Islam & Western Civ.

[COMMENT: The following is from "The Journal", a Summit Ministries Publication.  Available at

Dinesh D'Souza, whom David Noebel quotes at length, came from Eastern Europe and has become an avid advocate of American democracy.  I wrote him some years ago asking why he did not put God at the center of his thought.  He wrote back that he agreed, but has not, to my knowledge, expressed that in his writings. 

I insert comments below [in brackets].   E. Fox]


From The President's Desk -- Dr. David Noebel:

There is no doubt that Islam is at war with Western Civilization, a civilization steeped in Christian values, morality, art, etc., but now not so sure it wants anything to do with God, Christ or the Bible. It seems we have abandoned the very foundation stones that made Western Civilization one of the greatest in all human history.

Anyway, in the following article, Dinesh D’Souza takes up one point of the discussion that will be increasingly prominent well into this century—freedom and virtue. His article appeared in The Washington Times, July 4, 2004.

"Behind the physical attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon was an intellectual attack—not just on American foreign policy but also on the central principle of American life, the principle of freedom.

"So far, the United States has responded with effective military action against the al Qaeda network, but it has not effectively answered the Islamic critique of America at its deepest level.

[Absolutely true.  America is dead in the water intellectually and apologetically.  We do not know how to explain our faith reasonably.  The recent presidential debates illustrated that graphically.]

"Usually Americans seek to defend their society by appealing to its shared principles. Thus, they say America is a free or a prosperous society, or is diverse and pluralistic, or a place where religious differences are tolerated, or a nation where women have the same rights as men. The most intelligent Islamic critics admit all this but dismiss it as worthless triviality.

"A leading theoretician of Islamic fundamentalism is Egyptian writer Sayyid Qutb. Qutb is called ‘the brains behind bin Laden.’ Mr. Qutb and other Islamic radicals argue the West is a society based on freedom while the Islamic world is based on virtue. 

[See below on two meanings of 'freedom'.]

"In his books, Mr. Qutb says: Look at how badly freedom is often used in the West. Look at the pervasive materialism, the crime rates, the breakdown of the family, the pervasive vulgarity and debasement of the popular culture. Our society may be poor, Mr. Qutb and other Islamic activists say, but we try to carry out God’s will. Mr. Qutb argues Islamic laws are based on divine law, and God’s law is necessarily higher than any human law. The Islamic radicals contend virtue is ultimately a higher principle than freedom.

[If one considers so-called "liberal democracy" as the essence of Western Civ., Qutb is correct.  The law of God is precisely that which gives order to human freedom.  But it is also precisely that law which "liberal democracy" rejects -- leading to the moral chaos to which the Muslims rightly point.  Christians, almost to a man, do not know how to defend their Biblical foundations in the face of secular liberal democracy.]

"We are tempted to dismiss the Islamic critique as based on irrational hatred or envy, but we shouldn’t. Indeed the Islamic critique as exemplified by Mr. Qutb is quite similar to the critique that the classical philosophers, including Plato and Aristotle, made of freedom. The classical thinker would have agreed with Mr. Qutb that virtue, not freedom, is the ultimate goal of a good society. And in saying this, they would be quite right. How, then, can the Islamic argument against America be answered on its own terms?

"Let us concede that, in a free society, freedom often will be used badly. The Islamic critics have a point when they deplore our high crime and illegitimacy rates and the triviality and vulgarity of our popular culture. Freedom, by definition, includes freedom to do good or evil, to act nobly or basely. Thus we should not be surprised there is considerable vice, license and vulgarity in a free society. Given the warp of humanity, freedom simply expresses human flaws and weaknesses.

[D'Sousa is wrong here.  Freedom has two meanings -- the ability to do something and the moral right to do something.  God has given us the ability to sin, but not the right to sin (which would be a logical contradiction).  Freedom will be used badly in any fallen human society.  But in a Godly society, the people willingly submit their freedom to the law of God -- as the American founding fathers supposed we would do.  Godly people choose  to submit their wills to God, i.e., to follow their reason for existence. 

"But if freedom brings out the worst in people, it also brings out the best. The millions of Americans who live decent, praise-worthy lives deserve our highest admiration because they have opted for the good when the good is not the only option. Even amidst the temptations a rich and free society offers, they have remained on the straight path. Their virtue has special luster because it is freely chosen.

[Freedom does not "bring out" anything.  It simply allows for the either/or with respect to God -- symbolized by the two trees in the Garden of Eden.  We have a choice to obey God or to rebel.  But God commands the right choice.  

"The free society does not guarantee virtue, any more than it guarantees happiness. But it allows pursuit of both, a pursuit rendered all the more meaningful and profound as success is not guaranteed and must be won through personal striving.

[The truly free society makes laws on the basis of the law of God, i.e., on the basis of the purposes of God for our existence as a nation.  Freedom in a "liberal democracy" is the freedom to do as one wishes (as per the Casey decision, and the principles underlying abortion and accepting sexual promiscuity. 

Freedom under God is the freedom to pursue truth, righteousness, and love.  It is not the freedom to violate any of those.  A society has to decide where to draw the line between moral imperative and legal enforcement.  Some things that are morally commanded should not be legally enforced -- such as being polite, or loving attitudes.  We leave those to public opinion and persuasion, not to coercive force.  We thus have an "ordered freedom", ordered by the will of God, not the freedom to do as we wish.] 

"By contrast, the authoritarian society Islamic fundamentalists advocate undermines the possibility of virtue. If virtue is insufficient in free societies, it is almost nonexistent in Islamic societies because coerced virtues are not virtues at all. 

[D'Sousa does not understand the difference between authority and authoritarianism.  Every legitimate law has authority to coerce something.  That is quite different from authoritarianism which violates the line between the category of morality and the narrower category of legality -- which is a subset of morality.  All laws should be moral, but not all morality should be legally enforced.]

"Consider the woman required to wear a veil. There is no modesty in this, because the woman is compelled. Compulsion cannot produce virtue, but only produces the outward semblance of virtue.

[That is partly true, but does not show how coercion should (or should not) be employed.  All governments use coercion.  That is what government is for -- to bring the use of coercive force under the moral law, i.e., the law of God.]   

"Indeed, once the reins of coercion are released, as they were for the terrorists who lived in the United States, the worst impulses of human nature break loose. Sure enough, the deeply religious terrorists spent their last days in gambling dens, bars and strip clubs, sampling the licentious lifestyle they were about to strike out against. In this respect, they were like the Spartans, who—Plutarch tells us—were abstemious in public but privately coveted wealth and luxury. In theocracies such as Iran, the absence of freedom signals the absence of virtue.

[This is a straw horse, and does not answer the Islamic moral challenges to the West.  The only way to answer Islam is with a superior theology, not with liberal (secular) democracy.  And that means with Biblical theology.]

" ‘To make us love our country,’ Edmund Burke once wrote, ‘our country ought to be lovely.’

[Burke was wrong here.  Love is not something we can be "made" to do.  It is always a free choice.   We might be made to "like" something, appreciate it, by its beauty, but love works even with the ugly and unlikeable.]

A reflective patriotism in America is based on understanding that the free society is not simply more prosperous, more varied and more tolerant: It is also morally superior to the Islamic society. The greatness of America is that it gives us the freedom to live both the good life and the life that is good."

[D'Sousa's final point is inconsistent, and not established by his previous argument.  He will end up in a moral muddle, which is right where our post-modern nonsense has got us.  America can be morally superior to Islam only if it is under the law of the real God, not by being a secular "liberal democracy".  We must be a democratic republic under God -- as our Declaration of Independence and Constitution meant us to be.  The underlying issues are theological, not economic or political.  They are about who is worshipping the true God.  So Western Christians had better get on their knees and to their studies to find out how to make the case for the God they worship -- right out loud, in public, in front of  God and everybody.] 

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