“The crowd is untruth”

Soren_KierkegaardIn our discussion of yesterday’s post The Problem with Crowds, Stefan Stackhouse linked to an essay by Søren Kierkegaard, The Crowd is Untruth.  That essay is shockingly profound,, with great resonance for today.

The Danish Lutheran/proto-existentialist takes a theological, as well as ethical, view of crowds.  He points out that the Bible says, “Love thy neighbor”; not “love the crowd.”  He deals with “the daily press” and its creation of an abstract “public” that assumes an authority over what we are supposed to consider true.  He critiques those whose profession it is to lead a crowd and how they often ignore an individual in need because of their obsession with big numbers.   He addresses preaching.  (Yes, one can legitimately preach to a hundred thousand, as well as to ten.  But don’t let the desire to attract a hundred thousand determine what you are going to preach.)  He warns against the “numerical”–attending to numbers as your main criterion.

Pastors of big churches and of small churches should read this essay, excerpted after the jump.  So should church growth consultants, who often give the direct contrary advice.  (Large congregations don’t have to be “crowds” in this sense.  And small congregations should be appreciated, though they too can turn into smaller “crowds.”)

You don’t have to agree with Kierkegaard on everything to appreciate the force of his argument here.  But let me raise a question:  How can we avoid the danger of the crowd being untruth while acknowledging the corporate nature of the Christian faith?  Some Christians do have a completely individualistic understanding of Christianity–as in Tom T. Hall’s song “Me and Jesus”–with no need, as in that song, for the Church.

I suspect Kierkegaard’s answer would be in terms of how Christianity is for “the one,” yet “everyone can become that one.”  And in what he says about the love of neighbor.  Does this solve the dilemma, or is he taking individualism too far?

[Read more…]

“The lie kills nations”

Hermann Sasse was contending with Nazi Germany, but his words about how “the lie” kills nations–presenting cultural dissolution “as a glorious ascent,” in which “decline is viewed as an advance”–have an unsettling resonance for today. [Read more…]

Breakthrough in implanting false memories

Scientists have successfully implanted false memories into mice.  The researches are excited at prospect of applying the same processes to human beings, which they say holds promise for treating emotional problems such as post-traumatic stress disorder.  Read about the experiment after the jump, and then I want to pose some questions. [Read more…]

“The least untruthful manner”

James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, had been asked in a Congressional committee if the U.S. government was collecting data on millions of Americans.  He said, no.  But now with news about PRISM and other data mining programs, he is being accused of perjury.  But what I want to draw attention to is his defense and a great phrase he has entered into the English lexicon:

“I responded in what I thought was the most truthful, or least untruthful manner by saying no.”

[Read more…]

Luther on Learning

Thanks to Prof. Scott Ashmon of Concordia University Irvine for yet another great quote, this one from Martin Luther:

“How dare you not know what can be known?”

(Quoted in Robert Benne, “A Lutheran Vision/Version of Christian Humanism” Lutheran Forum 31 (1997): 42.)  [Does anybody know the source in Luther’s Works? Or is this one of those apocryphal sayings of Luther?  Even if so, it’s still a great line, an explosion of Christian anti-intellectualism.]

How might this principle be applied?

The three stages of error

Charles Porterfield Krauth was an American Lutheran theologian of the 19th century.  His book The Conservative Reformation is a classic of theology and church history.  You may perhaps have heard what he said about the three stages of error–from the request for toleration to a demand for equality to the imposition of superiority over truth–but thanks to Pastor Mark Schroeder for posting the actual quotation:

“When error is admitted into the Church, it will be found that the stages of its progress are always three. It begins by asking toleration. Its friends say to the majority: You need not be afraid of us; we are few, and weak; only let us alone; we shall not disturb the faith of the others. The Church has her standards of doctrine; of course we shall never interfere with them; we only ask for ourselves to be spared interference with our private opinions. Indulged in this for a time, error goes on to assert equal rights. Truth and error are two balancing forces. The Church shall do nothing which looks like deciding between them; that would be partiality. It is bigotry to assert any superior right for the truth. We are to agree to differ, and any favoring of the truth, because it is truth, is partisanship. What the friends of truth and error hold in common is fundamental. Anything on which they differ is ipso facto non-essential. Anybody who makes account of such a thing is a disturber of the peace of the church. Truth and error are two co-ordinate powers, and the great secret of church-statesmanship is to preserve the balance between them. From this point error soon goes on to its natural end, which is to assert supremacy. Truth started with tolerating; it comes to be merely tolerated, and then only for a time. Error claims a preference for its judgments on all disputed points. It puts men into positions, not as at first in spite of their departure from the Church’s faith, but in consequence of it. Their recommendation is that they repudiate the faith, and position is given them to teach others to repudiate it, and to make them skillful in combating it.”

via Steadfast Lutherans » Charles Porterfield Krauth’s Three Steps to Doctrinal and Ecclesial “Nihilism”.

Can you think of some examples of this?