The "dominionist" slanderous, turnabout false accusation
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The "dominionist" slanderous, turnabout false accusation

In recent weeks there has been yet another drum-beat talking-point on how Christians in public life are a menace to liberty and democracy.

For, through their faith in the God of the Bible, they are suspected to be morally monstrous followers of a barbaric bronze age god — NOT, and to thus be advancing a Christo-fascist, right-wing, totalitarian, theocracy. (Cf. also here, here.)

And of course, design theory is held to be the creationism- in- a- cheap- tuxedo front for this imagined nefarious Nazi-like agenda inspired by the likes of . . . the late Theologian-Philosopher Francis Schaeffer, who advocated for a new reformation of return to godly, sound reason in light of recognition of the reality of the God who is there, and who is not silent.  (And this echoes the titles of Schaeffer’s three key books: Escape from Reason, The God Who is There, and He is There and is Not Silent. Those who are so quick to trot out distorted talking points need to read and cogently respond to these books, first.)

This is yet another instance of the classic,  “he-hit-back first,” blame the intended victim, turn-speak, turn-about  false accusation — based on the trifecta rhetorical strategy of distraction from issues, willful and even slanderous distortion of people and movements, and demonisation —  so beloved of modern Big-Lie propagandists and their dupes; especially those of the Alinskyite Rules for Radicals school of praxis.

(And, BTW, the captioned picture just above is taken from a targetting photo — we know you, we know where you are, we know those you care for, and here’s the targetting picture —  hosted by a hate-blog that personally attacks and slanders contributors and commenters at UD. Those who are pushing such talking points need to pause and ask themselves as a first point of correction, how comes “fascism” is a right-wing movement, when its worst manifestation bore the title, National SOCIALISM? Do you now begin to  see how — suspiciously — things do not add up here? )

Before we get to the meat of the matter, let’s throw the spotlight on a recent Baltimore B4U-ACT pro pederasty “academic” conference (studiously not headlined in the major media that are busily misleading us with scare-headline alarums over imagined right wing theocratic conspiracies) that inadvertently reveals where all of this is heading. Les Kinsolving reports:

B4U-ACT pro-pedophilia conference certificate

The Baltimore Sun [same city], Washington Post [right next door] and New York Times [supposed newspaper of record] had no coverage of this event, which was attended by a number of admitted pedophiles – or, as this conference re-labeled them, “minor-attracted persons.” . . . .

Among “highlights” of this conference, as reported by Barber and Reisman:

Pedophiles are “unfairly stigmatized and demonized” by society.

“Anglo-Americans’ standard on age of consent is new (and ‘puritanical’). In Europe, it was always set at 10 or 12. Ages of consent beyond that are relatively new and very strange, especially for boys. They’ve always been able to have sex at any age.”

“An adult’s desire to have sex with children is ‘normative.’”

Our society should “maximize individual liberty. We have a highly moralistic society that is not consistent with liberty.”

Dr. Fred Berlin acknowledged that it was political activism, similar to that witnessed at the conference, rather than scientific considerations that successfully led to the declassification of homosexuality as a mental disorder.

“The majority of pedophiles are gentle and rational.”

The diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders should “focus on the needs” of the pedophile, and should have “a minimal focus on social control,” rather than obsessing about “the need to protect children.”

Self-described “gay activist” and speaker Jacob Breslow said that children can properly be “the object of our attention.” He further objectified children, suggesting that pedophiles needn’t gain consent from a child to have sex with “it” any more than we need consent from a shoe to wear it. He then used graphic, slang language to favorably describe the act of climaxing . . . “on or with” a child. No one in attendance objected to this explicit depiction of child sexual assault . . . .

“B4U-ACT is the driving force behind this movement. It’s goal is to reconceptualize our thinking about what they politely call ‘minority-attracted persons.’ If they had it their way, sex between adults and minors would no longer be taboo, and pedophilia would no longer be listed as a mental illness by the American Psychiatric Association.”

Got that?

Our society should “maximize individual liberty. We have a highly moralistic society that is not consistent with liberty.”

As those who have been following evolving UD comment-thread discussions in recent days here on and here on will know, what is really going on is that evolutionary materialism is intellectually bankrupt through self-referential incoherence and morally bankrupt through inescapable amorality but dominant in scientific and other major cultural institutions.

As we saw, it has in it no foundational IS that can bear the weight of OUGHT, so it seeks to push the idea that anything goes, so long as a powerful enough and “credible” enough lobby backs it, and of course, we saw that it argues for our being jumped up pond scum by way of apes on the East African savannahs scrambling for survival in light of chance and necessity programming of genes and memes so that we have neither freedom of will nor intellectual responsibility.

So, it is exploiting that cultural influence to delegitimise any questioning or objections to the agendas of radical relativism and amorality that its factions are pushing, ever so hard.

After all, who dares object to “liberty”?

Maybe, the untainted definition of that term from Webster’s Dictionary, 1828, will help us see what is going on behind the willful confusion of genuine liberty with its counterfeit, destructive license:

LIB’ERTY, n. [L. libertas, from liber, free.]

1. Freedom from restraint, in a general sense, and applicable to the body, or to the will or mind. The body is at liberty, when not confined; the will or mind is at liberty, when not checked or controlled. A man enjoys liberty, when no physical force operates to restrain his actions or volitions.

2. Natural liberty, consists in the power of acting as one thinks fit, without any restraint or control, except from the laws of nature. It is a state of exemption from the control of others, and from positive laws and the institutions of social life. This liberty is abridged by the establishment of government.

3. Civil liberty, is the liberty of men in a state of society, or natural liberty, so far only abridged and restrained, as is necessary and expedient for the safety and interest of the society, state or nation. A restraint of natural liberty, not necessary or expedient for the public, is tyranny or oppression. civil liberty is an exemption from the arbitrary will of others, which exemption is secured by established laws, which restrain every man from injuring or controlling another. Hence the restraints of law are essential to civil liberty.The liberty of one depends not so much on the removal of all restraint from him, as on the due restraint upon the liberty of others. In this sentence, the latter word liberty denotes natural liberty.

4. Political liberty, is sometimes used as synonymous with civil liberty. But it more properly designates the liberty of a nation, the freedom of a nation or state from all unjust abridgment of its rights and independence by another nation. Hence we often speak of the political liberties of Europe, or the nations of Europe.

5. Religious liberty, is the free right of adopting and enjoying opinions on religious subjects, and of worshiping the Supreme Being according to the dictates of conscience, without external control.

6. Liberty, in metaphysics, as opposed to necessity, is the power of an agent to do or forbear any particular action, according to the determination or thought of the mind, by which either is preferred to the other. Freedom of the will; exemption from compulsion or restraint in willing or volition.

LI’CENSE, n. [L. licentia, from liceo, to be permitted.] . . .

2. Excess of liberty; exorbitant freedom; freedom abused, or used in contempt of law or decorum.License they mean, when they cry liberty.

Again and again, we see how insightful George Orwell’s 1984 was: the willful corruption of language is the first step to shackling men’s minds to a new tyranny.

In addition, we must recognise the close link between genuine liberty, duties and rights, for without duties of neighbourliness in the circle of the civil peace of justice,  there can be no basis for rights.

This is aptly brought out by philosopher Arthur Holmes:

However we may define the good, however well we may calculate consequences, to whatever extent we may or may not desire certain consequences, none of this of itself implies any obligation of command. That something is or will be does not imply that we ought to seek it. We can never derive an “ought” from a premised “is” unless the ought is somehow already contained in the premise . . . .

R. M. Hare . . . raises the same point. Most theories, he argues, simply fail to account for the ought that commands us: subjectivism reduces imperatives to statements about subjective states, egoism and utilitarianism reduce them to statements about consequences, emotivism simply rejects them because they are not empirically verifiable, and determinism reduces them to causes rather than commands . . . .

Elizabeth Anscombe’s point is well made. We have a problem introducing the ought into ethics unless, as she argues, we are morally obligated by law – not a socially imposed law, ultimately, but divine law . . . . This is precisely the problem with modern ethical theory in the West . . . it has lost the binding force of divine commandments. [Ethics: Approaching Moral Decisions (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 1984), pp. 70 – 72.]

The relevance of this comes out as soon as we consider the concept that we have rights:

If we admit that we all equally have the right to be treated as persons, then it follows that we have the duty to respect one another accordingly.  Rights bring correlative duties: my rights . . . imply that you ought to respect these rights.[IBID, p. 81.]

But, why should we consider that people have rights at all? The only enduring answer to this has been aptly summarised in the US Declaration of Independence of 1776:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed . . .”

In short, the is-ought gap of ethics points to the question that rights and correlative duties arise from our being equally valuable as morally governed, significantly free creatures of God. But such claims often do not sit well with modern or post-modern people, who wish to reject the moral argument to an inherently good God.  (Cf. Kreeft & Tacelli here, and short William Lane Craig video here. [His longer audio/video series here may also be helpful.])

But now, we can see some of the unintended consequences of that rejection: evolutionary materialism (while institutionally dominant as the “scientific” account of our roots)  has in it no foundational IS that can bear the weight of OUGHT, and so — ironically — it works to undercut the ethical foundations of the very liberty that so many of its adherents demand as their “right.”

Just so, as long as 2350 years ago, in his 360 BC The Laws, Bk X, Plato exposed the strongly associated evolutionary materialist agenda, from chaos in the heavens to chaos in the community. Let us listen to his counsel from the distant past again, lest we forget some of the hardest-earned lessons of history and — yet again — repeat some of the worst chapters of that same history:

The elements are severally moved by chance and some inherent force according to certain affinities among them-of hot with cold, or of dry with moist, or of soft with hard, and according to all the other accidental admixtures of opposites which have been formed by necessity. After this fashion and in this manner the whole heaven has been created, and all that is in the heaven, as well as animals and all plants, and all the seasons come from these elements, not by the action of mind, as they say, or of any God, or from art, but as I was saying, by nature and chance only . . . .

[[T]hese people would say that the Gods exist not by nature, but by art, and by the laws of states, which are different in different places, according to the agreement of those who make them; and that the honourable is one thing by nature and another thing by law, and that the principles of justice have no existence at all in nature, but that mankind are always disputing about them and altering them; and that the alterations which are made by art and by law have no basis in nature, but are of authority for the moment and at the time at which they are made. [[Relativism, too, is not new; complete with its radical amorality rooted in a worldview that has no foundational IS that can ground OUGHT. (Cf. here for Locke’s views and sources on a very different base for grounding liberty as opposed to license and resulting anarchistic “every man does what is right in his own eyes” chaos leading to tyranny.)] These, my friends, are the sayings of wise men, poets and prose writers, which find a way into the minds of youth. They are told by them that the highest right is might [[ Evolutionary materialism leads to the promotion of amorality], and in this way the young fall into impieties, under the idea that the Gods are not such as the law bids them imagine; and hence arise factions [[Evolutionary materialism-motivated amorality “naturally” leads to continual contentions and power struggles; cf. dramatisation here],  these philosophers inviting them to lead a true life according to nature, that is, to live in real dominion over others [[such amoral factions, if they gain power, “naturally” tend towards ruthless tyranny; here, too, Plato hints at the career of Alcibiades], and not in legal subjection to them . . .
Nietzsche, advocate of the superman

So, we now see exposed the real “dominionism” that we need to address: evolutionary materialist, radical relativist, might makes “right” factionism that seeks to live in tyrannical dominion over the community at the hands of Nietzschean supermen who are so great in their own minds that they make up their own “morality” as they please.

(And of course, the Fascist political messiah is precisely the forerunner of the new order of supermen, who steps into our crisis and rescues the innocent identity group from all its woes and fears through embodying the all-powerful utopian state. I dare call this what it is, spirit of Antichrist, strongman-ist IDOLATRY. And like all other idolatries, it delivers bondage and chaos, not liberation.)

Is there a reasonable alternative?

In responding to a comment by WJM, I suggested:

. . . on good reason, on a soundly conscience-informed worldview that is willing to accept our fellow creatures as being our equals, and that we collectively have a stewardship over our world, we may often identify the OBJECTIVELY right path. That is, moral knowledge is possible, and ethically informed decision making grounded on sound moral insights is also possible.

Here is my own briefing note on that [with attached tools], as an advocate of a properly understood premise of sustainable development, and here is where I stood up in public as an SD practitioner, to defend it [slide show here as a PDF]; as an invited public lecture in my homeland, subsequently published as a peer-reviewed theology and ethics paper in the leading regional Evangelical Journal of theology.

In short, through the generic ethical, creational view of the cosmos and of ourselves in it, with the concept of being equally valuable morally governed creatures, with a stewardship, we can in fact construct a pretty reasonable and publicly defensible ethics for life in community and public policy. And if you want to view this as a political agenda, kindly observe what it advocates, i.e. consultative, participative consensus-driven informed public democracy in a generally communitarian frame of thought. (Cf here an actual national energy policy specifically informed by that frame and developed through that approach.)

The pivot of that position is a correctly understood, well-informed application of the Golden Rule/ Categorical Imperative — despite Kant’s dismissals, on a calmer look, they are logically equivalent in force — that guides personal and community level moral thought, and informs public policy through its application to a reasonable form of the sustainability principle that respects liberty and the civil peace of justice.

So, we are not at all locked up to one form or another of might makes right.

Let us start the corrective from there.  [Cf the responses to key objections and “moral monster talking points just before this, here.]

So, there is a possible way forward.

A peaceful, participative, sustainable, democratic, lawful way that empowers stakeholders and strikes the balance of genuine liberty, while restraining the chaotic trends of license and ill-advised arrogant factionalism and idolatrous charismatic, Nietzschean superman political messianism.

For that, it is well worth clipping the passage in Richard Hooker’s 1594+ Ecclesiastical Polity that Locke cited by Locke in his Second Treatise on Civil Government, Ch 2 Sect. 5, when he set out to ground the principles of liberty and justice in a well-governed community that ever since the US Declaration of Independence in 1776,  have been the foundation for modern liberty and democracy:

. . . if I cannot but wish to receive good, even as much at every man’s hands, as any man can wish unto his own soul, how should I look to have any part of my desire herein satisfied, unless myself be careful to satisfy the like desire which is undoubtedly in other men . . . my desire, therefore, to be loved of my equals in Nature, as much as possible may be, imposeth upon me a natural duty of bearing to themward fully the like affection. From which relation of equality between ourselves and them that are as ourselves, what several rules and canons natural reason hath drawn for direction of life no man is ignorant . . . [[Hooker then continues, citing Aristotle in The Nicomachean Ethics, Bk 8:] as namely, That because we would take no harm, we must therefore do none; That since we would not be in any thing extremely dealt with, we must ourselves avoid all extremity in our dealings; That from all violence and wrong we are utterly to abstain, with such-like . . . ] [[Eccl. Polity,preface, Bk I, “ch.” 8, p.80, cf. here. Emphasis added.]

Let us ponder these sobering words in our own time. END

Follow up post here. kairosfocus
But, if you are going to analytically -- never, never, never, literally!!! -- blow up an old order you had better have a sound alternative. And, that was Schaeffer's key contribution: contrasting the reformation with the renaissance, he underscored how the former did not face the fatally revealing incoherence in what would become the line of despair as the gap in the system of thought that started with nature vs grace and ended with essentially deterministic mechanical reason vs freedom, proved unbridgeable. So, he effectively took us back to the key point Paul was making on Mars Hill:
Ac 17: 22 . . . Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. 24 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man,2 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. 26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27 that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, 28 for “‘In him we live and move and have our being’;3 as even some of your own poets have said, “‘For we are indeed his offspring.’ 29 Being then God's offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. 30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” 32 Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, “We will hear you again about this.” 33 So Paul went out from their midst. 34 But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them. [Of course from such slender beginnings, the gospel and the Christian faith founded on it peacefully prevailed in Greek culture, in the teeth of mocking dismissals, slanderous and spiteful caricatures, and waves of brutal persecution.]
In short, He is there and is not silent. So, we ought to listen to Him, and renew our souls and wider civilisation based on his wisdom, not our own fatally flawed misunderstandings. What is the relevance of all this to the design theory debates? 1: It shows us that conceiving of design theory or wider science as a project in natural theology considered as "proving God" through the teleological argument is a predictably futile endeavour. Matters of fact simply are not matters of demonstrative proof. 2: It shows us that the exposure of the scientific and logical bankruptcy of imposed a priori Lewontinian materialism, is a first step to restoring sound science and sound science education, especially on origins. 3: It highlights the importance of worldviews thinking and analysis in preparing the groundwork for sound science, and for a soundly scientifically informed worldview. 4: It highlights that we should always be aware of how worldviews foundations and prestigious institutions of learning -- whether the thinking of the dominating elites is sound or not -- strongly shape how we think, what seems reasonable to us, how we make morally tinged decisions, and how our culture consequently develops, for good or ill. 5: It points out how dominant elites, even when the cracked foundations of their proud systems have been exposed, tend to dismiss and even ridicule criticism, so that real reformation tends to come from the margins and only after a time (pessimists say the old generation has to die off first) of controversy and cultural conflict -- which can get pretty nasty -- will a new order emerge. 6: We see also, in the face of Dionysius the Areopagite -- remembered afterwards as the first Bishop of Athens and its patron saint -- the importance of sponsorship from the elites or at least a sufficient power centre, for a new idea to succeed. (That's why the old order tends to turn on any such with especial ferocity, as Dr Sternberg found out, and as the ID-friendly candidates for the upcoming US Election cycle will find out. [For that matter, this is part of why Paul himself was such a lightning rod in C1: he was, after all, a Pharisee of the Pharisees.]) 7: Last, but not least, it shows that reformation of an entrenched but fatally flawed order is possible. ______________ So, while clearly the silly rhetoric that ID is creationism in a cheap tuxedo fronting a Christofascist totalitarian theocratic agenda is obviously a sticking plaster intended to cover up and distract from the fatal cracks in the foundation of a priori materialism imposed on science, science education and the wider culture, long-term we cannot simply plaster over a fatal structural defect. The evolutionary materialist old order in our day is coming down, crashing due to its own fatal cracks. So, task number one for design theory is that we need to build a new order for science, on a sounder footing. And, in so doing, we must be patient as the mortally wounded elites lash out with desperate ferocity now that the fatal crack has had the cover-up plaster stripped off for those with eyes to see and ears to hear. GEM of TKI kairosfocus
CY: Liberation TheologISTS reminds us aptly of how Lib Theologians were enamoured of Marxist thought, and tried to turn Christian faith into an ideology of revolution. Notoriously, one priest died, gun in hand, fighting with guerrillas, somewhere in Latin America. But your reference to theology brings to mind something much older, the debate over whether Schaeffer was right to talk of Aquinas as innovator of the Nature/Grace dichotomy. I think the scholars say you can find antecedents, and it is arguable that his intent was to reach out to those who do not receive the scriptures by finding common ground, helping to close the gap. But of course, Aquinas was the towering figure, and his arguments spread the issue far and wide, placing it in key classics. Thus, we come to the famous five ways or arguing to the reality of God under the project of natural theology. The better part of a millennium later, we know the consequences of claiming "proofs" of God accessible to any reasoning man: through the rise of the skeptical spirit, anything -- save "Science"! -- that does not amount to an absolute proof that modern men are disinclined to hear is dismissed with the assertion "there is NO EVIDENCE." Of course, the suspicious gap on the subject of science reveals the selective hyperskepticism at work: matters of fact (and so also matters rooted in facts) are generally not demonstrable beyond all doubt on axioms acceptable to all. So, if you don't like the conclusion and cannot overturn the logic, object to the premises. Even if otherwise similar matters would be accepted as a matter of course. And that is why for instance we so often see objectors here at UD pointing to "assumptions" and dismissing them. So the key challenge --as say Simon Greenleaf highlighted in his treatise on Evidence -- is that one must have a reasonable consistency in standards of warrant on important matters of fact or matters rooted in facts. We thus see the standard of reasonable and consistent, albeit provisional warrant that appears in all sorts of serious contexts such as the courtroom, history, science [especially origins sciences], and many matters of affairs. The best overall view of these matters -- which BTW, instantly removes the force of accusations on question-begging -- is to compare the difficulties of competing explanations on responsible and well-informed abductive inference to best explanation per factual adequacy, coherence and explanatory power. Through using that approach, we can look at the question of sound or at least trustworthy and reasonable worldviews foundations in light of the fact that we all have to start from key first principles of right reason, and also that every argument or inference has roots. Similarly, when we look at or touch something and accept it as real, we are accepting the testimony of fallible senses. So, there is a reasonable question as to why we should accept such. The logical structure then is: A, because of B. But B then needs C, . . . So, our choice is clear: (1) infinite regress, (2) circularity, or (3) some cluster of first plausibles that define a worldview foundational faith-point. Some of those first plausibles, we may believe, are self-evident: true and necessarily true once understood, on pain if immediate and patent self-contradiction. For instance, Josiah Royce's "error exists," is uncontroversially true. But also, if we try to deny it, we see that the denial is self contradictory as we have P: error exists, and Q: no error exists in front of us. At least one must be in error, and it is obviously Q, on the easily understood meaning of P. However, it is notorious that no worldview of consequence can be built up solely from self-evident start points. We are back at the project of comparative difficulties, and plainly neither infinite regress nor circularity are satisfactory. The only reasonable solution is to put the serious options on the table and compare them in light of what we know and can analyse. I am fairly sure Schaeffer knew (probably from experience) that trying to debate Aquinas' five ways and modern extensions or refinements thereof as though these are proofs accessible to all men, would only open up side tracks and strawman issues, frustrating serous progress. So, instead, he went for Paul's Mars Hill solution: blow up the system from its cracked foundations. In Paul's case his subtle point is there in his opening remarks to the Areopagites in Acts 17: here we are in the most prestigious centre of learning and inquiry for our civilisation, and on the most important possible point of knowledge, the root of our being, the whole city has had to build and maintain a public monument to ignorance, the famous altar to the UNKNOWN God. Kaboom! (You may laugh him off and dismissively brush him aside, but that was the decisive blow; delivered in his opening words. The classical synthesis was irretrievably bankrupt, and this had been exposed, not only in the empty idols but the institutionalised ignorance of the learned on the most important issue of knowledge of all; the very root of our being.) In Schaeffer's work, especially through his partnership with Rookmaker on the arts as an expression of foundational assumptions in a culture [Sp?], he continually highlighted the key cracks in the foundations of modern thought (and what we now call post modern -- more accurately, ULTRA-modern (as in push the volume knob to eleven, not just ten) -- thought). Actually, that is just what Paul did in Athens, when he pointed to the temples, idols on every street corner and the now famous altar to the unknown God. As I have said already, Schaeffer read Paul with a profound insight. There are ever so many deeply symbolic and revealing features in statues, architecture, paintings, poems, novels, the structures of government, the structures of laws and state documents, the way universities and institutions such as science operate, etc etc etc. So, the first task of worldview reformation is to throw the spotlight on the fatally cracked foundation of the proud monument to humanistic achievements, and toss in the already fuzed stick of analytical -- note to strawmannising objectors: metaphor not call to violence -- dynamite. Kaboom! The bankrupt system implodes and collapses. (BTW, bin Laden, it seems, was trying that all too literally and with tellingly callous disregard for innocent life. Planes were invented, notoriously by Americans, as were Skyscrapers. So, he crashed the one into the other, to bring the latter down; hoping to crash the American Economy too, which was more nearly successful -- a US$ 100 billion blow was no small potatoes -- than we want to remember. Even the date was significant, 318 years, less one day, from the Jan Sobieski-led cavalry charge that broke the 1683 siege of Vienna in the strategic heart of Europe; and turned back the Islamist military thrust permanently, i.e UBL was advertising to those who knew, that he was bidding to take over from the last high water mark of the Caliphate.) [ . . . ] kairosfocus
"theologists" should be "theologians." Sometimes creativity stems from mindlessness. :) CannuckianYankee
CY Some very sobering thoughts, and of course the heart of true conservative thought. Namely, that the unanticipated and unintended effects of change may well outweigh and may even undermine the intended changes, so go slow and go incrementally. Precisely what revolutionary thought with its confidence in our ability to figure things out so often despises in its demands for change. (Not to mention, our tendency to put "Science" -- notice the Cap -- on a pedestal.) And, then, there is the vision that trusts God more than our own understanding; so it sees that one reason to acknowledge and follow God in all we do is that he understands what we cannot. GEM of TKI kairosfocus
"we have to bear in mind that he was dealing primarily with effects rather than intentions the discussed authors in his book produced in the Western world. Instead of discussing motives and intentions of the mentioned authors, Schaeffer was interested in understanding of the concepts as accepted and processed by the Western intellectual establishment." Yes, that's the way I always understood Schaeffer as well. He wasn't saying that those who shaped the moral climate we experience today were necessarily "moral monsters;" far from it. What happened is that these shapers failed to understand the potential outcome of their thought processes. Beliefs have consequences. They're not always readily apparent, but when they are passed down through generations, and those generations have thoughts of their own to contribute to the eventual outcome, we don't always end up with what the "enlightenment" envisioned in secular terms, or what the reformation envisioned in religious terms. We see evidence for this dichotomy all around us in government, law, social institutions, business and commerce, marriage, education and yes, in the Church as well. The good that is intended is not always lasting. There's an inevitable breakdown in understanding and in consistency with the initial good intent. Schaeffer's contribution was a "back to basics" theology of transforming culture such that the negative and dehumanizing outcomes are reversed and the vision of even people who were not necessarily Christian believers, but who understood the basis for morality that leads to civilized society, could be realized. But it wasn't a social theology like that of the Liberation Theologists, where if you make people equal, you are doing the work of God; whether you believe or not. That sort of theology attempts to find a common ground between materialistic notions of right and wrong and those of the church, which ultimately does not pull a culture above the line of despair. Here's why: While there is common ground that we don't need to go searching for; it's in our laws and traditions. But ultimately that common ground is not based in the same things. We can all agree that the golden rule is a good thing, but what we can't agree on is that it makes no difference on what one's golden rule is based. There are differences between a Christian understanding of the golden rule and that of materialists. For Christians we do unto others because of who they are combined with who God is. Such a concept is foreign to materialists. Does it really matter? Well not in the sense that we could reach some agreement on how to treat one another; but in the sense that it has meaning beyond a simple preference based on survival instincts; to that we must protest. The long-term outcome of such thinking is disastrous. I would like to see materialists propose a morality that goes beyond such thinking, but I haven't seen one. CannuckianYankee
PS: It is worth the while to use the Wiki definition of worldviews, to inform our understanding of the issues at stake:
A comprehensive world view (or worldview) is the fundamental cognitive orientation of an individual or society encompassing natural philosophy; fundamental, existential, and normative postulates; or themes, values, emotions, and ethics.[1] The term is a calque of the German word Weltanschauung, composed of Welt ('world') and Anschauung ('view' or 'outlook').[2] It is a concept fundamental to German philosophy and epistemology and refers to a wide world perception. Additionally, it refers to the framework of ideas and beliefs through which an individual interprets the world and interacts with it.
F/N: This review by Engin Obucic (Brisbane, Australia) also adds a significant point:
When reading Schaeffer, we have to bear in mind that he was dealing primarily with effects rather than intentions the discussed authors in his book produced in the Western world. Instead of discussing motives and intentions of the mentioned authors, Schaeffer was interested in understanding of the concepts as accepted and processed by the Western intellectual establishment. Schaeffer was interested in conceptual understanding of the history of philosophy and the development of the Western culture, and how such mentality reflects on communication of Christian message. We might say, he was interested in how rationality supports our lives and why it fails to keep us existentially stable. This intention has been effectively reflected in Escape from Reason. Following his intention, I think it would be useless to read Escape from Reason outside this conceptual framework. It simply wouldn't suffice as it exceeds the scope of his project . . . . Schaeffer is a thinker who expressed his view as to the conceptual understating of the ideological coordinates by which we live. He engaged pop culture of his day analytically giving us better knowledge and the incentive, even permission, so to speak, to re-contextualise our own understanding and analyses of pop culture. To me, he is what Slavoj Zizek is to theoretical psychoanalysts: a progressive thinker who is willing to take unconventional and highly controversial turns. Like Zizek, he sometimes fails to do justice to the subject-matter under discussion. But who does? That's why it is unnecessary to accuse him of misunderstanding of certain authors such as Kierkegaard as well as other individual thinkers. It is equally wrong to say that he didn't read primary sources. As I mentioned earlier, Schaeffer is interested in the effects produced by the analysed authors. He is not so much interested in their motives and intentions. For example, in his discussion on Hegel, Schaeffer perceptively observed what effects Hegel's thinking exerted on the Western world. I paraphrase: Hegel caused compression of individual identity into an excessive and all-encompassing rational Identity, which by default renders accessible and regulatory every aspect of one's life. Finally, driven by desire for utter regulation and overrationalisation of human behaviour, Hegelian system failed to accommodate subjective forms of individual expression. Notice, he is not discussing what Hegel really intended and what his motives were. He is interested in the effects. In this sense, it is possible to say that he developed a commentary on secondary sources. How, then, should we read Schaeffer's Escape from Reason? My answer is simple: as part of a dialogue on contemporary culture. All of us who think and write about popular issues know that we provide only partial and subjective representations of facts and reality. In fact, we all exist in interaction with one another in which we express our views and opinions on what the world is or isn't, or what it should be like. So it is OK to accept Schaeffer as a conceptual thinker who expresses his views in a cultural dialogue. I encourage all thinking individuals who both agree and disagree with Schaeffer to read Escape from Reason thus informing their choices in matters pertaining to rationality and its failures. I guarantee they'll be motivated to examine the same authors with more focus and interest. Moreover, they'll certainly better understand the development of the Western culture and its current themes.
A. Sutono (San Jose, CA) brings the matter home to our time:
By reading "Escape From Reason," the readers would be exposed to the origin and the characteristics of modernity and post-modernity though Schaeffer did not use the latter term; perhaps it had not been invented back then. The title "Escape from Reason" precisely deals with the problem of post-modernity. When I read David Well's "Above All Earthly Pow'r: The Supremacy of Christ in a Post-Modern World," I thought post-modernity is a new cultural phenomena that is gaining traction particularly in the West, but this is not the case. There is nothing new under the sun . . . . The seed of post-modernity was already sown during the middle ages. As Schaeffer does an analysis on the dawn of Renaissance, it is obvious that modernity can be said as a worldview that resulted from a "rebellion" against the medieval dichotomous views that placed an inordinate weight on supernaturals; that he characterized as "grace over nature." This seemingly gaudy pietistic view sounds eerily Gnostic to me where everything spiritual is great and glorious and the material world is bad and debased. Renaissance then can be viewed as a successful coup attempt to dethrone the "grace over nature" view by defying and overthrowing it through the autonomous rationality or autonomous intellect worldview. The outcome was, as Schaeffer puts it, that "nature eats up grace" (p.10), that leads to a modern presupposition of a universe operating under a closed-system excluding any supernatural effects and agents. But Schaeffer aptly describes the problem with such a worldview from Leonardo DaVinci's observation, that "if you begin with an autonomous rationality, what you come to is mathematics (that which can be measured), and mathematics only deals with particulars, not universals. Therefore, you never get beyond mechanics" (p.13). Now post-modernity, in turn, is actually another coup resulting from cultures that can't stand to be under the cruel indenture and tyranny of modernity. This is expected considering human beings created in the image of God are designed to savor the glory of our supernatural God our creator. In fact, this is what Schaeffer and Wells implicitly agree on, though Wells mentioned it more distinctly in his text. This rebelling worldview refuses the notion of grace being eaten up by nature, yet it also refuses to give up the autonomy of human intellect and here lies a major difficulty. It does not and can not work this way when one tries to find a unity between grace and nature; the particulars, being all the individual things and grace the universal that gives meaning and unity to all the particulars (p.13). In other words, there is a huge unbridgeable chasm when one retains both the autonomous intellect while hoping for a unified meaning and purpose; an impossibility that everyone that holds this view is struggling with that leads to post-modernity. The bottom of the trouble lies in the autonomy of individual human intellect for as one retains it, it has inevitably become the standard of final authority. In contrast, Schaeffer compares it with the Reformation worldview where it all began with an autonomous God outside ourselves as the only being who is autonomous. This God reveals Himself through the Scripture. This Scripture being the revelation from God is the authority that gives meaning to everything, not exhaustive knowledge, but a true and unified knowledge; hence Sola Scriptura. When it comes to salvation, it is the autonomy of God who initiates, applies and secures it, through his gift of faith, and hence "Sola Fide." Here is how Schaeffer puts it. "There was no idea of man being autonomous in the area of salvation... no autonomous or humanistic religious or moral effort of man can help. One is saved only on the basis of the finished work of Christ as He died in space and time in history, and the only way to be saved is to raise the empty hands of faith and, by God's grace, to accept God's free gift - faith alone" (p.12). This view inevitably set a collision course against post-modern minds; antithesis versus synthesis, reasonable faith versus leap of faith. Thus Schaeffer challenges the present day evangelicals to present clearly the Christian faith as it really is; a reasonable faith, not a leap of faith; a difficult task indeed. Though I understand some evangelicals cringe when hearing the word "contextualization of the gospel," Schaeffer being so far from opposing it, he actually encourages it. It is indeed the purpose of "Escape from Reason," to call for a contextualization of the gospel without compromising its content. "So it is with the Christian Church. Its responsibility is not only to hold to the basic, scriptural principles of the Christian faith, but to communicate these unchanging truths `into' the generation in which it is living. Every generation of Christians has this problem of learning how to speak meaningfully to its own age" (p.5). Perhaps he says it best at the conclusion of the book, "What is said in this book is not a matter of intellectual debate. It is not of interest only to academics. It is utterly crucial of those of us who are serious about communicating the Christian gospel in the twentieth century" (p.67).
So, if we hear Schaeffer in that context in our own time, we can better appreciate what he has to say, and how that speaks to our own challenges in a day where nihilistic Chaos stalks the world, a rampant and proud roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. GEM of TKI kairosfocus
PS: I spent a fair piece of time yesterday bringing this draft unit in that NCSTS course that addresses the real and imagined sins of Christendom and the "your god is a bronze age moral monster" talking point to an initial semi-complete position. That may also prove helpful for dealing with what seems to be increasingly seen by the nihilistic manipulators and their dupes as the rhetorical sledgehammer to hit Christians with online,in call-in shows, on panel discussions and in public. kairosfocus
CY: I see the one-star review. While I can understand the way that reader joins many others who see themselves as "graduating" beyond Schaeffer, my basic difficulty with the claims being made is that Schaeffer's philosophising was in the context of interacting, live, with many searching and deeply puzzled students and the like from many lands, at L'Abri in Huemoz-sur-Ollon, Switzerland. (That seems to be the modern spelling, per Wiki; dunno.) If he was as out of line as the reviewer suggests, Schaeffer could not have succeeded in that work. Yet, he did. So, plainly, he was not simply being outlandish and ill-informed. If he were so out of synch, he would have been laughed out of court, as once Paul was. (Though, Paul saw more clearly than his Academy-trained critics in Athens, and the future belonged to his movement, not theirs.) That should tell us, too, that what is happening here is that there is a gap across schools of thought, which too often leads many to the view that the adherents of the other school have a major misunderstanding; just as you suggested. And in this case the answer is obvious: Schaeffer was working within the general view of the school of conservative Dutch reformed thought that developed in North America (think Van Til et al, with influences from the likes of Kuyper and Bavink through institutions such as the Stone Lectures at Princeton). And, the things that that school emphasised are reflected in his summary level writings and the lectures that preceded them. As a result, his concerns are not those of the general academic philosopher, but as he said of himself, those of an Evangelist, an evangelist with what the Catholic church still calls an apostolate to those trapped beneath the line of despair, to use his favourite diagram. Of that analysis, perhaps this clip courtesy Wiki is as good a summary as we are going to get:
Presuppositionalists [in Christian Apologetics], [Schaeffer] held, are right to assert that the ultimate premises of Christian and anti–Christian systems of thought are utterly at odds in relation to their origin. On the other hand, evidentialists are right to assert that between Christian and anti–Christian systems of thought there is always a point of contact in the shape of reality itself. The reason for this point of contact, he argued, is that nonbelievers cannot bring themselves to be completely consistent with their own presuppositions, and this inconsistency is a result of what many call common grace and is in fact the reality of God having made, and spoken into, a defined and unavoidable creation. "Thus, illogically," he wrote, "men have in their accepted worldviews various amounts of that which is ours. But, illogical though it may be, it is there and we can appeal to it." ["Evidentialists and Presuppositionalists - J. Budziszewski Replies" by J. Budziszewski, Correspondence section of First Things, May 2000. Retrieved 2006-08-21]
And, I suspect his reading of Aquinas is subtler than has been dismissed. He appreciated that Aquinas has many good things to say, but points to the Nature-Grace dichotomy -- one of Schaeffer's favourite words -- and sees it as a partial failure to understand the en-darkenment of the sinful mind that hinders it from seeing what is "plain to the eye of reason." And, by that I am stressing that Schaeffer read with profound insight the main and normative primary philosophical sources for a convinced Christian theologian and evangelist, the more philosophical facets of the NT. In the end, he is deeply Pauline in his thought, following the self-conscious apostle to the nations in his thoughts on the mindset of the gentiles. In addition, Schaeffer is profoundly shaped in his approach by the worldviews-in-, reflecting- and- shaping- cultures concept, and while he never boils it down to a simple direct summary statement of using comparative difficulties analysis to assess views -- and underlying presuppositions -- on factual adequacy, coherence and relative explanatory power, his focus on the line of despair is about dynamical and logical coherence, and he is strongly of the view that a worldview not founded on God will fail to meet reality in many ways. Steve Sawyer's review nails this well:
Schaeffer sees the true beginning of the humanistic Renaissance in the work of Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274). Aquinas' dualistic Grace/Nature scheme was useful in many ways, but its critical flaw was in failing to recognize man's fallen intellect along with his fallen will. Aquinas saw man's intellect as essentially undamaged by the Fall. This had the unfortunate consequence of setting up man's intellect as autonomous and independent. Aquinas adapted parts of Greek philosophy to Christianity, perhaps most importantly (and with the most negative consequences) the dualistic view of man and world as represented by the Grace/Nature split. As Schaeffer stresses, the main danger of a dualistic scheme is that, eventually, the lower sphere "eats up" the upper sphere. Another way to say the same thing is, once the lower sphere is given "autonomy," it tends to deny the existence or importance of whatever is in the upper sphere in support of its own autonomy. Schaeffer explains how the Grace/Nature dualism eventually became the Freedom/Nature, then the Faith/Rationality split. He introduces his interesting idea of the Line of Despair, which began in philosophy with Hegelian relativism. Kierkegaard was the first major figure after this line. The line of despair is the point in history at which philosophers (and others) gave up on the age-old hope of a unified (i.e. not dualistic) answer for knowledge and life. This new despairing way of thinking spread in 3 ways; geographically, from Germany outward to Europe, England and finally much later to America. Then by classes, from the intellectuals to the workers via the mass media (the middle classes were largely unaffected and remained a product of the Reformation, thankfully for stability, but this is why the middle class didn't understand its own children). Finally, it spread by disciplines; philosophy (Hegel), art (post-impressionists), music (Debussy), general culture (early T S Eliot)...then lastly theology (Barth). Once this way of thinking set in, Schaeffer explains the need for "the leap," promoted by both secular and religious existentialists. On the secular side, Sartre located this leap in "authenticating oneself by an act of the will," Jaspers spoke of the need for the "final experience" and Heidegger talked of 'angst,' the vague sense of dread resulting from the separation of hope from the rational 'downstairs.' On the religious side, we have Barth preaching the lack of any interchange between the upper and lower spheres, using the higher criticism to debunk parts of the Bible, but saying we should believe it anyway. "'Religious truth' is separated from the historical truth of the Scriptures. Thus there is no place for reason and no point of verification. This constitutes the leap in religious terms. Aquinas opened the door to an independent man downstairs, a natural theology and a philosophy which were both autonomous from the Scriptures. This has led, in secular thinking, to the necessity of finally placing all hope in a non-rational upstairs" (p. 53, thus the book's title). This is in contrast to the biblical and Reformation message that even though man is fallen, he can and must search the scriptures to find the verifiable truth. Schaeffer devotes alot of space in his book to illustrating the many ways modern men have taken this "leap," assuming there is no rational way upstairs. Schaeffer ends with a call to reject dualism and return to the reformation view of the scriptures, which is that God has spoken truth not only about Himself, but about the cosmos and history (p. 83). In order to do this, man must give up rationalism (i.e. autonomous reason), but by doing so he can retrieve rationality. "Modern man longs for a different answer than the answer of his damnation. He did not accept the Line of Despair and the dichotomy because he wanted to. He accepted it because, on the basis of the natural development of his rationalistic presuppositions, he had to. He may talk bravely at times, but in the end it is despair" (p. 82). No area of life can be autonomous of what God has said, since this will inevitably lead to the destruction of all value (including God, freedom and man). By placing all human activity within the framework of what God has told us, "it gives us the form inside which, being finite, freedom is possible" (p. 84). God created man as significant, and he still is, even in his fallen and lost state. He is not a machine, plant or animal. He continues to bear the marks of "mannishness" (p. 89): love, rationality, longing for significance, fear of non-being, and so on. He will never be nothing. The author emphasizes the existence of certain unchanging facts, which are true regardless of the shifting tides of man's thoughts. He challenges Christians to understand these tides and speak the unchanging truth in a way that can be understood in the midst of them.
Remember, Schaeffer was in Continental Europe across the 1950's - 70's as an Orthodox, Dutch Reformed missionary to whom the students gasping for intellectual coherence in a sea of existentialist despair, came. Came in numbers amounting to a movement. To the point where the village he was based in made it into at least one popular song. I suspect he read more of his school of thought and general survey works than the primary sources so beloved of academics, but he had to do so in ways that were able to survive in an atmosphere dominated by the great lights of learning in Europe who were building an existentialist worldview out of the wreckage of two world wars and the collapse of the academy as a leader in enlightenment (and under the distant looming shadow of the heirs of Marx and Lenin), given the dark age the horrible wars demonstrated beyond all doubt. Don't forget, one of the leading lights used to tell his students that the first thing is to make sure you don't commit suicide. And, the description of a man who came to him, clinging to the fading memory of a "final experience" as an anchor for a sense of being in contact with something that can be seen as objective reality, as a drowning man clutches a straw, is iconic of his underlying compassion. That should be respected, and we should reckon with Schaeffer's success, whether or not we in the end agree with him on all or even most points. Beyond that, the Alinskyite attempt to turn him -- live donkeys kicking a 26 years dead lion -- into a strawmannish scapegoat to score cheap propaganda points off Bachmann et al, is despicable. And, we need to face the horrific force of the point Plato made 2350 years ago, in the teeth of the telling nihilistic programmatic notion at that B4U-ACT conference:
Our society should “maximize individual liberty. We have a highly moralistic society that is not consistent with liberty.
For, on the contrary, only a sound moral vision -- one that does not confuse license with liberty -- is a safe foundation for true, enduring liberty. And, that is what is on the table today. The line of despair has become a line of nihilistic chaos. GEM of TKI kairosfocus
Thanks for this post, KF. I read it a day ago and was hoping that some discussion would procede. There's several reviews at Amazon regarding Schaeffer's books; one on Escape From Reason suggesting that Schaeffer never read primary sources, which for me is rather surprising. I think what the reviewer "meant" to say is "I disagree with Schaeffer, therefore he doesn't understand." Anyway, what I found interesting is that most of the reviewers, even those giving 1 star, claim to have an appreciation for Schaeffer's influence. The common theme is how he influenced their interest in philosophy. CannuckianYankee
F/N: Overnight, I have added some remarks (and hyper-links) on the links between the foundations of morality and those of liberty. kairosfocus

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