Book Plunge: Cynical Theories

What do I think of James Lindsay and Helen Pluckrose’s book published by Pitchstone? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Woke is a word that has shown up regularly in the past few years. Now we regularly hear about social justice warriors and of course, constant cries of racism, sexism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, and fat phobia. Our world has become more divided than ever as everyone is assumed to be a closet racist and if you deny that, well, you’re a bigot and that just demonstrates what a racist you are.

I was eager to get this book to see what Lindsay and Pluckrose had to say about the topic. They do bring a lot of excellent academic work here, but the problem is they also seem to be fighting battles on two fronts. Their main emphasis is on the Woke and how that hurts scholarship and academia, but there’s a dose of mild scientism as well as any chance to take a jab at religious people.

That’s ultimately unhelpful for their work. After all, if they want to reach Americans and a large number of Americans are still religious, this will turn a lot of them off, which would be a shame. I kept seeing my position as a religious believer being misrepresented. I am able to see past that, but how many people out there will not?

The scientism is also a problem as too many times, the impression comes across that science is the only way to know truth. Science is a great way of knowing some truth, but not all truth. There are plenty of things we all believe that do not come through science. While I am an empiricist, I hold that while all scientific knowledge is empirical, not all empirical knowledge is scientific.

Another problem is the way that they talk about progress and liberalism. Much of what they call liberalism looks nothing like liberals I see today. I also definitely disagree with them on the approach to the LGBTQ+ community. I am not opposed to progress, but too often we get to a place and say “This is progress” when in many cases, I can see it as regression.

However, time should be spent on the positives. One of the biggest walkaways you should get from this book is that for the Woke, disagreement is not allowed. Yes. You are allowed to ask questions and you should ask to understand, but not to challenge. Theory, their name for anything like Critical Race Theory or any idea that goes with a political identity, cannot be questioned.

This is no way to do academia. Questions and challenges should always be welcome, even if a theory has stood the test of time for hundreds of years. Questioning allows us to grow and shows cracks where a belief needs to be examined. Perhaps in some cases, it could show the whole paradigm is flawed and we have to move to a new paradigm.

Also, there are health consequences in many cases. Consider the idea that being fat is not a risk to one’s health. Yes. This is being taught and some people can even find doctors that won’t treat obesity like a problem. As I write this, MonkeyPox is something big and yet many of us are noticing that while Covid was around, people were told they had to shut down gathering places, including churches, but no one is saying that about bathhouses. Everyone is just being told “Act responsibly.” Would that we had all been told that during Covid.

I can also remember that when 9/11 happened, one of the first matters of importance to get out there was that this did not represent true Islam. After all, we had to deal with Islamophobia. We have become a culture that wants to protect peoples’ feelings more than the people themselves.

So this is a book with a lot of important material, but keep in mind the caveats. Take the wheat and throw away the chaff. Get the good and embrace it and use it. We are in a real battle with Woke.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Book Plunge: Slow To Judge

What do I think about David Capes’s book published by Thomas Nelson? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Slow To Judge is not your typical book on Christian apologetics. If you’re wanting to get an answer on a question like if Jesus rose from the dead or dealing with the problem of evil, this is not the book for you. If you’re wanting a book on how to approach the debates on those kinds of topics, then this is the book for you. This is a book more akin to Greg Koukl’s Tactics. Capes throughout the book is encouraging you to not be too quick to judge. At the same time, he doesn’t want you to back down for a moment on your convictions, but make sure you’re doing something to promote honest debate.

You might be wondering why someone who is a New Testament scholar would be qualified to write a work like this. Capes has an advantage that he has been a regular host of a radio show where he appeared alongside a Jew and a priest to discuss various issues and take phone calls. (We have received no word if they ever went to a bar after the show.) Because of this, Capes learned how to have interfaith dialogues. He disagrees strongly with his co-hosts, but he also considers them good friends. As much as people know me to be firm in my debates with unbelievers many times, I much more prefer the ones I can have an honest discussion with rather than the ones that come with a strong chip on their shoulder.

And throughout the book, Capes takes a look at a number of ways real discussion is being hampered today. One such way is by the use of terms that end in phobia, something I’ve been surprised to see even Peter Boghossian agrees with. Too often in our culture, someone can be labeled a name like a homophobe or accused of homophobia and the person is immediately on the defensive for anything they have to say. It’s a good rhetorical play to make, but it’s not one that really adds any substance and most of us on the other side immediately realize what kind of mindset we’re dealing with.

Also, when it comes to judging too quickly, there’s one group that often gets left out that is judged too quickly and I speak as a member of that group, the disabled. My wife and I both have Aspergers and it’s amazing how because you don’t immediately understand and follow social protocol that people will often assume the worst of you. I can actually very well understand the world of someone like Sheldon Cooper even if I do find it humorous at times. There are many times I have to send an email to the people I know who are neurotypicals about a situation and ask if I am missing something. Too often when people see me, they can think that I’m rude or something of that sort when it really isn’t my intention to be.

The discussion on tolerance is also extremely helpful. Tolerance has been used as a weapon by those who claim to hold to it the most. For all the time they have spent preaching this Gospel of tolerance, you think they’d be willing to practice it. In fact, I have often said that the best way to spot an intolerant person is to find someone who is a champion of tolerance and then disagree with them on one of their chief virtues.

I also think the discussion on recognizing differences in other religions is quite helpful, although some in the Christian community will be shocked to learn that the early church didn’t really have a problem adopting certain literary and artistic forms from the pagans around them. Indeed, why should everything be invented wholesale? Too often the idea is the Christians could have nothing to gain from the pagans who were around them or else the Christians had everything to gain. The simple reality is that the Christians wrote their New Testament in the Greek language and last I checked, that wasn’t some heavenly language.

The book ends with a look at two figures. Fethullah Gulen is the first and C.S. Lewis is the second. Most of us have heard of the second, but I’d never heard of the former, which is a shame. He’s apparently a Muslim leader who is quite moderate and very condemning of acts of terrorism and sees Islam in more spiritual terms. Would I disagree with some stances on this? Yep. I would. I have my own opinions of Islam, but I do wish this guy was more well-known and more Muslims were listening to him. C.S. Lewis meanwhile definitely knew about the pagan world around him and interacted with it and is a model we can all learn from.

Again, I do not agree with everything in Capes book, but he’s absolutely right on the importance of wisdom. Ultimately, that’s what the book is all about. Wisdom. There are too many people with a lot of knowledge, but they don’t have any wisdom and do great harm to the body of Christ because of that. There are two extremes I think can be made. If you only have a hammer, everything will look like a nail. If you only have a hug, everything will look like a kitten. We need wisdom to know which is which. Reading this book is a good start for the quest for wisdom.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

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