Friday, June 10, 2011

The Tendency to Become What we Fight

I was reading a little of John Piper's story today.  Interestingly, he started quite vigorously opposed to determinism, which he now interprets as being opposed to the sovereignty of God.  He was a strong proponent of free will when he went to Fuller.

What often happens psychologically when someone is so zealous for one position is that s/he becomes over-aware of the weak points of his/her position.  These have a way of eventually overcoming you to where those weak points become the centerpiece of a diametrically opposite you.  So in Piper's case, the rather unusual and atypical verses in Romans 9 came to dominate his understanding.

So beware of zeal--some of the most ardent fundamentalist zealots end up being some of the most militant atheists.  Moderation in all things is almost always the best policy.

17 comments:

Angie Van De Merwe said...

I agree. But, judgements must be made if there is to be any "conviction" or opinion. I suppose "opinion" is what we need to keep in mind.

Ayn Rand said,
To judge means: to evaluate a given concrete by reference to an abstract principle or standard. It is not an easy task; it is not a task that can be performed automatically by one’s feelings, “instincts” or hunches. It is a task that requires the most precise, the most exacting, the most ruthlessly objective and rational process of thought. | The Virtue of Selfishness, 72

Our laws protect us as citizens. Those that are seeking to protect our borders from illegal immigration are those that want to protect the "rule of law". Is that the same as a fundamentalist protecting "the Bible" with claims to inerrancy? or a denomination holding to the tenets of their understanding of "faith"?

All of us define ourselves with various understandings, frames, and we defend those boundaries because of their importance to our identity.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Identity is not to be negated, but affirmed. And this is why "self-denial" is so wrong, because it asks a human being to deny their very understanding of themselves. Negotiaition of difference is important in any relationship whether personal, business, or international. And it is not an easy process, but a complex and variable one.

::athada:: said...

Or perhaps: Once a fundamentalist, always a fundamentalist. Christian, atheist, or otherwise.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

And I recognize your "concern" for the Palestianian. That is a difficult one because they do not have "nation-state status". But, then does that give them the right to terrorize or not compromise with Israel? Or does it give them the right to say they want Israel obliterated from the earth!! Does that sound like a "tolerant" attitude?

Is it "just" to ask Israel to go back to "tribal status" to equalize the relationship? or must Israel give in to absolute demands when it might compromise their security?

Not everyone will choose this to be their major priority of concern...

Angie Van De Merwe said...

::athada::,
I believe when Paul wrote about "there is neither Jew or Greek, free or slave, as all are "one in Christ"....it was the Church's attempt to further their political domination and power.

The institution of the Church, as a "government", can be just as oppressive as any "secular" government. Our Founders understood the need to affirm the individual, but at the same time, affirm a need for a Constitution to protect the individual....

Jared said...

I don't see that determinism is an extreme position. It depends how it is expressed. It just seems to make many Americans uncomfortable. Whether I make a choice or was determined to think I made a choice does not seem to have any practical difference in my daily life. Did you know that I destined from all eternity just to write that just now on this blog? ;)

Ken Schenck said...

Jared, congrats on your dissertation being online--I need to devour it sometime!

What I at least perceive myself to be saying is not so much that any particular position is extreme. I'm talking more about the vigor and militancy with which someone argues for a position.

To invoke Kuhn, the anomalous data that is almost always present with any position can have a tendency to eat at your subconscious when you are all absorbed with a particular position. The end result can be a paradigm shift that shifts to the anomalies as the focal points rather than the dominant data.

Dave Doty said...

Galatians 6:1 may be applicable in these cases: "Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted."

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Jared,
So you think it is ethical always or in some cases to "determine" by manipulation of brain stimuli? Our country does do this for intelligence purposes....

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Ken,
And educators also want to see paradigm shifts, don't they?

Rick said...

Ken-

"I'm talking more about the vigor and militancy with which someone argues for a position."

So we should back off on the issue of the deity of Christ?

(doesn't it depend on the topic/position?)

Ken Schenck said...

I think there is usually a difference between a peaceful confidence that leads to persist firmly with a heart of love toward those who disagree and an angry, condemnatory approach that delights in the destruction of those who disagree.

Rick said...

So you are talking more about approach than position.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

If you are concerned about the public discourse over errancy/inerrancy, or unions/righ-to-work or evolution/creation or abortion/choice or gay rights/creational marital form, or women's rights/headship, then, it becomes necessary to distance oneself from these issues enough where one is not emotionally driven or engaged in the matter. That takes time and hard work, as it means that one sets aside one's own preference to consider what really would be best for our society.....

Chris said...

I agree that zealous promulgation of a position often leads to a paradigm shift, for basically the reason you described. And I agree that such people often become equally zealous proponents of their new paradigm.

However, I'm puzzled by your implication that this is a bad thing. Presumably the zeal with which the person promotes the two diametrically opposed answers is a reflection of the importance they place upon the question. People who place great importance on a given question are usually the ones who dedicate a lot of time and effort to making information and arguments on that question available to less-interested dabblers. And while I suppose such people sometimes go too far, they also tend to serve a prophetic function in reminding the rest of us about the importance of issues we might not otherwise spend much time thinking about.

Patrick said...

There is a rather well known current, non confessional "New Testament scholar" who was a believer as a young man.

His view of the Bible in it's original texts was that the texts would be 100% pristine, with no textual variance one from another.

I saw this man speak once and he seems to have felt the text would almost have had some type of Divine Shekinah Glory glow to it.

When he went to Moody Bible Institute as a student and realized the texts are many, have errors, some discrepancies, he freaked out and went from a Christian to an anti Christian warrior emeritus.

This man = exactly what Ken is warning us about, IMO.

His initial views were goofy and extreme, when he was enlightened, he reacted emotionally and here he is today, at war with God.

Same zeal, another team.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Patrick,
One doesn't have to be driven to emotional reaction, but a more reasonable explaination of the facts about the world and reality.

Different people are convinced by different premises. The atheist believes that reason is to guard and gauge his life, while those that are prone to more 'romantic' tendencies might think that the value of beauty cannot be gauged by scientific investigation. And even if one could surmise a brain's activity and come to conclusions about what brain response is stimulated by certain objects of beauty, should that limit diversity? And how would society choose to limit such aberrations in society? Is brain chemistry and brain responses to stimuli to determine what "should define beauty"? Is anything left to personal choice about values or should these differences be determined by medical intervention, brain surgury...should we be homogenous beings, then? (then it would be easy to gauge when someone was "out of line" or not according to the norm)! Such societies are China, Lenin/Stalin's Soviet Russia, Mussollini's Italy, or Hitler's Germany ... and these can be defined by Statism, whether ethnic, or political. But, it can just as well, be identified with religious ideologues who are dogmatic and political driven to define everything according to "God's Standard"!