Why Akathleptos?

Why Akathleptos? Because it means Uncontainable. God is infinite. Hence, the whole universe cannot contain Him. The term also refers to the incomprehensibility of God. No man can know everything about God. We can know Him personally but not exhaustively, not even in Heaven.

Why Patmos? Because the church is increasingly marginalized and exiled from the culture.

Why Pen-Names? So the focus is on the words and not who wrote them. We prefer to let what we say stand on its own merit. There is precedent in church history for this - i.e., the elusive identity of Ambrosiaster who wrote in the 4th century A.D.

“Truth is so obscured nowadays, and lies so well established, that unless we love the truth we shall never recognize it." Blaise Pascal



Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The Dumbest Person Is The One Who Cannot See Gibberish For What It Is


Carl Trueman, Professor of Church History at Westminster Theological Seminary, wrote a striking essay here last month asserting "obscurantist jargon" is "the most dangerous and widespread toxin in academia today."

Here, for example, are a couple of paragraphs I recently encountered in the reissue of Mary Daly’s classic Gyn/Ecology: The Metaethics of Radical Feminism:

"In 1975 also my Lesbian Life-Time took on a New dimension. Complex and tumultuous from the start, my experience of ecstatic connectedness at this Time made it possible for me to Spin Gyn/Ecology so that it flourished in ways that previous books had not. No doubt, had there not been such a Be-Dazzling connection I would have written a book during that time, but it would, I am sure, have been less alive and daring than Gyn/Ecology became, as it Unfolded into its own shape of be-ing. It was in the rich, ecstatic Aura (O-Zone) of my connectedness with Denise that my writing flowed and sparkled, deep into the Hag-Time of night and early morning. In the Time before sunrise the landscape/seascape/skyscape of this book opened up to me, as I was Heard into the right words by the Sparking and Spinning of that Boon Companion who arrived in Tidal Time."

With its hackneyed images and its portentous but pointless use of random capitalization and hyphenation, this passage is (ironically) among the more well-written and comprehensible in the book. But what does it mean? The answer is simple: Nothing. Nothing at all. It is gibberish, designed not to communicate information or to transform the reader but to bedazzle and bamboozle those dim enough to fall for it.

... Such jargon seems to fulfill three purposes in academe. It allows the peddlers of the banal, the obvious, and often the downright incorrect to hide their superficiality beneath an illusion of depth and learning. In this sense, it is a kind of pseudo-intellectual confidence trick that scams time and money out of students who know no better.

But it also has more sinister implications. It fosters cults of personality, whereby the guru recruits those willing to learn the lingo into his own little army of followers. Education becomes an exercise in cloning, rather than thinking.

Finally, and most sinister of all, by constructing a wall of gnostic nonsense, jargon precludes any criticism from those outside the guild of True Believers ....

... Years ago, while I was on faculty at the University of Nottingham, a colleague and I used to play a game with the students. We would give them a quiz consisting of paragraphs drawn from great theologians and philosophers, which they had to attribute. In every quiz we included one paragraph of complete gibberish, which we had made up ourselves over a pint of beer in the faculty club. Words such as “alterity,” “the Other,” and “subjectification” abounded, along with nouns used as verbs and a plethora of hyphenated neologisms and random capitalizations. The students never failed to attempt some kind of attribution (Paul Tillich, I think, was usually the most popular) and to profess admiration for the depth of thought and insight contained in the paragraph.

There is a lesson there. Perhaps the dumbest man in the room is not the man who cannot understand gibberish, but the man who cannot see gibberish for what it is. And perhaps the most dangerous people on campus are those who understand this human weakness and take full, cynical advantage of it. (emphasis is mine)

*******

It's easy to bamboozle people with obscure meaningless jargon, seeking to impress them with your knowledge and elite status. The video at the top is a great example.

On the other hand, it's far more challenging to communicate simply and concisely on a level the recipient can easily grasp. The teaching of Jesus is masterful in both simplicity and concise content. It's somewhat astonishing that the omnipotent God - who could have easily fried our comprehension - instead elucidates His teaching to a level that the common person can comprehend. In so doing, He infuriated the learned religious scholars of the day who prided themselves on being the gatekeepers of religious knowledge.

As our culture spins out of control, the politicians, media pundits, educators, business leaders and self-proclaimed "experts" mask their incompetence, ignorance and sometimes deceit behind a bulwark of verbal and written nonsense. Like the hucksters of yesteryear, they scam the culture with the 21st century version of snake-oil. But we can take refuge in the practical wisdom freely offered to all by a mercful and gracious God. In so doing, we effectively shield ourselves from the deceitful nonsense of the age.

Truly,
  • the dumbest person is the one who cannot see gibberish for what it is,
  • the dangerous person is the one who understands this weakness and uses it to control others,
  • the wise person is the one who recognizes and ignores the nonsense.
The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel:
To know wisdom and instruction,
    to understand words of insight,
to receive instruction in wise dealing,
    in righteousness, justice, and equity;
to give prudence to the simple,
    knowledge and discretion to the youth—
Let the wise hear and increase in learning,
    and the one who understands obtain guidance,
to understand a proverb and a saying,
    the words of the wise and their riddles.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;
    fools despise wisdom and instruction.
(Prov 1:1-7, ESV))

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