Monday, June 11, 2007

Thoughts from the Philosophy Professor on The Truth War

Bruce is a Philosophy Professor locally, and responded to me by e-mail on John MacArthur's book The Truth War. I loved his intelligent, well informed response, and thought I'd post it here. So here's Professor Bruce:

There's a whole class of fallacies of oversimplification.* Your example of the Reformed tendency toward rigidity (see end of first paragraph at this link) is excellent, since some of America's most forward thinking and active evangelists have been dyed in the wool Calvinists, e.g., Spurgeon.

*Dicto Simpliciter--the rule excludes exceptions
"special case"--the exception becomes the new rule
composition--what is true of the part must be true of the whole
division--what is true of the whole must be true of the part
black-and-white-- what we've been calling the excluded middle
quoting out of context-- we all know this one, and it is a favorite of Christians trying to Reclaim the Culture
stereotyping--the distinctive accidental characteristics of the group must be assumed to be the traits of the members without exception or nuance. There are enough members who have the trait to make it plausible, and enough who don't to make it seriously wrong.

Falling into Fallacies of Oversimplification is a particular
"occupational hazard" for cultural critics. I count myself as a
cultural critic/apologist, and have committed it enough to shoot
myself in the foot, if that makes sense. It's a hazard because the
apologist is an expert in most-things-Christian, but has to show a
passing knowlege of all the challenges to the faith, or at least an
awareness of the subtleties that belong to the challenge du jour.
The mistake of this kind that I remember most clearly was one uttered
by D. James Kennedy, staunch Calvinist and energetic leader of many
missional Christians, on his radio show. He was speaking about Neil
Postman, and cited him as one of the disasterous influences in public
education today. As proof, Kennedy quoted the title of Postman's
book, "Teaching As A Subversive Activity." End of story. Damn.
It turns out that the late Prof. Postman is one of Christianity's best
allies in both the non-Christian religious world and in academia. For
one thing, he wrote another book entitled "Teaching as a Conserving
Activity" which was meant as a sequel to the first, by way of saying
"...and vice versa." For another thing, he wrote a wonderful,
wonderful book called Amusing Ourselves to Death, in which he analyzes
televangelism (among other things) and suggests that the serious and
sober-minded practice that Christianity surely is and must be, is not
represented by televangelism, mainly because of the nature of the
medium. (He mainly attacks the network news.) He also wrote a book
that I understand as pro-Christian education, pro-homeschooling,
called "The End of Education," arguing that if education doesn't
promotes its proper ends, then the institutions of education will
collapse. And that religious ed has the advantage of promoting the
proper ends of education.



sonja said...

The biggest favor most fundamentalist X-tians could do for themselves would be just a little research before they open their mouths. They would cure themselves of their worst disease ... foot-in-mouth, their second worst disease is horses-assus ... this would also be cured by a good dose of research before speaking or writing.

Honestly, Google is so easy to use and most of them have an army of assistants at their disposal. There is really no excuse.

Pastor Phil said...

Having dealt with Neo-Pagans for the last 12 years I've learned that understanding the group one is speaking to and/or about is critical to being seen as the horses head and not the ass. In contrast to Neo-Paganism I've been the fundy, and as strangely as I look at the aggressive Christian Fundy they look at me. Understanding comes before babbling, but alas we all learn that too late.