Last night I started taking my own advice. I began posting Calvin’s Institutes, which means I have to read it as I extract the text from a project Gutenberg file, add paragraphs, and format it.
Old books matter. I would suggest that people also look at William Briggs, who is posting Aquinas’ theology. Keeping the old books read is to keep them alive in a time of destruction.
There are other worthwhile projects, bringing back old wisdom. For the original version is the one you should read, and let the professionals worry about the gloss and sophistic speculation that now parades, falsely, as scholarship.
But then we have to consider this: are we making ourselves to be teachers? To be exegetes?
And if so, what is our responsibility?
1Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. 2For all of us make many mistakes. Anyone who makes no mistakes in speaking is perfect, able to keep the whole body in check with a bridle. 3If we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we guide their whole bodies. 4Or look at ships: though they are so large that it takes strong winds to drive them, yet they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. 5So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great exploits.
How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire! 6And the tongue is a fire. The tongue is placed among our members as a world of iniquity; it stains the whole body, sets on fire the cycle of nature, and is itself set on fire by hell. 7For every species of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species, 8but no one can tame the tongue — a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God. 10From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this ought not to be so. 11Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and brackish water? 12Can a fig tree, my brothers and sisters, yield olives, or a grapevine figs? No more can salt water yield fresh.
I am paid to teach: to undergraduates, to postgraduates: to present at conferences (no, they are not holidays: these talks are stressful). I weigh words: I send the slides to fellow authors to confirm that they are correct. The season for this is coming: from the equinox until Guy Fawkes’ Day I have two conferences and three presentations.
I have at times been asked to preach. That is five times harder. For we need to weigh our words, and we can easily say that which is untrue.
But we can also say that which is true. This is the flaw from the fall: we can be correct, glorifying God, or completely wrong. Perhaps the Bushmen Briggs talk about have it better: without a technological buffer, being wrong can be lethal, and they know not to drink salty water.
But technological progress is not moral, philosophical, or theological progress. Why else do you think it took so long for people, even in the West alone, to key to the idea of building so many “unnatural” machines? It’s certainly not because we’re smarter, but because the pre-machine people had higher, more important, things on their mind.
Machines will not be our salvation.
Can it be that certain segments of mankind are better at making machines? Sure. Why not? That is, as the author says, also what we observe. But then it could also be that certain segments are better at philosophizing. And it could be these are the same groups.
Yet ability to make machines is not what makes us men, or there were no men until the invention of the internal combustion engine. Ability to philosophize is much closer to the mark. To philosophize requires an intellect and language, both of which Bushmen possess. I do not say Bushman philosophy is superior to, for instance, Thomism; I claim it is inferior. I also do not claim Bushmen have nothing to offer.
Finally the crux: the “Psychic unity of mankind”, which the author says is “unlikely.”
If “psychic unity” means having language and an intellect and will, then Bushmen are in unity with everybody else. We are all men. Land is wrong. Mankind is not an implausible religious idea, but a commonsense (metaphysical) definition flowing from the observation of language and intellect. (This is also David Oderberg’s view: read his negative-answer paper “Could there be a superhuman species?“)
If “psychic unity” means having the exact same intellectual abilities in act or in potentia (i.e. blank slate-ism), then Bushmen, and Han Chinese, and whites, etc. are not in unity; and it’s unclear whether even any two individuals are in psychic unity. Which is another way of saying equality is a false doctrine. Equality is a hill the West is choosing to die on.
We are fallen. We can produce errors: when we get things wrong, we can get things completely wrong. The reason we want free speech is so that we can be freely corrected: those who argue that they can censor so that we will no longer hate and be better are preaching an equalist lie.
We are flawed. We need to take care: as bloggers we are not doctors of the church, nor do we lead (though some bishops and priests and ministers have their blogs, some of which are at times quoted, for better or ill).
But know this: we will be held in account for our words as much as for our sins. And here we have but one answer: we are broken, our hurt is grievous. We cannot cure ourselves. It is only in Christ that we can do any good.
For goodness is not dependant on technology, but God, who bestows his blessings freely, so that nature bears witness to him.