Joseph S. Fulda
Joseph Fulda is a freelance writer living in New York City. He is the author of Eight Steps Towards Libertarianism.
Among the many quiet tasks academicians are called on to perform is the evaluation of the work of others, as editors, referees, and reviewers. Thus it was no surprise when a book proposal submitted to a publisher of classical liberal work landed on my desk for analysis and evaluation. The proposed book was a revisionist history, arguing that David and Solomon were "cruel tyrants" and that the wayward kings that followed were liberal heroes, allowing religious pluralism, political freedom, and a measure of individual liberty.
Now an objective reading of the Old Testament supports such views, but I was quick to recommend that the publisher decline to support the proposed work, because objectivity can be an ignis fatuus, a will-o'-the-wisp that leads one away from truth rather than towards truth. To be objective is to be neutral, to start with no premises and take reason wherever it may lead. But one does not wish to take the Bible as just another text to be reasoned from, but as a sacred text, embodying great truths. The exquisite soul who wrote Psalms and the finely touch'd spirit who authored Ecclesiastes were, we are told, great men, among the greatest ever, while the kings who followed were by and large a sorry lot of sinners. And, the argument advanced by the revisionist historian -- that history, including Biblical history, was written by the victors -- denies any special claim to truth for the sacred books of the Bible.
In the absence of prior knowledge, the scientific method, all neutrality and objectivity, is the surest way to the least error. But if one accepts revealed truth, as I do, then objectivity may lure us astray. The revisionist historian regarded idolatry and the worship of the one true God as moral equivalents; hence the regimes that allowed either superior. But to believers, the regimes of ancient Israel were not republics but theocratic monarchies, and the pluralism of which the author spoke so highly was the plural of the true and the false, the one and the many.
Too often, modern believers have been overly occupied with showing that an objective analysis of the Universe is a revelation of God. But what if it is not? What if the objective reasoning of Richard Dawkins' The Blind Watchmaker makes a better case? No matter, for our beliefs are a priori and we recognize that objectivity is but an imperfect means to the realization of the truth. The Bible is a better means, surely. We must have faith, not because reason demands it, but regardless of reason. That, after all, is what makes faith faith. *
"The more corrupt the state, the more numerous the laws." --Tacitus
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