OK, it turns out the original quote was out of context (Hat tip: Alan, editor-in-chief). I can’t remember if the source I got it from had it out of context or if I misread it. Either way, my bad.
But all is not lost. The quote was still poor, just for different reasons. And I didn’t even need the quote to make my original point; it was just a good catalyst.
First, comments from Alan about the quote:
He is talking about academia, in general. The article, titled “One University, Under God” begins by examining the separation of church and state, and how that separation has changed over the last 15 years in politics. Then he moves to how the relationship between the academy and religion have also changed. He’s been talking about the fact that religion has always been an object of study in the academy and then he says….
Now, the original quote in bold plus the context around it:
“But it is one thing to take religion as an object of study and another to take religion seriously. To take religion seriously would be to regard it not as a phenomenon to be analyzed at arm’s length, but as a candidate for the truth. In liberal theory, however, the category of truth has been reserved for hypotheses that take their chances in the “marketplace of ideas.”
Religious establishments will typically resist the demand that basic tenets of doctrine be submitted to the test of deliberative reason. (The assertion that Christ is risen is not one for which evidence pro and con is adduced in a juridical setting.) That is why in 1915 the American Association of University Professors denied to church-affiliated institutions of higher learning the name of “university”; such institutions, it was stated, “do not, at least as regards one particular subject, accept the principles of freedom and inquiry.”
What that meant, in effect, was that in the name of the tolerant inclusion of all views in the academic mix, it was necessary to exclude views that did not honor tolerance as a first and guiding principle.
Walter Lippmann laid down the rule: “Reason and free inquiry can be neutral and tolerant only of those opinions which submit to the test of reason and inquiry.” And what do you do with “opinions” (a word that tells its own story) that do not submit? Well, you treat them as data and not as candidates for the truth. You teach the Bible as literature — that is, as a body of work whose value resides in its responsiveness to the techniques of (secular) literary analysis. Or you teach American Puritanism as a fascinating instance of a way of thinking we have moved beyond.”
Stanley Fish, “Chronicle of Higher Education”
His reasoning is flawed because he dogmatically states that religion cannot be a candidate for truth. All religions make truth claims, many of which can be tested. Christianity, for example, is historical and evidential. Not everything can be verified, but by using the same criteria we apply to other historical works and events we can validate a great deal.
For example, archeology has been called “the Bible’s best friend” (Note to self: do a post on that someday). If you can find a historian that thinks the tomb wasn’t empty on Easter morning, I’d like to hear his reasoning (I’m not aware of any who make that claim). There are at least six non-Biblical historical works that refer to Jesus, so we can say with confidence that we are dealing with a real person in history. The quality and quantity of the New Testament manuscripts far exceeds that of any other works of antiquity.
His notion that Christianity doesn’t take its chances in the marketplace of ideas is simply wrong. Christianity freely submits to the test of reason and inquiry. Contrary to the myths, the Bible teaches us to think critically. Here are a few off the top of my head:
- We are to love God with our hearts, souls and minds.
- In Acts 17:11, The Bereans were lauded for critically examining what Paul taught to determine if it was true.
- 1 Thessalonians 5:21: Test everything, hold onto the good.
And I still think the original quote sounds mushy regardless of the context.
Back to my original
rant comments. I’ll revisit the tolerance and postmodern topics later.
The classical view of tolerance was to respect people even when you disagreed with their ideas. After all, you can only tolerate something if you disagree with it. If you agree with it, there is nothing to tolerate. The new, twisted definition of tolerance is to disrespect the people who hold different beliefs and the ideas they hold. Which, of course, isn’t tolerance at all. It is arrogance, pride, oppression and fear masquerading as tolerance.
Also see The Intolerance of Tolerance by Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason..