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Monday, April 30, 2007

Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church

A review of Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church (2005)
D.A. Carson
My Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

In Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church Carson seeks to “become conversant” with the emergent church. I first note that the title does not accurately reflect Carson’s tone and objectives. For example, it is hard to find any suggestions made by Carson for conversations and dialogue between mainline Evangelicals and those in the E/emerging/Emergent church. This is essentially Carson’s final word on the subject, not a book meant to stimulate further dialogue. Carson’s final charge is particularly revealing and a bit condescending as he speaks to the Emergent Church: “They need to spend more time in careful study of Scripture and theology than they are doing, even if that takes away some of the hours they have devoted to trying to understand the culture in which they find themselves.” (234)

In this book there is primarily one aspect on which Carson rests his case, and it has much less to do with Scripture or theology than it does with philosophy. Throughout the book it is abundantly clear that for Carson the issues of church/Scripture/theology/culture all come back to an epistemological issue. That is, for Carson the church must privilege knowledge. I am not suggesting that Carson discards experience or spirituality or emotional aspects of the faith. Rather, I am submitting that Carson privileges knowledge as first philosophy. For Carson it is right and correct epistemology that drives his theology and hermeneutic.

Carson begins by taking as a given that it is epistemology that is the distinction between modernity and postmodernity: “The majority view is that the fundamental issue in the move from modernism to postmodernism is epistemology…In my view it is this epistemological contrast between the modern and the postmodern that is most usefully explored, as it touches so many other things.” (27)

This is a fundamental point for Carson, and it is followed through for the remainder of the book. (crf. 27-33, 40-41, 57-58, 122-124, 188ff.) Most of what Carson does can be seen as a defense of privileging knowledge as the most foundational pursuit. This is most particularly the case when Carson speaks of truth. (“The discussion in this book could be recast as a debate between the claims of truth and the claims of experience.” 218) “Truth” on Carson’s development is always propositional and related to knowledge.

Carson’s treatment of Lindbeck’s Crusader example on page 144 is particularly revealing. The scenario is of a Crusader who is bashing in the skull of an infidel and crying out, “Christ is Lord.” Carson comments:

The statement “Christ is Lord” is in fact true, objectively true, insofar as it refers to the extra-textual realities: the (objective) Christ is Lord of the universe, its Maker and final Judge, regardless of whether he is confessed as such or not or, as in this instance, confessed as such while an action is being undertaken by the confessor that flies in the face of what it means truly and faithfully to confess Christ as Lord…The statement, in other words, is objectively true…” (144)

This example is very telling, for a few reasons. First, it reveals Carson’s bias towards propositional truth. For Carson the truth of the statement is found in the proposition, and this has nothing to do with the context in which it is uttered, or it furthermore has nothing to do with the person who is uttering it or their own existential relationship to truth. For Carson it is the truth of the proposition that we must be primarily concerned about. This is a theme that runs throughout the book. (See especially 218ff.)

Also note that Carson has no problem, whatsoever, in abstracting propositions from their context in the stream of life and evaluating them for their propositional truth content. But it is at this point that Carson tips his hand and reveals his failure to understand the contemporary culture. For the emerging culture, and for many in the postmodern world and church there is little interest or desire to abstract propositions from their context in life. That is, the proposition that the Crusader utters is not relevant if the life-style and spirit of that same Crusader is untruthful. I think this is a key point. Many, like Carson, from mainline Evangelicalism and conservative church backgrounds who do not understand the current culture seem to believe that “postmoderns” are all relativists, and this is the typical polemic leveled against the so-called postmodern culture. The first thing wrong with this is that there is no uniform “postmodern” movement. But more importantly, there are some in the culture that are simply looking for a truth that is more holistic and authentic. For many of a “postmodern” ilk there is nothing true about the Crusader. To rip his objectively true statement out of the context of his infidel-bashing just seems wrong. Yet Carson seems content to disconnect statements from the reality in which they are embedded.

Perhaps the propositional statement is true in a propositional sense, but why privilege “truth” as merely propositional? Can we not say that the Crusader’s actions were untrue? Or that the untruth in his soul and spirit denied Jesus Christ, who proclaimed himself to be the way, the truth, and the life? Furthermore, even if we grant the truth of the proposition uttered it is meaningless. It is meaningful for Carson and others who privilege the proposition, but this is simply not the case for the emerging culture.

This move by Carson is indicative of much of the popular, conservative Christian response to so-called postmodernism. Truth exclusively refers to propositional truth, and these propositions can be freely and liberally ripped from their context in life and examined for their “truth value” regardless of whether or not the person speaking the truth is hacking away at someone’s skull in a blood-thirsty rage. What this really goes to is that in this so-called postmodern era there has been a significant shift from epistemology to ontology. From knowing to being. I would suggest that the quest for true propositions has been replaced by a quest for an authentic life.

I believe that Carson is wrong about privileging epistemology. But keep in mind that this book is reactionary. It does not project a vision for reaching the emerging culture, and furthermore it is simply reacting to the mistakes of many in the E/emerging/Emergent movements who, themselves, seem to think that the postmodern turn is about epistemology! It is interesting that for all of the clamoring very few (if any) of the pop-Christian writers (on either side of this argument) seem to understand the nature of the philosophical and cultural shift from propositional knowledge to authentic being. It seems to be a rather obvious shift, and one that should deserve more attention.

For example, take Carson on page 219: “Truth and experience do not have exactly the same sort of footing. Truth itself, rightly understood, may correct experience, but not the other way around.” Carson’s statement is disturbing on many levels. Once again Carson only allows “truth” to be defined on propositional terms – truth as knowledge. But worse than this is that Carson dichotomizes and pits “truth” (propositional) over and against experience. I am at a loss to understand this move. Surely we may think we have possession of true propositions, but experience could certainly serve as a corrective. The Pharisees thought that they possessed many true propositions, but when they experientially confronted the physical embodiment of truth, Jesus Christ himself, they remained unmoved. (John 8) Carson has tried to cover for himself by saying that the truth “rightly understood” cannot be corrected by experience. But he is merely begging the question because as finite beings we must remain humble and open to experiences that might correct what we think are true propositions. We may think that we posses true propositions “rightly understood,” but it would seems na├»ve to suggest that we could collect a few true propositions and then close ourselves off to any corrections from the experiences of life. Is it not a basic trait of wisdom that one learns and gains insight from one’s experience? Yet for Carson it would seem that we could store up a warehouse of untouchable propositions that we take as true and then reject any corrections that our life experiences might offer.

But the real point is this: Why pit these two (propositions and experience) against each other? My own study of Scripture is that the human person is a whole being – a thinking, feeling, experiential being. And while knowledge might certainly serve as a corrective I do not think that the evidence of Scripture suggests that we should allow ourselves to give knowledge the pride of place that Carson gives it. Rather, I would suggest we do better to view ourselves more holistically as spiritual creatures who are connecting with God and others on multiple levels.

In Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church Carson does offer some helpful insights on issues related to the study of Scripture as well as the necessity of knowledge/epistemology. Yet it remains very difficult for me to get past the fact that he dichotomizes epistemology/ontology as well as propositions/experience and then proceeds to privilege epistemology, knowledge and propositions as the more sure thing for the life of faith. He takes this for granted and then proceeds to make his case against the E/emerging/Emergent church. But I submit that what he takes for granted is precisely the point of contention. In this generation and in especially in the current cultural context the church needs to more carefully consider the place of knowledge and the place of being. Too often pop-Christian books like Carson’s duck the primary issue and then spend the vast majority of pages working under a presumed assumption. This sells books, makes money for publishers, and gives us something to argue about, yet I fail to see how it advances the kingdom or cultivates a truly reflective Christian faith. Instead we become merely a reactionary church.

63 comments:

ktismatics said...

Good post, good idea for a series.

Does Carson discuss the Crusader's behavior at all? I'd expect him to condemn it as immoral, as an incorrect response to the propositional truth he just uttered. And I would expect him to say that truth should govern context and judge it, rather than the other way around. Certainly the Crusaders believed -- or said they believed -- that they were acting in accord with the truth. Their socio-historical context interpreted Christ's lordship as a militant triumphalism. This was the Church in historic continuity with Christ and the Apostles and Augustine and all the rest. In a postmodern hermeneutic how is the Crusader to be judged: according to the propositions as exegeted from Scripture for all time, or according to the hermeneutical context in conformity to which the Crusader acted?

Jonathan Erdman said...

ktismatics...Does Carson discuss the Crusader's behavior at all? I'd expect him to condemn it as immoral, as an incorrect response to the propositional truth he just uttered. And I would expect him to say that truth shouldgovern context and judge it, rather than the other way around.

Yes. Carson condemns the behavior. And, yes, for Carson the behavior was an incorrect response to the propositional truth - propositional truth should govern context and the behavior of one's context....As for me I don't separate the two....

Certainly the Crusaders believed -- or said they believed -- that they were acting in accord with the truth. Their socio-historical context interpreted Christ's lordship as a militant triumphalism. This was the Church in historic continuity with Christ and the Apostles and Augustine and all the rest. In a postmodern hermeneutic how is the Crusader to be judged: according to the propositions as exegeted from Scripture for all time, or according to the hermeneutical context in conformity to which the Crusader acted?

I think the hermeneutical question is discussed on both levels. One can and should argue about the exegesis of a proposition. Personally, I can't see how one can get past the propositions, nor do I think this is desirable. Contra the pure relativist I think we can and should argue over the truth value of the propositions. However, I think Carson's position just seems a bit naive to me because I believe that the context drives the proposition such that in some cases the proposition might be irrelevant.

To answer your question directly, I think it is the later: I believe the Crusader is judged primarily "according to the hermeneutical context in conformity to which the Crusader acted." However, most likely the Crusader is acting on propositions that he believes are true and that I believe are false, so I would argue the truth value of these propositions and statements. But also I think that the Crusader is untruth on a variety of levels, and contra Carson I believe that it may very well be that false propositions are the least of his worries.

The point I come back to for the emerging culture is that I think it is undesirable to reserve truth talk only on a propositional level or to assume that propositional truth should be priviledged over other forms of truth.

ktismatics said...

You say that you don't separate truth from context. If that was the interpretation of the proposition "Jesus is Lord" in that historical context, wasn't the crusader acting in conformance to the truth? But also I think that the Crusader is untruth on a variety of levels. Do you have access to a privileged interpretive context that supercedes the crusades? If so, what is its source? Is it another proposition that would condemn the crusader's behavior, or some sort of sensus divinitatis that trumps the crusader's sensus?

samlcarr said...

Ktismatics and Jon, can any proposition have meaning independently of what sense the person who is saying it makes of it and what sense the hearer/reader makes of it? propositions in a vacuum are surely not in any sense 'true' are they?

The sense that for the crusader "Jesus is Lord" includes bashing in a few skulls or even is made most true by the very bashing, makes the statement, as meant by the speaker, antithetical to 'the truth'.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Ktismatics and Jon, can any proposition have meaning independently of what sense the person who is saying it makes of it and what sense the hearer/reader makes of it? propositions in a vacuum are surely not in any sense 'true' are they?

While we are on the subject, if a tree falls in a forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound? If a proposition does not have anyone to interpret it, does it have a meaning?

A proposition without anyone to interpret it is, by definition, meaningless.

A proposition cannot exist without a context. In analytic philosophies the garden varieties of Deflationary truth theories would eliminate the middle man and say that the proposition just is the context. I think they have a point (although I personally prefer to stick with the propositions), because propositions are difficult to define and without context one has no proposition.

ktismatics said...

So my point again: in the hermeneutical context of the crusades, the crusader's statement "Jesus is Lord" was fully in keeping with the subsequent head-chopping. You reject the proposition because you reject the context in which it was stated. On what basis do you judge the context to be false, antithetical to the truth? A context that was supported by the Church at the time?

Jonathan Erdman said...

You say that you don't separate truth from context. If that was the interpretation of the proposition "Jesus is Lord" in that historical context, wasn't the crusader acting in conformance to the truth?

As a Christian Theist I point to a robust theory of Immanence to say that embedded in the historical context is the God of truth. Hence, the relation of the Crusader to truth would seem to depend on his relationship to God. This would involved the propositional aspect, the existential aspect, the ethical aspect, etc. The point is that there is another player. The Theos Player.

Do you have access to a privileged interpretive context that supercedes the crusades? If so, what is its source? Is it another proposition that would condemn the crusader's behavior, or some sort of sensus divinitatis that trumps the crusader's sensus?

Well, no. I only have my own context (or "horizon" to borrow Gadamer's lingo) from which to judge the Crusader. So, as much as I have strong thoughts/feelings about his context I am admittedly limited in my perspective. As mentioned above, however, the ultimate judge of a context is the Theos Player who is embedded within every context and every horizon.

ktismatics said...

And you have access to the interpretation of the Theos player, which lets you discern that the behavior of the crusader was false in all historical contexts and interpretive horizons? Access which the crusader either did not have or chose to ignore?

Jonathan Erdman said...

How, exactly, do you think I would have access to God's specific interpretation of a specific event, i.e. the Crusader? I admit that it might be nice to know, but as of yet God has not clued me in on what he thinks of the actions of crusaders and those who crushed skulls. I do my best to pass on an interpretation based on the info. I have in my own context. (I like to think I do a pretty good job, by the way, working with what I've got!)

And why must I comment on the truth/falsity of the Crusader's behavior in all historical contexts/interpretive horizons? The only context that really matters in the Crusader scenario is the Crusader's own context and his actions/attitudes/condition in relation to that context and in relation to God, himself.

samlcarr said...

So, the crusader's proposition is true for him but false for you? That's hardly propositional.

samlcarr said...

Incidentally, i had a chat with Carson about interpreting John's gospel way, way, back when he was an up and coming young theologian at TEDS. He was just as hard to talk sense to then as now...

Jonathan Erdman said...

Sam, You really had a talk with Carson back in the day??? Very interesting. In this book he kind of picks and chooses his "truth" passages, conveniently skating over the ones that I find most significant Carson's selective readings is something I didn't go into in my above review, but his pick-and-choose methodology is very interesting to me.

Sam - you're not listening to me! I never said such foolishness! It's bad enough that I had some very rich Sumatra coffee. The caffeine and your deliberate provocation has driven me over the edge! The only way to address this is to log off and see if Jack Bauer can save the world again tonight.

ktismatics said...

Jonathan -

I believe the Crusader is judged primarily "according to the hermeneutical context in conformity to which the Crusader acted." However, most likely the Crusader is acting on propositions that he believes are true and that I believe are false, so I would argue the truth value of these propositions and statements. But also I think that the Crusader is untruth on a variety of levels, and contra Carson I believe that it may very well be that false propositions are the least of his worries. The way I interpreted you here is that the crusader's inferences for right action in response to the proposition "Jesus is Lord" (JIL) could also be stated propositionally. You would then argue the truth vs. falsity of these corollary propositions, on which basis you would evaluate the truth or falsity of the crusader's actions. And it seems you have rendered judgment on the crusader. Perhaps you believe that the crusader holds an implicit corollary proposition -- JIL and therefore Jesus will crush the infidels through me -- and this corollary proposition is untrue. Or perhaps you believe that the crusader accepts an alternative corollary position -- JIL and therefore Jesus will love the infidels through me -- but that he doesn't act in accord with this true corollary, and therefore his actions are false.

And Sam, did you go to TEDS? That's where I went to school. I took two classes with Carson: coolly cordial, very precise, a good teacher. His secretary said he didn't have time to read my Genesis 1 book.

samlcarr said...

No, sorry to disappoint, I lived in Cincinnati and had come up to Chicago for a seminar and just decided to visit. I sat in on a couple of lectures and also dropped in on some of the lecturers in their tiny little cubicles and Carson was one of the unlucky ones.

yes he is a good lecturer and I remember him being very precise, though i recently watched a podcast of his on N.T. Wright and there the raw edges were really showing.

Sorry, getting way off Jon's post here, but the fact of the mater is that "Jesus is Lord" has meant an awful lot of mutually contradictory things to an awful lot of different people over the last 2 millenia, so let's not be too hard on crusaders nor on their counterparts who made it to paradise while crying out "in the name of Allah"

Ron U said...

Jonathan,
I amazed that you unashamedly used 300 or so propositions to declare that Carson's propositional defining of Truth is just one opinion. Could you share the other side-The non-propositional side of Truth?

Thanks,
Ron U

P.S. Could you refrain from using propositions when you answer my question? It would really help me understand/feel/experience the answer.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Hey Ron U,

Thanks for stopping by.

Please note that I have no problem with the use of propositions or propositional truth. We all utilize propositions to describe (as best we can) our interpretation of the world. At the very least, we must do this for the pragmatic value of propositional statements. As such, I have no problem with Carson using propositions or even in defending propositional truth.

My issue with Carson (as noted in one of the propositions listed above!) is that "'Truth' on Carson’s development is always propositional and related to knowledge." My view of truth is wider, such that truth includes propositional truth but also ethical and existential/spiritual truth.

In Aletheia and the Correspondence Theory of Truth I interact with propositional truth (via the Correspondence Theory) in relation to the Gospel of John and find that the Corr. Theory may be necessary, but is not sufficient for Truth.

In The Use of Aletheia in the Gospel of John I lay out a general plan for a more holistic view of truth that avoids the absurd conclusions of Moreland, Groothuis, Carson, and others who insist that the Correspondence Theory (or some form of propositional truth) is the only available "Christian" or "biblical" truth theory.

Thanks again for your thoughts.

Ron U said...

Jonathan, thanks for your gentle comments.
So often, these dialogues get a bit nasty, quickly. I vow not to get that way and besmear my Savior's witness and greatness.

Truth is best defined as "what is"-A true "hippo", that is, what a hippo truly is, in definition, in is the thing that is TRULY a hippo. So there is a real "hippo" and a "coffee cup" is not one. This is debated all over, but, to those who disagree, I say "with your hatred of objective meaning in words, defend your position without them."
They of course reply with a "well, that's silly." And I could reply, thanks man! -Silly means handsome, creative, and I'm a good husband" Who is silly if silly isn't really silly.

Now, who defines "hippo"?.
Right there I part ways (intentionally) with the subjective approach and proponents. Defining something presupposes an objective view of knowledge-It presupposes a Meaning Setter(one Who sets meaning).
Now I believe that the Christian God is the Meaning Setter; I make no apologies. Nor can I persuade someone by crafty arguments or wordsmithing to adopt my view.

Related, I also believe that no one can be persuaded that the Christian God is the Meaning Setter. That is, in my belief, except by The illuminating work of God The Holy Spirit.

So when one looks at the Johannine use of "aletheia", (John's epistles, as well)one would, i believe, benefit tremendously, if they view it as "what is". Now the repeated "what is" of John and I believe the whole NT is the I AM (the One Who is)
"Who is" is a Person, The I AM.
Now the "realm" or, as some say the horizon of the I AM is a realm of what truly is. The Matrix flashed into my mind while I type that.
Now what say ye, are we by nature, of the realm of the I AM? Do we "get" the I AM's realm? Can we experience it in a natural state? Can we perceived it in a default/natural state? If so, how? If not, why not?

Jonathan Erdman said...

Ron U said:
Defining something presupposes an objective view of knowledge-It presupposes a Meaning Setter(one Who sets meaning).
Now I believe that the Christian God is the Meaning Setter; I make no apologies. Nor can I persuade someone by crafty arguments or wordsmithing to adopt my view.

Related, I also believe that no one can be persuaded that the Christian God is the Meaning Setter. That is, in my belief, except by The illuminating work of God The Holy Spirit.


Ron, I have a couple of questions on what you have said here. You said that God is the ultimate Meaning Setter - an intriguing concept and phrase. My first question has to do with how this works out practically. For example, it happens all the time that different people define words differently. How would we define the word "table." We could, of course, start with a brute, scientific definition defining a table in terms of its elementary properties, its shape, etc. But what if we asked some "average" people? Some might say, "It's the thing you set your food on so that you can eat." Fair enough. That might be how I would define it if I were not thinking philosophically. (Incidentally, being a 29 year old bachelor I find little need for a formal table to set my food on, since I eat in the living room!) But what about a housewife who cares deeply about the togetherness of her family and their need for a wholesome meal each day and wholesome together time. For her the table is more than its elementary properties and more than a "place to set your food" - it holds the key to the well being of her family. It is around this table that she likely enjoys some of her happiest moments and times of joy. We might ask her to define the table and she may not have words to accurately express what the "table" means to her.

And there are yet more examples. What about a small child in that same home? For a small child a table may be a cool place to hide out under while he plays hide-and-seek. It is something more akin to a fort or a tree house. He can play under it and duck in and out between the legs of the table and chairs. What is "table" for that child?

And yet again there may be others who view the table with horror because it was the center of ridicule from an abusive father or mother. Others may see it as a symbol of the oppression of Western society. Who knows? There are countless ways to define "table." And that's my question for you. If we all have varying perceptions and definitions of "table," then is there a "correct" definition that God alone establishes? How does that fit in with your concept of God as Meaning Setter?

My next questions have to do with your reasoning for establishing God as a Meaning Seeker. For example, is this something that you have found is biblical? Or are there other reasons? I am sure you have reasons for your concept of God as Meaning Setter, so I guess I am just curious as to how you developed the idea. You mentioned the illumination of the Spirit. Did you come to your belief in God as a Meaning Setter by virtue of illumination?

Ron U ~Truth Transforms said...

Hi Jonathan,
In my belief, though we creatures (me, you, the bachelor, a housewife, a playing child, or the recipient of bitter abuse) do not share the exact feelings about a table, there, occasionally is enough agreement to get the "what is a table" question out of the way unto more enjoyable or more helpful conversations.
But often, in this present age, there is not enough agreement, and thus the pandemic situation of being misunderstood even on the smallest topics & even by those we love and respect and vice/vise versa.
Herein is our meager little tiny existence-even when we share the same tongue/language, we cannot communicate. (God did more at Babel than create diverse tongues).
I have often wondered if we can get a firm grasp on anything, or have any knowledge at all~There's so much disagreement. It's sad.
But, in my belief, this is all due to our natural state as creatures.
So, if any of the above melancholy has any agreement with the ways of The I AM, in order for it to get brighter, and happier, something has to change.Our state.
To answer your questions of how I came to my present views, I should say that I, like you, and like Crisis Theologians and like everyone else, got it from my presuppositions. One of them is that God is not in a tango with us, if by tango I mean a synergistic relationship- He doesn't need our feedback nor assistance to continue existence and meaning.
And with constant changes in languages, (Praise Him, the NT is in Koine,) it is a hope of mine that somehow He sets the static meaning of things and they remain such despite our non-stop alterations.
It is not too far from anyone's ideal, (that I've studied), that somehow the ideal conversation and therefore encounter or fellowship would or could happen with an exact sharing/agreement on meaning, especially the meaning of things that interest us chiefly, namely things that last, like our souls, our soul's final resting place, etc.
Being that God cares for our souls (my joy-inducing presupposition), I have to think that He has this same mind and desire, along with the power to bring it about.
As far as your last question, I'll say this and tip my hand, I don't believe anyone can know anything/anyone that does not change* apart from The I AM enlightening the eyes.

Lord Bless,
Ron U

*in my beliefs, the phrase "that does not change" is actually redundant in this sentence. You cannot know something (is true) if tomorrow it may not be. Best to reserve "true" and "truth" for that which is eternally true.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Ron: It is not too far from anyone's ideal, (that I've studied), that somehow the ideal conversation and therefore encounter or fellowship would or could happen with an exact sharing/agreement on meaning, especially the meaning of things that interest us chiefly, namely things that last, like our souls, our soul's final resting place, etc.

I find it a bit odd that you use "soul" as an example for sharing a meaning in an ideal conversation. The "soul" is a highly ambiguous term, even in the biblical text. That being said, it may be a very good example for our current discussion. Just like in our example of the "table," the word "soul" will have a myriad of different meanings for each subject. When you talk about a "soul" with me various feelings and impressions pop into my mind. (For most word, we do not think to define the term in its dictionary definition (denotation), we merely try to think about how it makes sense in the current context (connotation).) Will these things that pop into my head by the same as for you. Probably not. They may be similar, however. Similar enough for us to get along alright in conversation. However, even after trying our very best to define the word we may still disagree. You may say that the soul can exist as a separate entity from the body, while I may say that the soul is merely the psychological consciousness of a person's brain and as such it expires when the body dies.

The point is that we all have various subjective meanings for various words and terms.

In light of this diversity, is there truly one meaning of "soul" that is the correct meaning? What if God comes down from heaven and explains to you and I that some souls will die when they expire and other souls will live on?

Ron U ~Truth Transforms said...

Hi Jonathan,
Fair enough about "Soul".
Who defines it though?
Can Only 1 Person define it? Isn't that so "medieval"? Is it even appropriate? If we say yes, "Only One defines", are we committing the unforgivable sin of ignoring/discounting the theological "advancements" of the last 150 yrs?
This is relevant to my post 2 or 3 ago.
If so, If there is a unique Meaning Setter, then there are untrue definitions. In other words, as you touched on with your statment:
"You may say that the soul can exist as a separate entity from the body, while I may say that the soul is merely the psychological consciousness of a person's brain and as such it expires when the body dies."
If those are the only 2 possibilities, and they are mutually exclusive, (the exclusivity is decided by the Meaning Setter, not us) one of us has the true and the other the untrue in your example.
You also said, "What if God comes down from heaven and explains to you and I that some souls will die when they expire and other souls will live on?"
This is acceptable. When the Meaning Setter says so, so it is. But when the Meaning Setter says something, anything, there can be no both/and, just either/or, or by His title, he is a contradiction in terms.
My problem is when there is no deference to a Meaning Setter, and we in our fallen state attempt to establish or ignore meaning and consequently get or grant Theological degrees to the self exalting setters or ignorers of meaning. This breeds another generation of people disconnected with or who despise the experiences of (and hopefully lessons learned of )previous generations.

Thanks.
Ron U

Jonathan Erdman said...

Ron,

I just noticed from your profile that you work in accounting. Is that true? I spent seven years in public accounting (with a one year stint in the private sector).

Ron U ~Truth Transforms said...

No. I'll have to correct that if that is the case. I was in it back in early 90s. Now i'm in IT. :#

Jonathan Erdman said...

Ron says:
When the Meaning Setter says so, so it is. But when the Meaning Setter says something, anything, there can be no both/and, just either/or, or by His title, he is a contradiction in terms.
My problem is when there is no deference to a Meaning Setter, and we in our fallen state attempt to establish or ignore meaning and consequently get or grant Theological degrees to the self exalting setters or ignorers of meaning. This breeds another generation of people disconnected with or who despise the experiences of (and hopefully lessons learned of )previous generations.


Ron, I continue to find your perspective interesting, and quite a bit different than both current conservative Christian thought as well as non-conservative. On the one hand, consider someone like Doug Groothuis or J.P. Moreland (and others of a similar ilk): They don't believe that God is a reference in regards to truth. Truth, on their view, is a correspondence between a proposition and reality. If one says, "the frog is on the log," this is true in so far as there is a frog and he is on the log. One can empirically verify the claim without reference to God or anything supernatural. In fact, not only does one not need God, having God as a part of one's theory of truth is actually undesirable. I quote J.P. Moreland:
"There is no peculiarly Christian view of truth, one that is used only in the Bible and not elsewhere. If tehre were a peculiarly Christian view of truth, two disastrous implications would follow: claims that certain Christian doctrines are true would be equivocal compared to ordinary, everyday assertions of truth, and Christianity's claim to be true would be circular or system-dependent and, therefore, trivial. Further, the Bible does not use technical philosophical vocabulary to proffer a precise theory of truth nor is advocation of a specific theory of truth the primary intent of scriptural teaching." (Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview p. 131)

There are various aspects of the above quotation that I have a big problem with. But there is a sense in which I think that Moreland is on to something. For example, do I need a Meaning Setter to verify that the frog is on the log? Probably not. At least, not as far as I can tell.

What do you think? How do you respond to Moreland and others of similar viewpoints?

Ron U ~Truth Transforms said...

Hey Jonathan,

Moreland on this page, http://www.boundless.org/features/a0000911.html
says this:
"Truth is when things really are the way one thinks them to be." Now I don't think this is J.P.'s only or comprehensive definition of truth,
But with a adjustment, I would agree with him, if he said "Truth is what is, despite what we think it to be" or moreso, "Truth is the way things are, whether we think them to be or not"

He also said "truth is what puts us in contact with reality — not just physical, material aspects of reality, but spiritual and moral as well"
I would say this, " Truth is reality". Truth is "revealed" when the Meaning Setter tells us how things are. And if our perceptions line up with His, then we are in Truth. If they do not, (and here is the sticky part wherein J.P., in his evidentialism, would highly disagree) (EVEN IF THE NATURAL FACTS ARE INCONGRUENT with HIS TELLING US HOW THINGS ARE), we, in our perception of the natural facts are in untruth. Here I'll tip my hand and say that I try to reserve the use of the words "TRUTH" and "TRUE" for the content of the revelation of the Meaning Setter. The rest I call (natural) (temporary) "fact" like "water seeks its own level".

For the Meaning Setter,
Ron

Jonathan Erdman said...

Ron,

So, it appears as though you are, perhaps, closer to my perspective than to Moreland.

As I have been studying aletheia in the Gospel of John, I see truth as "polymorphous": many forms. What "truth" is, then, depends upon the context. If we are talking about a frog on a log, then truth might be something like the correspondence theory: Do our statements/propositions align with the way things are. If we are talking about moral truth, however, then I believe we are dealing with specific actions at specific points in history. But then it is interesting in the Gospel of John. There is also a dimension of "spiritual" truth. In this arena what counts as "truth" is how one is related to Jesus, the Logos made flesh. So, this point starts to get close to where you are coming from, at least from the vantage point of relating "truth" to our relationship to God through Jesus.

But I disagree with you in referring to God (or Christ) as a "Meaning Setter." First, if I go through the Gospel of John I don't know that I see Jesus fulfilling this role or trying to define reality for people. He primarily seems to be offering himself as "the way, the truth, and the life" and people are brought to a point of deciding whether or not Jesus is "from God" and "of the truth" or whether he is to be rejected. So, there seems to be a sense in which Jesus gives the prerogative over to us to exercise our will and decide. We have the power to interpret reality. Our interpretations have consequences, but they are at the same time our decisions and also an indication of our nature. Whether we are "of God" or "of the world."

Ktismatics points out that in the Genesis narrative we find that God defines reality and goes through a process of interpretation. He begins as a Meaning Setter, of sorts, but then he turns the job over to Adam to name the animals. There seems to be a passing of the torch.

Ron U ~Truth Transforms said...

Hi Jonathan,
I'd encourage you to read all instances of aletheia in NT.
You'll find that each one alludes to either a realm of "what is" or propositions that describe "what is" or He "Who is" that is Jesus and His Father, both of Whom are God, of course, unless one has gone anti-bible due to the "really insightful constructs, critique and theological advancements of the last century and a half". :(...
But anyway, if Jesus is not the Meaning Setter which I believe He is then He is the epicenter of meaning in that He is called The Truth, no other walking on this sod could have said that.
Regarding your "So, there seems to be a sense in which Jesus gives the prerogative over to us to exercise our will and decide. We have the power to interpret reality.The first sentence was reasonable when it comes to choosing Him/Life or not, but your 2nd sentence makes us the meaning setters and there are just too many of us for all to have that role.
BTW, just a heads up, when the secular world or a german theologian, :) or a person representing a group that is younger than 175 yrs old starts suggesting, (which quickly turns into demanding) "choice", choosing, and freedom. Odd "new" thinking which is the very same thing as the non tried and true, is just around the corner. You can even prophecy its coming.
Sorry for that last paragraph, it was just a jab to all the non tried and true attempts at knowing God that have surfaced in the last 175 yrs or so.
Ron
Ron

Jonathan Erdman said...

Ron,

There is much that I take issue with in your last comment. That's not a bad thing, because I enjoy the debate. Let's go step-by-step here.

You begin by saying:
I'd encourage you to read all instances of aletheia in NT.

This dodges the challenge that I set forth, namely, that the Gospel of John sets forth a highly developed, skillful, and philosophically pregnant theory of truth. It does not do so via modern argumentation, but the frequency of the use of the term (aletheia) alone (nearly 40 times) suggests that this is not something to be ignored by a believer claiming that the Bible is his or her point of reference.

I think each book's theological emphasis should be studied in its own right first, prior to bastardizing it from its context and castrating the power of its message. Please defend you statement as to why I should abandon the Gospel of John as a primary reference for truth theory when it is one of the most highly developed of all books in the Bible.

You'll find that each one alludes to either a realm of "what is" or propositions that describe "what is" or He "Who is" that is Jesus and His Father, both of Whom are God, of course, unless one has gone anti-bible due to the "really insightful constructs, critique and theological advancements of the last century and a half".

Bear in mind what I have mentioned previously, which is that your idea of "Meaning Setter" is at odds with all mainstream Evangelical notions of the propositional theory of truth. If you want to advocate a propositional theory of truth only you may find yourself hoisted by your own petard.

But anyway, if Jesus is not the Meaning Setter which I believe He is then He is the epicenter of meaning in that He is called The Truth, no other walking on this sod could have said that.

I disagree. He is the epicenter of "truth," but not "meaning." These are two very different things. I don't know that I have ever come across anyone who conflates these two concepts.

Do you truly hold "truth" and "meaning" to be synonymous?

Regarding your "So, there seems to be a sense in which Jesus gives the prerogative over to us to exercise our will and decide. We have the power to interpret reality.The first sentence was reasonable when it comes to choosing Him/Life or not, but your 2nd sentence makes us the meaning setters and there are just too many of us for all to have that role.

You are correct in noting that I do not believe in a Meaning Setter, as you ascribe to. I believe we are all meaning setters, and that this idea is illustrated in Genesis 1-3 with God giving Adam the job of naming the animals and allowing Even to determine how she would define and interpret her reality when she encountered the serpent at the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.


BTW, just a heads up, when the secular world or a german theologian, :) or a person representing a group that is younger than 175 yrs old starts suggesting, (which quickly turns into demanding) "choice", choosing, and freedom. Odd "new" thinking which is the very same thing as the non tried and true, is just around the corner. You can even prophecy its coming.
Sorry for that last paragraph, it was just a jab to all the non tried and true attempts at knowing God that have surfaced in the last 175 yrs or so.


No need to apologize! This is an honest evaluation, and I will be equally candid.

Ron, I think most modern Evangelical theology in the past 100 years is as non-tried and as un-true as any we have seen in church history. Despite their flaws, I find that many secular thinkers of the 20th century were far more truthful and better described reality than many of the blowhards that purport to speak for Orthodoxy.

ktismatics said...

"My cappuccino is cold." Do you understand what this sentence means? Is it true? Does God decide the meaning of "cappuccino"? Of "cold" in the context of cappuccino?

Ron U ~Truth Transforms said...

Jonathan,
Thanks for your honest critique of my views.

First I want to apologize if what I said about John and truth made you believe I was dodging the challenge. My beliefs on Truth derive chiefly from John's Gospel and epistles.

You said, "I think each book's theological emphasis should be studied in its own right first, prior to bastardizing it from its context and castrating the power of its message." I agree but with one caution, that we not "hypercontextualize" (sorry). For example we can't ever say with wisdom something like, "well it is clear that Paul is negatively influenced by his hellenistic surroundings and therefore doesn't have a clue what the Galatians were experiencing" and the like. Nor do we need to aggressively defend a "Meta-narrative" as you have articulated elsewhere.

You said "Please defend you statement as to why I should abandon the Gospel of John as a primary reference for truth theory when it is one of the most highly developed of all books in the Bible." I would never suggest you do that. God's word in John is so so clear. Nor would I place John over the other 65 God-Breathed books.

you said "Bear in mind what I have mentioned previously, which is that your idea of "Meaning Setter" is at odds with all mainstream Evangelical notions of the propositional theory of truth." I'm curious who would I be at odds with that teaches the whole counsel of God? and secondly and more saliently, you do not strike me brother as one who is staying up late because someone you know is not matching up with mainstream evangelicalism. After all, most of the 30 somethings that I know who are believers, are reading dead guys 200 yrs back and are not sympathetic to the dead "dead"* philosopher.

Back on path, I respond to your at odds comment by saying, "only if your definition of 'meaning' is not propositional".
By Meaning i meant simply definitions. Because of what I meant, I still say God is the Definition Setter. In other words, you wanna know what a dog is, ask God. I can't be hoisted by my own petard, for What does (the word) "dog" MEAN? (meaning) ( i realize that the term "meaning" has taken on 20th century baggage and subjectivity, just like "encounter". Poor word.
For "dog", You go ask God/Christ. How do you go ask God, consult His Book. If you can't find a definition for (the meaning of) "dog" there, don't sweat it, you will not know what "dog" TRULY is until glory. Look for different words that God has revealed the definition, the meaning of.

I said, "But anyway, if Jesus is not the Meaning Setter which I believe He is then He is the epicenter of meaning in that He is called The Truth, no other walking on this sod could have said that."

According to my clarification,meaning(s)= definition, I hope to have clarified.

You say, "I disagree. He is the epicenter of "truth," but not "meaning."
I say, "if you define something in such a way that is congruent to the way Christ Jesus would define it in His Word, you have a true definition, or the meaning of the word/topic/concept/precept.

You say, "These are two very different things." I disagree unless we are using the american therapeutic-driven morphed "definition/meaning" of "meaning".

You also said "I don't know that I have ever come across anyone who conflates these two concepts. I say ,that's ok, because I've never heard the word conflates.

:)
In The Logos,
Ron


*spiritually dead as well. They never knew Him Who is Truth.

ktismatics said...

"If you can't find a definition for (the meaning of) "dog" there, don't sweat it, you will not know what "dog" TRULY is until glory."

So God decides what a cappuccino TRULY is, and when a real cappuccino can TRULY be regarded as cold. Truth = the absolute legitimate meaning. I'm extending it beyond natural categories like "dog" into the realm of human artifacts, tastes, etc. But even a dog is a kind of human artifact, having been bred from wolves over many generations in a kind of human "intelligent design." But God is the one to say when the wolf became a dog?

But then again: "My cappuccino is cold." Even if I knew the God-breathed meaning of these words, my statement might not be true. I might be drinking a latte, or a cup of tea, or nothing at all. This is the obvious sense in which truth ≠ meaning: something can be meaningful and not true.

I hope this doesn't sound like wise-ass commentary. Briefly I'd say this: if there is a God, I don't know why he'd bother assigning meanings to things like the true hot/cold boundary in cappuccinoville.

ktismatics said...

...I signal to the waiter in the Glory Cafe: "My cappuccino's cold."

"I'm sorry sir, but you're wrong."

Jonathan Erdman said...

A brief thought on the raging cappuccino controversy.

Ron, your thought of God as Meaning Setter is starting to show parallels (at least in my mind) with Platonic Form Theory: That there is an Idea of Dog and that all representations of this are imperfect material manifestations. It is almost as though you want to say there is an Ideal Meaning of Dog or Cappuccino, but that when we order a cappuccino or pet the little doggy on the street we can't necessarily say that this is the true Meaning of Dog or Cappuccino. We have to wait until God reveals that some day. He keeps the Perfect Definitions tucked away in the Ideal. Does this sound like a fair assessment?

Ron U ~Truth Transforms said...

No Sir. We can know much, all kinds of things, millions of things in this life. The most important things. Which are the very same things as His Book details. We can know Him and His Son! and all the benefits of Knowing Him. JOhn and Romans, and Acts, and Psalms, and Hebrews, and I John, and THessalonians, all of these and every other show us Him in various facets.
We can and do know HIM in this life, if we know His Book. So, I can wait on whether I really know what "apple" is. I'm fine with it. I'm sure you are too. I'm not fine if I don't really know God for Who He is.

Ron

Ron U ~Truth Transforms said...

...one more thing. It's b/c we are so concerned with whether my precious cappuccino exists or is cold that has spun us into truth-ignorance. Truth = Scripture = Truth.

ktismatics said...

Thanks for that "one more thing" Ron. You've deployed the tried-and-true fundamentalist tactic of interpreting nuance as indicative of moral decay. Now that I've been outed as a corrupt, relativistic, precious cappuccino-sipper, my job is to tell you to go fuck yourself. Then we can both walk away with our preconceptions reconfirmed.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Ron says:
We can know Him and His Son!....We can and do know HIM in this life, if we know His Book.

But you earlier stated that only God holds the true meaning: God is the Meaning Setter. If this is the case, then how does anyone know with certainty the meaning of anything? This includes knowing anything in "His Book." How do you know the meaning of His Book or any other book if only God is the Meaning Setter? And how do you know you are not mistaken about the fact that only God is the Meaning Setter? For example, if only God knows the meaning of anything, then we can (theoretically) be mistaken about anything, including the fact that God is a Meaning Setter!

I think that your attempt to ground meaning in the transcendent realm raises more conflicts than it solves.

Ron U ~Truth Transforms said...

Jonathan,

Regarding your last comment,
It, my friend is arrogant to ground meaning in the perceptions of Totally Depraved human beings, even saved ones.
The way a Christian (and only they can) can indeed know if something is true is the The Holy Spirit guides them by His Word to Truth, which is the bible, redemption found in Jesus Christ, chiefly. If it is written in the bible and you are a Christian, you can know it.
Now, if you are looking for a theology or a way in which you can make an unbeliever or a liberal understand truth, you're up a creek. They're DEAD my friend, spiritually. I Cor 3.
Truth is understood and has an assurance by Christians only. That is not elitism or anything negative, it is biblical dualism.\

Because, if you are a Christian (which is the very same thing as being "Saved"), you have the Holy Spirit, you are taught God's Book by The Holy Spirit and you come to know more of Him Who is True because you are in Him Who is True. He is the true God and everlasting life. I John 5. One needs the Holy Spirit to work on their faculties before they ever believe or even understand the Truth that is in Jesus (which is only contained in the bible, if you disagree where else is it?)
You have to view Truth and meaning in a Redemptive-Salvific/Historical way or else you are bogged down in defining things without an eternal perspective- for the mere scholastic exercise in it.

The Redemption of Jesus Christ for His people is the critical event of this thing called "time". All things need to be subjected to this including the pursuit of meaning, relationship, truth, whatever.

In Summary of what I've wanted to say: God effectually opens the eyes of His People (His Chosen ones/the elect) to see Him for Who He really is (Thrice Holy) what state they are in (helpless and sinful) and the Remedy (Jesus Christ and His Imputed Righteousness put to their account ). This eye opening is an opening of The Word of God/The 66 Book'd Bible to them. The best of theologians call this illumination.
The whole process could be described this way:
God's effectual use of His Word on the Faculties of His people bring them to a saving KNOWLEDGE of Himself though the Redeeming Cross work of His Son applied By His Holy Spirit bringing them irresistibly to Himself in Conversion and subsequently during Sanctification to see that He is the Source and the End of all that is Good, necessary , and Pleasurable. If you want the scholastic or simple world to know this, Kerygma Jesus Christ and Him Crucified according to the scriptures for He is The Truth.

And Truth Transforms.

This has been and will be the joy and hope of all Heaven bound/inhabiting humans and the means by which they get there.

In Jesus,
Ron

Jonathan Erdman said...

Ron,

In all fairness, you haven't even begun to address the issue that I took with your idea of Meaning Setter. In fact, I noticed that in your last response you abandoned the term, entirely.

I am a Christian and Ktismatics is not. But I think we both kind of had the same goal in mind, which is to kind of flesh out what you meant by Meaning Setter and some of the possible philosophical problems that it might entail. I went the route of comparing it to Platonism and Ktismatics questioned how we could make a claim to "know" anything mundane, i.e. the cappuccino example. Neither of us are really very antagonistic people, though we can both be rather intense when it comes to interacting with ideas.

What is also interesting is that in your last comment you said, "It, my friend is arrogant to ground meaning in the perceptions of Totally Depraved human beings, even saved ones." By this, it seems as though you were presuming that I ground meaning in the perceptions of Totally Depraved human beings. But I never said that. In actuality, that is quite different from my position. What I was doing in my comment was expressing my concern with your idea of grounding meaning in something transcendent. That's been my query all along. But it is intriguing that because I questioned your idea (of grounding meaning in something transcendent) you assumed that my position was the opposite of yours. Perhaps there are certain dichotomies that are at work in your mind that make you believe that you must believe one thing or the other.

What I question is why we seek to ground meaning at all. Maybe we can escape some of the philosophical and theological pitfalls in this discussion if we question why it is we feel compelled to ground meaning.

Do you feel compelled to ground meaning? If so, then why?

Ron U ~Truth Transforms said...

Jonathan,
Ok. I should have asked this up front.
What is meaning? How do you define it?

Ron

ktismatics said...

Ron,

I noticed a couple things. In the first comment on this post I asked about whether Carson condemned the Crusaders, to which Jonathan answered that he did. Also, I see on your profile that you live in Afghanistan. Are you attached to the American military presence in that country? I'm guessing (though I could be wrong) that you regard the monotheistic Muslims as DEAD spiritually. Does holding this belief make it easier for you to justify letting or causing them to be DEAD physically as well? Or is it the reverse: your task is to prevent their physical death as long as there hope remains of helping them come ALIVE spiritually?

This question has been addressed on this blog recently, so I'm not entirely out of line here. However, since I too am DEAD spiritually and incapable of understanding truth, maybe you can convey your answer to Jonathan and he can try explaining it to me. Or perhaps my question comes from a position of such falseness that you can't understand what I'm talking about. In that case forget it.

Ron U ~Truth Transforms said...

ktismatics,

I'm not from Afghanistan. Where did you see that?
Murder is against God's desires and precepts, therefore,Muslims, Christians, Hindus, etc. should never be put to death for their religion/beliefs. The Life, teachings, and redemption of Christ has rendered it inexcusable. I don't the know the state of things purely in that nation, i know that the Americans are certainly not blameless , neither do I think that God is "on their side", nor did the crusaders know Jesus according to the fruit He said would come from those who love Him. Murderers are not bearing the fruit of Christ. The crusades were unjustified mass murder done by religious, but Christ-less people. (Who cares what they "said" they believed). Words like theirs are not effectual nor justifying of any such actions, no matter what their stinking proposition was.
They should be judged as you proposed, "according to the propositions as exegeted from Scripture for all time"
As far as the spiritually DEAD, I was referencing I Corinthians 2 and the first part of 3. It speaks about this there.
About you saying you're "DEAD", I can only proclaim that which gives life,: "Jesus Christ came into this world to save sinners, like you and me. Everyone who talks to Him asking for salvation, (reconciliation with God The Father and Life Forever) will be kindly given it. I cannot argue you into being a Christian, I can only proclaim Him who called Himself, The Way, The Truth, and The Life .And I'm not going to insult you.


Ron
P.S.I'm sorry for upsetting you a few posts ago.
P.S.S. What's a fundamentalist?
How would you define the word?

ktismatics said...

Ron -

When I click on your name at the top of each of your comments, it takes me to your Blogger profile, which says you are an accountant living in Afghanistan.

I got irritated because you seemed to be ignoring my comments. When you did reply you dismissed my cappuccino question as if it reflected a general decline in attention to God's truth. Then you said that that since non-Christians are dead spiritually they cannot understand truth.

I interpreted these positions as indicative of what I would regard as fundamentalist ideology. The Bible is the source of all truth, and only Christians can understand these Biblical truths because non-Christians are too corrupt to get it. Therefore, knowledge from non-Biblical sources can be ignored and dialogue with non-Christians can take place only on Christian terms.

Now if you're talking only about "religious" truths, and that only those in the Christian community can fully understand the revealed truths about God, I might disagree but we could at least partition off "religious" topics as off-limits for conversation. If, on the other hand, you regard Romans 1 as evidence that non-Christians have a darkened understanding of everything, such that, say, only Christians can discover scientific or philosophical truths, then the conversation stops altogether. For the fundamentalist the only worthwhile conversation with the non-Christian is evangelistic in thrust.

I'd say that in these regards you'd fit my understanding of "fundamentalist." Even so, that shouldn't really piss me off I suppose. I'm in many ways a modernist, ever hopeful that something like universal understanding can be progressively approached. Fundamentalists imposes a barrier on their side of the divide which thwarts my modernist hopes.

I'm with you on the Crusades. I do still wonder whether fundamentalist soldiers, whether Christian or Muslim find it easier to kill infidels because spiritually they're already dead.

Ron U ~Truth Transforms said...

Thanks for the profile heads up. I changed it. It seems that Afghanistan Accountants might be plentiful in the Blogger realm for they both are the top (and most like also the default) choices on the profile's location and industry respectively...
:)

Ron

P.S. I'll reply to you when I've got some time to cogitate.

Lord Bless

Ron U ~Truth Transforms said...

Jonathan,
Could you tell me how you would define "meaning"?

Thanks,
Ron

R said...

Ktismatics,
You said, "I interpreted these positions as indicative of what I would regard as fundamentalist ideology. The Bible is the source of all truth, and only Christians can understand these Biblical truths because non-Christians are too corrupt to get it."
In reply, now I'm no history expert, but the term "fundamentalist" wasn't coined until the 20th century and the things you mentioned above have been the beliefs of Christians prior to that for 1870 years or so. So, I would love for you to say that your beef is with Christians(belief) in general and not the newer fundamentalist label. The two are redundant.
More than that I would like you to perhaps consider that the real beef is with Christ, Himself.
Is this correct?


Ron

ktismatics said...

I think fundamentalism is characteristic of those who regard the particular version of Christianity I outlined as being the only true version of Christianity, that fundamentalism = Christianity. I agree that the word "fundamentalism" arose during modernity as a short-hand descriptor of this particular variant of Christianity, to distinguish it from other variants like "liberalism" -- another modern word. I suspect that modernism generated the polarization within Christianity that necessitated the invention of these two words. In general, I'd say that liberals regard fundamentalists as one variant of Christianity, whereas fundamentalists regard liberals as non-Christians.

My beef isn't with Christ; it's with you.

R said...

Ktismatics,
Could you give me one example of a "liberal" prior to 1800 whose teachings and approach to the bible were accepted by the average Christian at that time?

Thanks,
Ron

P.S. I'm sorry to hear that you have a beef with me. I don't know you or vice versa.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Ron:
Could you tell me how you would define "meaning"?

This is a good question. Meaning is something so fundamental that it is difficult to define. (Like love or faith.)

I guess I would start by saying that meaning is always "meaning for whom?" That is, what something means is always a question of who is doing the meaning. For example, did you mean to snub Ktismatics? Was that the intentionality behind your posts? That's what your responses and more specifically your non-responses meant to me and Ktismatics. But did you mean to convey a snub? Now I'm not so sure.

Meaning appears to be tied to the act of interpretation and to the assigning of significance. But interpretation and significance is always relative to the interpreter, is it not????

ktismatics said...

Okay, I'll abandon my beef against you, Ron. I also don't know whether there were Christians prior to 1800 who believed that non-Christians could understand truth. Carry on, you two.

R said...

For the record my lack of responding to Ktismatics was an overlooking of his post and not an ignoring of it. Same with my not including the Meaning Setter in the post you reminded me about. I'm busy like you are and it was my mistake. I meant NOT to snub.
Regarding meaning, are you defining it as a perceived significance or something else?
Thanks.

Ron
P.S. Ktimatics, a sincere thanks for removing the beef

R said...

Ktismatics,
My question was an honest one regarding the pre-fundie liberal.
Here why I asked and what I have noticed: today's liberals and modernists often do not realize that up until 200 yrs ago, there weren't 2+ types of "Christians", inerrantists and non-inerrantists. All were inerrantist. That means that they literally believed the Bible was God Breathed, so what followed was a literal belief in the Incarnation, the Virgin Birth of Christ, His Resurrection, etc, because these are detailed in the Bible. These are things that unfortunately are (only) attributed by modernists to fundies and that's just not historically accurate.
It is more accurate to say that most if not all historical Christians believed in the points that denegrate fundies in this era, It's just that there is now a new flavor of professing Christian and that is one who does not believe in the authority and inspiration of Scripture like the Christians long ago consistently did.

Thanks,
Ron

Jonathan Erdman said...

Ron states:
today's liberals and modernists often do not realize that up until 200 yrs ago, there weren't 2+ types of "Christians", inerrantists and non-inerrantists. All were inerrantist. That means that they literally believed the Bible was God Breathed, so what followed was a literal belief in the Incarnation, the Virgin Birth of Christ, His Resurrection, etc, because these are detailed in the Bible.

Could you provide your sources for this assertion. Historical theology of the last 200 some years is not my strong point, but my position is that today's Fundy is not the Christian of 200 years ago. The theology of inerrancy (like all theologies) has evolved from where it was 200 years ago. For one thing, it is now the defining doctrine for Fundies and some Evangelicals, whereas 200 years ago Christians simply did not develop it as much. This, of course, is in reaction to what many perceive as an attack on the Bible.

My problem with inerrancy is that it simply doesn't allow the literature of the Bible to breath. I prefer to take the Word as I have it, rather than pre-determining what it is prior to engaging it. I see a problem when the Bible is made to fit doctrine, rather than allowing the Word to speak a new message of power and truth for each new generation and for the spiritual struggles of each culture and society.

R said...

John Calvin's institutes, Martin Luther's writings, The Puritans, like John Owen,John Bunyan, Thomas Wilcox, The Marrow Men, John Gill, The 2nd Great Awakening, etc.
If you have these folk, you can see "fundie" doctrine all over and never what what was can be accurately described as liberalism or a sympathy toward liberalism throughout.

Thanks,
Ron

R said...

& all the church councils, all the church fathers, etc.
They didn't distinguish the doctrines b/c they were assumed in addition to articulated.

Ron

Jonathan Erdman said...

Ron,

Listing names and general groups of people (i.e., "Church Fathers") is not really a "source." A source is a specific work. I'm looking for a citation that parallels the modern day Fundy. It will be difficult to find. The names/groups listed certainly had a high view of Scripture (as do I), however, inerrancy is a philosophical construct that asserts it is the highest view of Scripture when, in reality, it is a rather low view of Scripture. Inerrancy is far more philosophical than it is spiritual or even biblical. It is attached to a rigid metanarrative, and one that I reject.

Furthermore, I think you are making a very fundamental (pardon the pun) theological error in assuming that a doctrine is "there" in the writings of the past even though it was not articulated. It is articulation, itself, that forms doctrine. Doctrines are not "there" until they are articulated. The modern day inerrancy doctrine is a new and trendy one, developed to counteract the so-called Liberal Threat.

What the church needs a new and higher view of the Word - like that of the writer of Hebrews - where the Living Word speaks through the written Word in a dynamic way. The Fundies prefer static over dynamic. This is what their philosophy of scripture seeks to attain.

ktismatics said...

Ron -

Okay, I didn't completely go away -- call me a liar if you must.

The topic under discussion was meaning, and if Christianity or your understanding of it says that as an unbeliever I can't understand these things because I'm spiritually dead, then you have nothing to say to me that I can understand, and I presume I have nothing to say to you that you would deem worth hearing. This isn't even an inerrancy issue, though you do cite Scripture as supporting evidence for your position.

For what it's worth, I think inerrancy has been consistently upheld throughout Christianity, but the hermeneutic by which that inerrant text was read hasn't stayed the same. In my view the emerging post-evangelicals are working mostly on hermeneutical maneuvers that make inerrancy irrelevant; e.g., by saying that Paul was speaking to specific local conditions when he said that women shouldn't teach men or that Genesis 1 is a true myth.

Ron U ~Truth Transforms said...

Thanks for your response. Before I attempt to cite a particular work, could you tell me what you think the modern day fundies mean by the word "inerrancy"?


Thanks,
Ron

Ron U ~Truth Transforms said...

Ktismatics,
What do think is the reason for post-evangelicals are "working mostly on hermeneutical maneuvers that make inerrancy irrelevant" What is their goal in your opinion?

Thanks,
Ron

ktismatics said...

Well Ron, it's an outsider's opinion, but I think the post-evangelicals are attempting to preserve the authority of the Bible while tacitly acknowledging its imperfections. Rather than saying that the Bible contains errors, they say that it's being misinterpreted.

I agree with you that inerrancy has been generally upheld throughout Judeo-Christian history, but I also agree with Jonathan that the DOCTRINE of inerrancy wasn't specified until quite recently. Probably the conservatives' incentive for making the doctrine explicit was the liberal drift away from inerrancy. So liberals and conservatives wound up defining themselves relative to each other.

I suspect the Catholics didn't firmly define various tenets of Catholicism until the Protestants established a viable alternative. Up until the split Catholicism contained within itself a Protestant tendency. The Reformation threw a spotlight on that particular way of being Catholic, leading to a splitting off. Afterward both the Protestants and the Catholics claimed to represent true historic Christianity. Eventually the Catholics incorporated a lot of Protestant ideas, or rather re-acknowledged them as part of the ongoing Catholic tradition.

Maybe that's what's happening with the conservative Protestants -- a re-acknowledgment of certain liberal ideas that have always been part of the tradition but that had to be suppressed in order to establish conservatism's authority vis-a-vis the liberals. If that makes sense...

Ron U ~Truth Transforms said...

Ktismatics,
well spoken. I agree with this assessment. Much articulation of inerrancy was reactive though it was believed all the way back to The Root, by Jesus and His Apostles. One would have to be blind (not necessarily spiritually) to think that Jesus believed in an occasionally incorrect OT. There is no mention by the gospels or the epistles of such.

Then with the foundations and advancement of the gospel church , you get quotes like
Clement of Rome (90-100): "Look carefully into the Scriptures, which are the true utterances of the Holy Spirit. Observe that nothing of an unjust or counterfeit character is written in them" (I Clement, xlv).

Clement of Alexandria (c.155-c.220): "... truly holy are those letters that sanctify and deify; and the writings or volumes that consist of these holy letters or syllables, the same apostle consequently calls ‘inspired by God ...’"

Irenaeus (fl. c.175-c.195): "[We are] most properly assured that the Scriptures are indeed perfect, since they were spoken by the Word of God and His Spirit ... all Scripture, which has been given to us by God, shall be found by us perfectly consistent ..." (Against Heresies, II, xxviii).

Gregory of Nazianzus (c.329-388): "We trace the accuracy of the Spirit in detail to each separate stroke and letter; for it is blasphemous to suppose that exact pains were bestowed by the compilers of the Books, or even the smallest letters, without design."

Basil the Great (330-379): "No single syllable of the sacred writings is to be neglected." "Every word or action must be accepted on the testimony of inspired Scripture."

Chrysostom (c.344/354-407): "There is divergence in the historical narratives of the Gospels ... but there is no contradiction."

Augustine (354-430): "Lord, surely your scripture is true, for you, being truthful and Truth itself, have produced it ... ‘O man, what my scripture says, I say’" (Confessions, XIII, xxix). "I believe most firmly that no one of those authors has erred in any respect in writing" (Epistle LXXXII). "I have learned to hold the Scriptures alone inerrant." "The Faith will totter if the authority of the Holy Scriptures loses its hold on men. We must surrender ourselves to the authority of Holy Scripture, for it can neither mislead nor be misled." "Freely do I admit to you, my friend, that I have learnt to ascribe to those Books which are of Canonical rank, and only to them, such reverence and honour, that I firmly believe that no single error due to the author is found in any one of them." "... the evangelists are free from all falsehood, both from that which proceeds from deliberate deceit, and that which is the result of forgetfulness."

Luther (1483-1546, German Reformer): "The Scriptures have never erred." "Every word of the Bible is God’s word, and therefore the Bible is without error."

So even though there were only a few instances of what could be translated into English as "inerrant", it is next to impossible to think there wasn't the thought by these earl(ier) Christians that their bible was God's breath/will, without error.

As for me and my beliefs, I agree with their thoughts on the scripture. If that makes me a fundamentalist, then it must make these men "fundies" too.
So be it. I am not ashamed to be believing what these did.
Ron

ktismatics said...

Well stated Ron. So now we need Jonathan to come along and say a couple of things: (1) just because the early Church Fathers believed in inerrancy doesn't make it TRUE; and/or (2) just because it's true doesn't mean we understand what that truth MEANS.

You can read the old-timers and see that they understand the meaning of Scripture in at times very idiosyncratic ways. This was the "spiritual" or "mystical" reading of Scripture that was popular among Church scholars up until the Reformation. The Reformers said not only that the Bible is TRUE, but that it MEANS what it says in a very literal sense. The evangelical scholars continued to clarify what the Reformers meant, and developed exegetical practices in conformance thereto. So I think "fundamentalism" in this dual sense of both inerrantly and literally true dates back to the Reformers but maybe not before them.

The emerging Christians are opening up other ways of interpreting "true" -- mythically true, metaphorically true, true in the historical context of 1st century church practice, and so on. A lot of this work is I think worthwhile, and might be useful in conservative evangelicalism. E.g., when Paul talks about the Law is he addressing all Christians or only the Jews? When Jesus talks about Gehenna did he have in mind a specific place in Israel for burning dead bodies or a place of eternal torment? Some of the new hermeneutic strikes me as opportunistic, a way of bringing Christianity "up to date." E.g., the Creation story isn't what the writers really believed about how the world came into being; Paul was just being culturally sensitive when he advised women not to teach men.

So Ron, I'd say that in a lot of ways you and I see things the same way. I just happen to think that the Bible really does have errors, that Paul really was wrong about women even though he believed he was speaking God's eternal truth, etc. Erdman represents a "third way," and in our differences we might agree not to embrace that third way.

ruebel said...

Greetings! It's been a long time!

Ron