Tag Archives: Nazism

Enlightenment Philosophers: You are Worse than Hitler!

JK Gayle and I had a discussion via our blogs over the differences between the Enlightenment and “postmodernity.”

But at least I do not use logical fallacies such as Reductio Ad Hitlerum when I criticize philosophers and thinkers of the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries. Even some postmodern theologians, while claiming to try to escape boundaries and binaries, seem to have a problem with making this era the worst among all of eras, with individualism, organization, and liberalism as Roland noted. The postmodern (more like anti-modern) sound narrow-minded  and polemical in the approach, behaving more like Red Eye’s Greg Gutfield, who from time to time, accuses jokingly, that those who disagree with him, are well, worse than Hitler.

For example, take the “postmodern” case for missions given by the late David Bosch in Transforming Mission.  Postmodern theologians pride themselves in criticisms of the Enlightenment, making sure that they expose every blind-spot that Enlightenment philosophers such as Hobbes, Locke, and Machiavelli.  In fact, I will argue that when it comes to descriptions of the history of the Enlightenment and modernity, postmodern theologians, whether they come from liberal Protestantism or the Radical Orthodoxy movement, commit the logical fallacy of Reductio ad hitlerum when telling the histories of Europe and the Enlightenment.  To commit a Reductio ad Hitlerum fallacy is to resort to comparing an opponent, a group of people, or an idea to German National Socialism.  One can see this in arguments that group feminists as “feminazis” or labels conservatives as “fascists.”  Being compared Adolf Hitler, deemed the worst criminal of the twentieth century by some, and maybe even in the history of the world, has become really an ad hominem attack, and therefore otherizing persons with whom you disagree with.  David J. Bosch’s rendering of the history of the Enlightenment amounts to little more than a Reductio ad hitlerum.  According to Bosch’s telling of history, modernity means a rejection of the supernatural, the marginalization of the divine, and the centering of the human (267).  Political theories ended with “Auschwitz, Hiroshima, and the Gulag Archipelago” during the time of modernity (266).

The question we must ask ourselves, “Is there a direct correlation between modernity and oppressive governmental structures?”  There is only a direct correlation, I would argue, if one wants to demonize the Enlightenment and its philosophers.  It is rather a disturbing trend that I am beginning to see.  In order to promote one missiological paradigm, Bosch finds it necessary to dismiss all too easily modernity, while having much respect for pre-modern ideas.  The Christian struggle with Enlightenment ideas continues; one thing remains certain however: we can never go back.

Truth and Peace,