Sunday, January 11, 2015

David Brooks of the New York Times on Fundamentalism and Religion

David Brooks, one of the moderates on the op-ed page of the New York Times, wrote on January 8 within the context of the murders of the French satirists this last week:

Moreover, provocateurs and ridiculers expose the stupidity of the fundamentalists. Fundamentalists are people who take everything literally. They are incapable of multiple viewpoints. They are incapable of seeing that while their religion may be worthy of the deepest reverence, it is also true that most religions are kind of weird. Satirists expose those who are incapable of laughing at themselves and teach the rest of us that we probably should.

So this is fundamentalism:  "fundamentalists are people who take everything literally" and "are incapable of multiple viewpoints."  You can't take Brooks literally to understand what he says, so maybe I'm not a fundamentalist, because he really means, fundamentalists take everything their sacred book says literally.  And yes, folks like me take everything in the Bible literally, that is, grammatically and historically, or in other words, we understand scripture according to its plain sense.

A man like Brooks doesn't understand the Bible or literal interpretation (yet he's a "conservative").  I suspect he's someone who questions parts of the dietary restrictions or the talking snake or the man swallowed by the big fish, which also means he doesn't understand history (as told by God in the Bible).

One, to take the Bible literally, you believe the supernatural parts, which are almost everything in it. If you don't want to believe the supernatural stuff, you have to allegorize it all, that is, make it mean what you want it to mean (otherwise known as rewriting it).  You run into trouble on the first sentence, especially "God created."  Once you've accepted the greatest, all the lesser, everything else in the Bible, is easy. Believing in God is to believe the supernatural.  God is the point of the book.

Brooks though has got to have the Bible be an all natural book with an all natural interpretation.  That takes God out of the equation. Have a good time with that.

Two, if you take God out of the Bible, you're then left with multiple viewpoints.  There's a ratio even to this. The less God there is in the Bible, the more multiple viewpoints, the ones made-up by people rewriting the Bible according to their own imaginations.

Without God, multiple viewpoints are valid, so the Bible doesn't matter much any more.  The Bible already doesn't matter to Brooks, so he shouldn't lecture people, who believe the Bible, to take multiple viewpoints, which includes lecturing God, Who won't be lectured by him.

You've heard people say it takes more faith to believe in evolution than in creation.  I think it is good enough to say that it takes faith to believe in evolution.   With over one hundred twenty necessities to support human life, before he even considers the existence of the human body, he's believing in his own kind of supernaturalism:  perhaps the god of coincidence.

Three, on scripture, Brooks has fallen off the back of the turnip truck -- figuratively -- because we understand that some of scripture uses figures of speech and symbolism.  But that's lost on the shallow and unsubstantial.  Give him a warm beverage and point him toward a beautiful view -- figuratively.

Four, the discontinuity of scripture proceeds from God's sovereign love.  God condescends to man to save him at various times and in diverse, non-contradictory manners.   The annals of a nation Israel arose as a monumental portion of God's historical arch.  Through the seed of Abraham would all the nations of the earth be blessed.

Five, the apex of stupidity is losing your own soul, even for the whole world, let alone a commentary gig on PBS and a slot on the New York Times op ed page.  When Brooks wrote, "stupidity of the fundamentalists," and "most religions are kind of weird,"  he took the role of provocateur and ridiculer for a moment.  Most fundamentalists are stupid, just on average less stupid than most others, and most religions are kind of weird, all of them but one.  Intellectual suicide, which Brooks commits, is both stupid and weird.

When you believe in one God, who is the Author of scripture, you have to believe one interpretation of scripture.  The founding fathers only meant one thing when they wrote the constitution and they were quite fallible human beings.  Since God wrote scripture, you're stupid and weird to take the self-contradicting position of several truths, like Brooks does with his embrace of "multiple viewpoints." He compares to a fifth grader looking for another interpretation for "clean your room."

Multiple viewpoints arise out of necessity from a relativistic society, which don't represent the Bible or even a legitimate God, let alone the one and true God, the God of the Bible.  Brooks, gazing over the side of El Capitan at Yosemite, doesn't take several viewpoints on gravity.  If he sees writing in the sand, he isn't okay with "the wave or the wind caused that."  He's just not that stupid or weird.


Michael Alford said...

One does not become 'David Brooks, op ed guy' by believing he Bible. His real job is to parrot the party line of unregenerate man and add one more voice to the echo chamber of their vain philosophy. If enough of them shout 'there is no God!', then it must be true, right?

horace said...

That passage is Mr. Brooks's column certainly was rather annoying seeming to rely on the conception of fundamentalist as some sort of a hybrid between Osama Bin Laden and Fred Phelps, and reflects the ignorance of the nuances of conservative Christian theology among sectors of our intellectual elite. He is certainly a conservative politically however albeit a fairly moderate one in our degenerate days. As for NYT columnists in general, Ross Douthat and Paul Krugman are much more palatable

Anonymous said...

I guess I'm not a fundamentalist then, as I take Scripture literally where I believe it is meant to be taken literally, and figuratively where I believe it is meant to be taken figuratively.

I also do not take into account anything historically ( meaning to bring in historical aspects of the times and places of the Bible and when it was written when reading the Bible ), as, to me, they have no real weight with what the text is actually saying.

Scripture alone is all I believe that I need. That and the presence of the Holy Spirit guarantees that I should be able to understand it with diligence and effort:

" As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby." 1 Peter 2:2

" But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him." 1 John 2:27

God's grace to all.