Archive for the ‘presuppositions’ Category

Eye witness testimony rejected

April 2, 2013

The beginning of knowledge for the ghetto, and the clinching news for Oskar, was the return to Cracow—eight days after he’d been shipped off from Prokocim—of the young pharmacist Bachner. No one knew how he had got back inside the ghetto, or the mystery of why he returned to a place from which the SS would simply send him off on another journey. But it was, of course, the pull of the known that brought Bachner home.
All the way down Lwowska and into the streets behind Plac Zgody he carried his story. He had seen the final horror, he said. He was mad-eyed, and in his brief absence his hair had silvered. All the Cracow people who had been rounded up in early June had been taken nearly to Russia, he said, to the camp of Belzec. When the trains arrived at the railway station, the people were driven out by Ukrainians with clubs. There was a frightful stench about the place, but an SS man had kindly told people that that was due to the use of disinfectant. The people were lined up in front of two large warehouses, one marked “CLOAK ROOM” and the other “VALUABLES.” The new arrivals were made to undress, and a small Jewish boy passed among the crowd handing out lengths of string with which to tie their shoes together. Spectacles and rings were removed. So, naked, the prisoners had their heads shaved in the hairdresser’s, an SS NCO telling them that their hair was needed to make something special for U-boat crews. It would grow again, he said, maintaining the myth of their continued usefulness. At last the victims were driven down a barbed-wire passage to bunkers which had copper Stars of David on their
and were labeled BATHS AND INHALATION ROOMS. SS men reassured them all the way, telling them to breathe deeply, that it was an excellent means of disinfection.
Bachner saw a little girl drop a bracelet on the ground, and a boy of three picked it up and went into the bunker playing with it. In the bunkers, said Bachner, they were all gassed. And afterward, squads were sent in to disentangle the pyramid of corpses and take the bodies away for burial. It had taken barely two days, he said, before they were all dead, except for him. While waiting in an enclosure for his turn, he’d somehow got to a latrine and lowered himself into the pit. He’d stayed there three days, the human waste up to his neck. His face, he said, had been a hive of flies. He’d slept standing, wedged in the hole for fear of drowning there. At last he’d crawled out at night.
Somehow he’d walked out of Belzec, following the railway tracks. Everyone understood that he had got out precisely because he was beyond reason. Likewise, he’d been cleaned by someone’s hand—a peasant woman’s, perhaps—and put into fresh clothes for his journey back to the starting point. Even then there were people in Cracow who thought Bachner’s story a dangerous rumor. Postcards had come to relatives from prisoners in Auschwitz. So if it was true of Belzec, it couldn’t be true of Auschwitz. And was it credible? On the short emotional rations of the ghetto, one got by through sticking to the credible. The chambers of Belzec, Schindler found out from his sources, had been completed by March of that year under the supervision of a Hamburg engineering firm and of SS engineers from Oranienburg. From Bachner’s testimony, it seemed that 3,000 killings a day were not beyond their capacity.

Thomas Keneally, Schindler’s Ark, 150

Everthing Bachner said was true. Bachner was an eyewitness. But he wasn’t believed. He wasn’t believed because people didn’t want to believe him.

People do not believe in line with the facts. People believe what is conventional, easy, agreeable to one’s own self perception and, whereever possible, without personal cost.

People cannot be argued into the kingdom of God by human reasoning and gentle persuasion. God must confront sinful man and break the fetters that bind him to falsehood. Only the gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit can change a heart of stone.

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September 6, 2011

In his novel The Age of Longing, Koestler describes the plight of Hydie, a lapsed Catholic:

Oh, if only she could go back to the infinite comfort of father confessors and mother superiors, of a well-ordered hierarchy which promised punishment and reward, and furnished the world with justice and meaning. If only she could go back! But she was under the curse of reason, which rejected whatever might quench her thirst, without abolishing the urge; which rejected the answer without abolishing the question. For the place of God had become vacant, and there was a draught blowing through the world as in an empty flat before the new tenants have arrived.

Precisely Koestler’s own predicament, and that of modern man.

Theodore Dalrymple

But ‘reason’ did not disprove God or miracles, only naturalistic presuppositions did.  Koestler didn’t need to give up reason to have the comfort of faith; he needed to doubt the assumptions of naturalism. He could have found Christ the source of living water and still rejected the superstitions of Roman Catholicism.

Looking for the text’s ‘deeper meaning’?

February 25, 2011

…before I was a Christian, I was in a cult whose answer to every uncongenial passage was, “We have to look for the deeper meaning.” Funny how the “deeper meaning” was always the precise opposite of what the passage said, and exactly in harmony with what our cult believed.

Dan Phillips

Nature is not interested one way or the other in suffering, unless it affects survival of DNA

November 24, 2009

…nature is not cruel, only piteously indifferent. This is one of the hardest lessons for humans to learn. We cannot admit that things might be neither good nor evil, neither cruel nor kind, but simply callous-indifferent to all suffering, lacking all purpose…

but Nature is neither kind nor unkind. She is neither against suffering nor for it. Nature is not interested one way or the other in suffering, unless it affects survival of DNA.

Richard Dawkins, River out of Eden, 95-96, 131

This is more consistent with his atheistic presuppositions than The God Delusion where he realises he had better make an attempt at establishing some kind of morality. However, given Naturalism, the words good and evil are both meaningless. He was consistent to his philosophy in River out of Eden, but inconsistent in that he doesn’t live that way. He was inconsistent to his Naturalism in The God Delusion but aware of needing to explain the moral impulse he feels.

Worldviews are like the foundations of a house: vital, but invisible

November 17, 2009

Worldviews . . . are like the foundations of a house: vital, but invisible. They are that through which, not at which, a society or an individual normally looks; they form the grid according to which humans organize reality, not bits of reality that offer themselves for organization. They are not usually called up to consciousness or discussion unless they are challenged or flouted fairly explicitly

NT Wright

The Greeks viewed time as cyclical

November 9, 2009

Platonism attributed a cyclic nature to the time process, and this idea was developed in the Stoic philosophy. Just as the seasons of the year rotate in a certain fixed order…so, they thought, did all events happen, history periodically repeating itself. Thus Aristotle remarks, ‘For indeed time itself seems to be a sort of circle.’

Raymond Abba, The Naure and Authority of the Bible, p.70 quoting Aristotle, Physics, 4.14

Which undercuts the uniqueness of the historical events such as Creation, incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, Judgement etc. since they would be wiped of their meaning when the wheel of time reverts back to a new cycle.

It means history has no goal or purpose ultimately – it’s reminiscent of Nietzsche’s philosophy or Eastern philosophies based on karma. Nothing is ultimately fixed – the tvery hing that lends weight to all our decisions.

Which gets me to thinking: since humans at once crave meaning yet run from responsibility we are caught on the horns of a dilemma. It is only a worldview that validates responsibility that secures meaning.

But, Herr Professor, the facts are otherwise

November 9, 2009

Hegel was expounding on his philosophy of history with reference to a particular series of events when one of his students objected to Hegel’s view and replied, “But, Herr Professor, the facts are otherwise.”
“So much worse for the facts,” was Hegel’s answer.

 

the question whether miracles occur can never be answered simply by experience

October 21, 2009

…the question whether miracles occur can never be answered simply by experience. Every event which might claim to be a miracle is, in the last resort, something presented to our senses, something seen, heard, touched, smelled, or tasted…If anything extraordinary seems to have happened, we can always say that we have been the victims of an illusion. If we hold a philosophy which excludes the supernatural, this is what we always shall say. What we learn from experience depends on the kind of philosophy we bring to experience. It is therefore useless to appeal to experience before we have settled, as well as we can, the philosophical question.

If immediate experience cannot prove or disprove the miraculous, still less can history do so. Many people think one can decide whether a miracle occurred in the past by examining the evidence ‘according to the ordinary rules of historical inquiry’. But the ordinary rules cannot be worked until we have decided whether miracles are possible, and if so, how probable they are. For if they are impossible, then no amount of historical evidence will convince us. If they are possible but immensely improbable, then only mathematically demonstrative evidence will convince us: and since history never provides that degree of evidence for any event, history can never convince us that a miracle occurred. …The result of our historical enquiries thus depends on the philosophical views which we have been holding before we even began to look at the evidence. This philosophical question must therefore come first.

C.S.Lewis, Miracles, Geoffrey Bles, 1959, pp.11-12

the existence of the God of Christian theism and the conception of his counsel as controlling all things in the universe is the only presupposition which can account for the uniformity of nature which the scientist needs

October 5, 2009

Says A. E. Taylor in discussing the question of the uniformity of nature, “The fundamental thought of modern science, at any rate until yesterday, was that there is a ‘universal reign of law’ throughout nature. Nature is rational in the sense that it has everywhere a coherent pattern which we can progressively detect by the steady application of our own intelligence to the scrutiny of natural processes. Science has been built up all along on the basis of this principle of the ‘uniformity of nature,’ and the principle is one which science itself has no means of demonstrating. No one could possibly prove its truth to an opponent who seriously disputed it. For all attempts to produce ‘evidence’ for the ‘uniformity of nature’ themselves presuppose the very principle they are intended to prove.” Our argument as over against this would be that the existence of the God of Christian theism and the conception of his counsel as controlling all things in the universe is the only presupposition which can account for the uniformity of nature which the scientist needs. But the best and only possible proof for the existence of such a God is that his existence is required for the uniformity of nature and for the coherence of all things in the world. We cannot prove the existence of beams underneath a floor if by proof we mean that they must be ascertainable in the way that we can see the chairs and tables of the room. But the very idea of a floor as the support of tables and chairs requires the idea of beams that are underneath. But there would be no floor if no beams were underneath. Thus there is absolutely certain proof for the existence of God and the truth of Christian theism. Even non-Christians presuppose its truth while they verbally reject it. They need to presuppose the truth of Christian theism in order to account for their own accomplishments.

Cornelius Van Til, The Defense of the Faith, 103, emphasis added.

science is not religion and it doesn’t just come down to faith. Although it has many of religion’s virtues, it has none of its vices. Science is based upon verifiable evidence

October 4, 2009

…science is not religion and it doesn’t just come down to faith. Although it has many of religion’s virtues, it has none of its vices. Science is based upon verifiable evidence. Religious faith not only lacks evidence, its independence from evidence is its pride and joy, shouted from the rooftops. Why else would Christians wax critical of doubting Thomas? The other apostles are held up to us as exemplars of virtue because faith was enough for them. Doubting Thomas, on the other hand, required evidence. Perhaps he should be the patron saint of scientists.

Richard Dawkins,

Is Science a Religion?,

the Humanist, January/February 1997

1. But the other apostles did have evidence. They saw Jesus’ miracles, the empty tomb, his resurrection, hte testimony of others to the same events.

2. Thomas was not criticised because he asked for evidence. He was criticised for lacking faith when he had so much evidence. He had the testimony of the other 10 apostles; he had seen Jesus’ miracles; he had heard the testimony of the empty tomb etc.

3. Science does rest on faith: faith in induction, a uniform, ordered, law-governed universe, uniformitarianism, the reliability of the senses, the reliability and credibility of scientists etc. Dawkins overlooks these ‘minor’ matters.