Christianity and Western Culture vs the “Fact-Check” Cowards

It seems to me that the whole “fact check” industry is just a front for “I’m afraid to face ideas that run counter to my own thinking”. Fact checkers seem to be simple ideologues who all quote from the same ideological sources. It’s a big echo chamber. And it’s cowardly.

That’s precisely the opposite of why universities (for example) rose up in the first place. Universities were hotbeds of ideas in the middle ages.

I don’t remember the exact citation, but I was surprised to hear that Carl Trueman suggested (around the turn of the year 2000) that the most important “event” in the previous 1000 years was NOT the Reformation – rather, it was what he referred to as “the rise of the universities” in the middle ages.

It was here that all learning and systems of learning came together. It was here that the chain of events began that led to genuine understanding in virtually every field of knowledge.  

… early and high medieval scholasticism is marked by synthetic and systematic thought in all disciplines, the creation of general syllabuses including everything a student needed to know, organized in coherent form.

The goal of pedagogy [teaching] was now to train professional, full-time scholars with a substantive and methodological grasp of entire fields of knowledge, enabling them to push back frontiers [i.e., learn new things] and to defend their own positions against rival views.

Debate with other interpretations, articulated by proponents both living and dead, was expected to take place as a normal condition of intellectual labor.

In all fields, the expression of a range of competing views within the boundaries of acceptable teaching was seen as a natural outgrowth of scholarship and was regarded as invigorating and healthy, not threatening.

From Marcia L. Colish, “Medieval Foundations of the Western Intellectual Tradition: 400–1400”, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, ©1997 [Reprinted 1998], p. 265.

It is this systematization of every discipline (including theology, philosophy, and natural sciences) that led to the Protestant Reformation and also to the development and implementation of the scientific method.

Rodney Stark writes:

As the distinguished historian Edward Grant noted, “Within Western Christianity in the late Middle Ages … almost all professional theologians were also natural philosophers. The structure of medieval university education also made it likely that most theologians had early in their careers actually taught natural philosophy.”

… in the West, Grant explained, “natural philosophy could attract talented individuals who believed that they were free to present their opinions publicly on a host of problems that formed the basis of the discipline.”

It would be difficult to exaggerate the importance of the bond between theology and natural philosophy for the rise of Western civilization. As a result of this bond, the pursuit of knowledge about the natural world became central to the medieval university curriculum and led, ultimately, to the rise of Western science.

Stark, Rodney. How the West Won: The Neglected Story of the Triumph of Modernity (p. 183). Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ORD). Kindle Edition.

Not all cultures are alike. Western culture and civilization became what it is because Christianity enabled westerners to have the freedom to explore unknown avenues and to learn what those avenues could teach.

The “fact check” industry wants to shut off other roads. This doesn’t preclude the fact that some people will follow Marx or Q, but these also need to be subjected to questioning by “rival views”.

Above all, we need the kind of openness and honesty that a strong Christian faith will foster. The entire universe is God’s universe. “Fact-checking” as it is practiced today is simply a road back to the dark ages.