enlightened on the enlightenment

I’m reading a series of books on the history of Britain. I picked them up at the British Museum in London last May. A very enjoyable read – usually accompanying my morning oatmeal! Currently I am in A Brief History of Britain, 1660-1851: The Making of the Nation, by William Gibson. This is volume three in the series; each volume has a separate author.

Came across this quote on the Enlightenment today… made me sit up and take notice!

The Enlightenment is one of those historical ideas that can easily give the impression of inevitability, methodically working towards some pre-determined event or goal. Folk practices and ancient customs, it suggests, irresistibly gave way to science and the laws of nature. This feeling of inevitability is partly because of the way in which historians approach it. The Enlightenment in Britain, and in Europe, was not a single monolithic phenomenon. It was a collection of processes and movements, some of which coincided, some of which were connected; others were disconnected and occurred haphazardly. These events and movements were as contingent and prone to reversal and failure as any other parts of history. The word ‘Enlightenment’ adds to the inevitability as it implies an emergence from darkness, and suggests a shedding of the light of reason on ignorance and superstition. In fact ‘Enlightenment’ was not used by people at the time and was only used much later to summarize all sorts of processes and trends in this period which were quite disparate. So we should restrain the tendency to see the Enlightenment as a victory of science over superstition.

The idea of the Enlightenment as a period of reason is challenged by much of the emotionalism of the period. The evangelical revival, the understanding of the human mind and the growing sense of individualism are examples of the way in which the Enlightenment was also preoccupied with emotions and feelings. How people felt, as opposed to how they thought, forms an important part of the Enlightenment. So while much of this chapter refers to ‘reason’, we should not discount the impact of emotions. (pp. 92-93)

I thought this was a remarkable observation, especially coming as it appears from a secular writer. Gibson is Professor of Ecclesiastical History at Oxford Brookes University. He is also Director of the Oxford Centre for Methodism and Church History. So perhaps he is not as secular as I thought. In any case, he makes a very interesting observation.


coach [blank] has my full support

When things aren’t going well with a team and the owner or general manager of the team issues a statement that includes the words, “Coach so-and-so has my full support”, what does that mean?

It means they haven’t found a replacement yet.

So when an institution offers a weakly worded statement of support for one of its adherents, what does that mean? It means that the adherent can see the handwriting on the wall. “No support here”, it says. And that’s the end of it.


no such thing as moral relativism

So says Paul Boghossian in the New York Times, “The Maze of Moral Relativism”. He argues instead that attempts to hold to moral relativism only turns into nihilism, surely an unsatisfactory conclusion. In the end, he says, there have to be moral absolutes. He doesn’t appear to derive this from any revelation, but merely from logic. His column is interesting, regardless whether you agree or disagree with is conclusions.

Relativism about morality has come to play an increasingly important role in contemporary culture.  To many thoughtful people, and especially to those who are unwilling to derive their morality from a religion, it appears unavoidable.  Where would absolute facts about right and wrong come from, they reason, if there is no supreme being to decree them? We should reject moral absolutes, even as we keep our moral convictions, allowing that there can be right and wrong relative to this or that moral code, but no right and wrong per se.


The argument is significant because it shows that we should not rush to give up on absolute moral facts, mysterious as they can sometimes seem, for the world might seem even more mysterious without any normative vocabulary whatsoever.


as a mad man…

Proverbs 26:18 As a mad man who casteth firebrands, arrows, and death, 19 So is the man that deceiveth his neighbour, and saith, Am not I in sport?

I’ve never liked April 1 and the foolishness that goes on. I especially don’t like it when Christians join the ‘fun’.


interesting–a papist on dance and music

It’s my day for finding interesting videos. Check out this African Cardinal on ‘liturgical dance’ and secular music:

If he can ‘get it’, why are his points so lost on so many???

HT: ‘danofsteel’, a commenter at Remonstrans


on getting old

Today I was listening to a message from 1985 by Dr. Marvin Lewis. He started off with this:

“Somebody told me one time that you know you are getting old when you know all the answers but nobody asks you the questions.”


it’s not that simple

Dave said (here and here):

Restore the local assembly to the center where God intended it to be. When your local assembly engages in Great Commission work outside its walls, find some folks you agree with and get busy doing it. Unity is built on agreement about the truth, not by politics. Few things are as political as trying to preserve movements once they have fragmented theologically.

Would that it were so simple. But it is not that simple. In the words of John Donne,

No man is an island entire of itself…

And certainly the pastor and church in question is no island, entire unto themselves. If we were talking about a small church in a small community it might be that simple, but … probably not.

Everyone influences someone else. That’s why our private decisions are important. They have influence on someone.

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populism fails!

The popular crowd is missing the point about elitism! Maybe Bauder is right, after all. See the discussion at SI regarding Bauder’s article #4. You have to start about here for the pertinent discussion.

And in the discussion from my revised article, it appears that at least one of my readers is missing the point also. (I am going to use some material from one of my comments on that post for the content of this one.)

What is NOT elitism?

Elitism isn’t about the possession of fine art, fine clothes, fine cars, fine educations, or even a fine vocabulary. Elitism isn’t about having expertise. Elitism isn’t about one’s opinions carrying extra weight in an area where you have expertise.

OF COURSE someone who is an expert has more authority in the area he has gained expertise! A doctor simply knows more about medicine, a trained musician simply knows more about music, a theologian (in theory) simply knows more about theology. That knowledge tends to carry weight, and it should.

I am not arguing against differences in authority, expertise, taste, what have you, when I am arguing against elitism.

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