Jul 23 2009

Fr. Dmitiri Dudko on faith and proof

Russian Orthodox priest Father Dmitri Dudko was both a heroic and a tragic figure in Communist Russia.  He was under constant scrutiny by the KGB, but continued to teach the truth of Christianity. While Christian dialog was prohibited, in 1972 and 73 he asked his congregation to submit questions they had, which he then addressed in his sermons. Many of these were written down by those in attendance, and distributed around Russia (not unlike the spread of the NT documents, or Luther’s 95 Theses).  In 1977 many of these were published outside of Russia in a volume entitled Our Hope, which reveals much about the church in Russia in the early 70’s, as well as providing some thoughtful questions and answers about the Christian faith in the context of an overtly atheistic culture.

Dudko was eventually broken by the KGB and coerced into recanting, which was apparently televised.  He later confessed how much he regretted his mistake, writing “Compared to the hell that I then brought into my soul, anything – even torture or execution – would have been easier to bear.”  He died in 2004.

The other night I picked up the book, and opened it to page 140:

Question: What proof is there in apologetics of Christ’s resurrection?

Answer: Proofs? Nowadays we’ve begun to prove everything. Prove that you love. Prove there’s a sun in the sky, or clouds. Prove you’re a man, not a camel…  So they ask me to produce proofs of Christ’s Resurrection.  We consider proofs to be an important argument, whereas in fact they’re no argument at all.  Proofs are the fruit of our weakness and not of our strength, the fruit of our unbelief.  Forgive me, but I don’t want to know any proofs, and I wouldn’t recommend that you seek them.  The fundamental proof is our faith. If we have no faith, no proofs will help.

But then, of course, the question arises:  Does this mean that we must believe blindly?  “Believe because it’s absurd,” like Tertullian?  I would like to address precisely this: the absurdity and the “blindness” of faith.  For in fact, faith is vision.  …  Faith, as one Russian philosopher said, is profound knowledge. The knowledge we glean from books is shallow, and with its help all we can learn are earthly laws.  But knowledge of the resurrection of Christ demands profound knowledge  – that is, not merely stuffing your head full of quotations and information, but transfiguring your entire being. That brings profound knowledge: faith.  Yes, faith often contradicts the shallow variety of knowledge, and shallow knowledge in turn considers faith to be absurdity.  It is for this reason that Tertullian said, “I believe because it is absurd” – not because faith itself is agsurd, but because shallow knowledge, the sinful world, considers it to be so.  I believe, not because it is absurd in general, but only because from your point of view it is absurd. In this way, we believe Christ’s Resurrection, but we don’t “prove” it. You have no faith?  That is your misfortune. …

… I know that there are people who doubt the Gospel, who insist that it’s not convincing. It is difficult to refute such people. They can only be pitied, for those who say such things are unable to believe; they have not yet acquired profound knowledge.

This is brilliant- this is an understanding of knowledge that can’t be comprehended from within a modernist framework, which by intent considers only “shallow” knowledge as reasonable.

Jun 1 2009

Atheism, morality and deconversion

This is just a quick post to recommend some extra-curricular reading.  First, here’s an interesting post that fits nicely with my recent series on morality as a basis for atheism from Common Sense Atheism.

Next, theBEattitude gives the reasons why he recently left Christianity, and Michael Spencer’s commentary on this post.  Both are well-worth reading, if you’re at all concerned about what is going on inside and outside the Christian Ghetto.

More from me soon.

Dec 12 2008

Are modernism and Christianity incompatible?

John Loftus claims that modernity is the Achilles’ Heel of Christianity, something I’ve discussed before, and addressed again in my “teacup” analogy.  Could he be right?

Of course, Loftus believes that modernism (the operative Western worldview which is based on rationalism, a belief in progress, and which depends heavily on the scientific method) is good. He would believe this, because he is as modern as can be, and this is what modernism teaches. It is all very circular: Modernism presumes that progress is inherently good. We as a species know more today than we did yesterday (but not as much as tomorrow).  Evolution is progressive, not regressive. Every day, in every way, we get better and better. It’s all a load of hooey, but even though you realize this, if you take time to really think through what you believe about a great many things, you will find that you, too, think this way. It’s in the water, it’s in the air – every day of our lives we eat and breathe modernism. Even what is being passed around as postmodernism is 90% basic modernism.  As Loftus once pointed out to me, even I’m modern.

However, I am aware of it.

I don’t think that everything about modernism is bad; for example, reason and logic are good, in its place. The scientific method, as a tool, is also good. However, what modernism did was to shrink the worldview around these elements, and added a belief in the inevitability of progress and a disdain for anything pre-modern, other than as an object of study. Progress says that the worldview enlarged; however, in reality, by dismissing everything it didn’t want to deal with, in actuality the worldview shrunk. (See the aforementioned Teacup Analogy).

As I have expressed in my Teacup Analogy, it is my current hypothesis that if you try to shrink Christianity to fit within the constraints of modernism, you’re in trouble, because in order to do so, the terms of modernism require you to not just shrink Christianity, but rather to chop off the corners of Christianity to fit within modernism’s round hole (sorry for switching metaphors). The problem, as I see it, is that modernism is an inadequate and defective worldview, and in order to address Christianity completely within modernism as Loftus does is to render Christianity inadequate and defective as well.

I am not sure, however, that the great apologists would agree with me.  I would be very interested to hear what someone like William Lane Craig (who I would tend to place at the top of that list) would say about my hypothesis.  Loftus, in the post I linked to above, has challenged Craig (and any other Christian apologist) to debate him on the issue of Christianity vs Modernism, which I think would be very interesting. Are Christianity and modernism incompatible, or can a complete Christianity survive entirely within the confince of modernism?