Stagger onward rejoicing

Tag: faith (page 1 of 1)

liberals believe

Stanley Fish, from How Milton Works

Liberals believe that knowledge of an object (be it a piece of data, a person, a concept) is one thing and evaluation of it is another, so that it makes perfect sense to say, as Satan does, I know what the good is — I just choose another path (as if knowledge and inclination could be severed from each other and opposed). Liberals believe that facts (of history, justice, science) are independent of the knower, and that it is the knower’s obligation to approach the task of knowing with as few preconceptions as possible so that the understanding he finally achieves is impersonal rather than a reflection of his antecedently held views and preferences; one must come to any situation calling for a decision (about what to think or what to say or what to do) with an open mind, a mind prepared to jettison its most cherished convictions should the evidence tell against them. Liberals believe that evidence lies about in the world waiting to be gathered and then arranged in patterns it itself suggests. Liberals believe that if we are sufficiently careful in our gathering of evidence (careful, that is, to keep ourselves and our desires out of the process) the truth will will finally emerge in a form everyone (whose mind is open) acknowledge. Liberals believe that when the truth to be determined is the meaning (political, moral, legal) of an action, the previous history of the actor — whether he has in the past been a good or bad man — is largely irrelevant and that we should look only to the shape of the present circumstances when assessing him. And because liberals believe in all of the above, they believe in the efficacy of procedures — scientific, parliamentary, judicial — designed to protect us from the overhasty judgments we make when we allow our commitments and allegiances to blind us. Liberals believe that the most important of these procedures is the machinery of rationality, of those laws of logic attached to to no agenda or vision, but sufficiently general in their scope as provide a normative perspective from the vantage point of which any agenda or vision can be assessed and, if necessary, corrected. Liberals believe that communication and persuasion take place (or should take place) in the context of that rationality and that it is possible to bring anyone — except, perhaps, the mentally impaired — to a clear understanding, so long as he or she is willing to set aside or bracket all biases and preconceptions.

Milton believes none of these things.

George MacDonald, “The Voice of Job”:

In the confusion of Job’s thoughts — how could they be other than confused, in the presence of the awful contradiction of two such facts staring each other in the face, that God was just, yet punishing a righteous man as if he were wicked? — while he was not yet able to generate, or to receive the thought, that approving love itself might be inflicting or allowing the torture — that such suffering as his was granted only to a righteous man, that he might be made perfect — I can well imagine that at times, as the one moment he doubted God’s righteousness, and the next cried aloud, ‘Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him,’ there must in the chaos have mingled some element of doubt as to the existence of God. Let not such doubt be supposed a yet further stage in unbelief. To deny the existence of God may, paradoxical as the statement will at first seem to some, involve less unbelief than the smallest yielding to doubt of his goodness. I say yielding; for a man may be haunted with doubts, and only grow thereby in faith. Doubts are the messengers of the Living One to rouse the honest. They are the first knock at our door of things that are not yet, but have to be, understood; and theirs in general is the inhospitable reception of angels that do not come in their own likeness. Doubt must precede every deeper assurance; for uncertainties are what we first see when we look into a region hitherto unknown, unexplored, unannexed. In all Job’s begging and longing to see God, then, may well be supposed to mingle the mighty desire to be assured of God’s being. To acknowledge is not to be sure of God.

how Steve Reich discovered his own Judaism

I was brought up a secular, Reform Jew, which means I didn’t know Aleph from Bet. I knew nothing, and therefore I cared nothing. My father cared culturally, but that’s all. So when I came home from Africa, I thought to myself, there’s this incredible oral tradition in Ghana, passed on from father to son, mother to daughter, for thousands of years. Don’t I have something like that? I’m a member of the oldest group of human beings still known as a group that managed to cohere enough to survive – and I know nothing about it. So I started studying at Lincoln Square Synagogue in midtown Manhattan, an Orthodox temple, that had an incredible adult-education program for the likes of me – and I asked whether they would teach a course in biblical Hebrew, and they said sure, and they brought a professor down from Yeshiva University to teach that, and I studied the weekly portion – I didn’t even know there was such a thing as a weekly portion and commentaries thereon.

So this whole world opened up for me – it was 1975, at about the same time as I met my wife, Beryl, and so all of this sort of came together and it did occur to me – isn’t it curious that I had to go to Ghana to go back to my own traditions because I think if you understand any historical group, or any other religion for that matter, in any detail, then you’ll be able to approach another one with more understanding. So the answer to your question is yes. The longest yes you’ve ever heard.

Steve Reich