Saturday, July 4, 2009

Blind Cynicism

First of all let me welcome myself back to the blogging world. Finals always forces me to take a break from blogging - not so much because I'm so busy with finals but because I'm so tired of writing when I finish. It took a week or so before I could start reading and about 2 1/2 before I could start writing again. Hopefully this summer will be productive on both counts. I have high ambitions but I'll also be fairly busy. We'll see.

I will get back to the Baptist posts (I have one basically finished) but for now I wanted to react to a quote that I read in the current issue of Books and Culture. In Brad Gregory's article "Saints' Lives Decoded?" he relates the following anecdote concerning Aviad Kleinberg's (a history professor at Tel Aviv University) reaction to Mother Teresa:

"(Kleinberg) saw (Mother Teresa) on television telling an interviewer about the very first dying leper in the streets of Calcutta whom she picked up, cleaned, and fed. When the leper asked why she had done it, she said: "Because I love you." ... (He) relates his own response to her words, which "shocked and confused" him: "I believed her. For an instant, at least, I believed that those words were the pure truth, that she had truly loved him, the dying leper in her arms." But then, as he tells the story, he came to his senses, recovering his usual stance toward religion: "I am a skeptic by nature, and when it comes to religious phenomena, my field of specialization, I am even more skeptical." According to Kleinberg, "Freud forever demolished the sublime. When saintliness is not a con, it is a self-deception.... the subconscious [sic] is a cruel master. Some find their pleasure in feeding their id, some in nourishing their superego. The moment of 'faith' that took hold of me while watching Mother Teresa was brief. Immediately I was filled with doubts, beset by my usual cynicism. I was almost ashamed of my naivete.""

I too am a cynic by nature and although I will not declare with confidence that Mother Teresa's motives were pure or her love genuine (who am I to make that determination?), most of my cynicism, as well as a fair dose of sympathy, is reserved for professor Kleinberg. This guy has already predetermined that humans are no more than animals who can only have their self interest at heart. Having no concept of the "image of godness" in humans and no room for the work of the Spirit to produce Christlikeness, he has no room for anything that resembles love or self sacrifice. When he sees an act of love he cannot, thanks to his presuppositions, accept it as such. What a dark bleak world this man sees! Having been momentarily moved by an act of love, he must explain it away as a self deceiving and self serving phenomenon, no more or less noble than any other human action.

I think Kleinberg serves as an example of what I would call "blind cynicism". It does not matter how apparently loving and selfless the act, it cannot be love because love really does not exist. This "blind cynicism" is present also in liberal bible and history scholars who predetermine that since the miraculous is impossible, all apparent tales of the miraculous are automatically false and any apparently fulfilled prophecy must have been written after the fact. It is apparent in the statements of atheist scientists, like Richard Dawkins and others, who declare that if life on this planet did not come about as a result of evolution, it was seeded here by aliens from another planet. It is a supremely arrogant cynicism that already assumes itself right and allows for no other possibility or alternative explanation. Not only do I think this foolish, but especially in Kleinberg's case, I cannot imagine anything more sad. Not even taking into account the eternal state, When I think about going through life without acknowledging the existence of love, self-sacrifice, and the possibility of anything worthy of praise or honor I cannot help but think that Professor Kleinberg has already arrived at some form of internal hell.

Thinking about Professor Kleinberg's statement also reinforces my theological understanding of man without God. Man without God is blind, completely and willingly. He refuses to acknowledge God despite the clear signs of a supremely powerful and personal Creator whose greatness demands worship. Without the work of the Holy Spirit this man will never acknowledge God. I praise God for my salvation and his softening of my heart and the way in which he drew me to himself. I acknowledge that without him I would be like this poor man, blind arrogant and lost. In recognizing this, I can only ask God to open this man's heart and eyes to the love and power of the gospel.

About Me

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Tacoma, Washington, United States
"It is not as a child that I believe and confess Jesus Christ. My hosanna is born of a furnace of doubt." Fyodor Dostoevsky. I'm a Northwest Baptist Seminary graduate (MDiv) and current student (ThM). I plan on someday going to Africa and teach Bible and Theology at a Bible College or Seminary level. I hope to continue my studies and earn a PhD, either after I go to overseas for a few years or before. I'm a theological conservative, but I like to think outside of the box and challenge conventional thinking and consider myself a free thinker. I am currently serving in my fourth year as a Youth Pastor at Prairie Baptist Fellowship in Yelm Washington. My blogs will reflect my thoughts on both seminary and ministry life, though not (of course) exclusively. I enjoy literature and occasionally try my hand at writing stories and poems. "For I am not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes..." Paul