Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Vast Edifices of Unbelief Are Crumbling to Powder

Useful Idiots

All Unbelieving thought ultimately operates in vicious circles.  Post-modern philosophers and theorists have done us great service in pointing this out.  The Modern era has made its fortune in the world by both assuming and asserting that human reason is both objective and definitive.  We call this view Rationalism, because it posits the ultimacy of human reason.

Man is the master of all things, and reason rules them all.  Gone is God, revelation, miracles, the supernatural.  None pass the bar of human reason.  None are rational.  They are all myths and vain imaginations of the primitive, untutored mind.  Reason is sovereign.

Unfortunately, this is no longer tenable--even amongst Unbelievers.  Reason now sits as an emperor unclothed.  Enter the post-modernist who irritatingly points out that every rationalist clutches to his bosom a cluster of pre-commitments, assumptions, and values which cannot be established by reason.  The most obvious is the pre-commitment that human reason is the ultimate authority in the universe--a belief that can only be propounded, propagated, and argued for by recourse to reason.  In other words, the reasoning is circular.  It assumes what it needs to prove, and it "proves" by resorting to what it has assumed.

J. Judd Owen, professor of political science at Emory University, has felt this attack upon rationalism keenly.
 He is reduced to what many of his colleagues have also experienced--trying to make room for the authority of reason as an Unbeliever, whilst walking amongst the carnage wrought by the "big-guns" of Post-modernism, or Post-rationalism.  It's a forlorn business.  But Owen makes an honest and brave attempt to face up to the destructive and corrosive effects of Postmodernism (which he calls "antifoundationalism"--because Postmodernism asserts that there are no foundations).

He faithfully represents the Postmodern case: antifoundationalism denies the objective impartiality of reason.  It is impossible for a finite creature to escape its limitations.
Antifoundationalism, being a variety of historicism, teaches that all of our thinking is bound up in some "worldview", a horizon that varies from society to society and age to age. No worldview is rooted in timeless principles, nature, or divine decree.  All have their sources only in the vagaries of history, in "sheer contingency."  There is no rational or natural viewpoint which transcends all such partial viewpoints.  No single perspective could hold all worldviews in its scope without distorting them.  [J. Judd Owen, Religion and the Demise of Liberal Rationalism: The Foundational Crisis of the Separation of Church and State (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001), p.10.]
Yup.  That's it in a nutshell.  If you are an evolutionist, a materialist, or a secularist you have to end up acknowledging there are no timeless principles, no abiding nature, no divine commands nor decrees.  There is only flux.  Those who, as Unbelievers, want to cling to reason, truth, and rational argument--as most secularists and evolutionists do--are hypocrites and fools.  There is no such thing as Reason, only circular ratiocinations, like water swirling around a drainpipe.
It seems that the . . . rationalist cannot adjudicate impartially.  It is, moreover, impossible to live neutrally. The life guided by reason's authority necessarily excludes competing claims to authority concerning how to live.  Could there be such a things as a partisan of rationalism?  How could rationalism avoid dogmatism, which is fatal to rationalism's self-understanding?  [Ibid., p. 10f.  Emphasis, ours.]
Postmodern arguments such as these have done sterling work in tearing down the citadels of Unbelief.  Not that postmodernists are unwilling to accept a place for dogma and dogmatism; it's just that dogmatic, authoritative worldviews are consigned to being just one pin amongst the thousands of competing (and equally valid) pins in the cushion.

The ancient Assyrians knew that before civilisation could be built, the old citadels must be torn down, razed, and crushed.  Postmodernism has done sterling work in tearing down the pretensions of Western secularism.  For Christians, postmodernists serve as "useful idiots".  

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