Some people are so interesting other people give them credit for witty things they did not say. Plato acquires fictive wisdom often, including in the Sarah Palin autobiography, where he is quoted as saying something he never said. G.K. Chesterton said many wise things and then said everything else in our minds.
Only the worst aphorisms escape being dignified by G.K. Chesterton attribution.
We are, I think, always in search of authority.
My rational friends, eager to escape Biblical fundamentalism, frequently say, “Science says . . . ” though the science they cite is unrecognizable to the scientists I know. By “science” these rationalists-in-their-own-minds mean what popularizers describe as science . . . whatever burst from the keyboard of Asimov or Dawkins.
This may or may not have anything to do with science, though it generally has a great deal to do with the philosophy adopted by Asimov or Dawkins.
This desire for authority can go too far . . . turning into authoritarianism, but I think it a rational impulse. Breathes there the soul of a man so smart that he can be comfortable in more than one sub-discipline?
Humans need a story, a myth, to make sense of all the fields and bits of data that they do not have time to learn. Whether it is the Pope or Richard Dawkins, humans look fro that all encompassing tale. The late Christopher Hitchens, already disappearing from our thoughts sadly, made religion Satan and “reason” god. It was a good story and it helped organize the universe for a good number of sensible people.
That is why I feel no shame in saying that the Bible and the churches understanding of the Bible helps me make sense of the world. The normal objection is that the Bible is the product of an ancient nomadic people and has nothing to say to the age of the iPad.
The Bible is a product of an ancient people and has nothing to say to trends or fads of our time. That is one great merit it has: it is the ultimate multicultural voice. It is not impressed by the intellectuals of our age or the trends or polls. It is wisdom of hundreds of years distilled, I think under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost.
At present, our culture is hell bent on proclaiming decadence virtue. There is nothing new in this: libertines always misuse liberty for their own ends. Science cannot have told us anything new about ethics, since science deals with “is” and ethics deals with “ought.”
The Bible isn’t reading the polls, has spoken to many peoples in many places, at many times, and it says we are becoming evil.
I think it more rational to accept the Bible’s conclusions than those of a self-interested blogger or a culture that takes the Kardashians seriously. I am, therefore, unashamed to follow the Bible as my rule of faith and practice while also trying, as best I can, to be a rationalist.
My authority tells me things I do not want to hear and does not simply repeat my prejudices to me. Sometimes my secular friends will claim that I “pick” the parts of the Bible to obey. “How,” they ask, “can you eat shell fish and still follow Biblical sexual morals.”
Apparently these folk are untainted by an entire field called “hermeneutics” in which we learn the science and art of reading old books in context. They think one must treat the ceremonial law of ancient Israel as exactly the same as the general moral law given to all humanity.
If the read the newspaper this woodenly, they would treat the claims of the ads with the same seriousness they give to the stories.
The Bible is oft misquoted and abused, especially by those who claim to love it. It is an ancient book so it requires skill to read it deeply, but these skills are not so hard that anyone capable of using Windows cannot learn them. Few of us are fit to form a total story of reality by ourselves. We need help.
My experience and reason points me to the Bible as the best source for that worldview. It has forced me to challenge my beliefs, wonder about the world, and fall in love with goodness, truth, and beauty. Read with care its advise has been a trustworthy guide in moderating my desires to the Truth. The Bible has shown me God and taught me how to love humankind.
And God knows it is beautiful in itself.
If I quote the Bible as an authority, that is why.