In my last post I discussed the situation in Maryland in which a GOP politician reversed his position on the issue of homosexual marriage in a way that “lends credence to the charge that the position he took… was the result of bigoted ignorance….” As I wrote in a WND article about Herman Cain, when voters anoint someone to represent their political views his incompetent defense of those views can make them “the easy target of ridicule and caricature. With him as their representative, Americans who claim his as their spokesman will be more easily dismissed as thoughtless and incoherent. …they will be more easily held up to contempt as people whose views derive from ignorant prejudice and passion.”
Sadly, I think that Senator Rick Santorum’s awkward reaction to the tempest of anti-Christian bigotry stirred by his reported remarks on Satan’s enmity toward the United States makes him another case in point. One such report said that “He’s not apologizing for the remarks, but doesn’t want to talk about the speech anymore, either.” Another has him “calling the report a joke” and saying that “If they want to dig up old speeches of me talking to religious groups, they can go ahead and do so, but I’m going to stay on message and I’m going to talk about things that Americans want to talk about which is creating jobs, making our country more secure, and yeah, taking on the forces around this world who want to do harm to America, and you bet I will take them on.” Yet another quotes him reassuringly promising people that “I’ll defend everything I’ll say”, which seems rather a poor substitute for just offering the defense he promises.
If accurate, these reports convey a combination of bluster and shamefacedness that makes the word “awkward” seem a bit too diplomatic. They leave the impression of someone anxious to prove the sincerity of his beliefs, but unable or unwilling to articulate the reasoning that justifies them, especially in the political context. Of course, some people may take the view that, because Santorum’s remarks reflect his religious beliefs, no reasonable explanation is needed or even possible. They accept the notion that religion involves an irrational “leap of faith” that defies reasonable articulation.
But the example of the Christ, whom Santorum professes to follow, does not authorize him to take this way out. In scripture, Christ and his disciples continually make good and persuasive use of reason in their dealings with people who do not (or do not yet) trust in God as they do. Christ reasons with his critics on the very subject of Satan:
24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. 26 And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end. 27 But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house. (Mark 3:24-27)
The prohibition against self-contradiction, on which Jesus relies in this passage, is the bedrock foundation of reasoning. In a different way Christ relies upon it again in his famous response to those who seek to ensnare him on the issue of taxes (Matthew 22.15-22) St. Paul was also skilled in speaking in reasonable terms about the truth in Christ Jesus, as he did to the men of Athens when he suggested the true significance of their recognition of “the unknown God.” (Acts 17:23) saying “Yet he is actually not far from each one of us,for “‘In him we live and move and have our being;…’”
A rational thinker as renowned as Immanuel Kant thought it reasonable, by exploring the limits of purely human understanding, to preserve a basis for moral reasoning that secures the salutary effects (especially in the political sphere) of acknowledging this Being of beings, beyond the limits of our self-conscious knowledge, which we must nonetheless assume in order to exist, no matter what conviction we hold with respect to its reality.
In a way the inevitability of this acknowledgement is evident even in the “scientific” theory that most adamantly insists on pretending that it rejects the premise of an intrinsic, intelligent, and superintendent being for the world as we know it. In his book The Signature in the Cell (Chapter 1) former geophysicist and college professor Dr. Stephen C. Meyer notes that, despite their dogmatic adherence to the theory of evolution, “modern biologists can scarcely describe living organisms without resorting to language that seems to imply the very thing they implicitly deny: intentional and purposive design.”
When Ronald Reagan called what was then the Soviet Union the “focus of evil” in the modern world his words evoked the image of a superintendent intelligence, gathering the forces of evil in the world to achieve a destructive effect, as when light passes through a lens in order to ignite a flame. As depicted in the Scripture, Satan represents that superintendent intelligence with respect to evil, inferior to the intelligence that informs the whole of creation, but superior to that of any merely human being. Evolution minded biologists use language that assumes the existence of such intelligence as they try to understand the mechanisms of life. In similar fashion, the Scripture assumes its existence in relation to the activities that foment life-destroying wickedness. What would lead people to defame those who follow the Scriptural usage as irrational while regarding the scientists as archetypes of rationality? Could it be anti-Christian bigotry? After all, of the two groups, the followers of Scripture appear to be the more consistently rational. An understanding of evil that personifies the involvement of intelligent design is consistent with their acknowledgment of the Creator, and of beings in creation (like Satan or mankind) with a capacity for intelligent agency that, according to their respective natures, can apprehend the meaning of its design. The language of the evolutionary biologists instead testifies against their dogmatic rejection of the concept of intelligent design. Perhaps there is something they could learn from Christ about the absurdity of self-contradiction.
All this goes to show that allusions to Satan’s malice toward the United States are no more irrational than a scientist’s allusions to the purpose of a dinosaur’s back fins. And if someone objects that no one has ever laid eyes on Satan, except for the relics (of evil) ascribed to him, someone else will answer that exactly the same can be said of the fossil remains of the stegosaurus. The assumed existence of the stegosaurus provides a rubric for organizing and assembling physical evidence in a way that may contribute to better human understanding of the whole that evidence may represent. Similarly in the context of political and social action the assumed existence of Satan provides a rubric for identifying the activities of evil and organizing them into a synoptic view that may contribute to better strategic thinking about how to understand and wholly defeat the destruction they portend. The biologist cannot directly observe living things now long extinct. The statesman cannot directly observe events that are yet to be. But inferences from available evidence, based on the assumption that a purposive intelligence is at work, may serve a useful purpose to the one as to the other.
Given this rational exposition of the logic and practical usefulness of adopting the Scripture’s conceptual insight into the operation of evil, Senator Santorum’s references to Satan are no more “nutty” or disturbing than a scientist’s references to dinosaurs or the “Big Bang.” Both are used to organize and explicate evidence of things unseen. Human history suggests that the idea of Satan is far more immediately useful in dealing with human affairs than speculative theories about the origins of the universe are in advancing real scientific knowledge. (America’s leaders did a far better job of dealing with malevolent forces in the world before the ascendancy of an elite class that considers it “nutty” and “irrational” to apply Christian insights to the affairs of state. Before godless elitists made God an obscenity, the American people rose to undeniable preeminence in world affairs. Now we are barely preserving our sovereignty over, and even within the borders of, the United States.)
[Check back tomorrow for Part 2]