Monday, May 9, 2011

The unintended irony of ideological arrogance

I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to completing my massive paper I have to finish before being awarded my master's degree. Due to this, I have had little time for posting and will likely have less as May moves forward and eventually turns into June. Despite this massive push, I have finally been able to enjoy reading Eric Metaxas's so far brilliant biography of a person I have highly venerated for years, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Once my graduate work is finished, I plan to re-read Bonhoeffer's Ethics, a truly brilliant philosophical/theological ethics that most people, even if it were explained to them forthrightly, would shrink back from due to how daring it is, but the daring of The Cost of Discipleship is even bolder. Discipleship is a book into which I frequently dip, and read for the first time Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Faith In Community.

Here is something from the book you can file under both Consider the Source and Consider the Consequences of Such a Mistaken and Myopic View. Metaxas quotes an extract from the diary of Nazi propagandist-in-chief, one of history's greatest liars and deceivers, Dr. Joseph Goebbels. Note the horrifying irony in the opening accusation of arrogance and, moreover, note that what replaces faith in Jesus Christ is usually ideology, perhaps not as blood-thirsty as Nazi ideology, but then again...

The Fuehrer spoke very derogatorily about the arrogance of the higher and lower clergy. The insanity of the Christian doctrine of redemption really doesn't fit into our time. Nevertheless there are learned and educated men, occupying high positions in public life, who cling to it with the faith of a child. It is simply incomprehensible how anybody can consider the Christian doctrine of redemption as a guide for the difficult life of today. The Fuehrer cited a number of exceptionally drastic and in part even grotesque examples... Whereas the most learned and wisest scientists struggle for a whole lifetime to study but one of the mysterious laws of nature, a little country priest from Bavaria is in a position to decide this matter on the basis of his religious knowledge. One can regard such a disgusting performance only with disdain. A church that does not keep step with modern scientific knowledge is doomed. It may take quite awhile, but it is bound finally to happen. Anybody who is firmly rooted in daily life and who can only faintly imagine the mystic secrets of nature, will naturally be extremely modest about the universe. The clerics, however, who have not caught a breath of such modesty, evidence a sovereign opinionated attitude toward questions of the universe.
I could easily write an extended, point-by-point, answer to all the foolish and inaccurate assertions made by perhaps the maddest of all Nazi hatters, like anyone who has had an authentic experience of God cannot help but be modest with regard to questions of the universe, at least how the universe works and even how all these workings serve God's providential purposes. However, precisely because of their belief in the Christian doctrine of redemption, such people are reasonably clear about the purpose and the meaning of human existence. Despite pretensions to sophistication in matters theological, Goebbels was obviously unfamiliar with the fundamental axiom of St. Anslem of Canterbury that is most relevant to his ignorant critique: "I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this I believe- that unless I believe, I should not understand."

I would also say that anyone possessed of modern scientific knowledge who does not believe that existence is rooted in reason, that is, logos and, therefore, has purpose and meaning is a great danger not only to his fellow human beings, but to creation itself, which is why all godless ideologies, like Nazism and Communism, are more destructive of people and creation than anything known in the history of the world, including, contra Hitch, religion. At end of the day, especially in quantative, that is, reductionist scientific terms that constitute the intellectual coin of the godless realm, the competition isn't even close!


  1. I was just reading a review of Madeleine Delbrel's writings, and this quote struck me, and I think has relevance to your thoughts:

    "…our Christian life is a pathway between two abysses. One is the measurable abyss of the world's rejections of God. The other is the unfathomable abyss of the mysteries of God. We will come to see that we are walking the adjoining line where these two abysses intersect. And we will thus understand how we are mediators and why we are mediators."

    But, the new atheist movement, it is transparent. There came a time where I saw through it. It appeals to the idealisit. But, it isn't hard to discover that claims of "I think clearer than you do because I don't believe in invisible things that don't exist", is not only arrogant, it is self-delusional. In the manner that, anyone who believes that they lack the human quality of self-delusion, are showing how they exist in the ranks of the delusional.

  2. Of course, our dear Madeleine lived and worked among many who were convinced communism was their salvation.