Fundamentalism: Whence? Where? Whither? Part 7 - Digression One, Continued: And Now This

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Digression One, Continued: And Now This

Read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, and Part 6.

Modernity, beginning with Nominalism and reaching its apex with Common Sense Realism, represented a dramatic shift in Western thinking. This shift constituted an alteration of the entire metaphysical dream.1 In secular thinking, this alteration led Western civilization progressively to abandon transcendence, then morality, then order, and finally meaning. The decay of modernity—its obvious inability to justify its own categories in its own terms—was what led to the emergence of postmodernism as a critique of modern arrogance.2

Western civilization as a whole was deeply changed by these intellectual currents. Christians were also affected, particularly those Christians who adopted the categories of Common Sense Realism. The question that the present essay addresses is, How have those changes affected Fundamentalism? An answer to this question must begin with three caveats.

First, some scholars have alleged that the doctrine of biblical inerrancy was an outgrowth of Common Sense Realism.3 Their argument is not very convincing, largely because the categories of truth, fact, and error did not originate with Thomas Reid or, indeed, with modernity at all. This linking of Common Sense with biblical inerrancy does not even rise to the level of post hoc ergo propter hoc—the reality is more like pre hoc ergo non propter hoc.4

Second, some aver that dispensationalism is the outgrowth of Common Sense Realism.5 This suggestion has slightly more credibility, but is also deficient. That early expressions of dispensationalism were often influenced by Common Sense is indubitable.6 Arguably, however, dispensationalism is, with Covenant Theology, a development within the larger category of Reformed thought, and probably owes more to Reformed theology and less to Scottish philosophy than some have thought.7 Dispensationalism is, in any case, a theology that stands or falls as it is justified by sound appeal to the text of Scripture.

Third, literal interpretation is often assumed to be the result of Common Sense Realism.8 Literal interpreters, however, can be found among the very early church fathers. Indeed, literal interpretation was never completely abandoned. Even at the height of fourfold interpretation during the Middle Ages, the literal interpretation was thought to be the correct interpretation of the text.10 God and His Word were no longer axiomatic. These became matters to be defended, and that defense now involved the methodological priority of doubt and the appeal to neutral foundations within the immanent order. This shift in perspective led to a massive refocusing of the intellectual and spiritual center of Christian faith, with the result that the immanent order became “real” reality.

As Christians granted epistemological priority to the immanent order, they lost their sense of the numinous almost completely. Natural observation displaced revelation as the instrument by which they organized their knowledge of the world. Their naïve belief in the transparency of the world left Christians open to noxious influences against which they no longer sought to maintain any defense. Increasingly, divine intervention was limited to whatever gaps remained after the application of Baconian method. The doctrine of Providence remained formally intact, but it no longer exerted much influence over the everyday thinking of Christian people.11

The focusing of Christians’ perceptions on the here and now also led to a shift in authority. Technically, American evangelicals continued to profess loyalty to the principle of Sola Scriptura. In practice, however, they elevated two related authorities to stand alongside Scripture. The first was reason, understood in the sense of plausibility. The second was consciousness, or the awareness of one’s own internal states of affairs. These authorities are seen with special clarity in one of the most influential evangelical theologians of the period, Charles Grandison Finney. Finney’s appeals to common sense, reason, and consciousness could only carry weight in the WYSIWYG world of Common Sense Realism.12

Common Sense Realism did not produce literal interpretation, but it did alter it in definite ways. Literalism is not necessarily wooden, and it should never be facile. Under the influence of Common Sense Realism, it tended to become both. Superficial similarities between terms or passages were taken as evidence of common purport. Texts, often torn out of context, were strung together to form Bible readings that were supposed to imply entire doctrines. The supposed illumination of the Holy Spirit was substituted for the hard work of study. In some circles, learning was even regarded as a distraction from and impediment to genuine biblical understanding.13

Common Sense Realism also affected polity. Propelled by the belief that one person’s perceptions were as accurate as another’s and, consequently, that one person’s opinions were as good as another’s, American Christians began to lose their sense of church structure and order. Distinction and deference were displaced by a sense of every Christian’s equal right to his opinion. Even congregationalism gave way to a very American version of democracy, while the importance of office fell into neglect until it was reinvented by religious demagogues during the Twentieth Century.14

The sense of permanence was also damaged. Because the world of perception is ephemeral and constantly changing, those who focus upon it risk losing track of permanent things. That is just what happened among many American Christians. There came to be a sense that the faith had to be reinvented or at least rearticulated for each new situation. A handful of Christian leaders still tried to begin with the permanent things and to emphasize universals as a background for all true knowledge. Such leaders were gradually marginalized by ecclesiastical entrepreneurs and (too often) by religious hucksters.

Facts never speak for themselves. They are always, already interpreted. When people believe that the facts are transparent, they do worse than to deceive themselves. They often mistake their interpretations for reality itself. Such people invariably foster an attitude of resentment toward careful reflection, the drawing of distinctions, the analysis of ideas, and the consideration of the implausible. What results is a tyranny of the immediate and (in the worst sense of the term) the popular.

The shift in metaphysical dream resulted in professing Christians (including fundamentalists) whose vision of the faith was surprisingly and appallingly earthbound. While they gabbled of the historic doctrines of the faith, those doctrines often ceased to grip their imaginations and consequently ceased to influence their lives. Focused almost entirely on the immanent order and driven by populism, these Christians felt compelled to adapt their religion to every breeze of cultural change. A concern for relevance displaced the thirst for transcendence, but what they thought of as relevance turned out to be mere trendiness (and nothing is less relevant than a trendy church). Evangelism became the new mysticism, and evangelicalism (including the later fundamentalism) became profoundly pragmatic. In the long run, much of Christianity was transformed into a venue for baptizing worldly trends so that the faithful could enjoy the same amusements as the rest of the culture, only in a partially sanitized way. Fundamentalists and evangelicals still struggle against (or, more often, capitulate to) this dynamic.15

Over the past two essays I have described some of the changes that were wrought by the adoption of Common Sense Realism. In the process I have mentioned two areas that require further elaboration: church order and biblical interpretation. Some individuals seem to believe that the only alternative to Common Sense and Populism is elitism. Over the next two essays, I hope to show that this is not the case.

1 A metaphysical dream is not the same thing as a worldview. Metaphysical dreams come before worldviews. A worldview is a mental map of the organization or order of the universe. A metaphysical dream is an intuition of the most fundamental structure of reality in terms of its relationship to transcendence, order, morality, and meaning.

2 The shift from realism (as premoderns understood it) to nominalism and its heirs produced enormous consequences that I do not have space to detail here. The best short treatment of this subject remains Richard M. Weaver, Ideas Have Consequences (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1948). Weaver’s work, written in the wake of the Second World War, is almost uncannily prophetic. After the passage of more than half a century, his arguments and observations remain as trenchant as when they were first published. If you can only read one book besides your Bible, this one had better be it. A mischievous parable of the shift from premodernity to modernity (and even to Common Sense Realism) can be found in G. K. Chesterton, “The Tremendous Adventures of Major Brown,” in The Club of Queer Trades (New York: Dover, 1987 reprint), 1-25, in which two brothers (Rupert and Basil) stand for modernity and premodernity, respectively.

3 This argument is very important to Jack B. Rogers and Donald K. McKim, The Authority and Interpretation of the Bible: An Historical Approach (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1979), 235-248, 258-260, 289-292, 331-332. It also plays a role for Mark Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994), 200-208.

4 A convincing refutation of Rogers and McKim can be found in John D. Woodbridge, Biblical Authority: A Critique of the Rogers/McKim Proposal (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1982), 135-140.

5 Mark Noll makes this argument in Scandal. He links Scottish Common Sense Realism, biblical literalism, inerrancy, young-earth creationism, and dispensationalism in virtually a single complex of ideas.

6 Craig Blaising admits as much in “Dispensationalism: The Search for Definition,” in Craig A. Blaising and Darrell L. Bock, eds., Dispensationalism, Israel and the Church: The Search for Definition (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992), 13-34, but especially 22, 29-30. Blaising does not mention Common Sense Realism specifically, but he does list its effects. He has confirmed to me in conversation that Baconian method and Common Sense Realism are what he has in view.

7 For an evaluation of dispensationalism as a branch of Reformed thought, see Stephen R. Spencer, “Reformed Theology, Covenant Theology, and Dispensationalism,” in Charles H. Dyer and Roy B. Zuck, eds., Integrity of Heart, Skillfulness of Hands: Biblical and Leadership Studies in Honor of Donald K. Campbell (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1994), 238-254.

8 Noll makes this point repeatedly in Scandal.

9 Properly, only the literal interpretation yielded the accurate meaning of the text. The tropological, allegorical, and anagogical meanings were considered to be latent, not in the text, but in the thing to which the text pointed.

10 It is a conceit of modernist Philistines that the premodern metaphysical dream is superstitious. The fact that some evangelicals—and fundamentalists—could repeat this absurdity is evidence of how profoundly modernist they have become in their hearts and souls.

11 Baconianism is not the same thing as Common Sense Realism, but it is assumed as an element within Common Sense

12 Finney is an example of this displacement of authority, both because he is so clear about it, and because his influence was so widespread. Finney repeatedly appeals to reason, consciousness, and common sense as authorities alongside the Bible. See Charles G. Finney, The Memoirs of Charles G. Finney: The Complete Restored Text, edited by Garth M. Rosell and Richard A. G. Dupuis (Grand Rapids, MI.: Academie Books, Zondervan Publishing House, 1989), 57; idem, Finney’s Systematic Theology, abridged, edited by J. H. Fairchild (Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1976), 13, 401; idem, The Heart of Truth (Minneapolis: Bethany Fellowship, 1976), 21-22. One of Finney’s defenders wrote, “To be considered in connection with the above, and not separable from it, was the emphasis which President Finney always placed on reason and common sense. He could never speak complacently of the idea that the doctrines of a confession or truths of Scripture could be taught as Christian truths if they were to appear fundamentally unreasonable. The importance of this second point cannot easily be overestimated in the attempt to understand his position as a theologian. He made very clear the place to be assigned to pure reason, that deepest inborn power of the soul which makes it not only possible but imperative to recognize the being and attributes of God, if man is to become the normal being he was created to be….. Instead of going to the Bible as to a final external authority, he began, as the Bible begins, with God. And he used the Bible as an aid to inquiry, and not the authority with which mechanically to extinguish thought.” Albert Temple Swing, “President Finney and an Oberlin Theology,” Bibliotheca Sacra 57 (1900), 468, 470.

13 What fundamentalist pastor has not had the experience of spending weeks of study on the exegesis of a difficult passage, only to have a dear saint inform him that some nonsensical interpretation is more correct because, “This is what the Holy Spirit showed me”?

14 This divergence can still be observed in the wide disparity of practice among fundamentalist Baptists. All Baptists are formally committed to congregational church polity. In some churches, however, the pastor may be harried by committees and boards, leaving him little actual authority to lead. In other churches the pastor is viewed as “the Lord’s anointed,” a virtually unassailable figure. Ironically, the latter churches are almost invariably those that make the most of their populism. The pastor rules as a demagogue, just as dictators typically have.

15 It will be objected that the Christianity of this period produced great revivals and missionary movements. To the extent that those phenomena were genuine works of God (and some of them were), they are attributable to the remnants and holdovers of an older Christian consciousness. This older consciousness, transmitted through forms of prayer, hymns, devotions, and so forth, acted as a kind of banked capital upon which pragmatists could draw. To the extent that these pragmatists simply assumed the Christian consciousness without doing anything to perpetuate it, they were making only withdrawals and not deposits. Consequently, they established a direction that would ultimately leave American Christianity bankrupt.

Blisse

Thomas Traherne (1637-1674)

All Blisse
Consists in this,
To do as Adam did:
And not to know those Superficial Toys
Which in the Garden once were hid.
Those little new Invented Things.
Cups, Saddles, Crowns are Childish Joys.
So Ribbans are and Rings.
Which all our Happiness destroys.

Nor God
In his Abode
Not Saints nor little Boys
Nor Angels made them, only foolish Men,
Grown mad with Custom on those Toys
Which more increas their Wants do dote.
And when they Older are do then
Those Bables chiefly note
With Greedier Eys, more Boys tho Men.


This essay is by Dr. Kevin T. Bauder, president of Central Baptist Theological Seminary (Plymouth, MN). Not every professor, student, or alumnus of Central Seminary necessarily agrees with every opinion that it expresses.
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Charlie's picture

Bravo, sir. I thank you for a truly insightful essay.

My Blog: http://dearreaderblog.com

Cor meum tibi offero Domine prompte et sincere. ~ John Calvin

Paul J. Scharf's picture

"Second, some aver that dispensationalism is the outgrowth of Common Sense Realism. This suggestion has slightly more credibility, but is also deficient. That early expressions of dispensationalism were often influenced by Common Sense is indubitable. Arguably, however, dispensationalism is, with Covenant Theology, a development within the larger category of Reformed thought, and probably owes more to Reformed theology and less to Scottish philosophy than some have thought. Dispensationalism is, in any case, a theology that stands or falls as it is justified by sound appeal to the text of Scripture."

Thanks, Dr. Bauder, for going out of the way to make this point.

It is always discouraging when someone picks up the mantra of "common sense" in disparaging dispensationalism -- saying dispensationalsm is a product of Common Sense Realism.

If one actually examines the way in which dispensationalists themselves have used the term "common sense," he will find that it is a technical term which relates to "the (common) sense of the passage as taken in its context" (my definition). In other words, it is the sense which a particular word has in "common" with the related words in the passage -- not the interpreter's "horse sense." It is answering the possibility of interpreting a text on the basis of any subjective influence, including the meaning of metaphors or images in a non-parallel passage.

It is non-dispensationalists, with their reliance on the power of intellect and subjective influences in interpreting passages, who bring rationalism (and mysticism) into the interpretive process.

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Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

KBauder wrote:
Over the past two essays I have described some of the changes that were wrought by the adoption of Common Sense Realism. In the process I have mentioned two areas that require further elaboration: church order and biblical interpretation. Some individuals seem to believe that the only alternative to Common Sense and Populism is elitism. Over the next two essays, I hope to show that this is not the case.
Looking forward to it.

KBauder wrote:
When people believe that the facts are transparent, they do worse than to deceive themselves. They often mistake their interpretations for reality itself.
OK, maybe Charlie or somebody can help me out here... don't you pretty much have to believe your interpretation of reality accurately represents reality in order to ever act? That is--to go back to my old "semi coming down the road" example, don't you have to believe the sidewalk really is a safer place to be before you can decide to get out of the road and stand there?
Perhaps there is a philosopher's definition of "reality" here that means something other than, well, reality.
I'm suggesting here that common sense, for all it's flaws, is still the only thing that convinces you that the approaching semi is "real" and gets you out of the way. It's true, no doubt, that what we see is always an interpretation and distinct from the thing itself, but I cannot believe the difference matters much until you start dealing with very complex "realities." An approaching semi is a pretty complex reality in itself, but I mean orders of magnitude more complex than that (like understanding what "metphysical dream" means, for example!)

Anyway, FWIW, I'm persuaded that the philosophical shifts Kevin describes here did occur and the damage he describes also occurred for the most part. I continue to be of the opinion, though, that the damage was less severe than Kevin apparently does... and also that there were benefits--an idea he seems to not want to entertain at all.
But I'm listening and reflecting and may be won over in the end... or not.

Red Phillips's picture

Although I am a Baptist, I am not convinced that congregational church government is clear from the Bible, (I'm not convinced that any other form is clear either), and I agree that congregationalism seems motivated by populism and in America our rampant democratism. Although congregationalism predates in its original form both, so they may better account for the widespread acceptance of it in America more than being a cause of it. This may be more appropriate for Dr. Bauder's next post, but congregationalism as a form of government does not it seems to me necessitate one person one vote democratism. This may be the American contribution. Theoretically you could restrict Church voting on any number of bases - gender, length of church membership, evidence of faithfulness, church service, giving, etc. For example, how did the Congregationalist Pilgrims do it? I doubt they were practicing purist one person one vote democratism. My point is, regarding those who question how Dr. Bauder can decry populism and at the same time be a Congregationalist, I don't think the latter necessitates the former. One could be an elitist Congregationalist.

Also, I second Dr. Bauder’s endorsement of Weaver’s “Ideas Have Consequences” although, beware, it is not easy reading.

Ed Vasicek's picture

I think Dr. Bauder brings up some good points, but I still perceive him assuming that THINGS WERE ONCE BETTER OR NEARLY IDEAL.

Please keep 'em coming though! They are stimulating and exercise our gray cells.

It is important to understand the thinking that influenced fundamentalism's rise. But the question that is constantly being begged is, "What is the ideal and right philosophical base?" I know the good doctor is not addressing this particular issue at this point, and I assume he will get there in his final articles.

I have repeatedly (and in a nagging way) asserted that we need to dwell on the Jewish roots of our faith (which I consider a form of Messianic Judaism). The New Testament was written in the context of first century thinking, especially Jewish thinking. That (and not the 4th century, for example) should be our base, because the Scriptures were given to adjust the thinking of believers WITHIN that philosophical base. By recreating that base and then applying Scripture, I think we are on better footing.

Also, Dr. Bauder is presenting some of the "effects" of common sense realism as though they were new or unique, when many of them are ancient. It is sort of like people talking about situation ethics. My forefathers in Slovakia practiced situation ethics for centuries. It's nothing new. Dr. Bauder wrote:

Quote:
Superficial similarities between terms or passages were taken as evidence of common purport. Texts, often torn out of context, were strung together to form Bible readings that were supposed to imply entire doctrines. The supposed illumination of the Holy Spirit was substituted for the hard work of study.

But this is not new. The Jewish rabbis did the same thing. Take Rabbi Ben Azzi in the Talmud:

Quote:
I was linking up the words of Torah with one another, and then the words of the Prophets, and the Prophets with the Writings, and the words rejoiced as on the day they were delivered from Sinai.

This method of interpretation was common in first century Judaism, referred to as "Stringing pearls."

One of the rules of Hillel was called "gezerah shavah," meaning a "comparison of equals. From the book Sitting At the Feet of Rabbi Jesus,

Quote:
This rule said you could use one passage to expand on another if they share the same word.

This is way before Common Sense Realism. A lot of what Dr. Bauder describes is, I believe, more the rise of Wesleyan thought (esp. when dealing with Finney). This thought even extended to D L Moody and R A Torrey (though Torrey became a bit more Calvinistic in later years).

Not to say that Common Sense Realism did not play a major role. But I am still maintaining that Common Sense Realism was one defective paradigm replacing another defective paradigm. And what the elite professed and the populous embraced were not always the same. Smile

"The Midrash Detective"

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Yes, it will be interesting to see what Kevin says on that. He indicated that congregationalist and democratic were not the same thing.
I think I want to suggest a bit of a counter-argument in advance though.
In the case of small rural churches, I'm not sure that the way we do things is due to democratic thinking so much as family thinking. Then again, maybe "family thinking" has fallen to the same egalitarianism-gone-bananas perspective. A case can certainly be made for that.
But I suspect there is a certain natural pull toward democracy where a small group is involved. When there are relatively few perspectives, each one takes on more importance.
And larger urban/suburban churches tend to gravitate toward more familiar business models that are generally less democratic and more oligarchic.

But I'll count myself among those who also don't see a NT mandate to vote on every thing. The idea used to be, get the right sort of people in leadership and then trust them.
Again, though, I have to say that the move away from "trust the authority" has not been all bad, not by a long shot.

[br ][br ]Edit: Ed... yes, the "ideal past" thinking is palpable. It hit me as I was driving to town yesterday (we do not live in "town"), that one reason I tend to see the philosophical shifts as less damaging than Dr.Bauder does is that I do not see the point they shifted from as being as nearly ideal as Kevin apparently does. Call me a history-cynic or civilization-cynic, but I lean towards believing that, while some cultures/eras have been far better than others in their thinking and conduct, they've each had their own set of strengths and weaknesses that work out to "pretty bad" regardless! So I'm suspicious of holding up medievalism or any other age as a really good standard for evaluating the mess we are now in.

Charlie's picture

I do believe that the key (or a key) to understanding Bauder is his recommendation of Ideas Have Consequences. I took some time over the last two days to read it and am ... surprised. It will take me a few days, maybe weeks, to form something worthwhile out of my presently scattered impressions of an unusually diverse book. As it stands, I am now a bit skeptical of some of the basic assumptions at work in Bauder's line of analysis.

My Blog: http://dearreaderblog.com

Cor meum tibi offero Domine prompte et sincere. ~ John Calvin

Joseph's picture

Charlie wrote:
I do believe that the key (or a key) to understanding Bauder is his recommendation of Ideas Have Consequences. I took some time over the last two days to read it and am ... surprised. It will take me a few days, maybe weeks, to form something worthwhile out of my presently scattered impressions of an unusually diverse book. As it stands, I am now a bit skeptical of some of the basic assumptions at work in Bauder's line of analysis.

Yes, before he mentioned the book in his footnote, I saw "Weaver" writ large over the article.

I yet to finish "Ideas Have Consequences" because when I started it I was turned off by its oddness (many such books are profound and helpful, but often very strange from a professional/discipline specific perspective); many people from ISI, though, highly recommend it; so perhaps I will finally finish it before Bauder finishes his series since its influence is so pervasive in his thought.

Edit: In case anyone is wondering what I mean by "such books," here are a couple of examples: Bloom's "Closing of the American Mind" - extremely cogent in its opening anlyses, profound in many places, but overall, taken as a whole, quite odd, particularly in the theoretical section that begins halfway through. Another example would be lots of Schaeffer's work, especially his trilogy: again, very profound insights (of the kind you often don't get in standard academic works), but often just strange or flatly wrong in its reading of certain things. I'm not sure if Weaver is like this; but that was the kind of thing that turned me off initially.

RPittman's picture

Joseph wrote:
Charlie wrote:
I do believe that the key (or a key) to understanding Bauder is his recommendation of Ideas Have Consequences. I took some time over the last two days to read it and am ... surprised. It will take me a few days, maybe weeks, to form something worthwhile out of my presently scattered impressions of an unusually diverse book. As it stands, I am now a bit skeptical of some of the basic assumptions at work in Bauder's line of analysis.

Yes, before he mentioned the book in his footnote, I saw "Weaver" writ large over the article.

I yet to finish "Ideas Have Consequences" because when I started it I was turned off by its oddness (many such books are profound and helpful, but often very strange from a professional/discipline specific perspective); many people from ISI, though, highly recommend it; so perhaps I will finally finish it before Bauder finishes his series since its influence is so pervasive in his thought.

Edit: In case anyone is wondering what I mean by "such books," here are a couple of examples: Bloom's "Closing of the American Mind" - extremely cogent in its opening anlyses, profound in many places, but overall, taken as a whole, quite odd, particularly in the theoretical section that begins halfway through. Another example would be lots of Schaeffer's work, especially his trilogy: again, very profound insights (of the kind you often don't get in standard academic works), but often just strange or flatly wrong in its reading of certain things. I'm not sure if Weaver is like this; but that was the kind of thing that turned me off initially.

Your use of "odd" and "strange" confuses me but I think that I understand what you're trying to convey, if I may make the leap. It is simply that all the ideas and points are not tightly connected. If so, I see that in Weaver, Bloom and Schaeffer. The problem is, I think, that these men are trying to cover such broad areas with sweeping ideas. As intellectuals who have covered this territory many times in their own minds, they see the connectedness of the thoughts but they fail to provide the connections for the reader. Good writing, as you probably know, is a laborious task with much pedantic slaving in providing references, illustrations, etc. to fill in the voids for the reader. Unless you have a well-equipped research staff, it is extremely difficult to do with the pressing demands of a profession and daily life. So, if the argument seems promising, the reader may have to fill in some of the gaps.

Joseph's picture

Roland,

Yes, that's definitely part of what I meant, thanks. That's a much fuller explanation of some of what I was referring to.

I don't wish to derail the discussion with more on this, however (and I haven't read Bloom for some years), but I see how my use of "odd" and "strange" may strike you as, well, odd.

Red Phillips's picture

I too am not sure what you mean by strange. I found Weaver's IHC to be a dense and heavy read, but "strange?" Keep in mind that Weaver was an English professor, not a philosopher. Maybe this has something to do with what you mean.

The problem with Bloom is that he was a Straussian and as such he was attempting to make a conservative defense of liberalism (original meaning). He was attempting to defend pluralistic, tolerant, secular liberalism against the foundationless moral relativism of the new left that he felt was threatening the old liberal consensus. He essentially wanted people to be dogmatic liberals. He was also an atheistic flamboyant homosexual. Such people make for strange defenders of conservatism. That his book was widely considered conservative and embraced by conservatives is evidence of how far we have fallen. Or in the context of this thread how truly modernist even our modern day conservatives have become.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I seem to recall conservatives mostly cherry picking from Bloom. He apparently wrote alot of handy "soundbites."
It is interesting, isn't it, that just about all nationally-known "conservatives" nowadays are out and out populists. I guess we're wandering a good ways afield now, but I found that fact so depressing during the last election cycle.
But how does a non-populist get elected these days? I'm not sure it's possible. But I'm randomly musing my way far from topic I think, so I'll shut up now.

Todd Mitchell's picture

Before drawing hasty conclusions about books like Ideas Have Consequences, consider this quote from A. W. Tozer (quoted by his son, and recorded by Snyder):

"When a book and a head come in contact and there is a hollow sound, you can’t conclude that the book is empty."

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Todd... now I know what that deep, reverberating echo is that I keep hearing in my office when I'm reading...

Brent Marshall's picture

One other thought about Ideas Have Consequences. Several persons have told me that that it was only on about their third reading that the ideas came together. I found that encouraging. I have read the entire book once (portions a second time). I often ran across basic terms or ideas that were not known to me but that Weaver used as if they would be readily recognized and understood. I often thought, "I think that I would understand Weaver's point much better if I knew what ___ meant." I pushed on through, though, and I am glad that I did. I hope to understand more on my next reading.

Things That Matter

As the quantity of communication increases, so does its quality decline; and the most important sign of this is that it is no longer acceptable to say so.--RScruton

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

Brent Marshall wrote:
One other thought about Ideas Have Consequences. Several persons have told me that that it was only on about their third reading that the ideas came together. I found that encouraging. I have read the entire book once (portions a second time). I often ran across basic terms or ideas that were not known to me but that Weaver used as if they would be readily recognized and understood. I often thought, "I think that I would understand Weaver's point much better if I knew what ___ meant." I pushed on through, though, and I am glad that I did. I hope to understand more on my next reading.

I read most books at least three times- the first reading I get the general idea, the second time I try to listen to it on audiobook, and the third time I take notes. I'm still trying to find Ideas Have Consequences on CD- the library only has it on tape, and the only tape player I have is a karaoke machine. That sucker is heavy.

Darrell Post's picture

I have enjoyed reading Dr. Bauder's essays, and look forward to the next installment.

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Aaron Blumer wrote:
OK, maybe Charlie or somebody can help me out here... don't you pretty much have to believe your interpretation of reality accurately represents reality in order to ever act? That is--to go back to my old "semi coming down the road" example, don't you have to believe the sidewalk really is a safer place to be before you can decide to get out of the road and stand there?

Well, I'm not Charlie, but I'll attempt to give you my view on this.

I don't think you need to believe that your interpretation of reality is at all accurate -- you just have to believe that it is close enough, and that the consequences of not acting are worse that those of acting. Suppose that you hear a semi coming down the road, and you decide to get out of the road, only to be knocked over by a boy on a bicycle with a semi horn mounted on his bike for a little fun who just comes around a corner and hits you on the sidewalk. Now, were you really safer on the sidewalk than on the road in this instance? I would have to say no. Was it likely that the semi horn sound was coming from boy on a bike rather than a real semi? Again, I would say no. But from what we think we know about the sound of an approaching semi horn, and what we think we know about the relative safety of a sidewalk, we decide to get out of the road, whether or not our perception matches reality, because the consequences of not acting in this case are pretty bad if a semi is really coming. And of course, we could be wrong -- the semi *might* be able to avoid you if you don't get out of the road, and the person walking down the sidewalk you see as a refuge might kill you for walking in on a drug deal or something like that. We discount those possibilities as "unlikely," but they may in fact be the reality.

We have all at one time or another had to make one or more decisions without having all the facts (or maybe I should say "a complete picture of the truth"), and we have to do an evaluation which may or may not match reality, and make a decision based on that. We are using "common sense" when we do that, but our common sense may have no bearing on what is really true, and we may blow it badly.

I think it's pretty easy to show that while humans more or less always act on some form of common sense (at least partly because we don't have revelation for every little facet of our lives, and partly because we have learned to operate based on our senses even they can be fooled), humans still make a ton of mistakes doing so. The only reason we continue to do so, is because we think there is a higher probability of doing the wrong thing without using our common sense than by using it. That may not, in fact, be the case.

I'm sure Charlie, Joseph, or a number of other readers here can shoot a thousand holes in what I'm saying, so not being a philosopher, I'll head back to the cheap seats now! Smile

Dave Barnhart

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