Archives For History

There is a plethora of material about Darwinian evolutionary theory.

Working up along the path of its reception in history, one could spend a lifetime venturing down the lane ways that exhibit them. There are a ton of mixed responses that eventually materialised in cementing of a fictitious dichotomy between creation vs. evolution in the famous Scopes Trial, in 1925.

The fallout from this is still having an impact on the dialogue between science and faith today.

Prior to 1925, not all evolutionary theorists agreed on the same interpretation and a lot of institutions experienced factional groupings. This included the Church. Though there were those who disagree, a large amount of clergy and theologians originally had no problem with Darwin’s theory, some even welcomed it.

Many of the clergy were lay scientists, intrigued by natural history, and the discoveries being unravelled, as man sought to conquer, mountain, monster and myth.

The fracturing between church and science, seems to have become more evident after Darwin’s publication of the ‘Decent of Man’ in 1871. The book most attributed to the birth of Social Darwinism, which, with the help of Thomas Huxley, who did his best to push Christianity out of the academy, grew into a grotesque totalitarian scientism, endorsed by one of Darwin’s most enthusiastic supporters, German, Ernst Haeckel (1834 – 1919).

The outcomes of this fracturing are best explained by the experience of Vernon Kellogg, an American evolutionary biologist, who, prior to America’s involvement in World War One, was sent to Belgium to assist in providing humanitarian relief. In 1917, he noted that Social Darwinism was the celebrated ideology of the German high command. Unknown to him at the time, Kellogg had been given a front row seat to the future:

‘One by one any German would give up, in all matters in which he acted as a part of the German administration, all of the thinking, all of the feeling, all of the conscience which might be characteristic of him as an individual, a free man, a separate soul made sacred by the touch of the Creator.
And he did this to accept the control and standards of an impersonal, intangible, inhuman, great cold fabric made of logic and casuistry and utter, utter cruelty, called the State — or often, for purposes of deception, the Fatherland.

Kellogg continues:

Well, I say it dispassionately but with conviction: if I understand theirs, it is a point of view that will never allow any land or people controlled by it to exist peacefully by the side of a people governed by our point of view.
For their point of view does not permit of a live-and-let-live kind of carrying on. It is a point of view that justifies itself by a whole-hearted acceptance of the worst of Neo (social) Darwinism, the omnipotence of natural selection applied rigorously to human life and society and culture.
The creed of the All-macht (omnipotent power) of natural selection based on violent and fatal competitive struggle is the gospel of the German intellectuals; all else is illusion and anathema.

Worth noting, the very foundations for National Socialist ideology was conceived long before Nazism was even a word:

The assumption among them is that the Germans are the chosen race (the Ubermensch), and German social and political organisation the chosen type of human community life, and you have a wall of logic and conviction that you can break your head against but can never shatter – by headwork.You long for the muscles of Samson…
Here the pale ascetic intellectual and the burly, red-faced butcher meet on common ground here. And they wonder why the world comes together to resist this philosophy – and this butcher- to the death! [i]

Scientism is defined as an ‘exaggerated trust in the efficacy of  science‘ (Merriam-Webster). Kellogg’s experience, and horror at what he saw, led him to make an assessment on the impact of scientism. This pushed him beyond pacifism, becoming an advocate for just resistance against such views.

Sensing the necessity for it, in 1924 Kellogg wrote an essay entitled ‘The Modern View of Evolution‘. In it he took the opportunity to distance ‘Darwinian Evolutionary Theory’ from ‘Social Darwinism’. The former a scientific endeavour. The latter a religion built on evolutionary ethics and viciously applied to every aspect of life by its new priests and followers.

The 19th Century’s quest to conquer mountain, monster and myth, now included God. Leading Nietzsche to famously, and rather presumptuously, proclaim that God is dead.

Scientific inquiry was spurred on by the higher criticisms (such as historical criticism) birthed in the 18th Century. It was open season and everything was fair game.

This pushed the line of suspicion and criticism against the Biblical texts, opening up a feeding frenzy on the Church and centuries of Christian faith, practice and thought.

These criticisms, however, ended up only acting as a necessary purifier – a necessary shaking of the foundations that even opened up room within the Church to push back against the extremes of neo-Protestantism (liberal theology – denial of miracles/resurrection et.al) and the inhumane threat of Social Darwinism.

The general view here is that the criticisms functioned as kind of back-to-basics qualifier which consequently only empowered Christianity by reviewing its role and claim in the world.

They were seen to be buttressing facts about Christian faith, practice and thought.  As a result Christianity, albeit somewhat weathered and shaken, could stand up well against future scientific criticisms and modern heresy. I wouldn’t venture as far to suggest that in this period of history Christianity went through a scientific-enlightenment, a baptism-of-fire, but it certainly carries that image well.

In large part scientific inquiry does seem to have buttressed Christian faith and thought. For instance: it opened up questions regarding the historical dating of the biblical text, only to confirm more than it might have otherwise refuted.

This is echoed in one of Darwin’s youngest colleagues, George John Romanes’ and his posthumous work: ‘Thoughts on Religion’, 1904.

‘Prior to the new [Biblical] science, there was really no rational basis in thoughtful minds, either for the date of any one of the New Testament books, or, consequently, for the historical truth of any one of the events narrated in them…
…but now this kind of scepticism has been rendered obsolete, and forever impossible; while the certainty of enough of St.Paul’s writings for the practical purpose of displaying the belief of the apostles has been established, as well as the certainty of the publication of the Synoptics (Matthew, Mark & Luke) within the first century’[ii].

Out of interest here is Romanes, himself an evolutionary biologist, positing on the benefits:

‘It is a general, if not a universal, rule that those who reject Christianity with contempt are those who care not for religion of any kind. ‘Depart from us’ has always the sentiment of such.
On the other hand, those in whom the religious sentiment is intact, but who have rejected Christianity on intellectual grounds, still almost deify Christ. These facts are remarkable.George_John_Romanes_wiki
If we estimate the greatness of a man by the influence which he has exerted on mankind, there can be no question, even from the secular point of view, that Christ is much the greatest man who has ever lived.
It is on all sides worth considering that the revolution effected by Christianity in human life is immeasurable and unparalleled by any other movement in history; though most nearly approached by that of the Jewish religion, of which, however, it is a development, so that it may be regarded as a piece with it.
Christianity thus is immeasurably in advance of all other religions. It is no less so of every other system of thought that has ever been promulgated in regard to all that is moral and spiritual.
Whether it be true of false, it is certain that neither philosophy, science nor poetry has ever produced results in thought, conduct, or beauty in any degree to be compared with it.’[ii]

Romanes along with Vernon Kellogg, are not in line with Social Darwinian ethics, watered down theology or any universal application of science. Such as, seeking to apply a totalitarian scientism to the sociopolitical arena; deliberately seeking to disinherit Judeo-Christian theology from its rightful place in the academy, as a necessary and serious critique of everything that surrounds us or seeks to consume us.

Jesus Christ and those He represents are a continual bulwark against Social Darwinism’s Übermensch fascism, Marxism’s socialist atheist police State and Islamist expansionism.

To be so convinced that true reality (or freedom) is existence without the One who birthed that existence, is to give in to an arrogance which rejects God’s grace, and chains humanity to the Dark agenda of total extinction.

Kellogg and Romanes critiqued extremes. At the same time they present us with documents that serve to fund a project of objective analysis that seeks to extinguish the unnecessary and manufactured “war” between science and the Christian faith.


References:

[i]   Kellogg, V.L. 1917 Headquarters Nights: A Record of Conversations and Experiences at the Headquarters of the German Army in France and Belgium (Annotated). Rueggisberg Press. 2010

[ii] Romanes G.J, 1904 Thoughts on Religion

[iii] Ibid, Loc.1641 & 1650

‘Thoughts on Religion’ can be acquired for free from Project Guttenburg here: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/16942

Images: Vernon Kellogg & George John Romanes

The general reasoning against any sizeable interest in the suffering and pain of Germans in World War Two might go along these lines:

‘’Well, the fact that some Germans suffered horribly doesn’t equal the unnecessary loss and pain their country caused to the Jewish people or the Allies.’’

For obvious reasons, this response isn’t without justification.

However, any discussion about German suffering is avoided with the vigour of a young theologian. Who once confronted with the task of unpacking Karl Barth’s complex rejection of natural theology, quietly sums it up, then stamps it with a Dante-esk ‘abandon all hope – ye who enter here!

The conversation moves on and the issue is conveniently ignored.

So it is with some difficult primary documents.

They are politely ignored or misappropriated in haste. Sometimes dangerously decontextualised in an attempt to bring the past into agreement with the present[i]. In this case the intellectual method is betrayed and history is abandoned. Either in favour of an ultra-conservative or progressive party-line. Primary documents are for a time effectively written off, partially discounted, misused or conveniently ignored.

The victim? A warts-and-all linear view of history.

Read and received rightly, primary sources show us exactly where, how and when the past can read and inform the present.

Such an undertaking allows us to carefully acknowledge the past with all the seriousness and respect that it rightly deserves.

If allowed to speak as it is, what a primary source can teach us is invaluable. Their contents will challenge comfortable opinions by dragging us into the context. Sometimes even becoming a contradiction to the self-serving and selective views of history so endemic of our time.

For example: Not all Germans were National Socialists. Some even paid the high price of active resistance.

It’s a rare occurrence for those in the English-speaking world to be granted a first-hand insight into the pain, suffering and thoughts of those few Germans who went against the stream during World War Two. Their voice is smothered by the fog of war and their sacrifice forgotten. So when we get the chance to read about it, it’s worth every penny.

Christian Puritz’s 2013: ‘Christ or Hitler?: Stories from my life and times, by Pastor Wilhelm Busch’ is anexample of such rarities:

WilhelmBusch_Family photo 1943

Pastor Busch and Family, 1943. Just before Wilhelm’s son (centre) left for the Russian front where he died a year later.

 

Busch’s recount of what resistance was like and what it cost is described by him in his diary:

When my son reached the senior classes in the grammar school he himself wanted to resist the ungodly repression of those days.
He chose his friends from the Bible Circle that I was leading. This work had already been so defamed that only a handful of young people had the courage to swim against the tide and keep coming.
His friends decided one day to disobey the command of the Hitler Youth (to which all young people without exception then had to belong) to assemble on Sundays during the time of the church service. (Church Youth Groups were forbidden by the Gestapo, the Secret State Police)
I never commanded my son to enter my youth work; he just grew into it of his own accord.
My boy decided to do a bicycle tour. He invited his friends. And in the end he said it would be nice if his father came as well…
On one of the tours we made a discovery that shocked us. My boy had a nose bleed which just would not stop. We took him to a hospital and eventually were told: ‘This boy has haemophilia; his blood can’t coagulate.’
And yet later they conscripted him for the war in Russia. I ran to see the army doctor who examined him.
But a pastor who belonged to the ‘Confessing Church’ and who was not ‘standing without reserve behind our beloved Führer’ did not get a hearing.
I can still see the little troop standing on the station. Destination Russia!
They were just children, eighteen years old. I could have screamed when I saw my child marching away, looking so pale. What did this tender artistic soul have to do with an unjust war? He had been caught in a pitiless machine.
Then somewhere in Russia he bled to death. Abandoned and alone! No! Not alone! In his wallet was found a bloodstained scrap of paper with the words:
‘The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want… And though I walk in the dark valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me.[ii]

It’s true enough that when compared to the suffering of millions under the Nazi reign of terror, this is of little consolation.

However, there is a uniqueness within these first-hand accounts. There is a solidarity of suffering which shows a different side to Germany during World War Two. By their resistance to National Socialist rules, they become an exception to the rule.

Not all  Germans were Nazis. There wasn’t a total alignment of Germans towards the totalitarian Fascist state.

This kind of insight is also reflected through the lives of German men and women, such as: Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Theologian), Oskar Schindler (Industrialist), Paul Schneider (Pastor), Claus von Stauffenberg (Soldier), Edith Stein (Feminist/Carmelite Nun), and Sophia Scholl (Student).  {Oskar Schindler being the only one on this list to not be murdered by the Fascist State}

.       Left to Right: Bonhoeffer, Schneider,          .      Stauffenberg, Schindler Scholl & Stein

 

In these cases and the few like them, there is a juxtaposition of those inside the Axis with those outside it.

In their resistance we witness a politics of realignment. The unavoidable and political ”nein”  to any state, political party, ideology or politician who lays claim to being a secondary messiah equal to that of the revelation of God in Jesus Christ.

We are reminded by them, that in Jesus Christ we are turned back towards freedom. In their struggle we are handed the reminder that we may stand, must stand and therefore ought to stand against any stream, scheme or masked revelation that seeks to ‘tame and control the Gospel by adapting it rather than being adapted by it’. (Karl Barth CD.II/I:163)

In 1969, Billy Graham talking with William F. Buckley Jnr. outlined the finer points of dichotomy between the Christian revolution of the heart and all Marxism revolt.

 

Under Marxist rule the first victim is religious freedom. By their very existence, the genuine Christian, the sinner saved by grace, stands in direct opposition to Communism, because society’s salvation, criticism and hope begins and ends with the freedom and authority of Jesus Christ, not Karl Marx.

The Polish people exemplified this in the early 1980’s, when ‘their hostility towards Communism was demonstrated, not by riots, but by openly showing their allegiance to God…’ [iii]

This pertains to the pursuit of truth vs. political conformity. Where the freedom that gives life to the intellectual method is maintained against any who would seek to enslave it.

Just as

…’the light of eternity shines into the sadness.’ (Pastor Busch) [iv]

insight brings hope.

 ‘It would be wrong not to lay lessons of the past before the future’[v]
– (Winston S. Churchill, 1948)

 


References:

[i] For example: the attempt to synthesise Leftism (White Rose Society) with this, (The Historical White Rose Society).

[ii] Puritz, Christian (Trans/Ed.) Christ or Hitler?: Stories from my life and times, by Pastor Wilhelm Busch (1897-1966) (First) Evangelical Press. Kindle Ed.

[iii] Wojtyla, K. cited by O’Sullivan, J. 2006  The President, The Pope & The Prime Minister: Three Who Changed The World Regnery Publishing, Inc.

[iv] Puritz, Ibid.

[iv] Churchill, W. 1948, The Gathering Storm: The Second World War, Vol.1 Houghton Mifflin Company Kindle Ed.

Billy Graham, 1969. The Decline of Christianity, Firing Line, William F. Buckley

YouTube: The Decline of Christianity

Stanford Transcript: The Decline of Christianity

Л. Н.Толстой рассказывает сказку внукам. 1909

The quote below, taken from Tolstoy’s ‘A Confession’, reads like a critique of the leviathan that is social media:

We were all then convinced that it was necessary for us to speak, write, and print as quickly as possible and as much as possible, and that it was all wanted for the good of humanity. And thousands of us, contradicting and abusing one another, all printed and wrote — teaching others. And without noticing that we knew nothing, and that to the simplest of life’s questions:
What is good and what is evil? We did not know how to reply, we all talked at the same time, not listening to one another, sometimes seconding and praising one another in order to be seconded and praised in turn, sometimes getting angry with one another — just as in a lunatic asylum.
Thousands of workmen laboured to the extreme limit of their strength day and night, setting the type and printing millions of words which the post carried all over Russia, and we still went on teaching and could in no way find time to teach enough, and were always angry that sufficient attention was not paid us. It was terribly strange, but is now quite comprehensible. Our real innermost concern was to get as much money and praise as possible. To gain that end we could do nothing except write books and papers. So we did that’[i].

Of course, it is anachronistic to suggest that Tolstoy was talking about social media as we know it. Tolstoy’s words are, however, a critique of 19th Century, Russian media, its medium and the noise therein. Therefore, they are an early critique of the content and form which makes up a large part of social media. As such, they are a relevant criticism for us to take seriously, particularly when applying them to a 21st Century context.

Today, Henry Ergas from ‘The Australian’, made an interesting observation. In writing about sensitive information, how it is monitored, distributed and delivered. He provided an historical insight, which although topically unrelated, helps us to contextually frame the sharp poignancy of Tolstoy’s reflection:

“19th century’s Pax Brittanica, was built on a solid technological foundation: Britain’s control of global telegraphy. As late as 1890, 80 per cent of the world’s submarine cables were British; Britain ruled the wires even more decisively than she ruled the waves… The sophistication of today’s communications networks is obviously many orders of magnitude that of Britain’s global telegraph system. In 2012, daily internet traffic was in the order of 1.1 exabytes, one billion times more every day than the 19th century system could carry in a year. And the growth rates remain breathtaking: wireless traffic alone is now eight times larger than the entire internet in 2000[ii]

If Ergas’ facts are correct, that is a lot of information being exchanged. For better or worse we engage, encode, disengage and decipher information at ‘breathtaking’ speeds. Matthew McKay suggests that ‘55% of all communication is mostly facial expressions’[v]. Thus, my conclusion is that because most of the information exchanged via social media is in written form, it seriously limits our ability to receive a message, in the same way it was intended to be received by the author. (there are many examples of how comments have been wrongly interpreted).

I consider Tolstoy’s reflection a full-stop. An important interruption that encourages us to take a breath and ask ourselves:

  • Is the information we are consuming authentic, well-informed, or is it just propaganda; distortion (noise)?

Further questions might be:

  • Are we consuming information without really processing and retaining what it is being said?
  • Who is saying this, and why are they saying it?
  • Is the source trustworthy?
  • Will my time be well spent reading this or not?

There is a further word worthy of consideration here. Augustine, in his day, had this to say about grace and human nature:

…’many sins are committed through pride; but not all happen proudly. They happen so often by ignorance, by human weakness, and many are committed by people, weeping and groaning in their distress[iii]

Perhaps there is a timeless clarity by which these words help us to reflect on the interpersonal conduct, and content of the information exchanged on most prominent social media sites today?

Diary of Leo Tolstoy

Diary of Leo Tolstoy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Even with all its pitfalls, the strength of social media is in its ability to connect people and strengthen relationships. I remain a cautious participant of social media, aware of its limited ability to ‘properly allow a healthy and fair exchange of ideas’ (Elshtain, 2007). Therefore, I find here in Augustine and Tolstoy’s words, a reminder about the limits and the responsibility which coincides with the right to use such mediums. Augustine’s insight here could be bridged to Tolstoy’s reflection, and therefore buttress our proposition. Their words present us with a useful framework for a theological critique of social media.

Finally, if we look at Proverbs 4:20-5:6, we can see a parallel logic that could exonerate this train of thought.

Be attentive to God’s word

Keeping them close.

Guard your heart with vigilance,

Avoiding spin and smear.

(“Refusing to be conned by the rhetoric of either the new right or the new left’’)[iv]

Looking forward, ponder the path of our feet.

Be attentive to wisdom.

Use words that guard knowledge,

And ponder the path of life.


Related articles

Tolstoy’s Faith – GVL

The Who, What And When Of Social Media – RVD, The Christian Pundit

Sources:


[i] Tolstoy, L. 1879 A Confession (Kindle for PC ed. Loc. 92-100).
[ii] Ergas, H. 2013 Wrong for Abbott to follow Obama and add lying to spying, The Australian, Sourced 25th November 2013
[iii] Augustine, ON NATURE AND GRACE (With Active Table of Contents) Kindle Ed. Loc. 704-706
[iv] Wright, N.T. 2013 Creation, Power and Truth: The gospel in a world of cultural confusion, SPCK & Proverbs 4:27
[v] McKay, M., Martha, D. & Fanning, P. 2009 Messages: The communications skill book p.59, New Harbinger publications

©RL2013

Of all the points of parallel relevance the past has with modern society, there are sometimes moments when historical parallels between past and present collide.

This nexus isn’t always clear or easy to acknowledge. The past may be misappropriated and misrepresented; hyped up to buttress a political agenda.

Key players manipulate the material in order to provoke a response, carefully steering reactions in a particular direction for political gain.

Throughout history the Christian Church has come up against this, battling forces within and without. Along the halls of Church History can be found the graffiti of false prophets, corrupt leaders, anti-Christs, and, the more surreptitious, pseudo-christs.

There have, for example, been a number of notorious examples of cults, false prophecies and dates given asserted to be the exact return of Jesus Christ and the end of days.

Like freedom, truth has to be fought for. Like freedom, the greatest threat to truth is the corruption of it.

One of the great positives of Niccolo Machiavelli’s The Prince, is that he provides an insight into the secularized church mindset. The, politically necessary fake-it-to-maintain-it, surface only profession of, in Machiavelli’s context, faith in Jesus Christ in order to maintain status, power, control and influence over the people.

‘There is nothing more important than appearing religious. In general people judge more by appearances than first-hand experience , because everyone gets to see you but hardly anyone deals with you directly. Everyone sees what you seem to be, few have experience of who you really are, and those few won’t have the courage to stand up to the majority opinion underwritten by the authority of the state.’ [i]

Social media provides the most poignant example of where a nexus between past and present exists. Just as Machiavelli, half mockingly describes politicians and the socio-political mix of his time, for a good majority, appearance is placed over substance.

Seeming to be something, or be doing something is part of the rule of the day. Today, it’s correct, politically incorrect, label is “virtue signalling”.

The nexus isn’t easy to see because it’s feared. Learning from the past empowers responsible action in the present. When allowed to speak freely, the truth of the past secures the future.

Either the truth of the nexus is too close for comfort, or what confronts us isn’t in line with political narratives that shape, and seek to shape, the way people think, act and speak.

Ideas that are deified, demanding an absolute pledge of allegiance to those, who by blurred distinctions, coerce the surrender of tried and trusted systems that ensure basic civic freedoms. Those who bind truth to lies with threats to deny those civic freedoms under the guise of treason.

God’s Word as law, given in grace is supplanted. Man’s word as law, given to enslave, is enthroned. Chiseled into existence with the arrogant proclamation, “God is dead”. This jubilant euphoria at man triumphant; God conquered, is, however, short lived.

The great evil committed in the Garden, now cemented in the creeds of an incorporated and thought-to-be newfound lordlessness. The regression towards a pre-Christ primal atheism strikes a devastating blow against humanity.Those this side of all of histories examples, say with lament, “man is dead”.

Human lords are divided,

‘no longer able so unambiguously to distinguish the light of Lucifer from the light of God […] Humankind has got what it wants; it has become creator, source of life, fountain head of the knowledge of good and evil […] it is the lord of its own world.’ [ii].

This was the case in Germany throughout the 1930’s: “To the good Nazi not even God stands before Hitler” [iii] Humanity becomes the source of good and evil; ‘living out of it’s own resources'[iv] in a rejection of God’s grace. The fickle motion of whim, feeling, and lust, combined with a reasoned insanity. Humanity strikes a devastating blow against itself.

Examples of this can be seen in how some modern proponents utilize Religion or ideology to justify their rejection of God’s Lordship in Jesus Christ. Via claims to superior, “inside” knowledge or the Darwinian excuse that the strong determine the treatment (mistreatment) of the weak.

Helmut Gollwitzer, in response to the so-called, reasoned insanity, of ‘Kristallnacht’ (Night of broken glass/crystal) preached:

”Those who cannot admit their guilt before God can no longer do so before men and women. Then begins the insanity of persecution that seeks to make the other person into the devil in order to make themselves into a god. Where repentance stops, inhumanity begins; there all common bonds shatter even while one tries to strengthen them through tenacious self-justification and self-pardon’ [v]
– (November 1938, Berlin, Sermon: ‘About Kristallnacht’ )

In the progressive quest to work for God, or alternatively ignore God, we find elements which seek emancipation from God.

Consequently, the biblical promise of a ‘newness of life’ (Romans 6:4) is replaced with a mystical fog or a reason induced cold pragmatism. Most often affirmed by an esoteric elitism who, hiding behind entitlement, choice, nature and good intentions, hypocritically end up forcing a tyrannical ‘denial of life’ upon humanity.

Ultimately, the charade is found wanting and sinful humanity is once again reminded of its tendency to parade darkness behind a veil of light.

No matter how hard we try, we cannot apprehend that which can only be given to us.

Humanity remains unfree in the ignorance and futility of its quest to be free from the Creator, who has and still does, have a right to His creation. By enforcing His right the Creator appears as powerless. In mercy, He lowers Himself in order to raise us up.

‘Freedom to be for God is not a freedom which we have taken, but a freedom which God has given to us in His mercy’ [vi]

Our lack of  sensitivity and response to God’s approach i.e.: our lack of ‘receptivity to revelation through gratitude and humble recognition’[vii], leads to a rejection of God and His freedom.

Humanity is triumphant only because God triumphed! Without God, nothing. For ‘God gives of God’s own life, of God’s Spirit. Human beings do not live as human beings apart from God’s Spirit.’ (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Creation & Fall p.79)

“Extract us from sin, He Who dwells in the heavens
as the sun sets, call to those who pass through fire and water
Next Year in Jerusalem.” (source)


References:

[i] Machiavelli, N. 1532, The Prince Penguin Classics, 2011, (p.71)

[ii] Bonhoeffer, D. DBW 3:Creation & Fall

[iii] Julien Bryan, Henry Luce & Louis de Rochermont, 1939. March Of Time: Inside Nazi Germany

[iv] Bonhoeffer, D. DBW 3: Creation and Fall

[v] Gollwitzer, H. 1938 in Stroud, D. (ed.) 2013 Preaching in Hitler’s shadow: Sermons of resistance, Wm.B Eerdmans Publishing p.120

[vi] Barth, K. 1938 Church Dogmatics I.II Hendrickson Publishers p.260

[vii] ibid, 1938

YouTube: Jerusalem (Swedish Band): ‘Next year in Jerusalem’ from the album ‘Prophet‘, 1993

Image: United States Holocaust Museum, Kristallnacht

Hitler's Traitors: German Resistance to the Nazis, Susan OattawayThis past week I finished reading Susan Ottaway’s 2003 book, ‘Hitler’s Traitors.’

I had borrowed this with the purpose of finding and filling gaps in my own knowledge of early-mid 20th Century European history. What I found was an excellent introduction to it. It’s a text I’m now planning to use for homeschool. (Worth noting, the Nazis banned homeschooling. So there’s a small sense of irony here.)

The book’s potential lies in its content and flow. I was particularly attached to Ottaway’s blunt opinions and it’s likely that these pieces of commentary contributed to her reasons for saying, ‘this is not a scholarly work’ (xiii).

Scholarly work or not, Ottaway’s book is well researched and her criticisms are balanced. The text is indexed, bibliographed and it contains four appendages that present primary documents, including the White Rose leaflets and photos of key people.

Ottaway doesn’t sugar coat the truth.

Chronologically written, her book deals with a long list of historical figures and complex events. What unlocks this as a suitable homeschool text is its conversational style. With brevity and wit, Ottaway explains the injustices of the Treaty of Versailles and the initial well-intentioned, but ultimately ignorant approach of the Allies.

Additional themes include the politics of appeasement, the fall of the Weimar Republic, German anti-Nazi resistance, the horrific persecution of European Jews, the rise of communism and the defeat of Nazism.

The only real downside to the book is that it has no footnotes and not every reference is cited meticulously enough to allow an easy follow up reading.

Finding good resources for homeschool is hard. It’s usually because there’s a limited budget and a somewhat specific curriculum to follow. It’s not for lack of choice. American resources that are directed at homeschooling abound. While Australian material, for the most part, is not. Hence, the age old struggle to find the right resources can snare us in a web of high cost with little reward.

We have enough and we’re grateful for it. Still, ordering the wrong resources could cost us time and hit the budget hard. It means being careful in choosing supplemental material, once the must-buy material has been purchased.

This need to be fugal is a gift. It helps us to focus our aim. It encourages us to be creative and industrious. It means making an effort to find the right resource that’s right for the job.

Ottoway’s book fits this description.

It precisely carries the intensity of an era dominated by Germany. ‘Hitler’s Traitors’ teaches early-mid 20th Century European history in a way youth can hear and understand.

What Ottaway has done is create an in-depth overview of this period in modern history. It’s readable and it digs deep enough.  Ottaway successfully illustrates what life was like and what life could be like, should we fail to remember and act on what this history teaches us.


Related post: Never Again

Relgion and Science Peter HarrisonPeter Harrison, the director of Queensland University’s Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, recent book, ‘The Territories of Science and Religion,’ counters the myth of a conflict between science and religion. Uncovering long hidden connections, Harrison concludes that the perceived conflict between science and religion involves a fabrication of historical facts. This work is best described as an in-depth treatise that locates the origins of the conflict myth, surveying concepts, categories, and the shifting definitions of religion and science.

Harrison states that when the information is more closely reviewed, any perceived hostile exchange is in fact contained within each respective sphere. Science was, and perhaps because of its very nature, is still in some ways at conflict within itself. For instance: the divide in the science community about “global warming”. Therefore an historical war between religion and science, or the Church and the Enlightened, as the popular assumption goes, did not exist.

Correcting the often used polemic against religion, Harrison invokes the Galileo controversy, arguing that any perception of a conflict between science and Christianity, at that time, ignores the differing and predominant scientific views of the day. This along with other similar examples that Harrison provides, gives clear evidence of a conflict myth that is being pushed forward by a ‘distortion of historical and conceptual contexts which are projected back over history.’ (p.172)

Harrison’s points are strong. Working his way up through Greek antiquity to modern liberalism, he shows that the conflict between science and Christianity was invented. This invented narrative maintains the perceived supremacy of science by painting religion, in particular Christianity, as the antagonist. Harrison suggests that this is not without agenda. Science is always in flux, for it to stay a unified boxed up entity, a crisis is needed. This crisis unites the populace, conscripting them in a stand against a perceived common enemy, hence the need for a conflict between science and religion.

‘The modern moral program is fed by an ersatz eschatology which points to environmental crisis, demanding repentance and contrition […]This is connected to there being a need for science to have a unifying narrative with some kind of moral or aesthetic vision to promote its relevance to the public’ (p.179)

As for progress and the progressive, those who invalidate Christianity tend to validate the science vs. religion conflict, deploying an easy to sell utilitarianism. As first espoused by Thomas Huxley and later Social Darwinism, science, it is claimed, is the only sure answer; the only certain way to manage vice, ensure freedom, progress, purpose, meaning and moral development. By way of selling a concentrated narrative of material solutions to the human condition, science and all that is squeezed into this modern narrow definition of it, is forced to dismiss its own origins. As a result it is cut off from its historical connection with philosophy and theology.

Harrison’s argument here flows well because of the way in which he unpacks the dialogue from the mid-19th Century up until now. This enables him to connect the presumed conflict between science and religion with evidence to support the conclusion, that this presumed conflict is built on a dubious distortion of context, concept and category. This includes the modern liberal fusion of science to progress and it’s all encompassing, go-it-alone, promise to bring about the general betterment of all humanity. Something Harrison suggests is in need of honest critique:

‘The generally considered neutrality of the public space of Modern Liberalism, where no single religious tradition is favoured, needs to be brought into question. This is because Modern liberalism [as opposed to classical liberalism] might be thought of more along the lines of a competing ideology or religion, asserting its own supremacy at the cost of other traditions.’ (p.190)

The problem, as Harrison outlines, is that progress implies the teleological. Meaning and purpose has to fit in somewhere because for progress to be progress it must have an end or a goal to move towards, otherwise it’s simply just change. Science has its own limitations and vices. That the modern progressive pushes to disallow room for taking the theological or philosophical seriously, means that the current concept of progress is without any real direction.

‘There is something inherently unstable in the modern understanding of progress. Progress had once been thought of as the movement of human beings toward certain given ends. But without at least an implicit teleology (which was precisely what the new natural philosophical approaches sought to dispense with) the notion of progress is difficult to sustain. Progress, in other words, is goal dependent; progress is toward some end. Without goals, progress is just change.’ (pp. 143-144)

Harrison moves through a chronology of historical facts,  identifying influential events and key historical players. Such as the significant role natural theology and natural philosophy played in the development of natural science from the early modern period. Starting with Aristotle, Harrison works his train of thought up through to Augustine, Thomas Aquinas and then John Locke. Stating that the conceptual context of natural theology for Augustine and Aquinas is vastly different to that of the natural theology of early modernity.

The redefining not just of the roles, but the concepts of natural philosophy and natural theology accompanied the newly created, one-size-fits-all categories of religion and science. The latter groupings were no longer aligned with the valuable theological virtues of religio and the ‘complimentary role’ (p.133) of the intellectual virtue of scientia. Faith seeking understanding was gradually replaced with the fabrication that faith is historically hostile to understanding.

In sum, ‘The Territories of Science and Religion’ is a well stated counterpoint to the long-held assumption that science and Christianity are inherently at odds. I am in agreement with Harrison’s conclusions. His overview of the changing concepts of religion and science, which encompassed the redefining of religio and scientia are a clear highlight. Another standout is in how Harrison illustrates the slow transformation and later dismissal of pre-enlightenment natural theology and natural philosophy for the new categories of science and religion.

Of importance is the light Harrison shines on the instability of the ‘modern moral program’ (p.179), which employs the perceived conflict between science and religion in order to sustain superiority. To do this modern liberalism, new atheism and even creation scientists focus on selling science, marketing the obvious benefits of science to suit a particular agenda. Rather than taking up an ancient fight against religion, they instead create a conflict where historically one did not exist.

For new atheism and modern liberalism this is achieved through perpetuating confusion about categories, concepts and definition. Through a fabricated narrative and distortion of historical events the supposed superiority of modern liberal constructs is bolstered. The aim to control what is labelled religion and what is labelled science, a success. Controlling the role of science to demonise, and undermine the legitimate and historical role of theology and philosophy.

The value of ‘The Territories of Science and Religion’  is that Harrison counters this. While maintaining that clear boundaries exist between natural science, and the science of theology and philosophy, Harrison opens up an in depth enquiry into the conflict myth. In turn encouraging a review of popular assumptions about a perceived conflict because historically, it was in fact a complimentary relationship, dominated by civility and discourse, not vitriol and conflict.


Source:

Harrison, P. 2015 The Territories of Science And Religion, The University of Chicago Press, Kindle Ed.

Related post:

Despite Popular Opinion The Historical Conflict Between Christianity & Science Is a Myth

I’ve just started reading Peter Harrison’s new book, ‘The Territories of Science and Religion.‘ So far it’s been worth the effort.

Harrison is the director of Queensland University’s, Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities. Formerly, The Centre For The History of European Discourses. His career also includes being the Idreos Professor of Science and Religion and Director at the University of Oxford. (source)

Harrison has a clear understanding of the history of Religion and Science. Showing how that history is blurred by the modern issues surrounding the hostility played up between them. One of the chief aims of his new book is to help along a better understanding of the differences between modern and classical definitions of the two. E.g.: the classical-medieval understanding of ‘religio’ and ‘scientia’ is not the same as the 17th Century division of religion and science into two opposing spheres of influence.

Insecurity complicates things. It’s issued out from both sides of these relatively new spheres. This insecurity is Harrison’s target as he presents an informed corrective addressing the predominant assumptions about the origins of each. By doing so Harrison counters a false dichotomy between Christianity and science, challenging assumptions and half-truths that fuel misconceptions, and which are all conveniently left in place in order to stoke antichristian, anticlerical sentiment.

With a term break fast approaching, I’ll aim to do a more complete review. In the meantime, here are two of twelve brief, but outstanding, Q & A sessions he recently did with Australia’s John Dickson, from the Centre for Public Christianity.

Case Study One:

 

Case Study Two:


 

Source:

CPX: The Centre For Public Christianity