internal foundations of belief systems and culture, there is a need to be exposed or introduced to cultures, schools of thought, and religion. Nevertheless, ever so often, the readings are very controversial and leaving the reader questioning if the book selections are to challenge, educate, or enrage.

Last week, Jordan Peterson’s Maps of Meaning book filled with stories of myths correlating to the Book of Genesis, archetypes descriptions, unsettling imaginary cause the modest reader to walk away and never return. Amongst his pages lay hidden biases and belief system nuances that failed to cross-cultural lines.

Now, this week the task to decipher and wade through the rose-colored picturesque of progress in Steven Pinker’s Enlightenment Now has taken center stage. Like Petersen, Pinker challenges the thoughts of the reader on the progress of the world through the Enhglightemnt lens of reason, science, and humanism.

Consequently, after reading this book, the urgency to find common ground was desperately desired. If it is possible to find a mutual understanding or correlation of this school of thought that is the ultimate goal. Unfortunately, the lines of division were starkly drawn in the sand of reason. First, it became apparent through Pinker’s quote below on human flourishing without religion.

There’s a coherent alternative to religious, nationalist and reactionary movements, namely the ideals of the Enlightenment: that we can use knowledge to enhance human flourishing. The Enlightenment, moreover, worked: We live longer, healthier, safer, wealthier, freer, more peaceful and more stimulating lives than those who came before us. And by “we” I don’t just mean we in the West. This progress is encompassing the world.[1]

It would be naïve to believe that all of the  great thinkers and influencers of today consider religion as a critical instrument in human flourishing. However, when man no longer needs God for direction, and they have figured of humanity and its future for themselves, there is a certainty that danger is on the horizon.

A quote from the article, Human Intelligence vs. God’s Wisdom, highlights the beauty and dangers of intellect without God.

The mind and intellect of man is an amazing thing. It has brought us from cave-dwelling to modern civilization. It has been responsible for imagining and producing powerful computers, trips to the moon, and cures for major diseases. But the mind and intellect of man has also been responsible for some very dangerous things like wars, genocide, cults, and atomic weaponry that could destroy the earth and civilization. And the most dangerous of them all, the mind has the ability to lead you to believe that there is no God, that you are so smart that you have no need of God, or that you are God.[2]

Second, considered as a hyper-optimist for his approach to the contribution and future of progress through his research, Pinker undoubtedly has oversimplified the complexity of the last era. He proclaims, here is a shocker: The world has made spectacular progress in every single measure of human well-being. Here is a second shocker: Almost no one knows about it.[3] However, here is a shocker though there has been much progress in areas of racism, poverty, economic inequality, etc.; in order for progress to progress, it has to continue in an upward movement.

As much as there are several areas of disagreement with Pinker’s book, we do agree on religions valuing souls above lives, which is not as uplifting as it sounds. Belief in an afterlife implies that health and happiness are not such a big deal, because life on earth is an infinitesimal portion of one’s existence.[4] It’s troublesome to see that even the others outside of the Church can identify the disparity in the Church’s mission to win the lost. In my research on social justice and the Church, there is an extreme divide concerning the Good Commission and showing God’s Great compassion for the poor, the widow, the fatherless, and the oppressed. There needs to be a balance of both. As the Church, we should not only seek to provide justice by showing them God’s love and the invitation to salvation, and we should not only focus solely on salvation and ignore human conditions.

Though I will continue to have an internal war with my rage against the machine of modern-day influencers, I will also embrace the differences of thought and reason along this odyssey of intellectual knowledge; and I will learn from them while being guided by Godly wisdom.

[1] David Bornstein, “Scared by the News? Take the Long View: Progress Gets Overlooked,” The New York Times (The New York Times, April 10, 2018), https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/10/opinion/steven-pinker-enlightenment-now.html)

[2] Ed Henderson and Cheryl Henderson, “Human Intellect vs. God’s Wisdom,” New Life Network, August 8, 2014, https://www.newlifenetwork.org/blog/human-intellect-vs-gods-wisdom/)

[3] Steven Pinker, Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress (NY, NY: Penguin Books, 2019), p.52

[4] Ibid, p.30



About the Author

Shermika Harvey

2 responses to “Rage Against the Machine: On the Search for the Voice of True Reason”

  1. Digby Wilkinson says:

    Hi there Shermika. Great personal reflections on Pinker. It s certainly a struggle balancing humanist viewpoints against those of faith. I have no problems with Pinkers observations regarding ‘enlightenment’ rationality and the progress of societies across the globe. I was also grateful that he included chapter 19 on the existential threats to ongoing progress. Like you, I think he’s rejection of religion is unhelpful, and his ways of interpreting reality are very different, but that’s why I have to move towards him, he is is only ‘a change in perspective’ from God’s truth. Jesus moved towards everyone, Pharisee, politician, Samaritan, soldiers Satan and marauding crowd – he only withdrew for peace and prayer. While it’s a challenge reading all this material, even more difficult will framing and referencing it in our dissertations – where necessary. Good on you for moving towards Pinker and Peterson 🙂

  2. John Muhanji says:

    It is true Shermika that enlightenment disregarded the power of God’s wisdom. Thus putting the families of faith confused. The rise of technology in modern days raised up reason and innovation which affected some people. But it also calls to the people of faith that they need to upgrade their systems to remain relevant in such a situation.

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