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Christians in the West today have to deal with a primary philosophical matter that is the question of the possibility of knowing truth. The mindset in our society today is either one of skepticism or of relativism. Skepticism says there is truth but we can’t know it; relativism says there is no fixed truth. These mindsets affect all claims to truth, of course, but they are especially significant for Christians as we seek to proclaim the Gospel to others and hold onto it ourselves in these days of uncertainty.
Is the challenge of the loss of truth new? Not at all. There have been periods of skepticism throughout the history of the West. In this article we’ll take a look at the era known as the Enlightenment, that period in the history of the West extending from the late 17th through the 18th centuries. What we’ll see is that the very issues we’re dealing with today were problems three centuries ago. Of particular concern to us will be the knowledge of God.
Before looking at the Enlightenment itself, let’s take a brief look at the mindset preceding this extraordinary era.
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