The strangeness of it all

As I continue my reading journey into the rich and beguilingly complex tradition of Christian theology, I see more and more the inane ‘meh-nes’ of the challenge.  It’s not that I have a silly mentality that says “I have it right and you have it wrong”, irrespective of the facts or the evidence; it’s just that why would I espouse something I didn’t in fact think was right?

Gilbert K. Chesterton was no fool, and even a hundred years ago he recognised the pre-Richard Dawkins/George Bernard Shaw challenge to Christianity.  We forget all too easily that these challenges, if indeed they can be called that, are in fact very old, if not tired and weary challenges, to what is, arguably, a highly sophisticated if not nuanced discussion.  Chesterton made mention of “this halo of hatred around the Church of God.”  Of course there is.  This is a factual, true statement of the fact that where the True Church is, there will be opposition, hatred, persecution or whatever.  The Gospel draws and repels in near-as-damn-it equal measure!

It is not a surprise that Shaw begat Dawkins, in precisely the same way that Ludwig Feuerbach begat Karl Marx; Marx begat Freud and Freud begat Jean Paul Satre.  This begetting is as tedious as the begetting in the bible, but it serves a comparably important point:  We are where we are because of where we have come from.  Kierkegaard challenged the mid-19th century aggressors of Christianity, just as Chesterton challenged (in much funnier terms) the late 19th – early 20th century aggressors.  The point is that they are all of a piece:  a seemless woven thread of enlightenment…..wait…. of toxic enlightenment worldview that is simply blinded to a wider reality of knowing.  That’s why Paul Tillich asks – following Aquinas – why modern man, in this age of technology and specialisation, fails to ask questions about being, or about the God who is the Ground of all Being – a “fragmentation” of thought he rightly says is “symbolised only by the demonic.”

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Ludwig Wittgenstein: Knowledge & Sunsets


I can’t but help share this little tasty morsel.  A very good friend of mine just referenced the great epistemological philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein in a phone call we were having (that’s quite normal by the way, he needs help)!

And I want to share it.  But because my note taking was sketchy (I always take notes when on the phone to this particular friend), I’ve written out the details as recorded in Wikipedia.

James Burke’s “The Day the Universe Changed” contains a story:

“Someone apparently went up to the great philosopher Wittgenstein and said ‘What a lot of morons back in the Middle Ages must have been to have looked, every morning, at the dawn and to have thought what they were seeing was the Sun going around the Earth,’ when every school kid knows that the Earth goes around the Sun, to which Wittgenstein replied ‘Yeah, but I wonder what it would have looked like if the Sun had been going around the Earth?’”

Burke’s point is that it “would have looked exactly the same: you see what your knowledge tells you you’re seeing.”

No wonder he would say elsewhere, “I wouldn’t want to spare you the trouble of thinking.”