viernes, 27 de octubre de 2017

Martin Luther’s post-modern legacy: reason refuting reason | MercatorNet |October 27, 2017| MercatorNet |

Martin Luther’s post-modern legacy: reason refuting reason

| MercatorNet |October 27, 2017| MercatorNet |

Martin Luther’s post-modern legacy: reason refuting reason

The 16th Century theologian foreshadowed some contemporary pathologies
John Robson | Oct 27 2017 | comment 1 

If ever you wanted proof of Faulkner’s dictum that “History is not ‘was’; it’s ‘is’” look no further than Martin Luther’s enormous role in shaping the modern world. Often in problematic ways.
In MercatorNet Martin Fitzgerald recently indicted Luther’s doctrine of total human depravity, and the consequent futility of our efforts to do good or think clearly, for many of modernity’s discontents, including its increasingly bewildered contempt for virtue. Here I would like to add to his critique that Luther’s reasoned attack on reason should have been shut down immediately by the same “tu quoque” that ought to be invoked at every appearance of the relativism it helped spawn in the modern world.
I must confess that Martin Luther, a modern hero for defying authority and convention, has always worried me. Including what can only be called his potty mouth. It may seem a small point and his defenders have even tried to make it a virtue, the common touch of a man of the people. But his relish for scatological jokes with friends and often coarse invective for enemies suggest that the doctrine of total depravity had relieved him from the obligation to mind his manners. Which is one habit the modern world could use less of, from popular movies to the White House.
By this point I think defying authority is also a convention that has been taken too far. As Chesterton said, morality like art consists in drawing the line somewhere. And, whether he meant it to be or not, modernity’s trouble with the very concept of drawing lines is a logical consequence of Luther’s disdain for our thoughts as well as our deeds.
Which brings me to the thing Fitzgerald pointed to without dwelling upon. Namely the inherent contradiction in using reasoning to condemn reason. In one famous and characteristic passage, Luther declared that
"Reason is the devil's greatest whore, by nature and manner of being she is a noxious whore; she is a prostitute, the devil's appointed whore; whore eaten by scab and leprosy who ought to be trodden under foot and destroyed, she and her wisdom... Throw dung in her face to make her ugly. She is, and she ought to be, drowned in baptism...She would deserve, the wretch, to be banished to the filthiest place in the house, to the closets." (cited by Jacques Maritain, Three Reformers, p. 33).”
This passage quite literally makes no sense. For if reason is useless, he has no way of figuring out that it’s useless or of convincing others of it. Or indeed any motive for doing so.
Employing reason to refute reason is also a very modern habit. We see all sorts of people nowadays climbing up a logical ladder then kicking it away, from academic deconstructionists writing that writing is meaningless to feminist politicians preaching radical multiculturalism that shrinks from calling female genital mutilation barbaric. I would even accuse John Maynard Keynes of doing it in economics, using neoclassical tools to refute neoclassicism without therefore renouncing those tools. Keynes was not coincidentally a nihilist on the subject of truth, moral and otherwise. And a very modern man.
Luther also said “Reason is the greatest enemy that faith has” which, if true, should have lead a man of faith to stop thinking immediately, rather than devoting his life to polemics and analysis. Except, of course, that if reason is rubbish we have no obligation to be rational, even to the extent of avoiding obvious self-contradiction.
It is too little appreciated that even Fascism was not reactionary but postmodern in its metaphysics, with despair at the possibility of reason leading to a desperate effort to create truth by force of will instead. The only options for defending any opinion are reason and intimidation. And if the opinion is that reason is useless, using reason is self-contradictory and a swift resort to intimidation the only logical option. Which proves that you can’t stop thinking even if you try; the paradox cannot sustain itself.
The strange thing here is that everyone who has ever watched a Bugs Bunny or Roadrunner cartoon knows what happens when the character looks down and realizes he is standing on air. That reason is defective is beyond doubt. And it’s hugely frustrating, never more so than when we attempt to examine our flawed reason using our flawed reason. But as C.S. Lewis says, there must be something not flawed to which we have some kind of access or we could not even know there’s a problem. If you measure a bent ruler with a bent ruler you’ll necessarily conclude that it’s straight.
It is old news that reason is flawed. St. Paul said we see through a glass darkly nearly 2000 years ago. What is novel is forgetting that it is nevertheless serviceable. Indeed it is impossible to understand how, if our reason is utterly worthless, we could figure out that our works are useless. Or, to close the vicious circle, that our reason is.
In advancing this idea Luther contradicted himself fatally. Yet the idea has caught on, helping spawn the Age of Fatuity. To defend the existence of Truth today, about history, gender, or anything else, is to invite sneers not rebuttals. Having climbed boastfully out onto the limb of reason, we blithely sawed through it. From Kant and Hume to Logical Positivism and out into the postmodern void, as Lewis put it in That Hideous Strength, we have convinced ourselves with elaborate sophistry that we cannot think. But much that now passes for the latest wisdom is conspicuously neither.
Behind this confusion stands the imposing figure of Martin Luther, who demolished reason using reason and was not immediately called to account for having destroyed the pedestal on which he stood.
One wonders whether a tenured professor of deconstructionism asking “What is truth?” would be embarrassed to realize he is channelling a 500-year-old critique by a devout Christian, however he feels about Pontius Pilate. Or that he is living the ancient Greek paradox about the Cretan saying “All Cretans are liars” without recognizing that it is a paradox. What would he say if the retort to his claim that “All texts are meaningless” was “Including the article you just submitted” or, better yet, “Including your employment contract”?
As Chesterton said “What we call the new ideas are generally broken fragments of the old ideas.”
I do not think many Catholics today, on the eve of the quincentennial Reformation Day, would deny that Luther made some legitimate criticisms of the institutions and practices of their Church in the Renaissance. Or that his doctrines have been a source of piety, charity and spiritual comfort to millions. But someone should have blown the whistle on his reasoned attacks on reason the moment he opened his mouth.
Many people will be celebrating Martin Luther’s role in ushering in modernity. But his elaborately rational irrationality, like ours, makes no sense. Literally.
John Robson is a crowdfunded documentary filmmaker and freelance journalist in Ottawa, Canada. See his work and support him at


October 27, 2017

Forgive me for mentioning Harvey Weinstein again, but his name has become symbolic of the cultural rot once known as sexual liberation. No, it’s not just him or the legion of other prominent men (not excepting a 93-year-old ex-president) who have forced their attentions, and more, on women; it is, as family scholar Andrea Mrozek writes today, a wide swathe of society whose exploitation of sex for monetary or other gains is evident at every turn.

I recently watched the movie Hidden Figures, about the black women working for NASA on the first space programme. (Excellent film, btw.) It has a memorable scene where the male boss takes a sledgehammer to a whites-only toilet (sorry, Americans, “bathroom”) sign so the black women don’t have to run half a mile to a facility dedicated to them.

How long will it be before feminists take sledgehammers to, quoting Andrea, the “larger than life dominatrix-style lingerie ads” in shopping malls that assault men and women alike – and above all, children? Don’t hold your breath. No wonder millions of people have been gawking at a video of an 8-year-old boy drag queen (see article). If anything shows how low the culture has sunk, and how pitiless it is to children, it’s that.

Speaking of children – the Medical Journal of Australia has recycled the “no differences” theory of same-sex parenting, obviously hoping to influence the final days of the referendum on same-sex marriage. Check out Michael Cook’s critique and update on the studies.

Carolyn Moynihan
Deputy Editor,
Was Emily Brontё‘s Heathcliff black?
By Corinne Fowler
It makes sense. The Brontё family had black slaves in their neighbourhood.
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More than Harvey’s secret is out
By Andrea Mrozek
Everything from relationships to shopping malls is corrupted.
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Martin Luther’s post-modern legacy: reason refuting reason
By John Robson
The 16th Century theologian foreshadowed some contemporary pathologies
Read the full article
I was an eight-year-old drag queen
By Chad Felix Greene
Sexualising children has dangerous consequences.
Read the full article
Balancing patients’ liberty and public safety in mental health care
By Niall McCraeand Kathy Gyngell
It’s in everybody’s interests to provide a dignified mental health service.
Read the full article
Are the kids really OK?
By Michael Cook
Australia's best-known medical journal presents a comforting picture of gay parenting.
Read the full article
Big Pharma versus Mother Teresa
By Karl D. Stephan
You need love as well as money to deliver excellent medical care
Read the full article
Reports of his demise have been greatly exaggerated
By Michael Cook
Fake news hits the Vatican: Benedict XVI is dying!!!!!
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Love and Fidelity at 10: students building a culture of sexual integrity
By Carolyn Moynihanand Alain Oliver
If you don't want Weinstein culture, get behind initiatives like this.
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Japan election: NK and birth rates
By Marcus Roberts
Can the new government do anything about these potentially existential threats?
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Tolkien fan science and the flora of Middle-earth
By Harley J. Sims
We should resist the temptation to identify a fictional world with our own.
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Bride trafficking to China
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Courtesy of the one child policy.
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