Site icon D. Patrick Collins

Dark Ages

I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness. — John 12:46

It feels as though I have recently emerged from the Dark Ages, and I will tell you: It was not fun. As a general rule, the Dark Ages are a place both personally and corporately as a human race we wish to emerge from, not a place we wish to be found in. Darkness as a general rule should be avoided.

But what are the Dark Ages? According to Wikipedia it was “a historical period traditionally referring to the Middle Ages [characterized by] a demographic, cultural, and economic deterioration in Western Europe following the decline of the Roman Empire.” Britannica explains:

The term “Dark Ages” is now rarely used by historians because of the value judgment it implies. Though sometimes taken to derive its meaning from the dearth of information about the period, the term’s more usual and pejorative sense is of a period of intellectual darkness and barbarity.

It is this latter pejorative definition that is useful for our discussion. The Dark Ages may no longer exist in historical scholarship, but they do exist in the hearts and minds of humanity. There has, if I may suggest, always been this sense in the collective human soul that there are places of “intellectual darkness and barbarity” as well as places of intellectual enlightenment and civility, and the former should be denounced and the latter embraced.

The very term Dark Ages, in fact, represents this human tendency: We wish to label a period of time as darker, and the time in which we live as more enlightened. When in fact, such an assessment is not grounded in fact: It is a projection of our own biases. (Which, if you think about it for a moment, is a bit ironic: Our very act of labeling a period of history as dark turns out to only reveal our own intellectual darkness.)

The idea of darkness and light, intellectually or spiritually, runs through our veins. It is why issues in an age where the the idea of moral absolutes is denounced if not altogether discarded are nonetheless seen as moral. We should be intellectually enlightened. We should support abortion. We should be inclusive. We should redefine marriage. We should redefine gender. It is simply the intellectually enlightened thing to do. And we have the intellectual upper ground. And those who do not agree should be denounced.

I will resist the urge to go down the path of “rant.” But I would like to suggest this has been the case in every age. In other words, there has always been a moral paradigm that governs a society in every age. But more than this, there has always been a sense that the moral and intellectual position we embrace is the high ground, and the past is all Dark Ages. And the areas of dissent dark regions of civilization. 

Which I suppose leads us to the question: What are the odds? I mean, what are the odds that our age, of all ages, would be the most enlightened? I think many of us point to scientific advancements as proof we must be advanced as a civilization: These two are often conflated. But having more stuff does not make me more virtuous. Having a smartphone is not the same as having a moral center.

If I may take a sharp turn here, none of my own intellectual or moral sensibilities were of much use to me when I entered my own Dark Ages. The only Light that was of any use was Jesus Christ. After the loss of my wife and a period of feeling really close to God, it was as though the lights went out. There were reasons for this; if I can speak cryptically for the sake of space, an entire region of Dark Ages in my own heart had come to the surface. But it was Jesus who walked me through the process of healing. and He continues to do so. 

Whether we are personally walking through our own Dark Age or collectively navigating our modern age, there is really only one Light of the World. And before Him, we are all in darkness, relatively speaking. But whatever darkness we find ourselves in, He is able to liberate us. Trust me: This Light is so much stronger, so much greater, so much more merciful, than the soft glow of our Smartphones.

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