January 22, 2021

Klasie Kraalogies: As Mist Before the Sun: The Slow Relief of Unbelief (2)

The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp, Rembrandt

By Klasie Kraalogies

Part 2

They say a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, but it’s not one half as bad as a lot of ignorance

• Terry Pratchett, Equal Rites

The great difficulty in telling a long and meandering story is knowing what to leave out. But what I can’t leave out in my story is the impact of learning – partly getting a university education, but also making a greed for knowledge and understanding a major driving force in my life.

I went off to university, and completed a B.Sc. (Hons) with Geology and Mathematics as majors. Geology quickly showed my that even with a lot of standing on one leg, squinting with one eye while singing the Paternoster, there is no way I could make the evidence of the world around me fit into the narrow, Young Earth Creationist view I had been taught. But what I did was to shelve matters, trying to see if maybe I can hit upon a previously unconsidered idea with which to make things work.

Then, two things happened. At the head office of the sect, I picked up a copy of a magazine emanating from a fringe Calvinist group. Also, I attended a lecture by a Bulgarian maths professor that introduced Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorems. The former opened my mind (if “opened” is the operative word?) to other types of theological thinking. The latter provided a way, at least temporarily, whereby I constructed what I thought was a clever way to reconcile my difficulties. I thought I was being clever – what I was doing was succumbing to sophistry, a postmodernist escape. Which is really funny in retrospect, because along with the rest of the Young, Restless and Reformed Crowd, I loved making fun of postmodernists.

I left the sect. Married by now, I had my children baptised in a Dutch Reformed Congregation, while also attending some other Calvinist churches. I learnt to get irritated by loud Young Earth Creationists, Baptists, and most Evangelicals. I started to appreciate Catholicism and Orthodoxy. Also during this time, I discovered Internet Monk. This was in the early 2000’s.  Under various pseudonyms I developed a presence online, including Michael Spencer’s old Boar’s Head Tavern and that other site, which some here might remember, Reformed Catholicism (I think that was the name). I was appointed to the board of a small Christian Classical School. Yes, all of that. My unrecognized postmodernism allowed me to work in geology, and still confess a lot of other things that just didn’t quite fit.

But, one can only deceive one’s self for so long. Shortly after immigrating to Canada (2007), I realised that I really couldn’t reject the scientific evidence anymore. This was at the time of the discovery of the Denisovan subspecies of the human evolutionary branch. I mention that, because as with many events, there is a particular final straw that makes that happen (I checked the dates – the article that caught my attention came out in 2010).  I admitted that to be consistent, I must admit to being a Theistic Evolutionist. You see, I quickly recognised the fact that acceptance or non-acceptance of evidence has epistemological consequences. If, like some Christians I know, I refuse to believe evidence, saying it is a lack of human understanding, or more common still, how can we know what is the truth, it also implies, explicitly, that we cannot absorb any other true information through our senses. Therefore, unless we are all gnostics, we must deny all knowledge. Epistemology is dead. Hence, either we follow the evidence, or we through all knowledge out, including the very Scripture we read. If you can’t trust your eyes, how can you trust words on a page?

This produced some peace for a period. Arriving in Canada, and looking at my local ecclesiastical options, we joined the LCC (Lutheran Church Canada, sister-church of the LCMS). Even there it wasn’t long before I was invited to join church council. Enthusiastic people soon get noticed. Of course, like the LCMS, the LCC is essentially a YEC-church. But I was prepared to live with that. At least we had a very liturgical congregation. That was fun…..

Next time: Crisis – Reason, Sociology and Information

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  1. I became a Christian in my senior year of high school. I suffered numerous ‘attacks on my faith’ from my college professors in the ensuing four years. For those I am grateful. They serve me to this day as a counterpoint to my absolutism. I was a rabid fundamentalist for over 10 years but those professorial voices from a Catholic college always remained as a foil. One thing I have learned, if a person has a genuine heart for God all the right books, teachers, mentors, stubborn mules, whatever is necessary, will be provided for them. The Bible says it this way, “Trust in the Lord with all thy heart.,,,,and he will make straight thy path.” The genuine heart is the root and voila! A million mystical magical stories unfold. To read your magical mystery tour is to see, yet again, the unseen Spirit at work.

  2. Klasie, where in Canada do you live?

    My wife is from Ontario (born in Hamilton, lived in Thunder Bay and Ottawa). My father was born in the Niagara Peninsula (Beamsville).

    What kind of work do you do now?

  3. Adam Tauno Williams says

    > what I was doing was succumbing to sophistry, a postmodernist escape.

    So much of the maturing process is having our sophistries chipped, burned, or ripped away [*1]. Not fun, at the time at the time; better afterwords.

    I sat through a time-share pyramid-scheme sales pitch yesterday [hey, I got free stuff!]. Much of the rhetorical slight-of-hand, the careful shifting of meaning of the same terms through the presentation, the setting up of a fact/number in order to knock it down [I knew I was supposed to be like “Wow!” 🙂 ]… so much of it felt sadly familiar. The guy would have made at least a mediocre preacher.

    [*1] And limited to religious belief. I had lots of these regarding people, relationships, etc… They sounded so convincing.

    • Klasie Kraalogies says

      I had endured those as well. They are virtually religuous in nature, with evangelical promises, their great prophets (or is it profits), their mantras, and most of all, the non-response of the god(-s) on the respective thrones…

  4. >> One thing I have learned, if a person has a genuine heart for God all the right books, teachers, mentors, stubborn mules, whatever is necessary, will be provided for them.

    In my experience this is absolutely true, was true from the get go, has been true for 43 years of conscious awareness of it and, looking back, well before then. I fully expect it to be true for the rest of my life here on this planet and on beyond. The key here, in my view, is “a genuine heart for God”, which is quite different from a genuine intellectual commitment to religion. Much of my learning has come thru books, but that doesn’t mean this process is necessarily to be found in a seminary or in the head. Most of these books I ordered from Christian Book Distributors, certain gems found scattered here and there in a sea of Evangelical literature of the kind we love to trash, and I still get their catalogs and occasionally find them useful. Going back farther, a major teacher for good on my path was Herbert W. Armstrong of the Worldwide Church of God, who piqued my interest in Bible prophecy and taught me how to study the Bible before I moved on. You take teachers where you find them and one size does not fit all and, like Spirit, you keep moving.

    A crucial part of my education was the five years I spent in Pentecostal churches. The things I learned were both positive and negative, but the main thing I learned was to trust Spirit in sorting out the good from the bad, a vital skill I have used ever since and not to be confused with intellectual discernment. Most of the problems I see in the wasteland of Christendom today as well as in these pages are caused, in my view, by attempting to solve spiritual problems with intellectual tools, and this from rabid fundamentalists to Ivy League Divinity Schools.

    The spiritual understanding of Charismatics is limited, as I see it, but still foundational, if you set aside the doctrinal mire of Dispensationalism. Going on from there it is possible to keep up with Spirit today, in my view, in the teachings of those who see the whole point and purpose of this all as “union with God as a complete human being”, as Dana expressed it yesterday. My perception is that the majority of folks here see both Charismatics and Contemplatives as wacky fruit loops. That’s okay, everyone finds their own path, or not, but everyone at least should have it explained to them, sooner better than later, that if you put yourself under the protection of the name of Jesus and open up your heart to his Spirit and ask for true teachers, they will come. Possibly not looking like what you thought teachers were supposed to look like. It’s the heart that is key, not to be confused with intellect or ego.

    • ” The spirit is not served by large numbers of people conforming to a rule but by the intensity of imaginative devotion in individual men and women…”
      Helen M. Luke The Voice Within
      After having left fundamentalism and all forms of church from 1985 to 2000, I came back to the Catholic Church. I have yet to be re-indoctrinated into what various terms mean or how they have changed. I don’t know what charismatic actually stands for today or what it connotes. I have an inkling what contemplative means but again what connotation goes along with it I don’t know. At any rate, I love that phrase “intensity of imaginative devotion.” With that as a root I firmly believe that any misplaced intellectual path that may be taken will ultimately be rerouted by the Holy Spirit as he will guide us into all truth. Error is often the prerequisite for discovery.

  5. I continue to enjoy hearing/reading your story, Klasie. Question: when you write “sect” my mind goes to “cult,” but I’m wondering if that’s an over-statement on my part.

    • Klasie Kraalogies says

      You are partly right. I am of the opinion that there is no sharp dividing line between sect and cult.

      This one appears evangelical on many levels, but frighteningly cultuc when you dig a little deeper.

      • Thanks for the clarification. Sounds like I wasn’t far off…LOL.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        There’s a lot of aberrant “not-a-cult”s out there. The Evangelical Circus is full of them.

        Compounded by the fact that originally Christianese cult-watch groups defined CULT entirely by Theology & Doctrine, not repeat NOT by their behavior towards their people. So a lot of really destructive groups got the all-clear from the Cult Watchers. And while the Cult-Watchers were parsing theology under an electron microscope, these Born-Again BIble-Believing Fellowships were raping and devouring their sheep.

        • Klasie Kraalogies says

          Agreed. For me cult is more about behaviour. Sect is a minor group with non-mainstream beliefs and maybe odd practices.

  6. Ya gotta love Godel… for better or for worse.

    • I’m undecided.

    • I partially agree.

    • Klasie Kraalogies says

      You guys are funny….

      • I for one would be interested to know what your clever epistemological move was regarding Godel and YEC 🙂

        • Klasie Kraalogies says

          I wouldn’t say it supported YEC directly, but it enabled me to hold conflicting ideas, or ideas contra evidence.

          Basically, Gödel pulled the rug from underneath the Hilbert project – that was a concerted effort to bring all of maths into one rigorous ststem, with foundational axioms etc. He basically showed that in any arithmetical system, a system of consistent axioms that describe the entire enterprise cannot exist. Some axioms just have to be accepted to make
          things work, so-to-speak. The temptation is, like with Einstein, and Quantum Mechanics, and other “cool scientific things “, to apply that to something it wasn’t meant for.

          I tried to apply it to all.of epistemology, and claimed that we have to accept the existence of God (and by extension the Christian God, and thus Scripture, in a fairly literal way), to make all of epistemology work, and that eventually eveyrthing will become clear. A very silly little argument to be sure. But a lifeline for the self-aware cognitive dissonant.

    • But that’s axiomatic.

  7. I’m not sure sophistry can be considered post-modern, as the Sophists have been around for thousands of years, starting with the time of Plato.

    I only remember this because of a college class on rhetoric where I learned that if a speaker is not persuasive, you do not have to believe everything they say is actually true. That was one of the steps to getting me out of the cult and away from it’s teachers.

    • Klasie Kraalogies says

      An arch-prophet of the post-modernist project, Derrida, saw a connection between ancient Sophism and Postmodernism.

      In my use I was referring to the “creative use” of logic and language in order to create a desired perspective of reality (as postmodernist a thing as you can get) instead if confonting reality as it is.

      • But all Christians do that. If they could get away with just believing normal, reality-based stuff, then what’s the point of even having a religion?

        • Who’s to say religion isn’t “normal and reality-based”? It was certainly considered so for the vast bulk of human history…

          • You mean to say there was a time when zombies, the talking donkey, etc. were not considered dubious? Well, you would laugh at me if I came to you a story like that.

            • Klasie Kraalogies says

              Considering how people thought about the world outside their immediate environment right up to the Age of Exploration, that is quite correct. And even not considering religious claims per se, thenwillingness to accept weird and wonderful claims are still pretty wide spread, even in the so-called educated First World. A sizeable portion of the US population believes a zombie apocalypse possible (14% according to a 2013 survey – nearly 45 million people). And that in a country with excellent education, and one that put a man on the moon 47.5 years ago (I forgot, well over 20 million Americans back in 2013 didn’t believe that either).

              So if you came to a Bronze Age Middle Easterner and said a donkey talked, potentially as a story device, don’t be too hard on them if they believed literally

  8. “If, like some Christians I know, I refuse to believe evidence, saying it is a lack of human understanding, or more common still, how can we know what is the truth, it also implies, explicitly, that we cannot absorb any other true information through our senses. Therefore, unless we are all gnostics, we must deny all knowledge. Epistemology is dead. Hence, either we follow the evidence, or we through all knowledge out, including the very Scripture we read. If you can’t trust your eyes, how can you trust words on a page?”

    well, in our current political maze, apparently all you have to do to get ‘the truth’ is to watch FOX News …… slight problem, though ……… some years ago, FOX News went to court to get the right to lie to the public and call it ‘news’

    soooooo …… maybe I take ‘truth’ from filtering everything through my own ‘bull$(@* meter, and having considered for myself what on Earth I’m looking at, give my own powers of discernment a chance to be exercised, strengthened and a chance to keep me free of manipulation from outside sources ……… (so sorry, Donald, I can decide for myself what is ‘fake’)

    • Klasie Kraalogies says

      Evidence, testing, experiment, independent corrorboration – these are your friends.

      Donald is the postmodern candidate. In the end Rousseau comes home to roost, and Derrida dances the last waltz. Reality cannot be faced. Philosophically the alliance between Trumpism and the Rousseaun nihilsm of Trumpism should have been predictable. They have the same origin. They reject reality.

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