Welcome to Varied Expressions of Worship

Welcome to Varied Expressions of Worship

This blog will be written from an orthodox Christian point of view. There may be some topic that is out of bounds, but at present I don't know what it will be. Politics is a part of life. Theology and philosophy are disciplines that we all participate in even if we don't think so. The Bible has a lot to say about economics. How about self defense? Is war ethical? Think of all the things that someone tells you we should not touch and let's give it a try. Everything that is a part of life should be an expression of worship.

Keep it courteous and be kind to those less blessed than you, but by all means don't worry about agreeing. We learn more when we get backed into a corner.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Opus 2011-6, Book Review: A Conflict of Visions

There are certain questions that keep bouncing around in my head.  One of them is “How can people who seem to be so intelligent, disagree with me?”  I know many people who seem to have at least average intelligence, are well meaning and informed and yet they can’t seem to understand the simplest cause and effect.  As a believer I have come to some conclusions and I expressed them in another post.  The problem is lack of wisdom.  But that is based on Biblical reasoning.  It would not convince anyone who does not accept the Bible.

Thomas Sowell answers this question from a purely secular point of view.  He calls it A Conflict of Visions.  I have now read this book twice and I hope to live long enough to get back to it before I die.  Even more impressive, I have purchased two copies.

Sowell suggests that there are two major divisions of thought in modern history, the constrained vision and the unconstrained vision.  He traces the thought from the 1700's to the present and gives examples of the thinking of the names we know from Adam Smith to Harold Laski.  He brings everything back to these two visions.

The constrained vision is a belief that man must be constrained.  Men are fallible and need a social system that makes allowance for that.  At the same time this vision believes that people should be free to make choices without coercion.  Thus the Founders established a Constitution with checks and balances.  They were concerned about the tyranny of one Caesar and also the tyranny of the majority.

The unconstrained vision has a belief that man will do what is right because it is right.  If he does not, it is because society has kept him from being truly free.  They admit that most people do not measure up yet, so they believe that they need to be led by those who are intellectually superior.  This small group is to make decisions for their less fortunate fellow citizens.  That way they are free to choose, but only among choices that are good for them.  He explains how the French Revolution was led by people that had this vision so it was open for the take-over by a small group of strong personalities.

Take the issue of the courts and how they reach decisions.
“The clash over judicial activism reflect a much more general clash over the best way to contribute to the social good.  In the unconstrained vision, wise and conscientious individuals should strive to shape the best outcomes in particular issues that come within their jurisdiction.  In the constrained vision, the inherent limitations of individuals mean that each individual’s best contribution to society is to adhere to the special duties of its institutional role, and let the systemic processes determine outcomes.” , p. 56
Both sides want to do good.  They view the law totally different.

Or take a current hot topic, social justice.
“The concept of social justice thus represents the extremes of the conflict of visions – an idea of the highest importance in one vision and beneath contempt in the other.”  p. 215
I will leave it up to you to figure out which is which.

This book explains why people can look at the same facts and come to opposite conclusions.  Sowell makes a genuine effort to be even handed.  This is not a hit piece but a thoughtful analysis.

Buy a copy and read it.

Sowell, Thomas, A Conflict of Visions, New York:  Basic Books, 2007.

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Comments are welcome. Feel free to agree or disagree but keep it clean, courteous and short. I heard some shorthand on a podcast: TLDR, Too long, didn't read.