I’m at the Carpenter’s, about to continue our Ideas Have Consequences reading group and discussion. It’s a little thin tonight, just a couple of us guys and Mr. Carpenter. I’m taking up Mr. Carpenter’s suggestion and live blogging this session for the benefit of the few that aren’t able to come (and anyone else that reads).
7:16 – Discussion about current going-ons in evangelicalism. Talking about other stuff too… classic antinomianism and its current adherents. Cherry pie and ice cream are served.
7:30 – Discussion about first chapter. Essentially, Weaver wants to show that the metaphysical dream of each individual and society is essential for the good of both. This metaphysical reality must be taken, essentially, on faith. It is the idea of the transcendent taken by the instrumentality of faith. These are extremely Platonic ideas, directly applied to modernity and consequently postmodernity in our age.
7:39 – Weaver takes some negative examples to show what he is arguing against. “The barbarian living amid culture” and the Philistine… think the Geico caveman. A very primitive individual living amongst society, one who is in contact with culture but doesn’t properly interact, but rather profanes it.
7:40 – Weaver than takes the American frontiersman as an example. As the frontiersman moved east, they began to trust their senses and their own judgment, and thus lost their appreciation and apprehension of the forms. They gradually became unable to interact at the level of the abstract. In a sense, this is to a degree endemic to America because of its roots.
7:43 – Language is incredibly important in the midst of understanding all of this. Distance from language or a given text is not necessarily a bad thing; in fact, it’s quite good. The metaphysical dream that each individual has gives them the ability to properly place language within a context, and thus gives them the opportunity to interpret the language in a text. Just as the American frontiersman sought immediacy from his senses, so modernity seeks immediacy to interpretation. Postmodernism actually does a good thing in being willing to not get an immediate answer to interpretation, but also subverts the interpretation process by denying that a metaphysical dream can deduce the actual interpretation of a text.
7:49 – Side discussion. American Arminianism seems to have some of its birth in the American frontiersman. Arminianism thrives in the 1920s because throughout the 19th century people were acting upon their own volition that eventually trickled into the religious thinking of the common man.
7:55 – Discussion. America has a sense of the forms, its just that those forms (freedom, justice, etc.) seems to be embodied in particular things, not in transcendent ideals. Barack Obama’s speech on Tuesday seems somewhat indicative of this. Even though something transcendent is invoked (grace, faith, etc.) these things really have no substance since the interpretive method is postmodern. What they mean to one person means something completely different to another. In fact, some of his rhetoric would sould decidedly pre-modern, if it were not for the tacit understanding that he speaks as a representative of and to a postmodern people.
8:00 -Discussion over Weaver’s statement on page 19: “We do not undertake to reason about anything until we have been drawn to it by an affective manner.” Weaver brings this up to disparage it. Mr. Carpenter brings up that this is what Piper seemingly does by interpreting Edwards. He believed Piper thinks affections fall outside and precede reason. I’m not convinced this is what Piper propounds; we’ll be looking into and discussing this further at another time. Talking about a progression of the mind to the affections to the will: it seems Edwards starts with intellectual apprehension, moves to the affections, and then to the behavior.
8:23 – Bob Jones Sr. famously thinks this goes from intellectual apprehension to proper behavior to the proper affections. Piper (and I) disagree with him, and with the place of initial orthopathy in the classic (i.e. movement-based) fundamentalist mold.
8:30 – Edwards later moved away from a monolithic opinion on this order, especially as he viewed how these things were ordered in his wife’s life. An emotional change is both seen by others and felt internally. This is “common sense” realism. But the fact that emotions are there doesn’t mean something has honestly changed internally.
8:36 – Moving onto the second chapter, Distinction and Hierarchy. Essentially, this is the Incredibles. Saying that everyone is special is the same as saying no one is special. Current trends in culture aim to destroy all distinctions in social status, but in doing so destroys society at large, as any metaphysical dream must be sacrificed in the process. “Jacobin” is a term he uses continually; essentially this is one who seeks to level the social classes. It references a social club that was at the radical edge of the French Revolution. A comment is made: our new President is essentially a Jacobin. These believe that human nature is essentially good, so we must unbridle humanity to naturally grow into and express that good that is in them.
8:43 – There are two things that society descends into at this point… the brutality of anarchy, which must be overcome by political despotism, or the brutality of consumerism, which is a form of despotism. Who gets to be at the top? The one who consumes and gives return for the most. We seem to be (in America) at the level of the brutality of consumerism.
8:49 – Talking about how Weaver addresses education. He says that without a metaphysical dream to guide education, the educational system will only serve to tear down the system. How this happen in America’s system? Everything is geared towards production and consumption; thus the schools only become a tool to increase the appetite. There’s no way to equip the students to think about the abstract if no metaphysical dream is upheld. Weaver is a teacher at the University of Chicago, the same home of John Dewey (the father of the public school system), so in a way he’s essentially critiquing his employer.
8:54 – Side discussion. “Preparative preparation”… a new one on me, Mr. Carpenter. Talking about how schools are challenged to teach because students come in with different levels of preparedness. This is difficult at Northland, due to having a wide variety of incoming students. Some have learned just to take in information and be discerning in private, whereas others learn by discussion in public.
8:58 – Carpenter makes jokes about pressing ideas against each other. Great, Mr. C.
9:00 – Last bit of discussion for the night. Weaver spends a good deal of time critiquing the middle-class, the new “bourgeoisie.” The middle-class tends to seek to empower the nanny state in order to increase its own size and privileges. Why? Because when society destroys distinctions, the telos of culture becomes comfort. This is what the middle-class run culture seeks.
9:09 – Finishing up. To summarize: the degradation of society involves the destruction of the metaphysical dream and its subsequent replacement by the pursuit of relativism as embodied in the obsession with particulars. It also involves the tearing down of cultural distinctions so that all might be equal. This is the culture of comfort that we find ourselves in today, because this lack of distinction causes society to lean towards comfort as a goal, since there aren’t any higher ideals to which to aspire.