Friday, November 30, 2012

History and Supposed Defeat: A Fireside Chat

It is written:
The one who states his case first seems right,
until the other comes and examines him.  [Proverbs 18.17, ESV]
This proverb is, of course, correct and it is something which we can all observe in modern times and in our own observations of people around us.  Consider the way in which people are quick to adopt dumb conspiracy theories.  (And notice immediately that I qualify the phrase “conspiracy theories,” as not to suggest that all of such theories are inherently or necessarily dumb.)  Any person with the IQ of a high school graduate can poke a dozen logical holes in each one of these theories, yet foolish people invent these claims and even more foolish people adopt them; many of us are among them.  

Why do we accept these claims?  It’s because on this occasion you thought for yourself.  You figured something out for yourself.  You got one over on the people who tried to get over on you and pull the wool over your eyes.  Meanwhile, you didn’t accept the theory as a matter of implicit trust, as with lessons and indoctrination at school, at church or on TV; instead, you investigated the matter and reasoned through it personally.

In fact, if you are a person with a rebellious streak, you’ll latch right onto any new movement of philosophy, theology, analysis or political thought.  Likewise, if you are one of those people who is not happy unless you are “righteously” indignant at something, you’ll latch right onto any new movement of philosophy, theology, analysis or political thought.  For this is what people do and how people operate.

What this means is that it will always be necessary to re-teach, re-explain and re-instill basic truths of Christianity and advanced truths of biblical teachings and a biblical worldview.  Reformed theology once was prevalent in the Protestant world.  It later receded and was replaced by the re-analysis of the Remonstrants and by the post-Arminian theology that dominates today: a form of Arminianism which unwittingly borrows from Reformed thought.  Yet as a matter of mere conincidence or not, Reformed theology began to experience an upswing as Internet use became popular in America.  So history swings back and forth like a pendulum, which makes some of the effects of one’s labor to be temporary in nature.

Meanwhile, Calvinistic teachings were themselves reflected in the words and statements of righteous people, saints and apostles within the pages of the Old and New Testament.  Of course, the co-existence of heterodoxy was recorded in those same documents and existed alongside the apostles of the early church before these men were even dead; this helps to shed light on how Calvinistic teachings could go the way of dinosaurs and fail to re-emerge in earnest until the time of the Reformers.  Things change, effects are not permanent, and so the truth must constantly be re-taught, re-explained, and re-instilled.

Though this sounds like a recipe for unending and meaningless labor, it is in fact good news on a sentimental level.  Suppose you’re someone who is tired of how outwardly corrupt and evil our society has become over the past several decades.  Well, reprobates and sinners will always be among us, but this does not mean that common grace won’t possibly be given to them such that people stop being as evil as they currently are.  Remember what happened to Israel and Judah before and after they were sent into exile.  Just before they were kicked out of the Promised Land they were mostly an outwardly evil people with little regard for the law of Moses.  After the exile people in Promised Land overall at least pretended to hold the law of Moses in high regard, hence NT accounts of the power of the Pharisees, Sadducees, and what was really in people’s hearts at the time (e.g. Matthew 23.27-28; Mark 7.1-23).  One is inclined to believe that the sort of reasoning against idolatry that we see in the Prophetic writings of the OT (e.g. Isa 44.9-20; Jer 10.1-5) played a role in this.

What this means is that even the modern Western world, which has largely abandoned religious life and biblical moral principles, could always undergo the sort of transformation that Jewish society underwent during the Exilic and post-Exilic periods.  It may well be that the zeitgeist of the next generation of Westerners is a backlash against minimalist ethics, against the idea that life without “spirituality” is worth living, and against the idea that classic Judeo-Christian values were ever worthy of being rejected.  If people will call atheism into question, if people will question the philosophy of science and presuppositions of the same which are used to argue against biblical teachings, and if people will reason with people believe and do all the wrong things, perhaps God will match these efforts with the blessings of common or particular grace....

Stated in another way: let falsehood become the popular and dominant worldview of everyone.  After this happens, the teaching and pedagogical technique of such falsehood increasingly treats the falsehood as a mere axiom or intuitional truth that one dare not attempt to prove in great detail because it is just so obvious.  When the powers that be become slackers, that is when their beliefs come into question, as we consider Proverbs 18.17.  That’s why much of America now hates capitalism, to cite an example.

So in the end everyone wins.  To win well and with a minimal number of losses is always important though.

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