sailing against idiot winds

Posted: January 2, 2013 in Uncategorized

…Chris Hitchens would have disagreed, but the question can be posed nonetheless as to whether reason can accept Divine Revelation, the proposition that god can, and does communicate with the individual? To the believer, reason is no obstacle to the acceptance of Revelation, while their faith enables them to accept it.

Any talk about revelation of necessity involves faith. And, as Hitchens asserted, faith implies a negation, or lack of reason, leading to the conclusion of the irrational and mindless, a foundation of evil in the world. Reason is demonstrable, dimensioned and finite. “Here” and “there” are distinct concepts; they are non-existent for the infinite. The limits of reason are limits for nothing but reason; the teanscendent may well exist,whether we understand it or not. The retort against Hitchens is that faith works where reason cannot function, a way of daling with more than the dimensional, more than the observable, more than what is capable of being duplicated.

---Yvelyne Wood, Memoire en Flamme (2010) (detail) 220 x 329 x 185 cm, Installation 700 livres environ, journaux datant de la 2eme Guerre Mondiale, rails de chemin de fer, balastes, traverses.---click image for source...

—Yvelyne Wood,
Memoire en Flamme (2010)
(detail) 220 x 329 x 185 cm,
Installation 700 livres environ,
journaux datant de la 2eme Guerre Mondiale,
rails de chemin de fer,
balastes, traverses.—click image for source…

That is, the traditionalist argument is that faith is not isolated from reason, but part of a continuum that includes intellect and emotion, and is engaged only when the intellect proves incompetent. Reason leading to the outer frontier of dimension; faith extending the individual’s reach to the undimensioned. Faith built on reason and not bounded by it. Where reason is extended, faith becomes redundant.

---Anselm KIEFER, Resurrexit, 1973, 290 X 180, collection particulière---click image for source...

—Anselm KIEFER, Resurrexit, 1973, 290 X 180, collection particulière—click image for source…

However, from a philosophical point of view, all endeavours to define “good” and “the good life” have failed to arrive at a definitive formulation. From the viewpoint of logic “thou shalt not steal” and “thou shalt steal” are equally valid, or equally irrelevant. So, oral statements need some foundation, which reason alone cannot provide. The inference of reason, means that all morality is situational, relative and subjective. A Hitchens may lambast Islamic fundamentalists, terrorists, etc. but it is in line with morality being a societal function, even if he would agree with the essential humanity of man, an individual engaged in the never-ceasing ascent up the ladder of decency. Then , we can say Genghis Khan was ancient history, but how about Auschwitz?


(see link at end)…Hitchens’s argument with the Bible, however, is not really aesthetic but atheological. The problem for the antitheists is not that the Bible is taken seriously as literature, moral philosophy, or even history, but that it is taken seriously as revelation. In attempting to undermine its revelatory authority, antitheists like Hitchens often practice overkill by denouncing just about everything to do with the Bible. Whatever problems Hitchens purports to discover in the Bible in terms of historicity, disputed authorship, barbaric morality, or antiquated science can be equally found in Homer, for example. Yet we never see overwrought antitheists wringing their hands in distress and writing books exposing the supposed absurdities of the Iliad. Here, again, the driving force of an antitheistic ideology can be seen controlling Hitchens’s paradigm and approach to the Bible….

…If claims of supernatural events in a historical text are sufficient grounds for rejecting historicity, why does Hitchens not also reject, for example, the historicity of the Persian Wars because Herodotus describes divine revelation and intervention on behalf of the Greeks during those campaigns? Only the Bible is singled out for such hypercritical rejection of its essential historicity in order to bolster the real argument: the atheological rejection of its supernatural claims.

A major flaw in Hitchens’s approach is that his polemics utterly fail to properly contextualize biblical narratives. Hitchens describes the akedah—Abraham’s “binding” or near sacrifice of his son Isaac—as “mad and gloomy” (p. 53), a “frightful” and “vile” “delusion” (p. 206). For Hitchens, “there is no softening the plain meaning of this frightful story” (p. 206) that God would require humans to sacrifice their children (pp. 109, 206–7). But is this the message the text would have conveyed to its early Iron Age readers? Quite the contrary: to an ancient reader, the story of the Akedah reveals that God forbids human sacrifice, accepting the substitutionary sacrifice of a ram instead. Thus, the Akedah narrative transforms both the nature and meaning of sacrifice for ancient Israelite readers when compared to the surrounding pagan societies. One will find none of the careful, nuanced biblical exegesis of Jon Levenson, for example, in Hitchens’s assertions, and worse, not even a notice that such scholarship exists. Unfortunately, a properly contextualized understanding of biblical narrative is sacrificed by Hitchens on the altar of his antitheistic polemic.

Likewise, in discussing the exodus, Hitchens dogmatically asserts: “There was no flight from Egypt, no wandering in the desert . . . , and no dramatic conquest of the Promised Land. It was all, quite simply and very ineptly, made up at a much later date. No Egyptian chronicle mentions this episode either, even in passing. . . . All the Mosaic myths can be safely and easily discarded” (pp. 102–3). These narratives can be “easily discarded” by Hitchens only because he has failed to do even a superficial survey of the evid

in favor of the historicity of the biblical traditions. Might we suggest that Hitchens begin with Hoffmeier’s Israel in Egypt and Ancient Israel in Sinai? Read More: Read story


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