Dear Paul VanderKlay –

You are living up to your reputation as the Francis Schaeffer of the YouTube generation! Schaeffer was often criticized – even openly mocked – for mispronouncing names of prominent figures, specialized terms, and failing to properly ‘show his work’ in the form of citations or even simple nods of acknowledgment to those whose ideas he relied upon so much . . .  

Yet, his effect as a popularizer of otherwise impenetrable and obscure intellectual esoterica – and that on an entire generation of otherwise ghettoized fundamentalists – can hardly be denied.  

So, in the spirit of trying to make sense of the complex efforts of intellectual elites to themselves accommodate (i.e. make sense of!) the greatest amount of complexity within their theoretical frameworks – and perhaps hasten the ‘trickle down’ effect (that Schaeffer often spoke of) to the rest of us – I offer you this: 

The single greatest insight in the entirety of the Western philosophical tradition is the basic phenomenological distinction between naïve experience and theoretical thought. In other words, our thoughts about reality are not necessarily the way reality is. While this may seem obvious, it is often overlooked by both the learned and unlearned alike; wrecking untold havoc on life and thought up from below and down from above (to borrow one of your turns of phrase).  

Your point about the monarchical vision is well-taken. ‘Science’ is not univocal precisely because it is not monolithic. Scientism, which perpetuates this myth of the monolithic and univocal voice of science, is just another naked appeal to an unexamined authority. The sleight of hand rendering it acceptable, while qualitatively identical religious appeals to the word of God are roundly rejected, relies upon little more than an arbitrary (almost aesthetic) preference for the ‘secular’ over the ‘sacred’.  

It simply will not do to try and rehabilitate modern people’s aesthetic preferences, so they might once again prejudicially embrace – what amounts to – a superstitious appeal to authority, but this time a religious authority (like they did in the good old – enchanted – days). You seem to observe this yourself when you point out the commonality between ‘new atheists’ and ‘Christian fundamentalists’ in their insistence upon a monarchical vision.  

Indeed, the ‘Bible’ is often understood in a similarly mythological way – not with regards to its interpretation – but rather its basic constitution. Biblicism could be defined as ascribing a univocal voice to Scripture by insisting on viewing it as a monolithic totality that unambiguously constitutes the revelation of God. In this way, Biblicism is the mirror image of Scientism, sacred and secular forms (respectively) of prejudicial and unexamined appeals to authority

So, the contemporary Christian (desiring an unprejudicial and non-superstitious religious philosophy) must navigate dual temptations, as they seek a perspective informed by both (popularly construed) ‘sacred and secular’ approaches to knowing. The pressure to submit to an unexamined totalizing authority, thereby devouring any hope of what Schaeffer called a unified field of knowledge is profound. Yet, rejecting these simultaneous temptations is essential to achieving an intellectually satisfying (never mind formally justifiable) form of Christian thought. 

I believe that the best (and possibly only) way to argue for the truth of Christianity, is to demonstrate that it uniquely affords the opportunity to be

Unconditionally loving in life  

and  

Uncompromisingly critical in thought 

The former is not so much an ‘argument’ as a witness – but – the latter is (and must be) intellectually demonstrable, if we are going to credibly contextualize the gospel and winsomely commend Christianity to a critical age (that critical ethos being the defining characteristic of a secular age Christianity itself largely inaugurated in the West through Protestantism).  

Christianity sneezed (epistemically speaking) and the whole Western world has caught cold. I submit to you that you are – somewhat ironically – perfectly positioned to address the disease of the meaning crisis, rather than simply treat its symptoms, since you are charged with modeling the great physician within the very tradition that has gestated our collective disorder – that sickness being – the Christian malaise itself.  


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