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Linker Embraces His Apostasy

To be a critic is to embrace apostasy as a way of life. It is to upset settled opinions and challenge unquestioned beliefs. It is to set out on one’s own, to think without limits, accepting truth, in all of its complexity, as one’s only measure. A critic need not be an atheist, but he cannot be an traditionalist or orthodox believer. In anything. ~Damon Linker

Actually, to be a critic is to embrace the possibility of having to be a dissident and going into opposition against those in positions of power, authority and influence.  It is not a mentality that necessarily must reject all authorities or all orthodoxies–the best critics may be the most faithful, most orthodox and most traditional, because they have some ground on which to stand besides their own tiny personal experience.  There is no possibility of criticism without some standard by which to judge, and the accumulated wisdom of traditions and the boundaries of orthodoxy provide a wealth of understanding against which one can judge the merits and flaws of ideas.  But in the end being a critic, while worthy in certain respects, has only limited value.  To define yourself even by your dissidence, much less your apostasy, is to live a life that is not fully human, as man truly becomes who he is only in koinonia and not in separation and autonomy.  Someone who celebrates his apostasy is rather like a madman who enjoys his insanity.   

It is nonsense to talk about thinking “without limits”–there is no such thing, for starters.  There are limits to human comprehension and human thought–thinking “without limits” is to pretend to be able to think as God can.  Taking “truth” as your only measure must contradict this kind of thinking “without limits” in any case, since truth is itself a limit and a restriction on what an honest man can and should think and imposes limitations on everything you do and say.  There is no real virtue in upsetting settled opinions unless those opinions have absolutely no merit, which is rarely the case–this is merely to be a bomb-thrower and a crank, which is neither ultimately very interesting nor does it make any contribution to anything.  Sometimes beliefs are unquestioned for very good reasons (i.e., because they are true, and certainly because they are deeply meaningful to people) and questioning them sometimes violence to the truth.  When I see someone celebrating his own apostasy and making it into some kind of virtue, I feel sorry for him and wonder what it is that Neuhaus et al. could have done to drive him screaming into the outer darkness.  People like this make an idol out of doubt, and they relish uncertainty.  But the Lord did not say that doubt–which is, in any case, a mark of the Fall–would set us free, but the Truth.  What is so attractive about the chains of doubt that Linker would embrace them so tightly?

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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