: to cry out loudly and without restraint under strong impulse (as pain, grief, or amusement).
The 21st century person faces an existential crisis.
For 150 years the Darwinist narrative that human life is a product of a mindless, unguided process – a fortuitous cosmic accident – with no ultimate meaning, value or purpose, has been disseminated in western culture through our universities, schools, media, entertainment, state, medical and judicial systems.
Thus while our scientific age has lead to exponential increase in knowledge about how the universe functions – from telescopic insight into distant galaxies to the microscopic complexity of the human cell – our so-called ‘Enlightened’ era (of humanity supposedly liberated from the constraints of a transcendent Creator and his moral law) has left humankind alone, in an indifferent universe, without answers to why there is a universe to begin with.
Despite the evolutionary narrative that, in a universe produced by Chance, there is no meaning to life, we are yet powerless against the gravitational pull for meaning, an irrepressible necessity to understand: Why is there something rather than nothing? What is the meaning of it all? Why is there both beauty and barbarity in life? And if we’re simply determined by our genes or environment for survival why should we even care about virtue, truth and self-sacrifical love?
An age of normal nihilism
The fatal consequence of the ‘Enlightened’ age of optimism in unbridled human progress has been luminously exposed in the 20th century’s socio-political agendas having amounted to the bloodiest century in human history. The failure of humanistic utopian ideology has led to postmodern pessimism, expressed in rejecting the assumption of a universal norm, abandoning any rational hope of a unified answer to life, resulting in the current cultural fragmentation, relativism and existentialism.
And yet, despite this rejection, the postmodern era retains the Enlightenment’s basic humanistic presupposition: the cosmos is all there is and the autonomy of human reason. Thus the contemporary existential crisis – an age of normal nihilism – fashioning children of Chance in the image of an indifferent universe, where everything is ultimately meaningless and facing extinction.
In 1955 Allen Ginsberg (pictured right), American poet and one of the leading figures of the Beat Generation precipitating the 1960’s countercultural revolution, captured the sense of this corrosive futility and cultural fragmentation in the West with his frenetically lurid poem “Howl”. The opening line, with a matter-of-fact staccato rhythm, recalls:
I saw the best minds of my generation descend into madness,
encapsulating how Chance opens the universe not to reason, meaning and purpose but to absurdity.
Ideas and their consequences
Beginning from the premise that ‘ideas have consequences’, Howl is a blog that engages the existential crisis of this age by examining concrete contemporary expressions of ‘absurdity’, not as ‘madness’, but as the logical, rational and systematic outworking of humanistic man’s basic ‘religious’ presupposition about reality and himself.
Humanism is itself religious providing a framework for interpreting the world. There is no neutral realm of knowledge—no person is a dispassionate and entirely objective observer. Rather, each individual understands the world in terms of their ‘worldview’; a set of presuppositions, which may be conscious or unconscious and held consistently or inconsistently, about what the world is like and how it functions. A person’s worldview will determine the range of possible questions, explanations, evidence and conclusions.
The consequence of beginning with a false premise concerning the world and humanity, when it is consistently applied, is that it will end up destroying mind and reasoning, choice and freedom, truth and moral ideals, and thus, any unified field of meaning. From the biblical perspective this is because, as the apostle Paul explained, fallen humanity seek to be ‘like god’ – the epistemic source for interpreting the world – suppressing the inescapable knowledge of God revealed through man’s outer and inner world and exchange ‘real reality’ for an unreality, that is, a lie! Thus unavoidably constructing incoherent interpretations of the world and becoming, “futile in thinking” (Rom 1:21).
In this vein, Howl is a platform that aims to put worldview’s to the test by drawing out their logical implications for understanding humanity and the world. Through this it seeks to engage the ‘thinking person’ and ‘truth seeker’ in grappling with the predominant worldview’s in contemporary culture that compete for the allegiance of our minds and hearts. It will consequently explore why humanism, in its various expressions, is unable to coherently explain the fullness of human experience and why the biblical worldview – predicated not in the finite mind of man but in the mind of the infinite personal God – provides a coherent account of reality that infuses all matter with meaning, answering the irrepressible ‘howl’ in this age amidst the despair of an indifferent universe.
Howl pursues a renaissance in biblical thinking and application as not only having explanatory power but also reconstructive power to restore human flourishing to all areas of life—science & ecology, work & recreation, economics, media & arts, politics & law, ethics, family & sexuality.
Join the renaissance