Archives For Intellectualism

No writer goes without giving a tongue-in-cheek, somewhat hyperbolic critique of the circles in which they sometimes find themselves. Here’s mine.



We share pictures of books
Show off our reading pace so everyone looks.

Pat ourselves on the back for having beaten our friends to it,
Be the first to blog, tweet, and hope the bubble applies “likes” to it.

We quit our news feeds to quiet the noise.
Yet feed news feeds with the sound of our own voice.

It’s all supply and demand you see,
I post my thing and demand that you read.

Yes, we like those we think can, or may, or will, advance our career.
And only add those who can pad our stats to show off our appeal.

Heaven help the soul who seeks to participate.
This is a “community” that doesn’t reciprocate.

We’ll sit in silence and execute our higher responses
While pushing our own intellectual repertoire up your noses.

If you speak outside the paradigm, you can be sure to be hated.
(This, however, is never openly stated.)

Not publicly of course,
fans, followers and friends might just as openly disendorse us.

It would impact our numbers; steal our thunder.

Outdo, be outone, but don’t overdo the outdo, or your membership is done.

Don’t rock the boat, cause these inflated egos don’t float.

Simply, don’t! Not even with quotes.

Our prime pedestals should appear dressed prim and proper,
Should be camera ready, because we’re the only real show stoppers.

If you serve with ambition and don’t provoke our progressive suspicions,
and as long as your not seen as competition,
you’ll fit in with this cult of neo-Gnosticism.

Ode to the wall of virtual snobs.



Image: Raphael Koh

‘Proximity & activity don’t always equal connectivity’ – Lysa TerKeurst, Uninvited, p.43

mountains-768459__180Having been embedded in the online Barthian community for some time now, I’ve come to observe three tiers of online Barthian “scholarship” and engagement:

First there are those who think that they own Barth. The elitist, who knows everything, and anyone who questions their particular position on Barth, are simply “ignorant and intolerant” religious right-wingers and therefore, wrong. The message carried being: “after all, you’re a peasant who couldn’t possibly understand Barth, let alone what I’ve actually written about Barth. Besides, my ivy league credentials, well-established, tenured academic life, and level of social media influence over-rules yours.”

The second tier supports tier one. The Barthian scholarship fanbois. Giving approval, and whipping up support to the labelling, in order to use it to further their own Left-wing preconceptions and prejudices. Most recently seen in the recent rise in anti-trumpism (or to borrow from left-wing phobic labelling lingo, “Trumpophobia”) within the Barthian theoblogosphere.

The general argument, if not spoken loudly, quietly inferred:“Barth was a leftist [he wasn’t]. He would have considered Trump to be like Hitler and anyone who supported him, a Nazi” – any Christian who doesn’t agree with this assessment is a “German christian”, and is to be brought to judgement before the people’s court of tier one.

Those who question the fanbois silence about what Barth would say about Clinton, or the direction, behaviour and politics of the Democrats in general, are likely to find themselves standing alone. Not without a shunning or whip statement thrown at them, of some description, for good measure.

Anyone who seeks to show that the greater parallels, to 1930s Germany, doesn’t primarily [note, I said primarily] exist in the rhetoric of Republicans, but in the growing list of left-wing “social justice causes”, needs to, “get off your high horse.” As was suggested to me when I congenially questioned the responses to Calvinists by Barthians on the very public, Facebook, Karl Barth Discussion Group.

Tier two lays down the unspoken law: don’t question us, provide an alternative perspective or speak about the more concerning, already existing historical parallels. Such as the increasingly one-sidedness of the black lives matter movement, the increasing pseudo-militancy of “social justice” warriors, Islamic terrorism; widespread abortion, gay marriage – and the selective misuse of the bible to justify it, pride flags and its associated ideology being forced on churches, total ideological indoctrination of our youth via control of schools and Universities, the hostile opposition to questions, the imposition of new cultural laws and a lean towards universal antisemitism in the left’s association with anti-Israel movements (

It goes without saying then that anyone who dares to question any reckless misplacement of historical parallels, in regards to what Barth might have said or thought, is either conveniently ignored or ridiculed into some form of submission. Real community involvement is only welcomed if it’s conformist involvement.

The third tier exists of two sub-groups. Those who speak up and those who silently disagree with tiers one and two.{The former consists of those who seek to do theology with Karl Barth, not use it to feed self-interest or police by selectively apply it, such as, conscripting his theology into the service of an ideological position. In part, the first sub-group pushes back against this, putting into praxis one of the consistant themes of Barth’s theological approach, identified by Tim Gorringe, in ‘Barth:Against Hegemony, 1999‘ that ‘all theology worthy of the name is a critique of ideology’ (see pp.71, 99, 115;}* The latter sub-group sees the fallacies and the diversions caused by misplacing historical parallels, yet say nothing about what’s actually going on.

The positive to all this is that third tier Barthian scholars are in the majority. The negative is what can perhaps be considered as the rise of Barthian Gnosticism and the hijacking of Karl Barth.

The relevant caveat:

‘The nature of a thing cannot be changed; whoever tries to “alter” its nature destroys the thing.’
(Voegelin, 1968) [i]

Barthian scholarship, in its online format, is yet to exceed the superiority of its face-to-face counterpart. For Barthian scholarship to survive in its online enclosure, it will need this third tier, with all the prayer, patience, humility and moxie it can muster.

‘Repentance will lead us to watch and not to sleep; it will guide our steps to life and not to death. It follows that silence, which has certainly much to commend it, will not be a mournful silence, but the natural and fruitful self-restraint of those who have privately too much to do to indulge freely in talk. It follows that prayer will not lead us away from political thought and action of a modest but definite kind, but will rather lead us directly into purposeful conflict. It follows that the new public spirit will be not only a goal, not only the subject of all kinds of teaching, pastoral work and discussion, but, above all and at once, a beginning— the spirit of a Christian repudiation of defeat, the spirit of a Christian approach to a new and better resistance, the spirit of Christian hope which is not disposed to leave the field to the demons.’
(Barth, 1940′ [ii]

[i] Voegelin, E. 1968 Science, Politics and Gnosticism:Two Essays Regnery Publishing

[ii] Barth, K. 1940 2nd Letter To the French Protestants in Loconte, J [ed.] 2004 The End of Illusions: Religious Leaders Confront Hitler’s Gathering Storm p.179

Image: courtesy of Pixabay

*updated for clarity 2/8/2016

G.K. Chesterton Recording @ The BBCIt’s unique to find a British writer from the early 20th Century, who says things as Gilbert does.

Heretics doesn’t flow as well as Orthodoxy. (Which was published in 1908; three years later).

What’s he taking aim at?

Why, it’s pesky inconsistent aristocrats, self-absorbed intellectuals, scientism, self-important writers, progressiveness-{ness}-{ness}, Nietzschean ideology, ignoring the truth of paradoxes, and among other things, something that H.G Wells said about a modernist Utopia.

Here’s post one outlining ten quotes that are, by and large, the most agreeable and challenging elements of HeReTiCs.


1. On Progress:

‘The weakness of all Utopias is this, they take the greatest difficulty of humanity and assume it to be overcome, and then give an elaborate account of the overcoming of the smaller difficulties. Mr [H.G] Wells asserts that Utopia must be a world-state, or else people might make war on it. It does not seem to occur to them that, for a good many of us, if it were a world-state we should still make war on it to the end of the world. For if we admit that there must be varieties in art or opinion what sense is there in thinking there will not be varieties in Government? The fact is very simple. Unless you are going deliberately prevent a thing from being good, you cannot prevent it being worth fighting for. It is impossible to prevent a possible conflict of civilizations, because it is impossible to prevent a possible conflict between ideals. If there were no longer our modern strife between nations, there would only be strife between Utopias.’ (p.19)
‘It does not so very much matter whether a man eats a grilled tomato or a plain tomato; it does very much matter whether he eats a plain tomato with a grilled mind.’(p.28)
‘If there really be anything of the nature of progress, it must mean, above all things, the careful study and assumption of the whole of the past.’ (p.89)
‘The wrong is not that engines are too much admired, but that they are not admired enough. The sin is not that engines are mechanical, but that humans are [become] mechanical.’ (p.126)

2. On Being:

‘Positivism is the worship of humanity.’ (p.48)
‘So long as a tree is a tree, it does not frighten us at all. It begins to be something alien, to be something strange, only when it looks like ourselves. When a tree really looks like a man our knees knock under us. And when the whole universe looks like a man we fall on our faces.’ (p.81)
‘Our existence is still a story. In the fiery alphabet of every sunset is written, “to be continued…” (p.102)
‘Frederick Nietzsche, attributes to the strong man that scorn against weakness which only exists among invalids.’ (p.104)
‘A great man is not a man so strong that he feels less than other men; he is a man so strong that he feels more. And when Nietzsche says, “a new commandment I give to you, ‘be hard,’ he is really saying, “a new commandment I give to you, ‘be dead.’” Sensibility is the definition of life.’ (p.105)
‘When Jesus Christ at a symbolic moment was establishing His great society, He chose for its corner-stone neither the brilliant Paul nor the mystic John, but a shuffler, a snob, a coward – in a word, a man. And upon this rock He has built His Church, and the gates of Hell have not prevailed against it.’ (p.110)

3. On Intellectualism:

‘Many eminent, and deservedly eminent, modern novelists must accept responsibility for having supported the worst form of snobbishness – an intellectual snobbishness.’ (p.105)
‘The kind of man who had the courage to write so badly in the one case is the kind of man who would have the courage to write so well in the other.’ (p.110)

4. On Moralism:

‘When we are seeking for the real merits of a man it is unwise to go to his enemies, and much more foolish to go to himself.’ (p.19)
‘What is the good of telling a community that it has every liberty except the liberty to make laws? The liberty to make laws is what constitutes a free people. And what is the good of telling a man (or a philosopher) that he has every liberty except the liberty to make generalisations. Making generalisations is what makes him a man.’ (p.28)
‘A man or a woman must be something of a moralist if he, or she, is to preach unmorality’ (p.126)

5. On Hope:

‘The man who said, “blessed is he that expects nothing, for he shall not be disappointed,” put the eulogy quite inadequately and even falsely. The truth is: “Blessed is he that expects nothing, for he shall be gloriously surprised.’ (p.32)
‘Like all the Christian virtues, hope, is as unreasonable as it is indispensable.’ (p.62)
‘Exactly at the instant when hope ceases to be reasonable it begins to be useful.’ (p.84)

The more I think about these, the more I’m made aware of Chesterton’s forward-thinking insight and rapier wit. His work is rarely boring. His references are slightly dated now and skipping over them can mean having them taken dangerously out of context.

Still, Heretics stands.

It is where Chesterton shows he’s not one for being boxed into any ideological  or literary straightjacket.


Chesterton, G.K. 1905 Heretics, Catholic Way Publishing

Related posts:

G.K. Chesterton’s War & Parker J. Palmer’s Objection To Objectivity

You Don’t Have To Be A Progressive, To Be For Progress

G.K Chesterton’s Resolve (Or, Early Gastronomic Activism)