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THE ART OF IMPERIOUS IGNORANCE

D.A. Carson in Themelios, April 2017:

The words are in quotation marks because they are borrowed from Mike Ovey’s column in a recent issue of Themelios.

This is the stance that insists that all the relevant biblical passages on a stated subject are exegetically confusing and unclear, and therefore we cannot know (hence “imperious”) the mind of God on that subject.

The historical example that Ovey adduces is the decision of a church Council during the patristic period whose decisions have mostly been forgotten by non-specialists. At a time of great controversy over Christology—specifically, over the deity of Christ—the Council of Sirmium (357), which sided with the pro-Arians, pronounced a prohibition against using terms like homoousios (signaling “one and the same substance”) and homoiousios (signaling “of a similar substance”). In other words, Sirmium prohibited using the technical terms espoused by both sides, on the ground that the issues are so difficult and the evidence so obscure that we cannot know the truth.

Sirmium even adduced a biblical proof-text: “Who shall declare his generation?” they asked: i.e., it is all too mysterious. Nevertheless, the orthodox fathers Hilary of Poitiers and Athanasius of Alexandria assessed the stance of Sirmium as worse than error: it was, they said, blasphemy. They decried the element of compulsion in Sirmium’s decree, and insisted that it was absurd: how is it possible to legislate the knowledge of other people? But the blasphemous element surfaces in the fact that the decree tries to put an end to the confession of true propositions (e.g., the eternal generation of the Son).

Practically speaking, the claim of dogmatic ignorance, ostensibly arising from Scripture’s lack of clarity, criticizes Scripture while allowing people to adopt the positions they want. This art of imperious ignorance is not unknown or unpracticed today. 

HOW TO LEARN

I am currently reading the penetrating book, Out of the Ashes by Anthony Esolen.  Esolen, who is Roman Catholic, mentions the example of Thomas Aquinas College.  Most of us are not Roman Catholic, but here’s how to learn:

 

WHY I’M NOT ON FACEBOOK AND TWITTER

Along with all the triviality (hey, “look at my pizza” posts) and stupidity (everyone is an expert), Alan Jacobs adds further reasons:

“I have come to believe that it is impossible for anyone who is regularly on social media to have a balanced and accurate understanding of what is happening in the world. To follow a minute-by-minute cycle of news is to be constantly threatened by illusion. So I’m not just staying off Twitter, I’m cutting back on the news sites in my RSS feed, and deleting browser bookmarks to newspapers. Instead, I am turning more of my attention to monthly magazines, quarterly journals, and books. I’m trying to get a somewhat longer view of things — trying to start thinking about issues one when some of the basic facts about them have been sorted out. Taking the short view has burned me far too many times; I’m going to try to prevent that from happening ever again (even if I will sometimes fail). And if once in a while I end up fighting a battle in a war that has already ended … I can live with that.”

http://text-patterns.thenewatlantis.com/2017/01/recency-illusions.html

TWO PRAYERS

About ten years ago I noticed that two things spontaneously dominated my prayers.  And they continue to do so to this day.

The first is a “Lord Jesus come” prayer for God to set everything right.

The second is a sort of lament/complaint to God “reminding” Him how difficult it is to live the Christian life.

CRUELTY OF OUR CULTURAL HEALERS

There are many ironies to be found among the fruited plains of America.

The marketing on airwaves wants us to imbibe in all kinds of things, including of course, sex and alcohol.  Then the media loves to mock those who get addicted to such things.  Think Charlie Sheen or Brittany Spears.

The person who indulges in the thing marketed is now the object of scorn and ridicule.  And they have little possibility of redemption. 

Our culture has no real sense of sin and no real possibility of true redemption. 

The Christian faith offers both honesty and healing.  Sin is addressed in all its ugliness, yet no matter the depth of sin, all can be objects of God’s mercy.

Jer. 6:13-16 is worth pondering in this regard.

RATE MY PROFESSOR

Every now and then I will check out Rate My Professor.  It is flawed like any human assessment.  One disgruntled student can dramatically change the professor’s teaching effectiveness number (highest is 5.0).  Along with a numerical rank there is room for students to give short descriptions.  Here is one of my favorites.  I interviewed RJ on one of his terrific books.

“If you fear confronting the questions that undergird your existence, then do us all a favor and don’t take Dr. Snell. Also, if you’re apathetic towards life in general, you might want to steer clear. But, if you’re willing to be challenged and hoping to engage in rigorous, substantial thinking, then take Dr. Snell.”

WHAT HITLER READ

One of Hitler’s favorite books was Don Quixote, which Professor Jonathan Rose says is “telling.”

From The Literary Churchill, p. 239-40

Interview with Professor Rose in the upcoming weeks…