Monday, November 26, 2018

The age of blind faith. . .

The Middle Ages are often described as “the Age of Faith.” But surely, if any age deserves that epithet, it is ours.  True, the Middle Ages were the age of Christianity, but hardly the age of faith. If we take faith in the common, though oversimplified sense of blind belief in that which is not seen or understood, then the Middle Ages, with their worshipful admiration of Aristotle, fine definitions, and extremely precise use of language, and monasteries full of busy monks copying and commenting on scholarly texts, are the reverse of the age of faith.
So begins a good article from The Federalist You can read it all here.   David Breitenbeck has done a very effective job in making his case that ours is the age of faith -- not of Christianity but of faith.  Therein lies the problem.  It is not just that what under girds our secular age is a skepticism of religion and an antagonism against it but that the secular worldview is itself accepted by faith and not by reasoned explanation or informed consent.

The educated man of the Middle Ages or Renaissance, by contrast, could tell you exactly why the Earth must be the center of the solar system based on empirical observations and sound reasoning. He could cite the arguments for and, what is more important, the arguments against his own position.
Today the prevailing opinion of scholars or scientists is accepted without any real understanding of why or any real consideration of the opposing points of view.  It is the anarchy of a people easily led and easily convinced without having first considered who is leading or where things are going and without having paid all that much attention to the arguments for or against where things are going.  We are a people of blind faith but we posit that faith not in the gods of our fathers but in our modern gods of opinion and feeling.  We trust our instincts about what is true and what is false more than we pay attention to the reasons for such judgments.  Worst of all, we have rejected religion not because its claims have proven false but simply because its tenets violate our sacred principles of who should be right and who should be wrong.

Christianity is not waging a war for the mind but for the heart and the modern heart is captive more to whims, desires, feelings, and instincts than to anything else.  It is a dangerous time and things are moving very quickly -- so quickly, in fact, that it is a struggle to keep up with what people should be thinking and believing.  Facts do not move so quickly but game on the ground is not about facts any longer.  Christianity fares rather well when we judge the facts alone but the faith cannot compete for the heart untethered from anything but desire, whim, and fancy.

It is not that Christianity has been tested and found wanting but that Christianity has been rejected by those who think they know what it is but who, in reality, do not have the foggiest idea of its claims or its history in fact and truth.  While this is certainly a problem for the witness of the faith in our modern age, it is not without terrible consequence for our life together as a whole.  We are divided not over facts but over thoughts, desires, and instincts that often conflict with the facts.  Consider, for example, how quickly the idea of gender has been surrendered to feeling and instinct.  The facts of anatomy count for nothing in the face of a fluid and abstract idea of gender that has only an invented reality.  As people, we have become sheep the slaughter, led by unreliable truth toward goals whose consequences have yet to be seen or understood.  We are a people ripe for self-destruction, divided over ideas that have no basis in fact, blind to the outcomes of the things we judge true or false, and vulnerable to a pace of change that makes it impossible for us to be a cohesive society and community. 

Our modern age ridicules the blind faith in God that Jesus calls us to follow but they fail to see that they have an equally blind faith in the claims of science, the rule of experience, and the instinct of feeling or desire.  Breitenbeck is surely correct in saying most folks today know little about the science behind the facts they claim.  Instead, they have deposited scientists with the same awe and respect that medieval peasants once reserved for priests alone.  The science that they trust so absolutely is not experience sifted through rational judgement but experience that is hard to replicate and conclusions with which others may and often disagree.  Technology and its engineers and inventors have become the modern day magicians except that we give them more than our attention and our curiosity -- we have abandoned our skepticism and deposited all our trust in them -- without knowing who is a charlatan and who is a truth sayer.  We are the blind being led by the blind without Jesus to cast away the scales from our eyes.


Carl Vehse said...

Breitenbeck equivocates the meaning of "an educated man" of the Middle Ages and "an educated man" of the "postmodern age."

An educated man of the Middle Ages or Renaissance with the knowledge then was lacking what an educated man today has with the knowledge about Galileo's telescopic observation of the moons of Jupiter, Kepler's laws of planetary motion, Michael Maestlin's observations of the extralunar distances of comets, Isaac Newton's law of gravitation, Ole Roemer's discovery of the finite speed of light, Friedrich Bessel's parallax measurement of the distance of stars, the respective discoveries of Uranus and Neptune orbiting the sun by William Herschel and his son John, Michel Foucault's pendulum demonstrating the rotation of the Earth, Edwin Hubble's discovery of other galaxies outside the Milky Way and the expansion of the universe, the theory and discovery of black holes, including one in the center of our galaxy, the 1995 and continuing discovery of planets orbiting other stars, the distinction between solar time and sidereal time, and the development of calculus by Leibniz/Newton and Einstein's General Relativity, just to name a few, which describe various movements in our solar system, in our galaxy, and in the universe.

Yes, there is also false indoctrination in schools today, as there was a half, one, two, or more centuries ago. But an educated person examining what has being taught, can discover and learn the distinction. In my high school chemistry class I was taught that gases like neon, argon and xenon, were inert and didn't react with other elements. A few years later in college I learned that they can, and even saw a bottle containing solid crystals of a xenon-fluoride compound.

Carl Vehse said...

That should be Léon Foucault, not Michel Foucault.

Ted Badje said...

Accepted science is always changing. Newton had a theory of gravity, then along came Einstein. The atom was once thought to be undivisible, now you have Quantum Physics. Those who have science as their god seem to be more dogmatic than the people who have faith in God.