Friday, August 9, 2013

What Happened And What Didn't Is Important. It's Astonishing That Such A Thing Even Needs To Be Said.

Frank Schaeffer writes, The result of the gospel is the point, not what happened or didn't. The scientific spirit, like the spirit of enterprise is a byproduct of the profound action of the gospel. The modern Western world has forgotten the revelation of the gospel in favor of its mere byproducts, reason and science..

Not everyone agrees about what the result of the triumph of Christianity was. Results I see are 1) Intolerance: every other religion was wiped out except Judaism. The Jews were allowed to continue to exist as second-class citizens, subjected to occasional massacres. But sometime they too were given the choice between conversion or exile or death. 2) Intellectual rigidity: all through the Middle Ages, Christian authorities maintained a monopoly on educational institutions. All scientific and philosophical writings had to conform with theological authority. Not only is it obvious to me that this wasn't good for science, and that science was more advanced not only after but also before the Medieval period of incredibly stifling conformity (Read some Medieval texts sometime), it's amazing to me that there are people to whom such things are not obvious. They're known as Christian apologists, and they're forever trying to tell you how great the Middle Ages were. They're wrong that science was invented by Christians during the Middle Ages, so spectacularly wrong that there's no point debating it with them. The best you can do is to warn others to have their brains engaged when they encounter apologists saying such absurd things. Make no mistake, Christian apologists are the Middle Ages still surviving among us. (More than a few of them would take that as a compliment.)

The scientific spirit wasn't created by Christianity, it survived Christianity. In the Vorrede, the preface, to Jenseits Von Gut Und Boese,along with some very stupid things -- the Vorrede begins by comparing truth to a woman, and Nietzsche couldn't mention women in his philosophical works in any but a very stupid way. Ah, if only he'd lived a little longer, and had Freud help him with that issue! Nietzsche, and the entire world, might've been much better off. And he also mistakenly credits the Germans with the invention of gunpowder, as he enthuses for war as only someone who's never been in a war can do, and makes a couple of offhand stupid anti-democratic remarks; in short, he manages to display almost all of his intellectual weak spots within the few pages of this Vorrede -- he also says something very interesting, which might just also be true: that in the Western world, in order to survive Christianity, an especially sharp and powerful spirit was formed. A couple of years later Nietzsche wrote his very famous "What doesn't kill me makes me stronger" ("Was mich nicht umbringt, macht mich staerker"), to which I have always replied, "What doesn't kill me can still maim me for life, and in Nietzsche's case it did, just a few months after he wrote that."

But this related idea, about an especially powerful spirit being created in an entire society, out of necessity, in order for any kind of rationality to have been able to survive the disaster of Christianity -- that's an example of something Nietzsche said which doesn't strike me as silly. To me, that seems worth pondering. It might actually be true. That might actually be what happened in Christendom.

Of course, if what happened and what didn't happen isn't important to you, you might be much happier reading Frank Schaeffer than reading Nietzsche, or me.

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