Western Culture

A Review of After Virtue by Alasdair MacIntyre

By Adam Lloyd Johnson, Ph.D.

In his seminal work After Virtue, Alasdair MacIntyre argues that our Western society has lost the conceptual context for and foundation within which moral language makes sense. In the premodern world moral judgments were understood as governed by impersonal standards justified by a shared conception of human good. That context was lost in the Enlightenment when Aristotelian Scholasticism and Christian theology were discarded and, with them, the idea of teleology. After teleology was discarded, several conceptual systems attempted to provide a new account of morality which would maintain the status, authority, and justification of moral rules.

What Did the Early Christians Think About Abortion?

By Randy Ellis

Randy Ellis earned his Bachelor of Religious Education from Baptist Bible College in Clark Summit, Pennsylvania. He originally wrote this paper in 2000 while attending Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, North Carolina. Randy was born and raised on Long Island and currently resides in Tega Cay, South Carolina, with his wife Christine. He has three daughters and two grandsons.


On January 22, 1997, the 24th anniversary of the U. S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion, American Vice President Al Gore gave a speech in Chicago, Illinois, to the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL).

If Life Ends at Death, Then Eat, Drink, and Be Merry, for Tomorrow We Die

By Adam Lloyd Johnson, Ph.D.

The book of Ecclesiastes is notoriously difficult to interpret. In this article I share my best attempt at understanding and explaining what this book is about. Many have argued that the main message of Ecclesiastes is that we shouldn’t look for meaning and purpose in this world or in this mortal life. While that might be a valid application of the truths found in Ecclesiastes, I don’t think that is its primary message. It seems to me that the main purpose of Ecclesiastes is to teach the following conditional: If life ends at death, then life, and the toil of this life, is vanity because it’s fleeting, futile, meaningless, and absurd.

When the Machines Take Over… Or Have They Already?

By Adam Lloyd Johnson, Ph.D.

People have been intimidated by machines for a long time. It’s hard to say when this first began, but it definitely was ramped up during the industrial revolution when machines were taking over more and more jobs. It’s easy to understand why people felt intimidated; machines were superior to humans in certain respects – they were stronger, faster, and more reliable. Computers have only exacerbated this anxiety because now machines can be smarter than humans in certain ways – they can remember more and compute faster. This was strikingly driven home in 1997 when IBM’s computer “Deep Blue” beat World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov.

Objections to Apologetics

Objections to doing apologetics can come from non-Christians and from Christians alike. Some people say that to claim that your religious faith is objectively true, which implies that other religious are false, is intolerant. However, this assumes an incorrect definition of tolerance. One can do apologetics and be confident about his beliefs while being fair and respectful to other people’s positions. Others claim that religious faith is only a subjective preference; they believe that it can’t be objectively true. The claims of apologetics, however, like so many other fields of study, are claims to objective truth, because they are claims about how reality really is. They don’t just focus on what is “true for me,” but on what actually corresponds to objective reality. Finally, there are some who think that faith and reason can’t or shouldn’t go together – that to have faith is therefore not to be thinking rationally. This view results from many years of Western history where various thinkers separated the roles of faith and reason. However, a premodern understanding shows that faith and reason can actually support and reinforce one another.

Introduction to Philosophy

Why study philosophy? Imagine someone preparing to be a missionary in China. To prepare to reach people for Christ, they should mostly study the Bible, but it’d also be good to spend, say, 10% of their time studying Chinese culture so they could better understand how Chinese people think, what they believe, and how best to communicate God’s truth to them. Well, if you’re a Christian, then you’re a missionary! We’re all called to fulfill the Great Commission Jesus gave us—to go and make disciples. And if you live in the West (America or Europe), then you’re a missionary to Western culture.

Critics of Postmodernism

Many academic philosophers did not accept the philosophy that postmodernism offered. Some critics argue that we should return to a premodern way of thinking, while others advocate for a return to philosophies reminiscent of modernism. Recently, while logical positivism has mostly died out within academic philosophy, there has been a resurgence of premodernism. Contemporary premodern thinkers include philosophers like Alasdair MacIntyre, Richard Swinburne, John Hare, Robert Adams, Robert Audi, Alvin Plantinga, Peter Kreeft, Robert Koons, and many others. Another prominent critic of postmodernism is Jürgen Habermas, who leans toward Enlightenment modernism rather than premodern thinking. He thinks the Enlightenment needs to be complemented rather than discarded. Finally, one other notable critic of modernism and postmodernism was Michael Polanyi. He said that the roots of the problem could be found with those who attempted to separate faith and reason, which led to extremes of using only reason or only faith. Polanyi forged a middle path between the two extremes of modernism and postmodernism. He argued that all of our types of knowledge work the same way: all of them involve an element of faith because we cannot know anything with absolute certainty, but they still must be verified using good reasons and evidence. He said that while complete objectivity is not possible as modernism claimed, that does not imply that all knowledge is subjective, as postmodernism claimed.

Structuralism and Postmodernism

Structuralism was a movement that started in anthropology and then moved into the field of philosophy. Structuralists opposed existentialism because they thought it overestimated the free will that human beings actually have. Structuralists said that people’s feelings and choices aren’t actually free because they’ve been programmed by their culture. The thought patterns, language, and concepts of our culture influence us to such a degree that it is impossible to break free of them. So, instead of you defining yourself, structuralism said that your culture is what defines you and gives you meaning. Out of structuralism grew postmodernism with thinkers like Rorty, Foucault, and Derrida. They said that truth is created at the group level and is relative to a culture and its worldview. Therefore, you are defined by the viewpoint of the cultural groups of which you’re a part – race, ethnicity, gender, sexual identity, income, etc. According to postmodernism, you don’t define meaning for yourself; being a part of your group creates meaning for you, and you can’t break free of how your group has caused you to think. Postmodernists said that there were no objective truths and that claiming to know truth objectively is just a way to gain power over other groups.


In the aftermath of World War II, a new movement of atheistic philosophers arose out of France called the existentialists, featuring prominent thinkers like Jean-Paul Sartre. Existentialism proposed taking two steps toward finding ultimate meaning and truth. First, you have to have an existential crisis where you realize that there is no meaning to life. This experience can be overwhelming and crushing when you consider that life is absurd and there are no ultimate answers out there. Sometimes fear of death, loneliness, or seeing arbitrariness in life could bring about this existential crisis that the existentialists said you should have. Second, you have to define yourself and create your own meaning to life through the free choices you make. “We are our choices,” said Jean-Paul Sartre. You are true to yourself and can discover your authentic self through this process of defining yourself through your free choices. Sartre affirmed that “Man is nothing else but what he makes of himself.” In existentialism, existence precedes essence.

Friedrich Nietzsche

Friedrich Nietzsche was the famous German philosopher who lived at the end of the 19th century and provocatively declared that “God is dead.” By this, he meant that the idea of God in Western society was no longer influential. In a way, Nietzsche espoused a philosophy very similar to that of Kierkegaard, that we should look internally for meaning, but instead of finding meaning in Christianity like Kierkegaard did, Nietzsche was an atheist who found meaning in the human “will to power.” Nietzsche said that the way to achieve one’s desires or will is through power and force, but this becomes difficult when human desires conflict, because humans must compete to see whose desires will win out. By exerting power to fulfill our desires in life and society, Nietzsche said that we could overcome the emptiness of life. According to Nietzsche, this was all that life was about, and this principle is seen all around us in nature. Nature is the highest reality since there is no higher, transcendent truth. Therefore, Nietzsche was a moral relativist, who taught that what is good is what helps you fulfill your desires, and morality is determined by whether or not you are in a position of power.