Well, I promised on Facebook and Twitter (I think) that I was painfully working through Phyllis Tickle’s The Great Emergence because apparently, some people have heard that the book is really good or makes some good points (or something along those lines).
It is true that there are true statements in the book, like “the boundary line between free time and boredom is not a clearcut one” (page 95) or “in 1453, the Ottoman Turks finally succeeded in capturing Constantinople” (page 47). I’m not finished my reading (I have 3 pages left) and I still have to map out the logical argument of the book (for the sake of understanding it coherently), but I wanted to offer something in the form of a teaser to those who are waiting, because, well, I just couldn’t help myself.
Allow me to set up the quote.
Phyllis Tickle is a postmodern intellectual in the proper, academic sense. She is aware of the academic philosophers and theologians (like Michael Foucault and Marcus Borg), has read them, and is a huge fan of their open philosophical war against Evangelical Christianity. She overtly dismisses the concept of the meta-narrative and she actually openly dismisses the notion of objective truth. She’s not the soft, squishy postmodern type that many Evangelicals are used to dealing with. She’s not afraid to suggest that we’re stupid and aggressively attack the things that Evangelicals believe are core doctrine (like the virgin birth or the deity of Christ). She has openly rejected the God of the Bible and thinks that the thing that Christians need to do most is to toss the Bible in the trash.
In the book, Tickle makes a long and nuanced argument against the Bible. The book, in a general sense, is a 162 page attack on sola scriptura, the principle that the Bible is the only rule of faith and life. In order to do so, Tickle has to attack the reformation and the Bible itself, and she doesn’t have much of a problem with modifying history or simply saying things that are anything but true. In order for her readers to swallow that, she has to actually attack the concept of thinking in general, and the principles that underlie thought; namely logic itself.
Read and weep as she explains emergents and objective truth:
“Emergents, because they are postmodern, believe in paradox; or more correctly, they recognize the ubiquity of paradox and are not afraid of it. Instead , they see in its operative presence the tension where vitality lives.
To make that point, an emergent will quite offer the most simplistic of proof texts: X squared = 4, and that is a fact. Since it is a fact, what is the value of X? Quite clearly, X = 2…except, of course, X also quite clearly equals -2. What is one to make of that contradiction, that impossibility, that paradox?
For starters, what we in the first world have made of it is the bulk of all the technology and gimmicks that render our lives so much more comfortable than otherwise would have been. The point, in other words, is that logic is not worth nearly so much as the last five hundred years would have us believe. It is, therefore, not to be trusted as an absolute, nor are its conclusions to be taken as truth just because they depend from logical thinking. Very often, in fact, logic’s fallacies result from logic’s lack of a sufficient height or distance in its perspective. That is, logic suffers from the fact that it is human, not divine, and suffers all the limitations of humanity, including being irrevocably contained in time and space.
By extension, meta-narrative is likewise to be distrusted, being as it is also a product of humanity’s human thinking and explaining. Narrative, on the other hand, is the song of the vibrating network. It is a spider’s web in its trembling, a single touch on one strand setting all others to resonating. Narrative circumvents logic, speaking the truth of the people who have been and of whom we are. Narrative speaks to the heart in order that the heart, so tutored, may direct and inform the mind.” (Phyllis Tickle, The Great Emergence, 160)
Let’s interact a tad.
- I believe in paradox too. I’ve heard of Hilbert’s hotel. I enjoy explaining the concept to people who have never heard of it and watching their brains spring a leak. I have no idea what the second statement (“tension where vitality lives”) means. That happens a lot when reading Phyllis Tickle.
- Her example doesn’t exactly help her case since her example isn’t a paradox. It’s a mathematical question where there are 2 right answers. Much of what Tickle would think of as paradox is only so when veiled in ambiguity or given a surface examination.
- The answer to “What is one to make of that contradiction, that impossibility, that paradox?” is in the second paragraph. Ignoring the first sentence of the 3rd paragraph (I have NO idea how consumerism relates to understanding paradoxes), her answer to embrace paradox and chuck logic out the window.
Why? Let’s pay attention to what she says.
“…logic is not worth nearly so much as the last five hundred years would have us believe. It is, therefore, not to be trusted as an absolute, nor are its conclusions to be taken as truth just because they depend from logical thinking. Very often, in fact, logic’s fallacies result from logic’s lack of a sufficient height or distance in its perspective. That is, logic suffers from the fact that it is human, not divine, and suffers all the limitations of humanity, including being irrevocably contained in time and space.”
- Logic is not worth what history would teach us.
- Logic does not have sufficient height or distance in perspective
- Logic is a human construct.
- Logic suffers from human time and space limitations.
- Therefore logically, logic is untrustworthy.
That sure sounds like a logical argument against logical argument.
- Since logic is untrustworthy, “meta-narrative is likewise to be distrusted”.
Well, if her last point about the untrustworthiness of logic is true, then her conclusion doesn’t necessarily follow. I actually have no reason to reject meta-narratives. If her previous argument is false, then logic is trustworthy and meta-narrative is not to be distrusted.
Tickle rings the gong by leaping out of a moving car and using her body as the mallet.
- “Narrative circumvents logic”. Nope. Sorry. Argument *fail*.
I’m just wondering if Tickle could make an argument for the uselessness of logic without using logic? Didn’t Cornelius Van Til say something about this sort of thing?
This, ladies and gentlemen, is what we call the liberal lobotomy. It’s when you have drowned so totally in your rejection of God/truth that you actually cannot think coherently anymore, and do things like trying to make a logical argument against the trustworthiness of logic.
I don’t know when the review will be done, or exactly how much interaction I’ll give, but that one quote should show you that Tickle isn’t just attacking Christianity; she’s attacking reality itself.
This reminds me of Ludwig Wittgenstein, where in his book On Certainty he argues with another philosopher about whether or not a tree objectively exists and is overheard by a passing man:
“I am sitting with a philosopher in the garden; he says again and again ‘I know that that’s a tree’, pointing to a tree that is near us. Someone else arrives and hears this, and I tell him: ‘This fellow isn’t insane. We are only doing philosophy.” (3/4/51 – .467)
Tickle isn’t insane.
She is only doing emergent church theology.
Until Next Time,
Lyndon “All Men Who Blog Are Liars” Unger