Monday, March 21, 2011

Resisters Are Futile. I think.

No, this isn't about electronics, and that isn't a typo. "Resister" comes from Flory and Miller's Finding Faith, chapter 4. I'll simplify their characterization of this group, of which I'm sometimes a member (when I forget...) by calling them moderns fighting the transition to the post-modern era. We moderns have the fantasy that someday facts and logic will once again win the day. (In other words, “Never mind this ‘experience’ stuff; let's discuss the facts.”) Here's a sentence from Flory and Miller's Summary and Conclusions of their Resisters chapter in Finding Faith:
...Resisters are intent on resisting a changing social and cultural order where their conception of reason and rationality is under attack, or more accurately (at least according to their analysis) completely disregarded, and are trying mightily to regain a voice for a commitment to reason and rationalism that legitimates everything they believe in and, they argue, legitimates everything anybody should believe in. (117)
Yes, I sometimes resemble this remark. But when I do, I think I (and they) miss the point (to borrow a phrase from Campolo and McLaren) in a few ways.
  1. First, facts and logic have never really carried the day. As I've often said when reading, say, John 11:45-46 -- “When the chief priests and Pharisees heard that Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead, they said, ‘Whoa, boys! We've been all wrong about this guy! He really is from God!’”

    No they didn't; facts and logic meant nothing to them in this area. Or when the Roman guards told the priests about the empty tomb in Matthew 28:4,11 -- same deal; God was really working but the priests refused to understand.

  2. Second, society really isn't heading in that direction; it really is heading toward story as the way of understanding truth, as Fallows points out in this great article on the new media (more in this previous posting). This quote from that article bears repeating:
    Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert ... don't fact-check Fox News, or try to rebut it directly, or fight on its own terms. They change the story ... by presenting the facts in a way that makes them register in a way they hadn't before.
  3. Third, much as people don't apprehend truth presented in the style and structure I'm familiar with (and like), logic isn't 100% ineffective among young people today.

    A few summers back, we had a terrific time discussing parts of Keller's The Reason for God with some college students. Granted that these folks weren't exactly a random sampling, yet in areas where they weren't overly invested in their position, Keller's trenchant critique did gain traction. Some people really do want to know if their thinking is a little too fuzzy.

    But these folks would never pick the book up on their own; they came partly because of the material but also partly because it was at our house, they're friends of our daughters, etc.

Flory and Miller say "the relative success or failure Resisters remains to be seen" (122) and I suppose they are right. Though I don't ever see our society returning to a condition where people at least pretended to be logical more of the time, some people really are interested in truth, and facts and logic, if presented in a palatable way, can change people's minds, and sometimes, eventually, their hearts.

Yet as someone said, nobody ever decided to follow Christ or feed the hungry because they lost an argument.

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