Wednesday, July 14, 2010

“Veritas” Means “Правда”

Правда (pravda) is the Russian word for "truth." Pravda was also the name of the official newspaper of the Soviet Communist Party from 1918 until the party was shut down in 1991 by Russian President Boris Yeltsin. Throughout the Soviet era, Pravda was where official policy and policy changes were announced to the world. What the Party spoke, Pravda printed.

When I was in high school in the early 1980’s, I read an essay by science fiction writer and (mostly) Libertarian political theorist (with firm anti-Communist sentiments) Robert A. Heinlein, an essay titled ”Pravda” Means “Truth”. The essay was written in the 1960’s, at the height of the Cold War, and recounted incident after incident where the Party line, as reported in Pravda, failed to entirely match reality.

Focusing on the 1960 U-2 spy plane incident, Mr. Heinlein wrote:
On May Day, 1960, a United States U-2 reconnaissance plane made some type of unplanned landing in the Soviet Union. This much is both "truth" and "pravda." Beyond this bare fact, "truth" and "pravda" diverge widely.
* * *

Khrushchev could keep quiet, in which case there was little chance that the Free World news services would ever learn about it, and no chance that the Russian people would ever find out. Our Central Intelligence Agency would know that a reconnaissance plane was missing, but it would not have advertised a top secret.

Khrushchev could refurbish the incident, give it a new paint job and peddle it as propaganda.

Or Khrushchev could tell the simple truth. This alternative is mentioned simply to keep the record technically complete, as the simple truth is a tactic not contemplated under Marxism-Leninism doctrines. Here we have the essential distinction between truth and pravda.

Truth, to the West, consists of all the facts without distortion.

Pravda is that which serves the World Communist Revolution. Pravda can be a mixture of fact and falsehood, or a flat-footed, brassbound, outright lie. In rare cases and by sheer coincidence, pravda may happen to match the facts. I do not actually know of such a case but it seems statistically likely that such matching must have taken place a few times in the past 43 years.

* * *

Apparently Khrushchev and his cohorts encountered much trouble in deciding just what the pravda should be about the U-2. They spent almost a week making up their minds. I was in Moscow at the time and there was no indication of any sort that anything unusual had happened on May 1. Russians continued to treat us American visitors with their customary almost saccharine politeness and the daily paper (I hesitate to call it a newspaper) known as Pravda hinted not of U-2's. This situation continued for several days thereafter.
* * *

As of Thursday morning, May 5, the pravda was still that nothing had happened.

Thursday afternoon the climate abruptly changed. Khrushchev's cohorts had at last decided on a pravda; to wit: an American military plane had attempted to cross the border of the Soviet Union. Soviet rocket fire had shot it down from an altitude of 60,000 feet as soon as it had crossed the border.

Heinlein, who’s degree in engineering came from the United States Naval Academy, pointed out that the Soviet version of the U-2 spy plane incident could not possibly have been factual. He based this on his knowledge of what happens when high flying, fast moving, aircraft are shot down. If the Soviet story of shooting down a U2 flying at operational speed and altitude was true, then there would have been little pieces of U-2 all over the country side and not the large pieces of wreckage that the Soviets displayed at the pilot’s show trial. [On May 1, 2010, the 50th anniversary of the event, the Times published this article, CIA documents show US never believed Gary Powers was shot down, which supports Mr. Heinlein's assertions.]

I couldn’t help thinking about Heinlein's essay as I reflected on the name of Norman Geisler’s seminary, Veritas Evangelical Seminary. After all, “veritas” means “truth,” just like “pravda,” means “truth.”

You see, Dr Geisler has assembled and posted on his website a collection of statements in defense of Ergun Caner; statements from Dr. Geisler himself as well as a select group of “Noted Christian Leaders.” It seems that Dr. Geisler and his cohorts have, at last, decided on a pravda…er…”veritas” regarding the Ergun Caner situation; to wit: Dr. Caner’s “self-contradictory” “factual statements” were not at all intended to mislead anyone and he has apologized for his unintentional misstatements and only extreme Calvinists, who hate him with unreasoning passion because of his strong anti-Calvinist stance, and Muslims, who hate him because he turned his back on Allah, are refusing to accept that Caner has been found to have done nothing morally wrong, and has apologized… anyway… even though he did nothing morally wrong…

It is noteworthy that all of the “Noted Christian Leaders” whose support Dr. Geisler relays have close personal and professional ties to Ergun Caner and/or Norman Geisler. Like the Soviets who determined the “pravda” of the U-2 incident, these “Noted Christian Leaders” have a vested interest in the “veritas” they proclaim:
  • Emir Caner is, of course, Ergun Caner’s brother, and, while he hasn’t been as visible, or as vocal, as Ergun has been, their careers are closely tied; they’ve co-authored books together and have often spoken at the same conferences and events. With the knowledge of Ergun Caner’s 9-year-long pattern of dishonesty comes the knowledge that Emir Caner has been complicit in his brother’s embellishments

  • John Ankerberg has had Ergun & Emir Caner on his television show repeatedly, and has co-authored at least one book with Emir Caner

  • Norman Geisler is co-founder and provost of Veritas Evangelical Seminary where Ergun Caner is an adjunct professor, and Ergun Caner is often a featured speaker at Dr. Geisler’s Veritas conferences

  • Joseph Holden is co-founder and president of Veritas Evangelical Seminary, where Ergun Caner is an adjunct professor

  • Paige Patterson has long served as a mentor to both Ergun and Emir Caner and has been instrumental in promoting their rise in Baptist circles

  • Kregel Publications publishes several of Ergun Caner’s books and has no desire to see one of their authors discredited

  • Ron Rhodes also teaches at Veritas Evangelical Seminary and speaks at Veritas conferences with Norman Geisler and Ergun Caner
Again, it must be noted that none of these “Noted Christian Leaders” deals directly or indirectly with the mountain of documentation that evidences Dr. Caner’s pattern of untruthfulness.

This lack of meaningful interaction with documented evidence seems to be nothing new with Dr. Geisler. In the 2nd edition of Chosen But Free, Dr. Geisler included a "response" to James White's The Potter’s Freedom. Dr. White writes concerning this review:
I find it next to impossible to believe that Dr. Geisler actually wrote the entirety of this review. In fact, I am convinced he wrote almost none of it. Why? Because this review not only ignores the vast majority of the book it is allegedly responding to, but much more, the author(s) of this review either lacks the capacity, or the integrity, to deal with the material before him or her in an honest, contextual fashion. (White, The Potter's Freedom, 347-348)

Now, having read Dr. Geisler’s defense of Ergun Caner, and seeing that same lack of “capacity, or... integrity, to deal with the material … in an honest, contextual fashion” that Dr. White alluded to, I’m thinking that Dr. White may have been in error about who really wrote the review of The Potter’s Freedom in the 2nd edition of Dr. Geisler’s book. I believe that Geisler may have just written it himself after all.

It seems to me that Dr. Geisler has been playing the "veritas" vs. "truth" game for a long time.

Update: It looks like Dr. White has been revisiting his conclusions regarding the authorship of the review of The Potter's Freedom in Dr. Geisler's book; "Dr. Geisler's behavior in [the Ergun Caner] matter is beginning to weaken my resolve on that issue," he wrote on July 2.

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[Heinlein's essay "Pravda" Means "Truth" is contained in Expanded Universe available from Baen Books]