Posted by: thebylog | March 31, 2004

I’m reading From Prejudice to Destruction, a historical account of Anti-Semitism traced from 1700 until right before WWII for a History of the Holocaust class. In his introduction the author, Jacob Katz, makes the point that defending ideology is very different than detached scholarship.

Katz notes a particular case of a Christian author and Christian thought being illogical as it related to the attitudes toward the Jews. He says, “…in ideological arguments, logic and consistency are hardly decisive; the train of thought is not guided by the quest for truth but by the need to justify prior beliefs.” But it’s the objective of scholars, on the other hand, to be as detached and objective as possible.

Couple of points here.

Looking at my own tendencies, I see this happen regularly when I’m involved in discussions or arguments. As soon as I take a position, I feel a profound need to defend my viewpoint if it is being attacked, even if it is something that I don’t really care about or don’t even really believe. It’s pride, I think. The idea is that it becomes a personal battle between myself with my position and the other person with the alternate viewpoint. At this point the debate, from my perspective, isn’t about finding the truth but about defending my position.

This is not good, and in the same way a Christian writer can be accused of being a biased ideologue because he has already made up his mind about the matter that he is defending. And obviously, this has happened many, many times. The issue that Katz is discussing is a prime example of twisted thinking to support an Anti-Semitic position.

However, if the point is finding truth, why haven’t the scholars found it? They set off on self-proclaimed voyages of objective truth-finding, which if they are successful inevitably would lead them to truth. But as soon as you “find truth” that would put them in the same boat as the ideologue because those that are convinced of truth should defend it.

Unless truth is unknowable, but that would call into question the value of attempting to find it.

But assuming that truth is knowable, and honest people search for it, what must one do when they find it? Present it and defend it lucidly, but with a mind that seeks to understand the other point of view and doesn’t roundly and close-mindedly condemn other viewpoints, even if you believe they are wrong.

We must have confidence that the truth of God, Jesus, Scripture, is the truth! Do we have enough confidence in that to listen to other viewpoints?

I realize this is sort of dangerous thinking because you might say, “hey, what if a young person decides to do that and goes off and enrolls in a secular philosophy department and is turned away from the faith?” Not sure how to answer that. All I know is that we must be convinced of the truth of our faith, because if it ain’t true, I don’t want any part of it.

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