Monday, January 04, 2021

Rediscovering Epistemology: Why We Are in Trouble and How Critical Theory (Yikes) Actually Helps

Inside the hurricane frenzy and tidal waves of internet information, an eye of time stands still, begging for men of modernity to find patience, protocols, and anchors of establishing truth.

The current rush to judgment and misuse and misunderstanding of 'science' has created storms of controversy and bends toward potential abuse via elite power players in our midst.

As theologians and sociologists grapple with ideas like 'worldview' and debating whether there are 'systematic sins', we have bad actors on multiple sides masquerading a false liberation message and laying the foundation of fear and cynicism.

If we don't find some common ground soon, grandchildren will lay cloaks of collaboration at the feet of totalitarians as they forcibly send the grandparents to ruins and tombs. Yes, overly dramatic.... but we can't keep stalling!

I have been taking time to read (and listen to podcasts) about current analysis of critical theories and it's ultimate application to critical race theory.

As any contemporary movement in history, it is hard to summarize and easy to patronize. In fact. critical theory is too broad a term and has roots going back to the late 1930's. And I have to be really careful in alluding to the term, because the original concepts quickly bent toward Marxist ideologies.

The church doesn't have a great track record in staying up to date and current in the marketplace of ideas. We have been absent in intellectual debates for too long. The "Just Give Me Jesus" cells are losing young people in the millions... we have to be willing to love, serve, and die for what we believe.

And I am pointing three fingers back at myself when I say this... the older I get, the more I tend to say 'to heck with it all' and take my ball and go home to escape in a world that Big Tech has crafted for me to stay isolated, fat, dumb, and happy.

In the foul dust of failure though, there are always heroes. Men and women who have the courage to listen, reflect, and then actually adopt an authoritative response to the issue of the day.

One of my favorite heroes ( of many, including Wilberforce ) is Dr. Charles Hodge, president of Princeton Seminary from 1851- 1878. Darwin published "Origin of the Species" in 1859.

Hodge did not shy away from a scholarly reflection of the thesis and reported that they received it "with great interest".

And they took TIME to read it, discuss it.....

Finally, in 1862, Princeton was ready to speak. Charles Hodge noted Darwin’s own admissions: “his frank admission of the difficulties of the theory and in the absurdity of its conclusion”.

Hodge’s main problem with Darwinism was its commitment to random chance and not directed by God.

According to Hodge, the fatal flaw of Darwinism is the denial of design in nature. “If you deny design, you in effect deny God. Darwin says he believes in a creator, but if the creator, billions of eons ago, called a germ in existence and abandoned its development to chance has pretty much consigned himself to non-existence. So what is Darwinism? It is Atheism.

Hodge rejected Darwin’s views, with respect.

And regardless of what is pressured today, there are many 'scientists' who appreciate Darwin's observation of sleight successive changes in living things but reject that it can be extrapolated to explain the origin and diversity of all life on the planet.... though most of them don't feel free to express that view without retribution.

And there are MANY more scientists who hold to that belief... though Neo-Darwinism is far removed and evolved from Darwin's original work.

In all of this debate... what are we losing? We are actually losing civil debate. It gets worse, we are losing debate. And even more absent in this dilemma is the loss of protocols for establishing 'truth'... 

We think we are so sophisticated with smart phones and instant information. Who needs to research? Actually who needs to even be able to read? Much less write?

How can you persuade in 280 characters? Why try if you are only going to be shouted down, doxed, and cancelled?

In 2021, we have to demand better. We have to demand the right to speak, the right to be heard, the right to disagree, and the right to be wrong. And though it is MESSY, we have to find common ground where we can. We have to learn to deal in a civil manner out of a respect for humanity. Look, I'm willing to step on toes both ways. 

On Sunday,  democratic Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, (D-Mo)., altered the traditional ending of "amen" by saying "Amen and awoman" as he delivered the opening prayer for the 117th Congress on Sunday. The rage and outrage exploding in social media from that moment shows the problem is actually on MANY sides. Rep. Cleaver has every right to pray. And while I disagree with the theology of such 'prayer' (mostly because it was voiced to Brahma, and different gods and faiths)... it should not cause rage. It is a freedom of expression and a freedom of religion which must be allowed in our republic even while I loudly proclaim that salvation is found through Christ alone.

We Are in a Losing Fight and Downward Spiral

Before I give ANYONE a pass... let me give one more example of the 'problem before I hint at some solutions.

The global arena of ancient manuscript experts were all buzzing in 2012, as word got out of a 'dramatic' discovery that was going to be revealed in Rome. What ensued has been a long and torturous ride of controversy known as the 'Gospel of Jesus' Wife'.

I am borrowing from the history channel to give a quick backstory of the event.

In September 2012, Harvard University divinity professor Karen L. King, a distinguished scholar of early Christianity, shocked an academic audience at the International Congress of Coptic Studies by detailing an Egyptian papyrus fragment that contained the first-known explicit reference to Jesus being married. The fourth of the eight incomplete lines of Coptic script written on the tiny papyrus scrap—only the size of a business card—contains the words “Jesus said to them, “My wife,” followed in the next line by “she is able to be my disciple.” King stressed that the “Gospel of Jesus’s Wife” could not be taken as evidence that the historical Jesus ever had a wife—just as no historical proof exists to support claims that he never wed—but she was confident that the artifact was authentic after initial examinations by two expert papyrologists indicated it was ancient. (source: History

Here is where the maze parallels the problem. Though there was almost IMMEDIATE pushback by scholars within mere hours of the announcement... good old Main Stream Media (MSM) ran with it and even though there are layers upon layers upon layers of demonstrable evidence that the manuscript is a forgery, you still have people who say "likely a forgery" and a rather large number of people who use the text as documented fact. One writer said quite candidly, "why should we consult the experts when we have so many good journalists on the case?"! The vast majority of experts knew it had problems within 24 hours, but it took almost 6 years for the main stream media to change their tune.

So what is our dilemma and is there a way out?

Our main dilemma is that we have lost the art of allowing TIME to press into matters and work to a consensus with open minds. Along with that is the lost virtue of self-suspicion. And we are too trusting of our current streams of information- almost all of it is poor at best and manipulative at worst. 

No wonder most young people tend to think there is no real truth or no meta-narrative.... they have to 'troll' through the garbage every day.

This has never been easy. Human predisposition is powerful. Once you are ‘settled’, almost nothing will change your mind. That is why saying “I am wrong” is a type of miracle and "I might be wrong" maybe even more so. We tend to cling to facts that support and disregard or twist info that challenges. We need prayer and support to really ‘change’.

Sadly, the appeal to authority today is a vote. If 51% agree that something is true, well then, it is true. We have to demand more.... votes today will be bullets tomorrow unless we find a better solution to establish truth.
So here comes an interesting 'minister' in this issue... critical theory. Now, before you blow a gasket.. I have issues with MOST of the application by elite bullies in the marketplace, but we have to celebrate an adversary to the status quo of academic pride and blind loyalty to 'science and technology' as a savior.

At the heart of critical theory is 'criticizing' the epistemology of modernity, especially a good number of the practices and allegiances adopted from the Enlightenment. Critical theory is not a direct challenge to religion... it is a more a direct challenge to secular power structures.

Critical theory challenges the rules of truth, observation, and investigation that are rarely open to skepticism.

It is especially skeptical that the only source of truth is 'empirical scientific analysis'.

I have been saying for a long time that honest science has a self correcting mechanism that we should never be afraid of.

But do we have 'honest' science anymore? One that is uncorrupted by voluminous grants and pre-conceived outcomes... no matter what. When someone is picking winners and losers, and the prize is counted in billions, are we to believe the numbers aren't fudged?

Einstein threw in a variable to satisfy the stagnant universe crowd only to call it later, 'my biggest blunder".

Critical theory says 'NO" - there is also truth that cannot be measured in a test tube. And it is a lost truth... one that has to be rediscovered. It is the part of the universe that asks the questions that 'empirical science' doesn't put in its equations. 

Science says, "We can" but the lost truth says, "But should we?" and demands a "why".

Christians MUST not shrink back from this debate. We must be present, we must be bold, we must be civil, and we must be honest.

And here is the sad reality.... we are likely to be doxed and sent to 'gulags' anyway.

Now before I sound like a Debbie Downer... I write all of this with hope. 

History tells us where we are headed.... Dr. Francis Schaefer was writing this as early as 1948.

The normal course of Christian history is that gospel proclamation,  biblical literacy,  and authentic Christian presence liberates people, births prosperity, and then "the children eat the mother". It is no different in the Old Testament as God's people cycled through repentance, faith, obedience, blessing, idolatry, and judgement again and again.

In Schaefer's language God's people will choose peace and affluence even when it means giving up liberty to the control of elites.

In  Scriptural application... the consequences of sin are contained in the commission of sin.

Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. [8] For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. [9] And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:7–9 ESV)

I am committing to an attempt in 2021 to cry out for a new approach to epistemology... and likely discovering it no different than John Frame or Blaise Pascal. We have to introduce this to our children. We have to teach them how to argue for truth.

And we may have to show we are willing to die for it.

Alas, if we do this right... we will no doubt encounter friendly fire. No one shoots Christians as good as Christians.

BUT- If the apostles testified to the truth with their blood, surely I am willing to be misunderstood, ridiculed.

Maybe even kicked off of twitter.......

More details to come..... stay tuned! 

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