THE REWRITING OF HISTORY--REVISIONISM
The historical foundations of Christianity have been under fire for at least two centuries. The central figures in the sustained attack are Kant’s perspectivalism and Hume’s critique of miracle accounts. By the 19th century two intellectual perspectives controlled all gnostic research. They were positivism (true knowledge was available only by scientific procedures) and historicism (all knowledge was not only history specific but history bound, i.e., radical contextualization or historical epistemological relativism).
Crucial consequences of the 19th-20th century developments of the nature of science, positivism, and historicism have devastating implications in our postmodern maze. The essence of postmodernism is the denial of True Truth in mathematics, science and all the social perimeters of our postmodern world. One of the most devastating consequences of these developments is The Killing of History. Up to the 19th century historiographical revolution, one of the most powerful apologetic tools within the Christian domain was the only world faith system that was grounded in history. After the “murder of history” this asset became a deficit. The Judaeo-Christian faith stands or falls on the defensibility of the Incarnation, the Crucifixion (the cross atonement for our sins) and the Resurrection (vs. annihilationism and reincarnationism in monistic pantheism). One of the results derives from Freudian reduction of faith to neurosis. (Bachelard School opposed the Positivism of German Machian School).
Our journey toward the Funeral of History entails our awareness of (1) Designer concepts, the ascension of cultural studies and the deluge of social theory; (2) the omnipotence of signs, Semiotics; (3) Structuralism and Ethno history in the Pacific; (4) Poststructuralism, deconstructionism; (5) Michel Foucault’s Post structuralism and anti-Humanism; (6) the fall of Communism from post-history to postmodernism; (7) history as a social science: Relativism, Hermeneutics and Induction; (8) History as literature: Fiction, Poetics and Criticism and (9) The Return of Tribalism: Cultural Relativism, Structuralism and Michel Foucault’s The Order of Things.
In the preface of this crucial postmodern maze, Foucault describes a passage from a certain Chinese encyclopedia that he claims breaks up all the ordered surfaces of our thoughts. By “our” thoughts, he means Western thought in the modern era. The encyclopedia divides animals into the following categories: (1) belonging to the Emperor, (2) embalmed, (3) tame, (4) sucking pigs, (4) sirens, (5) fabulous, (6) stray dogs, (7) included in the present classifications: (a) frenzied, (b) innumerable, (c) drawn with a very fine camel hair brush, (d) et cetera, (e) having just broken the water pitcher, (f) that from a long way off looks like flies.” Foucault writes that, thanks to the “wonderment of this taxonomy” we can apprehend only “the exotic charm of another system of thought” but also, “the limitation of our own.” What the taxonomy our form of classification reveals, says Foucault, is that there would appear to be that at the other extremity of the earth we inhabit a culture. . .that does not describe the multiplicity of existing things into any of the categories that make it possible for us to name, speak and think.” (Michel Foucault, The Order of Things (NY: Vintage Books, 1994), p. xii)
The Chinese taxonomy does not simply represent an earlier mistaken view of how to classify animals, which Western thought has since improved upon. Rather, Foucault says, the stark impossibility of our thinking demonstrates the existence of an entirely different system of rationality (e.g. my essay, “Worldviews and Legitimization Structures”). The postmodern debate in anthropology is exposed in Marshall Sahlin’s citation of Foucault in the debate over writing Hawaiian history. In 1992 Obeyesekere had denied the thesis of Sahlin that the natives of Hawaii in 1779 had regarded Captain James Cook as their returned god Lono. In 1995 Sahlin responded to Obeyesekere in his book How Natives Think, he was captive of Western concepts of man who cannot think outside this form of rationality and who imagines that Western thought constitutes the universal mind of humanity. Sahlin argues, “It must mean that ‘objectivity’ itself is a variable social value.” (Marshall Sahlin, How Natives Think About Captain Cook for Example (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995), pp. 185, 163). Obeyesekere’s suggestion that there is some kind of “practical rationality” or basic psychology that all people share because of their humanity is a mistaken attempt to universalize what Sahlin dismisses as common sense bourgeois realism. He says that “one cannot do good history nor even contemporary history, without regard for ideas, actions and ontologies that are not and never were our own; different cultures, different rationalities.” (M. Sahlin, How Natives Think, p. 14)
The essence of postmodern historiography is that other cultures have such dramatically different conceptual schemes that the traditional assumptions of Western historiography are inadequate for the task of understanding them. Postmodernism maintains that Foucault and disciples are the sources of genuine enlightenment because they have lifted the veil of Western arrogance from our eyes, allowing us to see that Western thought is but one form among many. Other cultures have their own rationality and their own legitimacy that we should respect in their own right. We must note that Foucault’s scheme has never been used to classify animals, even in the Chinese encyclopedia.
The Chinese encyclopedia provides no tools for scientific classification of animals (see my section on Chinese science in my paper “The History of Scientific Paradigms From East to Western Positivism Toward Non Linear Chaos Physics.” Of course, every culture provides a legitimization scheme for the explanation of its daily behaviour, but do these alternative worldviews provide predictive capability, i.e., produce new knowledge, which Western science alone can do?) The very nature of The Gospel and Missions and Evangelism are at stake in this controversy!!!
Rather than a scientific classification, the Chinese taxonomy is little more than a superficial “common sense” perception at a very limited level of observation. Asian and African scientists trained in modern post physics, botany, etc., have a different perspective than that proposed by “Western Rationality.” The Chinese taxonomy is fictitious. But postmodern thinkers believe that the distinction between fact and fiction is arbitrary anyway. Foucault clearly employs Jorge Luis Borges, an Argentinean short story writer and poet, to set forth his postmodern denial of a distinction between fact and fiction. Is Western classification nothing more than arbitrary products of our own time and space?
The postmodern death of truth and history are evidence of the degeneration of “objective standards” of argument in the postmodern academy. Different taxonomies do not demonstrate different rationalities. Neither Foucault nor Sahlin’s views of the power of taxonomies are adequate for evaluating the scientific taxonomies of America’s Heart Foundation or Cancer Research Institute Report. According to Foucault, Sahlin, et al, the power of alternative taxonomies should be able to demonstrate the mentality of a radically different culture. If animals or plants do not reproduce with each other they do not constitute a species. This is a taxonomy that exists in nature and did so years before the emergence of Western science; indeed, it would still have existed even if human beings had never appeared to discover it. The central issue is--does science create or decode reality? Kantian perspectivalism has reached full influence in postmodern culture, killing True Truth and History.
STRUCTURALISM AND THE POSTMODERN DEATH OF TRUTH AND HISTORY
Marshall Sahlin insists that different cultures house radically different rationalities. Sahlin’s critique of Obeyesekere’s book, Apotheosis of Captain Cook (Princeton University Press, 1992), esp. p. 124) is crucial in our postmodern death of history. This debate has been publicized in New York Review and Times Literary Supplement. This postmodern debate is the best in anthropology since Derek Freeman demolished Margaret Meade in the early 1980’s. The heart of this debate is that different cultures have different rationalities.
How could one committed to epistemological and cultural relativism read a culture of “the others” in its own terms? The broad theoretical framework within which Sahlin operates is derived from the French structuralist Claude Levi Strauss, who proposed that tribal native mentalities are hooked within the cultures that determine their cosmos or worldview. The new historicism has arrived with full power in our postmodern culture. The American anthropologist Clifford Geertz states: “There are at least four factors involved in the debate: (1) Hawaiian concept of gods - there is no distinction between natural and supernatural in any of the Polynesian religions. All Polynesian religions are pantheistic and polytheistic (e.g. Cook as a god and chief); (2) The timing of Hawaiian festivals is another crucial factor in the dispute; (3) The death of Cook: the politics of the Makahiki “was all about the aggressive seizure of Lono’s gifts by the warrior chief; (4) Structuralism and the true Heterology of the Other. This debate is crucial for more than Cook’s voyages and ancient Hawaii; it is over a struggle over social theory and methodology. The ultimate issue centers on the presupposed “difference in the rationality” of the other. In order to understand another culture it revises its own logic. This issue raises the point of “accidental specification,” that is, Western logic cannot make sense of them. Sahlin’s attempt to produce a “true heterology of the other” combines ethnology with structuralist theory. Thus he attempts to avoid attempting to impose “our” rationality on their culture (Sahlin, How Natives Think, p. 118). Does this combination of culturally relative ethnography and evolutionary structuralism count as a true heterology of the other? Each of these concepts are products of the Western bourgeois culture. If we seek to fuse cultural “incongruities” and apparent “illogicalities” it is a self-contradiction to claim to study a non-Western culture in its own terms if the conceptual framework employed is entirely Western in origin. We must make emphatically clear that all Western concepts are not limited to Western culture. Mathematics, physics, chemistry, metallurgy, botany, astronomy, linguistics, etc., are cross-cultural, i.e., not context bound but can be context specific. Western scientific methodology is not bound by culture, but is rather a universal scientific method.
Structuralism, on the other hand, is neither a “true heterology” nor a value free methodology. Instead it is an ideology in the same way that Marxism is an ideology. All ideologies are a form of linguistic idealism. Structuralism imposes the primacy of culture in the way that Marxism believes the basis of society is the means of production. Structuralism diminishes the force of economics, politics, Christianity in history to the same extent that Marxism diminishes the force of religion, art and ideas. Structuralism assumes a consensus social model; that culture is relatively stable and not inherently dominated with internal contradictions. If there is no True Truth what would constitute a contradiction except within a given language game? There could be no universal contradiction. Marxism assumes a conflict model; that the inevitable contest between social classes is the dynamic of history. In postmodernist jargon, both Structuralism and Marxism “decenter the subject” - they reduce or omit the impact of the individual on history. Everyone of these concepts were Western in origin and from the perspective of “the other,” i.e., Hawaiians, makes no sense at all, in spite of the fact that both Hawaiian and postmodern cultures express resurgent monistic pantheism (see my paper “Hermeneutics and Structuralism: Truth and Meaning).
CULTURAL RELATIVISM AND RESURGENT TRIBALISM
Michel Foucault’s argument that Western sciences have no universal validity, but are merely expressions of those in authority within Western culture, has been enormously influential (see my paper, “Pluralism Beyond Mere Diversity”). It complemented the relativist conclusion about science drawn by Thomas Kuhn and Paul Feyerbend. It supported the aims of those anthropologists who in the 1970’s and 1980’s were seeking to establish the rational legitimacy of the native cultures they were studying. From three different directions thus emerged an intellectual impetus that has persuaded many people in the humanities and social sciences of the efficacy of cultural relativism.
Postmodern epistemologists (e.g. Quine, Rorty, Bernstein, et.al.) who accept cultural relativism argue that Western ways of knowing do not deserve any privileged status (note how the procedure identifies the West with Christianity and Science; neither possess a universal rationality and therefore evangelism and missions are politically incorrect, offensive and absurd!! The very essence that in Jesus--no other name--is the ground of worldwide missions). Western epistemologists should be judged as simply different from, not superior to, those of other cultures. The claim that Western science has found the path to objectivity is nothing but a cultural conceit. The French structuralist, Claude Levi Strauss, has observed, “Every civilization tends to overestimate the objectivity of its thought and this tendency is never absent.” Citing the remark, Marshall Sahlin goes on to argue that the very perceptions upon which Western scientific empiricism is based is not based on themselves because they could never be free of cultural conditioning. Sahlin’s claims that, while all human beings share the same biological mechanisms of perception, people from different cultures actually see things in different ways because their experience, including the training of their senses, is organized “according to social canons of relevance.” Sahlin argues that “people who are perceiving to same objects are not necessarily perceiving the same kinds of things. . .and conversely, people may agree about what certain images are while perceiving them in entirely different ways, as happens to the red-green color blind. (Sahling, How Natives Think, p. 155) (However, if there is no physics of color what would color blind mean? We must never identify “objectivity” and “culture legitimization” structures or paradigms!)
According to this view, the human body is born with a built in capacity for learning but no ‘hard wired’ perception behavior or social disposition of any kind. Sahlin advocates that biological or evolutionary patterning of human behavior is mistaken (e.g. Language Acquisition). If this thesis is correct it is a strong contribution to the Christian worldview. In short, culture determines our being and since cultures vary, there can be no such thing as a common human perception, a common human nature on what Obeyesekere calls a common human “practical rationality.” Cultural relativists reject the notion that Western ideas provide greater insights than those of other cultures. Yet, the empiricist epistemology that provided the methodology for Western science from the 17th to the 20th centuries is now said to have reached its course. According to Foucault, it is being replaced by a new discursive formation drawn from hermeneutics and Nietzschean philosophy (which is also Western). So cultural relativism regards what is usually called “Western knowledge” as an intellectual phenomenon with strict limitations in terms of both geographic space and historic time. This epistemological maze dominates media and Outcome Based Education, Goals 2000, Multicultural Pluralism in our postmodern culture.
Cultural relativism’s attitude both to morals and to politics is similar to its views on epistemology (see my bibliography on Relativism and Contextualization). There cannot be universals in either. Many non-western moral practices are abhorrent to Christians in both the West and the East. Cultural relativism holds that we should recognize such feelings as the product of our own cultural confines. We have no right either to judge or to act, as the Spaniards of the 16th century did against the practices of such other cultures. The political perspective of cultural relativism regards each culture as free to pursue its own ends within its own traditions of rationalities. Western concepts such as democracy, free speech and human rights are not universal principles but merely the products of special times and places--the Enlightenment of 18th century Europe and Its Western successors which should not be imposed on other times and places. Hence, Foucault, a citizen of republic, democratic France, found no inconsistency in publically endorsing the bloody and authoritarian religious state of the Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran.
The late Ernest Gellner pointed out the basic logical flaws in cultural relativism. In his book, Postmodernism, Reason and Religion, Gellner shared that relativists are saddled with two irresolvable dilemmas. They endorse as legitimate other cultures that do not return the compliment. Some other cultures, of which one of the best known is Islam, will have no truck with relativism of any kind. The devotees are totally confident of the universality of their own beliefs, which derive from the dictates of God, an absolute authority who is external to the world and its cultures. They regard a position such as postmodern cultural relativism as profoundly mistaken and, moreover, debasing. Relativism devalues their faith because it reduces it to merely one of many equally valid systems of meaning. So, entailed within cultural relativism is, first, an endorsement of absolutisms that deny it and, second, a demeaning attitude to cultures it claims to respect (Ernest Gellner, Postmodernism, Reason and Religion (London: Routledge, 1992), p. 74). The very existence of the discipline of anthropology itself provides another kind of dilemma. If all meaning systems are culture and linguistically bound there could be no common human perception or underlying human nature, their meaning systems would be forever beyond our grasp. We could study their external behavior but could never pretend to what the German philosophic tradition calls Verstehen, that is the ability to think ourselves into their mentalities. Yet Verstehen is precisely what Sahlin, et.al., are claiming to offer when they explain the meaning of the religious ceremonies and symbols of other cultures (see my paper “Critique on Freud’s Epistemology”--note Freudian influence in postmodern culture). In a powerful critique of the relativism of what they call the ‘standard of social science model,’ the evolutionary psychologists, John Tooley and Ledu Cosnides, have argued “that without the evidence of a universal human ‘metaculture’ it would be impossible for us to understand the meaning of other cultures, the best refutation of cultural relativism, they argue, is the activity of anthropologists themselves, who could not understand our lives within other human groups unless the inhabitants of those groups shared assumption that were, in fact, similar to those of the ethnographers.” (J. Tooley and Ledu Cosnides, “The Psychological Foundation of Culture,” in J.H. Barkow, The Adopted Mind: Evolutionary Psychology and The Generation of Culture, L. Cosnides and J. Tooley, eds. (NY: Oxford University, 1992), p. 92); this same thesis is affirmed in the linguistic works of Eugene Nida and Kenneth Pike, who have intentionally constructed a Christian view of language acquisition.)
This truism is clearly asserted in Sahlin’s own work on ancient Hawaii. Both the Hawaiian and the English had similar political and religious hierarchies, the separation of Church and State. These cultural factors are apparent in ritual ceremonies, festivals, temples, icons, warriors and warfare. Sahlin’s accumulation of ethnological evidence refuted the relativism he wants to impose upon it. The acknowledge superiority of Western technical methods can no longer be taken to extend to nontechnical areas such as religion, culture or politics. Other cultures are thus freed from Western intellectual hegemony and can maintain their own received cultural dynamics--this is a rational position as long as their receptions of Western science/technology does not contradict their cultural hermeneutics.
In our postmodern culture many post colonial people argue for a revival of cultural autonomy. This concern has resulted in rewriting of history in history and social science textbooks. School authorities in Berkeley, CA have attempted to ban history and social science textbooks that assert that Native Americans come from Asia towards the end of the ice age. These origins, confirmed by generations of archaeologists, anthropologists, and pre-historians, run counter to the myths of the native Americans themselves (see esp. Paul R. Gross and Norman Levitt, Higher Superstition: The Academic Left and Its Quarrels With Science (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994), pp. 247-48).
Robert Sykes, a Harvard Ph.D. and black activist, argues that while scholars claim that the Aborigines arrived in Australia by way of the Indonesian Archipelago is a myth that is contracted by Australian Aborigines’ “own mythology.” (“History Without Morality” Sydney Morning Herald, 14 April 1995), p. 10A) Sykes is arguing that Aboriginal myth has the same status as, and can be used to refute the claims of, Western science. The Aborigines believe that they are originated from “the spirit creator of this land.” This position entails a rejection of the supremacy of Western scientific worldview. Western scientists and social scientists clash directly with indigenous belief in a “racist” way. (Debra Jopson, “Racism or Just Arrogance” Sydney Morning Star, 10 April 1995), p. H).
One of the canonical texts of the cultural relativism movement is by the literary critic Edward Said. He claims that Western imperialism, racism, and oppression of the Easterner was not because of mistaken policies or authoritarian regimes. Rather, it was rooted in the Western Enlightenment’s self-aggrandizing delusion that it had the key to a universally valid knowledge. (Edward Said, Orientalism, first edition 1978, Penguin Hammondworth, 1985). One of these delusions in the writing of the history of Colonialism has been the imposition of what the French postmodernist thinker, Jean Francois Lyotard calls, and “meta-narrative.” By this he means historical accounts that claim to see meaning of events beyond those apparent to the view of the participant. Edward Said argues that the meta-narrative arises out of the perspective provided by imperialists. Said’s critique of the boy hero of Rudyard Kipling’s novel, Kim, “is able to see all India from the vantage point of controlled observation.” This was never a perspective adopted by the people of India themselves, Said says, but was part of the ‘microphysics’ of power through which the British controlled India (Edward Said, Culture and Imperialism (London: Vintage, 1993), pp. 162-169).
Both Said and Lyotard reject the attempts by Western historiography to see beyond the judgments of the indigenous people who became the subject of the European imperial powers in the 18th and 19th centuries. The views of Said, Lyotard, Foucault are common in countries of North America and the Pacific where the indigenous inhabitants were conquered by the Europeans in this period. These postmodern influences on the rewriting of history from a native perspective are rampant in the history departments of academia.
Anne Salmond’s 1991 prize-winning work on history and anthropology, Two Worlds: First Meeting Between Maori and Europeans, 1512-1772, argues that if history is to be faithful to events that involve protagonists from different societies it cannot fairly interpret from one point of view. She wants to give Maori opinions of the meaning of their contact with Dutch and English explorers the same status as these of the European visitors. She reduces the records of both to the level of the stories that each people told themselves about the contacts. The stories of the Maori were simply puzzling, extraordinary interludes in the life of various tribal communities. For the Europeans, the same encounters “were simply episodes in the story of Europe’s discovery of the world--more voyages to add to the great collections of voyages that had already been made.” (Anne Salmond, Two Worlds (Viking Press, 1994, pp. 11,12)
Salmond treats both sides of this story as equally interpretable texts. Neither account is shown to be more truthful or penetrating than the other. She has adopted her approach primarily from findings of European philosophers--Heidegger, Foucault, Ricoeur, Gadamer, Habermas, Hesse, Derrida, Eco, et al (Salmond, Two Worlds, p. 436). Is it not odd that Salmond derived her hermeneutical relativism from postmodern epistemologists without any critical response to the thought patterns of her received Gnostic gurus? Maori cannibalism that sought to exterminate all large land animals, birds, human flesh contained a major source of protein in the Maori diet (e.g. resurgent postmodern tribalism). Salmond compared Maori cannibalism with the bloody warfare between the States, the violent uprisings and revolutions of the period and the cruelty practiced towards criminals. Salmond attempts to portray the Maori perspective by replacing one European methodology--empirical historiography--with another--relativists hermeneutics--turns out to be nothing but a futile exercise in political correctness, an attempt to write a euphemistic version of history that offends nobody’s racial sensitivity at the expense of telling what really happened.
Cultural relativism began as an intellectual critique of Western thought but has now become an influential justification for one of postmodernism’s most potent political forces. This is nothing but resurgent tribalism (see esp. Keith Windschuttle’s work, The Death of History (MacBay, 1996) in both thinking and politics. The demand by representatives of tribal cultures to have sole governance of their affairs is probably the most powerful cause of bloodshed in our global village. It has produced the charnel house politics of Northern Ireland, Sri Lanka, the Sudan, Central Africa, the Middle East, the Balkans, USA delegation on Affirmative Action.
Postmodernism and cultural relativism are complicite in this, both in their insistence on the integrity of all tribal cultures, what practices or values they perpetuate, and in their denunciation of all imperial cultures. In his book, Culture and Imperialism, Edward Said even takes to task the Marxist literary critic Raymond Williams for the “massive absence” in his work of any condemnation of English imperialism imposed upon William’s Welsh ancestors (Said, Culture and Imperialism, p. 77). Windschuttle brilliantly responds to William’s criticism by taking note of his own Welsh background and the positive features precipitated when English imperialism freed his Welsh ancestors.
Cultural relativism should simply mirror racist ideology that accompanied and justified Western imperialism in the Colonial era. Once it was the West that imagined that it brought civilization to the pagan; today it is tribal cultures that are reversed as humane and imperial cultures that are condemned as brutish. This is clearly the great inversion. What is the relationship between self-determinism that appears mostly legitimate, such as those by the people of East Timor against the military annexation by Indonesia, and the barbaric kind of tribalism that committed some of the worst atrocities of recent history (e.g. African tribal conflicts). How can one define some tribal demands, such as those made by Armenians against the Turks or Kurds against Iraqis, as proper attempts to restore land expropriated only two generations ago, while recognizing other ancestral disputes, such as that between Greek and Macedonia based on who occupied territory more than 2000 years ago over an ethnic identity of Alexander the Great--as political absurdities? All imperialism is not caused by Euro-American greed to control the world’s wealth and land. Imperialism has appeared in the cultural guise of English, French, American, Russian, Chinese, Ottoman Kahmer or Mongul. Is there any difference between benign imperialism and ruthless oppression?
Cultural relativism is no help to any of these global crises. All relativists can do is either take sides according to ethnic preference or assent that each side has its own legitimate point of view--a position guaranteed to earn contempt from all concerned. Only values of universal significance, i.e., internationally accepted universal values are those based in “eternal natural law” on the Judaeo-Christian moral foundation. But these values were all born within Western civilization!! Only a historical determinist could deny the power of “universal human rights” because man was created in the image of God!! The only option is the inoperable ethical natural law of Greece and Rome. Hence relativists draw the conclusion that cultural diversity will return to regain its place as the natural condition of humanity. This hope is the foundation of the multicultural political movements of our postmodern global village.
Unfortunately, the historical data does not support the thesis. For over 10,000 years, indigenous cultures on every continent have been subject to a process of change that has varied from merger and absorption into other cultures to complete obligatio by a conquering power. Every culture that exists today has been subject to either violent or peaceful amalgamation and absorption of earlier smaller communities. The process is just as true whether in New Guinea or the multicultural societies of North America. Without this cultural progress man would still be living in small, family-based clans that constituted a hunter-gatherer society. Peter Munz is clearly correct in asserting, “all inheritors of cultures have been forged out of a long process of suppression and absorption of the cultures that arose before them.” (Peter Munz, “The Two Worlds of Anne Salmond” New Zealand Journal of History (University of Auckland, 28, 1 April 1994), pp. 74-75). Any cultural merger entails accommodation to ancestry or genealogy--any exclusive dimensions which rules out the inclusion of all cultural dynamics of the other side.
The return to relativistic tribalism would mean a revival of cultural diversity which might have some value from an aesthetic point of view but which would also have its down side. A revival of cultural exclusivism would mean a return to differentiating between human beings on the basis of genealogical bloodlines, i.e., or racial lines. The 20th century provides extensive data against establishment of societies based on bloodline is a sure road to catastrophe. Cultures based in religion can always accommodate while cultures based on race cannot by their very nature.
It is a great irony that the cultural relativist and the multicultural movements gain their support from European descendants who want to avoid derogatory attitudes toward the people and cultures of other races. This tolerant mode derives from the West, not the East. Classical Liberalism decries that “all men are created equal” but naturalistic evolution is hardly the perspective from which to make sense of this declaration. Only the Judaeo-Christian faith in a creator God who created men in His own image can make sense out of this Enlightenment Liberal declaration. Empirically, we are not all, either individually or culturally, created equal. Only a nominalist would ask--equal to what? Must we expand Western thought in order to expand Western imperialism? This would entail throwing the baby out with the bath water! Despite the claims of cultural relativists there is one overwhelmingly powerful technological, economical, military and administrative thought system--that all societies have had to make their peace with it and adopt it--Scientific Technology!!!
Ernest Gellner has argued no matter how politically incorrect it might be to say it today, that there is but one genuinely valid style of knowledge and that the mainstream of the Western scientific tradition has captured it. Another politically incorrect claim is that Science qua Science had its origins within the cultural context of the Judaeo-Christian faith (see my paper, “The History of Scientific Paradigms: From the Greeks to Our Postmodern Revisionist, Anti Science, Multicultural Pluralism”).
The epistemological grounds for the empirical methods of science contain some contentious assertions--Gellner acknowledges an agreement is lacking even among those philosophers who completely endorse the procedures themselves. But this does not constitute a good reason to doubt the efficacy of the methodology. Western science has triumphed all other cognitive styles when judged by the pragmatic criterion of technological efficacy. In other words, Western knowledge works, and none of the others do with remotely the same effectiveness (Ernest Gellner, Postmodernism, Reason and Religion (London: Routledge, 1992), pp. 61-62). Only after the Death of History by the postmodern rewriting of history can it be rationally denied that science qua science had its origin in Western Christian civilization. Its worldview alone can justify True Truth and moral fibre to unify individuals and cultures. All counter factual data against this claim results from distortion of the Biblical promises of God!! Many of the justified criticism of institutional Christianity derives from the Church assimilation, both modern autonomous reason and postmodern, cultural dynamics, i.e., denial of True Truth and the personal/social relevance of that Truth! Cultural accommodation has always been a “grave digger” of the Church. Our postmodern multicultural pluralism is no exception (see especially Richard H. Bube, Patterns for Relating Science and The Christian Faith (University Press, 1995) and my two papers, “Alternative Paradigms of Christian Response to Science” and “Beyond Mere Diversity”).
In asserting the absolutism and non-relativism of the Western scientific method, Gellner says this status is quite separate from any question about the ranking of the inhabitants of Western societies. It has nothing whatever to do with racism, or any glorification of one segment of humanity over another. It is a style of knowledge and its implementation, or any category of personnel that is being singled out that style of knowledge did, of course, have to emerge somewhere and at some time, and to this extent it certainly has links with a particular tradition or culture--Western Christian culture! It endorses no single nation, culture or race. The debate still rages concerning which conditions surrounding its origin were accidental and irrelevant. Gellner observes that the first nation to be both scientific and industrial, Great Britain, is not at present at the top of the first industrial division and in recent years has been struggling in the relegation zone (Gellner, Postmodernism, Reason and Religion, p. 61). Western science is cross culturally available!
The same is true of history. The attempt by cultural relativism and postmodernism to eliminate the meta narrative from history, that is, to eliminate the narrative of what really happened irrespective of whether the participants were aware of it or not, would deprive us all, no matter what culture we inhabit, of genuine knowledge of our past. This attempt is not only a theoretical delusion but is politically inept. The esteem of indigenous cultures, cultural relativism, will never serve the real interests of indigenous peoples if it denies them access and to reassert that the best method for gaining this access is through the tools refined by the discipline of history. Just as Western science is open to everyone, the Western historical method is available to the people of any culture to understand their past and their relations with other people. It is by facing the truth of both our separate and common histories that we can best learn to live with one another.
Two crucial challenges to the Christian faith in our multicultural pluralism is (1) What is the nature of the scientific enterprise, and (2) How is the developed methodology of science related to the understanding of our multicultural global village? Nothing less than evangelism and missions are at stake!
Dr. James Strauss
Lincoln Christian Seminary
Lincoln, IL 62656-2111