Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Jacksie today

This year's EFM (Yr 4) has seemed to be overly endowed with modern and postmodern existential psychological B. S. understandings of God, attempting to define that which I see as indefinable and to quantify that which can't be understood. Somewhere along the journey to Faith I believe one must accept the Mystery as God's design.

Unfortunately, I happened to read an op ed piece immediately following my finishing up some more of Sewanee's dreck and was just tired of hearing and reading it. So, here’s my take.

The author calls Lewis a sophist (by modern definition and as used, sophism is "a confusing or illogical argument used for deceiving someone"). To be kind to the author, he’s full of crap, even though he tried to downplay his disdain by saying: "he fooled himself first".

He went on to say: "What's palpably ridiculous are his warmed-over medieval arguments for the objective truth of Christian doctrine. One was that Christ had to be "either a God or a devil" - or self-delusive megalomaniac, as we'd now say. While sniping at the imperfections of scientific Biblical scholarship, Lewis shut his eyes to the painstaking work of two centuries that convincingly discerned different voices, sources, periods, influences on Biblical text. There's also no recognition in his work that people from different eras might perceive and express truth differently -- i.e., that someone in an earlier era who claimed to deliver God's words directly might be neither a fraud nor God's stenographer." More CRAP! God has been debated for nigh onto 3500 years and just because someone of presumed knowledge and position offers up ideas contrary to the generally accepted wisdom of those preceding them doesn't validate their position. One can certainly examine thoughts that precede their own and form judgments based upon their own understanding; however, that does not invalidate the understanding of the multitude of prior generations. Else why bother to read and study the Gospels, Acts of the Apostles and Paul's correspondences, much less the writings of St Augustine and other early Church Fathers. We are the product of our prior knowledge.

The next paragraph states: "Then there's the cultural chauvinism in his claims that other religious traditions foreshadowed or provided latter-day distortions of Christianity ..." And the absurd argument that God would create the physical laws of the universe in part to get our attention by His deliberate breaking of them through miracles. And his over-correction of what he called (this may be a paraphrase) our era's chronological snobbery -- an assumption that new ideas are inherently superior to old ones. Lewis, making the opposite error, refused to acknowledge any lasting advances in political ethics or developments in our understanding of human rights." Regarding the bolded sentence, I see its snobbery and assumptions of superiority referred to day in and day out. "Because I have scientifically examined all the evidence and proof available, I conclude that: 1). The facts are ..., and 2). I'm right and you're wrong because I'm more educated than you are."

Going into politics he says: "He's one of your conservatives of doubt -- dubious about the efficacy of human attempts to permanently improve human life. He's a democrat (small d, believer in democracy) by default, of the Churchillian school that democracy is the worst form of government except for all the alternatives. His own formulation was that democracy is necessary because human corruption means that no individual or small group can be trusted with power." Before the development of an agrarian society when there only existed nomadic tribes, that tribal socialistic society worked (I would suppose) though there's no evidence to confirm or deny it. With the development of that agrarian society and all else that's followed, mankind has always striven for equality and freedom. However, in the words of Orwell (I might be paraphrasing): "Everyone is equal but some are more equal than others." I agree with each accusation he makes towards Lewis' thought process but fear he's trying to accuse Lewis of being wrong in his thoughts, though I consider him right. Mankind's propensity to serving self does mean that no individuals or small groups can be trusted with power. Witness Washington for the past 80 years or so. Both parties want to do, not what is best for the country, but what, and only what, best enables them to maintain their power and position and the public be damned. I'm speaking of both Democrats and Republicans. A BU History Prof. I know made the comment: "The last politician who went to Washington to accomplish what he set out to do and left was Reagan." I think he's probably right.

The next paragraph adds: "What Lewis lacked was any sense that participating in political life is part of what makes us fully human -- and the corollary, that a people's meaningful participation in politics could permanently advance human welfare. Strange, for a man steeped in Greek literature -- no sense that man is a political animal. He charmingly wrote, "I myself am not fit to run a henhouse." Well, neither am I. But that doesn't mean I have no role or responsibility in governance, and that if all were well I'd live like one of Lewis's Narnian badgers, in peaceful quietism. And while you, Andrew, are a very political animal, you share Lewis' unduly limited sense of what government and politics can accomplish. I recognize, with Obama, that Reagan had a lasting insight, and that the lasting pressure he put on liberalism not to bloat government, not to intrude it into every aspect of our lives, not to let it suck any more resources out of the private sector than it needs to perform its functions at maximum efficiency, is salutary. But to go from there to an assumption that government can't improve on its furtherance of commonwealth, that it can't fairly counteract rising income inequality or spread the most fundamental risks, like illness or destitution in old age, more effectively than it does now, is defeatist." Well, strip my gears and color me a defeatist. I firmly believe that government CAN'T improve on its furtherance of commonwealth, fairly counteract rising income inequality or spread the most fundamental risks, more effectively than it does now. Two hundred and thirty three years ago (give or take) the Founding Fathers created a Republic called the United States of America (note, I said Republic, not Democracy; though we could be called a representative democracy). At that time the government's main focus was joining together for the protection of the individual states. They did a good job of that; however, much the same as any other form of government, once someone attempted to determine how someone else should live, what they should have, etc., they began making a bigger mess of things than existed before they got involved in imposing their will on others. Income redistribution doesn't work real well because what happens is that without incentive there is no justification for labor. Go read Atlas Shrugged.

I was also put off by his mention of Phillip Pullman (an avowed atheist with a self spoken agenda to move children away from faith towards atheism). I’ve read his Trilogy and have fully observed and understood, the contempt he has towards faith in general and Christianity in particular. He also harbors an intense dislike - bordering on hatred - for C. S. Lewis and his works, and in fact produced his Trilogy solely in response to and rebuttal of the Narnia Chronicles.

The article ends with: "But I'd be lying if he didn't occasionally give me hope that politics can actually make our lives a little better." Politics in general and government in particular has never made things better for its subjects. I challenge you to name one political system that made things better for its citizens and that worked. If you could, wouldn't that be the model for today's more progressive governments?

So, I suppose my ultimate comment is don't worry so much and get to know God yourself. Don't trust what someone else tells you He/She is, learn for yourself. And don't expect for government to make thing better for you, it won't and can't. Don't become overly skeptical of everyone but don't trust, on blind faith, what people tell you either; for you will only be disappointed and disillusioned. Vote your conscience, but from a position of understanding and not trust, for only The Father is deserving of that.


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