...for certain exegetes, Descartes may as well have never been born. Most of us are used to prefacing most things we say, including exegetical and theological conclusions, with an implicit or explicit “I think” that entails, “I will grant the possibility that I have erred, though I must be convinced first.” In this way of thinking, certainty is not so much the elimination of the possibility of error as it is raising the criteria of convincing me that I am wrong to nearly insurmountable heights. You may have already noted that many converts say the great glory of Catholicism is that it eliminates any epistemological uncertainty, which is merely a different form of fundamentalism.
Not so for the fundamentalist. What you need to understand is that the fundamentalist is not an “ass” or a “jerk;” rather, he simply skips the entire process of self-doubt and is therefore incognizant of there being any degree of separation between texts/data and his own beliefs. When it comes to theological matters and exegetical questions, there is no “I think;” there is only “The clear Word of God [whether in Scripture, a papal bull, or an IPCC climate model] has said.” He doesn’t see you as someone who has read the texts, surveyed the available information, critically assessed his own and others’ ideas, and come to a conclusion because he doesn’t see himself that way. Rather, he sees himself as simply having heard and believed the truth, so that anyone who disagrees with him has either not heard or refuses to believe (i.e. you are denying the truth of the Word of God out of weakness, ignorance, or impiety). Thus there can be no discussion or argument–you either believe what Jesus said, or you deny it. Case closed.
Friday, March 6, 2009
Best description of the fundamentalist mindset I've ever read