Category Archives: Controversy

FOOD FOR THOUGHT!

https://reason.com/archives/2018/02/11/the-applied-theory-of-bossing

HT: Micah Mattix’s excellent email blast, Prufrock

Two “much food for thought” insights from the article above:

Adam Smith spoke of “the man of system” who “seems to imagine that he can arrange the different members of a great society with as much ease as the hand arranges the different pieces upon a chess-board.” [Richard] Thaler and his benevolent friends are men, and some few women, of system. They hate the Chicago School, have never heard of the Austrian School, dismiss spontaneous order, and favor bossing people around—for their own good, understand. Employing the third most unbelievable sentence in English (the other two are “The check is in the mail” and “Of course I’ll respect you in the morning”), they declare cheerily, “We’re from the government and we’re here to help.”

The great essayist Lionel Trilling wrote in 1950 that the danger is that “we who are liberal and progressive know that the poor are our equals in every sense except that of being equal to us.” The same may be said of Burkeans or conservatives, too. He also wrote that “we must be aware of the dangers that lie in our most generous wishes,” because “when once we have made our fellow men the object of our enlightened interest [we] go on to make them the objects of our pity, then of our wisdom, ultimately of our coercion.”

From C.S. Lewis:

“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.

They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. This very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be “cured” against one’s will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals.”

JEN HATMAKER

Whether you are following the theological changes Jen Hatmaker has made or not, this is a valuable piece.

I have two slight issues with Kruger’s piece.  One is that Christianity in America is more widely anti-learning that he suggests.  The other is that Bible-believing Christians are more widely nasty than he suggests.  Even so, this is an important essay.

The Power of De-Conversion Stories: How Jen Hatmaker is Trying to Change Minds About the Bible

NO EASY ANSWERS

 

Image result for controversy

I’ve asked fellow teachers, and certainly wrestled myself with the following question: How much as a teacher of God’s Word do you introduce others to the complexity, debates, and depth of Christianity?

Teachers should seek to edify and equip.  American Christians have a decidedly anti-intellectual bent coupled with an allergy to complexity.  How much does a teacher push back on those by introducing topics that cause people to be uncomfortable with how flimsy their beliefs may be?

 

PUBLIC CRITICISM

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2017/09/11/throckmorton-lambert-johnson-mohler-southern-seminary/#disqus_thread

In controversies like this one there is a common error, it seems to me, that is made.  Here is what I posted in response to Heath Lambert’s mea culpa:

Thanks for your mea culpa.

One quick observation: It is common for preachers (and others) to critique someone with no mention given of the person’s name. This, however, is not a problem merely because we live in a digital age where the information can be easily found from a search. It is intrinsically wrong. Either say the person’s name or don’t quote them.

So your apology is appreciated, but I’m afraid you run afoul of describing the gaffe as wrong because of being in a media-soaked culture. It is not instrumentally wrong. It is intrinsically wrong.

NASHVILLE STATEMENT

Nashville Statement

I would not sign it, even though I am in close agreement with the various articles.  Why?

It comes across as a sterile statement from too many who were either quiet or supportive of Trump. 

It is tone deaf in its timing: Charlottesville and now the flooding in Texas.

If the church in America had a better record of compassionate disagreement with gays, perhaps the statement would be okay.

I am glad, however, that this issue will force a more honest and comprehensive conversation about the Bible’s authority.

Here is a very good critique of someone who signed (HT: Peter Coelho):

On the Nashville Statement and My Signing of It

HOW TO DEBATE

Most of us debate poorly.  There are a number of factors like not knowing what we believe as well as we should, presenting a caricature of an opposing position, and even if we don’t err with those two, we tend to get testy!  My number one resource for making improvement is The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt.  I wish every American would read and ponder this seminal book.

https://www.amazon.com/Righteous-Mind-Divided-Politics-Religion/dp/0307455777

Here’s a good example of how to do better:

 

CONTROVERSY

Controversy brings out the best and worst of us.  Sadly, it does more of the latter.  Since Americans have a tendency towards superficial understanding and a tendency to believe someone is attacking us when they disagree with our viewpoint, it adds a further impediment to productive disagreements.

Paul Griffiths, who recently resigned from Duke Divinity articulated sharp disagreement with a training program to increase understanding of racism.  I’m not sure Professor Griffiths conveyed his concerns in the wisest way (he has said as much), but there is an important lesson for all of us: sharp disagreements can be very productive.  Here are some of Professor Griffiths reflections:

Harsh and direct disagreement places thought under pressure. That’s its point. Pressure can be intellectually productive: being forced to look closely at arguments against a beloved position helps those who hold it to burnish and buttress it as often as it moves them to abandon it. But pressure also causes pain and fear; and when those under pressure find these things difficult to bear, they’ll sometimes use any means possible to make the pressure and the pain go away. They feel unsafe, threatened, put upon, and so they react by deploying the soft violence of the law or the harder violence of the aggressive and speech-denying protest. Both moves are common enough in our élite universities now, as is their support by the powers that be. Tolerance for intellectual pain is less than it was. So is tolerance for argument.

For me, the sky-flower has fallen to the ground, its petals scattered but bearing still the beauty of a remembered reverie. I bear responsibility, of course: my class, my intellectual formation in the snidely and aggressively English dialectic of debate, my eye-to-the-main-chance polemical temperament, and no doubt other deep and damaged traits of which I’m scarcely aware, all had their part to play in bringing the sky-flower to earth.

The rest is here: https://www.commonwealmagazine.org/university-love