How do Ideas Affect the World?

Consequences of Ideas Paper Assignment

By: Jesse Prewitt

In this paper I will attempt to summarize the main theme of R. C. Sproul’s book: The Consequences of Ideas: Understanding the Concepts That Shaped Our World. (Sproul, 2000) In the book, Sproul discussed the concept of “dangerous” thoughts and the type of thinking that leads to consequences that impact the loves of others, often for many generations to come. I will then discuss how this book and the idea of such consequences affects my research area: personality psychology and social psychology.

            As Sproul noted, the first philosophers or “thinkers”, had a great impact on society even today. He specifically notes, “Philosophy forces us to think foundationally.” (Sproul, 2000, 9) It is clear that bad foundational thinking can surely lead to bad, while good foundational thinking will lead to good. “Foundational thinking cares about the difference between truth and falsehood because it cares about good and evil,” writes Sproul. (Sproul, 2000, 11)

Stinking Thinking

            As Sproul puts it, “western civilization was “saved” from disintegration in barbarism” by the thinking of “Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle.” (Sproul, 2000, 51) However, after Aristotle, known as the “Doctor of Grace,” (Sproul, 2000) new “ideas” began to flourish as a new type of philosophy, skepticism, began to rise in prominence.

            Sproul notes that in Acts 17, the Apostle Paul is recorded to encountered two of these types of “thinkers” known as Stoics and Epicureans. The Stoics are responsible for what now is known as that “spark of the divine in all of us.” (Sproul, 2000, 52) They reportedly believed that virtue is found in one’s ability to meet whatever life brings their way with a “stiff upper lip.” (Sproul, 2000, 52) They seem to have been leaning toward a type of determinism, but failed to recognize God as the source of it.

            The Epicureans, though hostile to a more traditional model of religion considering it to be derived from fear and superstition, enjoyed a “refined” sense of physical and sensual pleasure, but not to the maximum degree that others took it. The Epicureans envisioned themselves as serving “optimum” pleasure, and that as much of the mind as of the body. (Sproul, 2000, 53)

            This sort of thinking or philosophy is the right of any person to hold, however the concept of its impact on future generations must be considered. Consider how the thinking of the ancestry of Charles Darwin impact our present age. Darwin’s grandfather, Erasmus Darwin (1797) highly influenced the thinking and writing of his grandson, and has resulted in what Sproul considers the greatest “unbridgeable canyon” for this present generation. Darwin’s theory, apparently derived from his grandfather’s beliefs, has divided not only this nation but the world.

            The spiritual impact is critical, notes Sproul. The concept of man’s origin is vital to man’s future, especially his eternity. If man’s origin is not associated with the divine, and his destiny is also not guaranteed by the divine, then his present life is meaningless, and man will die and simply return to the dirt. (Sproul, 2000, 188) In this “thinking”, morality is non-existent. Why not live it up? Why not take all you want from whomever you want? Why not live in a constant party, for tomorrow you die and that’s it?

            With this kind of “thinking”, there is no punishment for wrong because there is not such thing as right and wrong. Crime runs rampant and sin is non-existent. Take what you want and hurt whom you please. That is the consequence of stinking thinking.

            As a result of the type of thinking that brought us the concept of man having no divine origin, no eternal destiny, and no need for a God in his life, comes the idea that the Bible has no relevance today. “It has no special advantage over Buddhist texts, or the sacred writings of other Eastern religions,” writes Boyd. In fact, Christianity is increasingly considered to be oppressive. (Boyd, 1996, 48-9)

            So, here is where we find ourselves today. With a calling to pastor, the study of personality and social psychology is important. Understanding how people think and how they interact with each other as a result of that thinking, is vital to pastoring a church. Knowing that many in the world consider, and/or are being taught to believe, that Christianity irrelevant and/or oppressive, is important to my ministry.

            As I told my church this week, the enemy of our souls wants to convince people around the world that they have no origin associated with divinity, nor any hope of eternity with the same, therefore, their present life is not only meaningless to themselves but cannot therefore be meaningful to anyone else. This is the antithesis of Christianity which teaches that self must be put aside in favor of others, and to love others as one loves themself. One cannot love themself with not hope for future.

            If, as Sproul noted, one is “but a grown up germ,” referencing one philosopher, then man has not hope for the next life and not joy in this one. My research will be to demonstrate that Christ came to show us The Father and to give us hope for today and forever.


Boyd, Jeffrey H. Reclaiming the Soul: The Search for Meaning in a Self-Centered Culture. 1996. The Pilgrim Press. Cleveland, OH

Sproul, R. C. The Consequences of Ideas: Understanding the Concepts That Shaped Our World. 2000. Crossway. Wheaton, IL

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