Closed Minds

  1. Plato and Play Doh
  2. Pluralism and Submission


I was reminded of the time a climate scientist was sitting in on one of my classes, and a student, eager to get me in trouble, asked me about my position on climate change—knowing, as this clever student did, that I might part with a heterodox opinion in front of The Wrong Person.

What I said by way of answer, for what it’s worth, is that I am persuaded that anthropogenic warming is occurring. It does seem to me that the coincidence of rising temperatures and the profligate burning of fossil fuels beginning with the industrial revolution adds up to a causal relationship. I also said, however, that it seems to me that a properly scientific spirit calls for some circumspection, especially as regards predictions about the future.

To my surprise I found myself being accused of closed-mindedness. I was called a climate-denier because I didn’t have the correct opinion right to the very end of the matter. (For the record, I don’t deny that there’s such a thing as “climate.”)

But that’s science, which as we all know requires nothing but acquiescence.

I do in fact have an opinion on [some other hot topics]. I simply don’t know how to bring those opinions into public debate, for I cannot find a public debate. All I can find are people arguing about different things, as if the issue were whether the Boston Celtics are better than the Boston Pops. We can argue about basketball, and we can argue about orchestras, but we’d be doing ourselves a favor if we had one argument first before moving on to the other, and that is precisely what I don’t see happening. You say “tomato”; I say “tomahto.” Plato and Play Doh aren’t different toys; they’re different.

And this brings me to the personal deficiency I have been unable to correct …: in the university, where I make my living, you are usually “open-minded” when, for you, a question is closed, and you are usually “closed-minded” when, for you, a question remains open. I suppose this even ascends to the dignity of a paradox—if, that is, it be not nonsense.

(Jason Peters at Front Porch Republic)


Speaking of closed minds:

When formerly Protestant converts to Orthodoxy (or Roman Catholicism) recount the theological reasons for their conversion, it is not uncommon to hear among those reasons that they were persuaded by “the authority of the Church.” Once you become convinced of the Church’s authority, the telling goes, everything else falls into place.

While this seems to be sufficient for the convert, those hearing the story are often left unsatisfied. Two objections, in particular, are raised to the convert’s reliance on the authority of the Church.

Thus does Mark Meador introduce a longish piece that I think materially advances a discussion that has been vexing Orthodox intellectualoid converts like Richard Barrett (whose interests are broader than Orthodox Church music) and Robin Phillips: isn’t our submission to the Orthodox Church because we think it a legitimate authority circular in reasoning and not fundamentally different than a Protestant submitting to scripture only?

Meador: Well, actually, no. Or “not if you ask the right questions.” More from fairly early in Meador’s piece:

I am baffled by the logic that says submission to an authority is essentially meaningless because it is voluntary. Unchosen submission is called slavery. Whereas the whole point of our faith revolves around free and willing submission, done out of love. Christ freely submitted to the Father, “becom[ing] obedient unto death, even the death of the cross,” and the entire Christian life is the effort to mirror this: the Church submitting to Christ; wives and husbands submitting to each other; children submitting to their parents; youth submitting to elders. “Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility.”

So let us dispense with the suggestion that submission to authority is illegitimate because it is chosen. If that’s the case, then we’ve torn down more than ecclesiastical structures; we’ve dismantled the entire Christian faith and slandered the sacrifice of the Cross.

From there, Meador goes on to explain how submission to the authority of the Orthodox Church is meaningful though voluntary. It’s moderately heavy sledding. Don’t try multi-tasking it.

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“The remarks made in this essay do not represent scholarly research. They are intended as topical stimulations for conversation among intelligent and informed people.” (Gerhart Niemeyer)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

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