Nihilism — it Never Grows Old

By Larry A. McKee

Every generation has its rebels, idealists, drop-outs, and anarchists. We have ours but they have developed no new insights into life’s problems, nor are they any worse in their reactions or less radical in their solutions than their predecessors. Many Christians view this anarchy which exists in many quarters as an unsolvable problem and as proof that an end has come to our way of life. Yet this does not have to be the case. It is the purpose of this article to reflect on a period of history very similar to our own and, through it, to understand and hopefully help the young people in our homes and churches.

Few periods of history more closely parallel the anarchy presently among some of our youth than that of Russia in the late 1800’s. A study of this period is a study of Nihilism. Nihilism is defined by Webster as “the doctrine that conditions in the social organization are so bad as to make destruction desirable for its own sake, independent of any constructive program.” The term was first used in 1862 by Turgueniev in his celebrated novel Fathers And Children. However, the best discussion of Nihilism I have found is in the Encyclopedia Britannica (the 17th edition, 1911), Vol. 19. (The “scholarship” of modern liberal intellectuals has become so biased that they cannot treat the subject objectively.)

External Manifestations of Nihilism

This revealing article relates that Turgueniev noticed among the students of the universities, “young men and women in slovenly attire, who called in question and ridiculed the generally received convictions and respectable conventionalities of social life, and who talked of reorganizing society on strictly scientific principles. They reversed the traditional order of things even in trivial matters of external appearance, the males allowing the hair to grow long and the female adepts cutting it short and adding sometimes the additional badge of blue spectacles. Their appearance, manners and conversation were apt to shock ordinary people, but to this they were profoundly indifferent . . . and rather liked to scandalize people still under the influence of what they considered antiquated prejudices.” Does this not sound familiar? The three methods used to “shock ordinary people” by 19th century Nihilists are the same used by 20th century revolutionaries. Their appearance, manners (morals), and conversation say little of civilization, “intellectualism” or even intelligence. It is true we are shocked by the filthy language and immoral behavior of these “saviors of the world.” Their actions are calculated to alienate not only the hard-core revolutionary but all young people from decent, moral, and respectable persons and polarize themselves into a community bent upon destruction.

It might be well to make an observation at this point. Many parents and preachers make the mistake of opposing the trifle (old clothes, etc.) with the same fervor as immorality, even putting them in the same class. This helps no one but the rebels because it only clouds the real issues. Our young people are honest and intelligent. If you present the facts to them in a reasonable manner, they usually will see the truth and take the proper action. But when, for example, their style of dress (not decency) is made a condition of goodness and they are forced to conform to the traditions of their elders, they are blinded to the real problem and are made to chose between their peers and their parents. Many times the choice is made for rebellion because we got the cart before the horse. Jesus compared this to making the outside of the cup and platter clean but not the inside. There are vital issues involved here which must be impressed on our young people if they are to make a rational choice. It is sad when adults try to keep teenagers off the wrong path but are not able to discuss anything deeper than trivia, leading them to believe that blue jeans and old army coats are the issue.

For those who live like the ostrich with their heads in the sand, let this encyclopedia spell out what is to be destroyed. “Among the antiquated institutions which had to be abolished as obstructions to real progress, were religion, family life, private property and centralized administration. Religion was to be replaced by the exact sciences, family life by free love, private property by collectivism and centralized administration by a federation of independent communes” (emphasis mine, LM). Remember, dear reader, these quotes afire not about the United States in the 1960’s and 1970’s but of Russia in the 1860’s and 1870’s. They do not tell of the terrorism, murder of police and government officials or the liquidation of comrades suspected of treachery. Yet it reads like one of our local newspapers simply because the same underlying cause is involved, namely, youth without real values. You see, they too had been taught the “fashionable doctrine of evolution” which takes God away from man and replaces Him with a pseudo-science devoid of morality. Man, to the evolutionist, is just an animal. An animal has no morality. He has no decency. He has no respect for authority or the rights of others, or even himself. With this theory of evolution as their spiritual standard, they helped bring about the slavery not only of the Russian people by Communism, but also of one-third of the world’s population. Now we see our own youth being led down the same road with the same lies. As you can see freedom and morality, yea, even Christianity, are the real issues.

You Must Take the Offense

But there is an answer, an answer to every fearful, tearful, and prayerful parent. Take your children, while they are small, and fill them so full of God, His love and His laws that there will be no room for the foolishness and wiles of the devil. Teach them respect for you, for others, and for themselves by teaching them respect for God and His will. It’s up to you as a parent to follow the direction of Almighty God given in Deut. 6:7-9. “And thou shall teach them (the words of God-LM) diligently unto thy children, and thou shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.”

It’s an awesome responsibility to be a parent. When teenagers go through their “stages,” looking and acting like teenagers, it takes the patience of Job. When teenagers are faced with temptation from every side, it takes the wisdom of Solomon. When teenagers are bombarded with evolution, atheisn4, and immorality, it takes the faith of Abraham. Children cannot raise themselves to serve God, and they cannot avoid the pitfalls of life without our experience. If we do not begin today to train our children in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord,” we will lose everything. We will lose our freedom, our homes, and our opportunity to save souls. But most important of all we will lose our children. Either we will mold them into faithful children of God or watch them prepare for a burning hell as children of the devil. You will make the difference!

Truth Magazine XIX: 29, pp. 457-458
May 29, 1975