Up@dawn 2.0

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Arguments from Authority--In Your Fallacious

If you have a religion, it’s the wrong religion. If you adhere to a certain version of religion, it’s the wrong version. On what grounds you might ask? It’s all according to the other guy’s (it’s always some guy) interpretation of his religious text. At some point, one has to be honest and admit that it appears that these folks are just making shit up.

We find ourselves paused, during our stroll, staring into the sunset of the Reformation. And what have we learned? Quite a lot, actually.

Here’s my takeaway. In short, most “knowledge” up to this point, with the exception of mathematical discoveries, seems to be based on authority, and Plato and Aristotle stand at the top of the re-appropriation ladder, some version of God hovering over, around, or among the apparatus--depending on one's vision. Hence, the footnote to metaphor.

The advancement of textual authority didn’t hit me until I read this passage by Herman.

Reformation scholars not only had more books, but had their time freed up to ponder, to cross-reference, and to set texts side by side. Thanks to printing, “contradictions became more visible, divergent traditions more difficult to reconcile”— and innovations faster to catch on. The authority of Aristotle gave way to the authority of the printed word, including the Word of God. The man who discovered the power behind that authority was not Gutenberg or Caxton or even Luther. It was Erasmus of Rotterdam (p. 309).

“The authority of the written word” is evident. This assertion would in part explain book burning, witch burning, heretic burning, and rednecks driving tractors over Dixie Chick CDs back in the 90s. What’s missing is evidence, data, or any detectable claim for any supernatural, transcendent, spiritual anythings. Also missing from this scenario is critical thinking skills. Can’t somebody stand up and ask “what are our assumptions?” (Maybe they did and caught fire.) Then again, we must give theology credit for their vivid imaginations.

So from St. Paul in Romans we get “The just shall live by faith.” Luther takes this one passage and invents an entirely new version of Christianity. Some other guy (like I said, it’s always some guy) turned to James 2:17 which reads “Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.” This just goes to show that one can justify anything with the Bible, with the right cherry-picking and the "correct" interpretation. 

Critical thinking skills are rare. That’s why we print hats and T-shirts. If it’s in print, it must be true. The modern-day version of the is “I saw it on the internet.” (The word “internet,” BTW, is not capitalized as of June 1, 2016.)

A Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary study reveals that there are 43,000 different denominations of Christianity worldwide—and growing. This is not an assuring measure of truth, much less Truth. No wonder religion relies on authority or faith rather than evidence. One tiny bit of evidence would solve a few problems.

Remember, no one expects the Spanish Inquisition.

DQ:  Do you think faith is a reliable predictor of future events?


  1. "In fact those who do..." As you say, critical thinking seems nowhere in sight at this moment in history. Luther's question "Who knows if any of this is true?" might have led him to ponder the truth of faith, you'd think, but instead he doubled down on it. The upside is that now we have Lutherans, and Lake Wobegon (though not much longer).

  2. Dean,
    Samantha Bee used your quote of James 2:17 very appropriately.

    1. Ha! That's exactly why that stuck out when I read it! I watched SB's "Orlando" clip a few days ago and made a mental note. So when I read Luther..

      Thanks for the post!