Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Diversity Without Unity: A [Post]Modern Myth

by Hiram R. Diaz III
Milk is Milk
Whereas philosophical modernism embraced the belief that there was one unifying conception of reality that could be grasped by philosophical reflection or scientific discovery, postmodernism vigorously rejected this belief and replaced it with radical pluralism. Ironically, postmodernism reduced any attempt to think categorically to a culturally relative power-grab. To think categorically, in other words, was to exercise control over “others” (i.e. those who do not meet the socio-cultural conditions requisite to being a member of one’s group), specifically by ignoring supposed irreducible differences between individuals or groups constituting the “others.” This resulted in the fragmentation of virtually all academic disciplines, rendering categorical headings such as “Philosophy” or “Religion” virtually meaningless. For if there is no unifying concept of what a “religion” is, then in what way can one say that Christianity and Islam, for instance, are both members of the universal category “Religion”? Does it not seem to follow, given the rejection of universals and universal categories, that there is not one concept of “Religion” which can apply to all supposed religions?
Though the postmodernist movement has died, its deleterious intellectual and sociological effects are still being felt, even in the field of apologetics. For instance, it is common to hear the assertion “Not all proponents of x believe that x is y,” an assertion that gives the appearance of charitability but is, ultimately, an empty phrase. If John is a proponent of x, and Joe is a proponent of x, then both are proponents of x. To be blunt — John’s x and Joe’s x are identical at some point. There is no irreducible difference between John’s x and Joe’s x; therefore, it is not merely allowable but necessary to assert that John and Joe, because they believe x share certain beliefs about x in common. So far, we have spoken only of two individuals believing x. However, the same is true of a group of innumerable persons who subscribe to x. The assertion that believers in x share some core of beliefs in common is a logical necessity that can only be denied upon pain of absurdity and self-contradiction.
Consider the following excerpt from Ro Waseem’s article “A Monolithic Islam? Forget About It!” Waseem writes —
We must realize that Islam is not a monolith, and that it’s impossible for nearly 2 billion Muslims to share the same interpretation of it. There is no “true” Islam, I would argue. Rather, what we have are Islams. At best, the “true” Islam, in my opinion, is relative to the person and is the interpretation that allows you to grow and evolve the most as a person, provided—a very important distinction to make–provided that the core of the Quran is not tempered with.[1]
Note that Waseem, on the one hand, denies that there is a “true” Islam, but on the other hand states that there are “Islams.” This is self-contradictory, since there can only be multiples of a particular idea or thing if there is an essential property or set of properties which set that idea or thing apart from all others. When one buys milk, for example, he goes to the milk freezer and finds many kinds of milk, all of which have some essential property or set of properties unique to milk. As much as postmodernist influenced thinkers hate to admit it: Milk is milk. It is self-contradictory to say that there is no true Islam, but there are many Islams, for there can only be many Islams if Islam has essential properties without which it would not exist (i.e. if there were as true Islam).
Waseem apparently knows this, moreover, seeing as he goes on to contradict himself explicitly when he says — 
At best, the “true” Islam, in my opinion, is relative to the person and is the interpretation that allows you to grow and evolve the most as a person, provided—a very important distinction to make–provided that the core of the Quran is not tempered [sic.] with.
On the one hand, Waseem states that “true” Islam is “relative to the person.” Yet on the other hand, he states that there is a core of the Quran that is not to be tampered with. The first assertion denies any objective standard for judging what is or is not Islam, the second affirms that there is an objective standard that cannot be tampered with. These are mutually exclusive beliefs. If one is true, the other is false. They cannot both be true at the same time and in the same sense.
The Fallacy of Equivocation
The only way in which one could possibly believe that there is and is not a true Islam is if one equivocates on his definition of the word “Islam.” On the one hand, “Islam” would be defined as “the Quranic core that may not be tampered with.” On the other hand, “Islam” would be defined as “the personal articulation (i.e. practice and development, either personally or communally) of the Quranic core that may not be tampered with.” Thus, there can be a true Islam, comprised of the Quranic core, and many Islams, comprised of personal articulations of the Quranic core, without there being a contradiction. Not identifying these two meanings of Islam, however, leads to self-contradiction and confusion, and it is typically a means of deceiving the unwary.
This is a common rhetorical trick used by heretics, cultists, and other enemies of Christ when they are presented with a general criticism of some doctrine x. By stating “Not all proponents of x believe the same thing,” the opponent of Christ is suspending all former and future criticisms against his position by not identifying his position at all. Given that people of even the closest associations often entertain widely differing beliefs about some reality they both hold to be the case, simply stating that “Not all proponents of x believe the same thing” is a trivial objection, for all of the proponents of x are in absolute agreement in the following ways —
  1. All proponents of x believe x to be the case.
  2. All proponents of x believe x has properties a, b, such that it would cease to be x without them.
And this is where the debate takes place —
  1. Is x the case?
  2. Is it the case that x has properties a, b, such that it would cease to be x without them?
For in order for there to be a class of individuals who may be said to be proponents of x, they must all affirm that x is the case, otherwise of what would they be proponents? And if x is anything, then it is something with essential properties apart from which it would cease to be itself — otherwise how would they differentiate x from all other beliefs?
More to the point, how could a criticism be leveled against x, if x has no fixed definition? It cannot be, and that is the point.
The way in which we may successfully deal with the trivial objection “Not all proponents of x believe the same thing” is by clearly articulating what it is our opponent is claiming. If it is his claim that no two proponents of x believe that x is the case and that it has properties a, b, & c such that if it lost them it would cease to be x, then it is not only the case that our criticisms of his belief do not hold, it is also necessarily the case that his counter criticisms also do not hold, for there would be no x to contend for or against. Moreover, if there are no two proponents of x who believe the same thing, then any appeals to another supposed defender of x’s research, argumentation, etc are irrelevant, for their research, argumentation, etc are put in defense not of x but of something else.
Concluding Remarks
If we are to clearly demonstrate that the enemies of Christ are espousing falsehoods and seeking to defend them by employing rhetorical tricks, we must seek to be precise in our analysis of their claims and argumentation. It is important to remember this, especially when facing those enemies of Christ who claim to be faithful to the Bible and Biblical exegesis (e.g. Unitarians, Oneness Pentecostals, Annihilationists, etc), for the inevitable claim that we are delving into “philosophy” will arise as a second order defense against serious scrutiny of their belief, and this is not the case. It is likewise important to remember because the enemies of Christ may, on the other hand, state that a criticism that does not differentiate between all of the different varieties of x proponents is uncharitable and not to be taken seriously. It is either the case that one can ask as many questions as is needed in order for one to be precise and, therefore, “charitable” in his analysis of the proponents of x; or it is not the case that one can do this, for so doing renders one’s arguments philosophical and, therefore, irrelevant.

[1]http://www.patheos.com/blogs/quranalyzeit/2014/06/13/a-monolithic-islam-forget-about-it/#hixmra185pCMv7sZ.99, Accessed February 08, 2018.