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Saturday, March 15, 2008
Theology beyond experience
In my ministry / relational interactions . . ." on the street" research lately I have been running into a lot more wafer thin theology among devote Christians. (Like if you poke a stick at it, (MAYBE) it could collapse like a bubble gum bubble.) For instance, one guy... I'll call him Bazooka Joe, explained that experience precedes (or overshadows) theology. For his faith walk with Jesus this is the deal. No distinction could be made for anybody's experience in a spiritual sense, good or bad. He didn't want to determine what that was, b/c who's to say? It becomes individual, if not almost arbitrary to sort that out, he seemed to think.

I thought about this, but then something didn't seem to quite fit, so we interacted a bit him more. When I asked him about his conversion from atheism, and if that experience would then have more weight, he admitted, logically it couldn't, of course, based on what he said, and what he believed to be accurate about experience.
So experience is. . .well, not like Theology.

How does Theology fit into experience, and experience into Theology?
or for you, does one inform the other?
how?
discuss. . . .
: )

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posted by LisaColónDeLay at 5:25 PM ¤ Permalink ¤


32 Comments:


  • At 3/16/2008 01:05:00 PM, Blogger Valorosa

    Interesting ... I would like to explore this more with you. The encounter is a bit too sketchy, but I will throw this out.

    Theology can be had without experience and experience can be had without theology. So Bazooka Joe was right, if I am reading your story well enough.

    :-)

     
  • At 3/16/2008 06:43:00 PM, OpenID esemare

    I am new here. Well not new, because I have been a long time lurker on this site, but I feel like I can contribute to this discussion.

    I think that in a lot of cases experience does precede theology. You see this all throughout history with liberation theologists. Tradionally, liberation theologies have been created because a group of marginalized people feel left out of the current church theologies. It is through their experience in their church and in their communities that their theologies are created. Its called doing theology from the group up. It is really neat to read these theologies and see the social experiences that influenced its thinkers.

    I don't know that this necessarily answers the question you posed here, but it is definitely something to think about when discussing theology and experience and what their connection might be.

    Cheers!

     
  • At 3/17/2008 10:13:00 PM, Blogger Amy

    Growing up in the Pentecostal/Charismatic tradition, I saw an interesting dichotomy in the way we viewed experience and theology. Theology, in the form of the Bible being the inerrant word of God, was held high as a standard, as was the personal experience of God. It was the experience of the Spirit's active role in the life of the believer today, just as in the New Testament that was a defining characteristic of the church's we grew up in. So much so that that definition became a rigid theology of it's own and anyone not agreeing became an enemy of sorts.

    I think experience is a legitimate test of theology and theology is a legitimate test of experience. They must inform and lean on each other. Going back to my experience growing up, I remember preachers lamenting that Billy Graham wasn't "filled with the Spirit" as he could have accomplished so much more had he subscribed to Pentecostal theology. It's just a kind of silly statement that doesn't really stand the assessment of experience, meaning it wasn't great theology and need to be relooked at.

    Now obviously there are other theological issues that don't fit nicely in the box I've presented, but my point is to say that any time cut off either, we're really cutting off an essential conversation.

     
  • At 3/18/2008 08:15:00 PM, Blogger linda

    i think that theology and experience necessarily go hand in hand. we examine our experiences in light of our theology and our theology in light of our experiences. i have had many experiences of the supernatural sort, and i always return to scripture to shed light on their meaning and source. just because i hear a voice speaking to my heart doesn't necessarily mean it is the voice of God.

    that said, i agree with esemare that manytimes our experiences precede our theology. when God called me i had an "experience" in a church service and that is what drew me to a relationship with God. i had been in sunday school for years, but that had done nothing to draw me as the teaching was so poor and bereft of the Spirit. i find it disturbing that so many who claim to hold scripture in such a high regard then question spiritual experiences because of their very nature rather than by the means God has given us to test them. if we are to be true followers of christ then we should expect to have spiritual experiences with our lord as we follow a supernatural God.

     
  • At 3/20/2008 12:40:00 PM, Blogger wit4life

    It seems if experience is elevated, then WHOSE experience is valid? We run in to the problem of competing and negating truths, and such. Experience is essential for sure b/c without it you have all dried up theology, and what's the point, right?

    I'm been thinking about this since I've posted, and I was thinking that God/His Word may have to be the lens that interprets experience, otherwise experience will vary so greatly contextually. As a starting point, I would prefer to start with God not me (or others) for interpretation.



    Still pondering . . .

     
  • At 3/20/2008 08:16:00 PM, Blogger Jemila Kwon

    I think we can't help but interpret through experience, because everything, including the bible/God's word is shaped by SOMEONE'S experience -- both of God, culture and their own personal lens. So we begin with someone's experience, which they interpret and record, and then we bring our own experience to that recording as we interpret, or we interpret our own firsthand experience and then either record our own ideas and or connect our understanding from experience with the understandings of others from their experiences, both in scripture and in life.

    I think subjectivity is a given -- what I wonder is, what ways can we foster accountability, authenticity, openess and rigor in creating life giving theologies and communities given that we have been given a God whom we cannot contain in objective definitions.

    Any ideas?

     
  • At 3/23/2008 07:23:00 AM, Blogger wilsford

    My theory on what it is about experience that Christians find so threatening: The subjectivity of experience smudges, threatens, the boundaries established by our theologies.

    Theololgy is nothing more than a system we use to make sense of the world. We try to make it match what our belief system says about God.

    I have to wonder, is God a bureaucrat, that we can be acceptable to Him only through a rigidly defined approach?

    I guess the answer for some might be yes—how often we have heard "narrow is the way."

    Does God accept sincere faith, or only doctrinally correct, theoretically sound, intellectually rigorous faith?

    When we assess another's faith walk, are we correct them, guide them, or merely love them?

     
  • At 3/24/2008 08:53:00 PM, Blogger wit4life

    I respectfully disagree, Wilsford.
    Theology is the study of God.

    You may have a good point though if you mean "doctrine"... Things get dicey, no?!!


    We all have a theology, even atheists, because atheists have an idea of the Being of which they do not believe in.

    For Christianity, The Bible makes claims about God. The Bible is both human written and just as much, a book made by God. It is not that the claims are true just because the Bible says so, I think, but because they are true the Bible says them. The Bible is so powerful because it says so much about God, but it does so in a very objective way. Yes, we may see it through our experiences, and people may misinterpret it, but it has authority, not for what it is, but for who is in it and behind it. Without it and therefore God, as a backbone of our reality as we submit to a Creator God, Christianity is mainly reduced to something sort of trite. Maybe it is then more or less about culture, or being good, or experience, or tradition. These aren't very compelling forces for coming under Lordship, and they have little to do with what changed the world in the first century A.D. For believers in Jesus of the Bible, the message of Jesus, is a message of belief and reconciliation with God. It is a message of love, and devotion to God with heart, soul, mind, and strength. If we concede on these points, then the fuel is spent. We have something rather empty.

    Sometimes we like to have our reference point be ourselves, like our choices, and authority begin through perspective, which is really an impossible starting point. The lure and promise of modernity (we are still living in the gasps of it after all) was really the autonomous human--apart from God--saved by reason. Life then is choices, human directed, not God directed. In large part, modernity won the day. Christianity tried to meet it on its terms, and forgot about starting with God as authority.

    The beauty of Theology sometimes missed by point-by-point systematics (Christianity's attempt at heading off modernity) is the narrative type which the CREATION-FALL-REDEMPTION-CONSUMMATION story that runs through the scriptures, like a stream.

    This is another glorious thing about the Bible--Theology... and YES--experience, as we take in God through the story he tells us through it.

     
  • At 3/24/2008 09:21:00 PM, Blogger wilsford

    Hi Wit,

    Thank you for taking the time to express your thoughts.

    I don't understand your answer. I think perhaps this may be because I have gotten rusty with the practice of using human reason to defend the Bible as the objective documentation of God.

    Your post makes me wonder how often I did the same thing to other people, never realizing that my frame of reference was so different from theirs that my words could not convey my belief.

    Perhaps your Bazooka Joe guy has the same problem? Your separate faiths may be nearly equal in depth or quality while your separate approaches to that faith different to the point of non-communication.

     
  • At 3/25/2008 01:53:00 PM, Blogger wit4life

    Excellent point, Wilsford (referring to the last paragraph) ... I think B. Joe and I have different worldviews. I'm not sure if his faith feels to him of great depth or quality. I need more time to get to know him first and speak with him, and it is also hard to gauge that b/c some of that would be subjective. On the other hand his depth and quality of faith would be more objectively determined if he didn't treat all his experiences as equally valid (which, now that I think of it, he does). He and I disagree there. I note my initial submission to God as paramount, and that continuing journey as for valid for me than pre-surrender experiences. If he flits around to something else, one could also determine (perhaps) his faith may not be of all that depth of all that quality too.

    I don't think we can know everything for sure about God, but we can certainly learn many things about him, and apply certain reasonable knowledge to certain things about his nature and goodness as we see him as the source of that goodness.

    If one says something like, "We can't know anything for sure." this refutes absolutes, correct? Yet, the statement is in itself an absolute assertion statement. It makes no logical sense. Of course human wisdom and knowledge is finite, but ruling out the arrival at objective truth altogether comes soon to too many contradicts in the person who professes this view.

    B. Joe and I have many points of connection, but in some ways he it may be that he still struggles with unbelief. Perhaps he does not like the God of Scripture, and wants to craft One that dislikes all the same people he does. Perhaps he wants One who will allow him to do as he deems fit. Perhaps he struggles with purity and agape love. It will take time to know all of it. Personally, I struggle with taking up the "cross of Christ daily". I need his encouragement and he needs mine, and this is how we help each other as we journey in this world. I love the guy. It's a process.

     
  • At 3/25/2008 03:39:00 PM, Blogger wit4life

    Jemila,

    I'm not sure if you've read anything by N.T. Wright. But his book "The Last Word" addresses some of what you are wondering about.

    Concrete things like what you propose are truly a challenge in ministry within our culture context.

    Also, I personally think mentoring (also known as disciple-making) really helps along with building community and sharing in and modeling some of the (some are ancient) spiritual disciplines (lectio divina, contemplative prayer, labyrinth prayer, etc). These things, among others, have been of great help to me.

    What are your thoughts?

     
  • At 3/25/2008 06:16:00 PM, Blogger Jemila Kwon

    I also feel that spiritual practices can help anchor and elevate us to a place that transcends the whole issue of subjective/objective truth and you simply walk humbly with God, love mercy and act with kindness. I found a great site called www.northumbriacommunity.org that has great online resources with praying the daily offices, with beautiful liturgy. I have no been a big fan of written prayers in the past, but I love this site, esp the morning office.

    I have found that the less I cling to dogma and am open to truth wherever and in whomever I find it, the more I come back to Christ with a full heart that longs to love and serve others.

     
  • At 3/26/2008 11:08:00 AM, Blogger wit4life

    Jemila- AWESOME. Thank you for that website resource. Very insteresting stuff.

    Yes, I agree. Our willingness to be like Christ makes all the difference.

    I really respect and appreciate your thirst for taking on his character.

    How have you discovered who he (Jesus) really is, and also what do you personally use for your basis of truth? (finding it wherever and in whoever)

     
  • At 3/26/2008 04:28:00 PM, Blogger Julie

    If one says something like, "We can't know anything for sure." this refutes absolutes, correct? Yet, the statement is in itself an absolute assertion statement. It makes no logical sense.

    The issue is is that no one making a statement like that is asserting it as an absolute. That is usually just an accusation thrown back at us to end the conversation. I would paraphrase the statement to mean - "from my experience, it seems like we can never know anything for sure, so given the resources available to me I will choose to exercise belief." we may not always use the qualifiers, but understanding intent is helpful.

    My question back is how can you know (absolutely of course) that you have arrived at objective knowledge and aren't just choosing to believe in what seems most right to you?

     
  • At 3/27/2008 10:02:00 AM, Blogger wit4life

    Hi Julie,

    Thank you for weighing in.

    How's your book coming? I'm earger to read what you're cooking up.


    I would agree with your amended statement. I think objective truth exists, however arriving at it is clouded by our experience sometimes rather than sifted by it. We can be prone to self-deception. I think the danger can be to elevate experience to a determiner of truth, one it may be better serve as one of a few tools in apprehending it. Scripture, while not the end all be all of describing our amazing God and determining objective truth, is surely an amazing and I believe accurate determiner, like signposts, or two coordinates points to a place off the map (to something greater off the map as CS LEWIS says), and we can rely on it for that.

    What happens sometimes ( in the spirit of the times we live in) is at the same time some deny objective truth, they at the same time make many claims about truth, their experiences and findings just as though they are objective. People don't believe things because they are not true. They believe them because they believe they are. If some one believe some thing because they thought if was merely subjective, that would be just plain silly. Obviously, you believe what you do because you think it's truly true, even if you think you don't know every single thing, (just like me). But that is a believe in (at some level) a core objective truth.

     
  • At 3/27/2008 01:08:00 PM, Blogger Julie

    But how can we "know" the scripture except through experience? We read in in light of our experience and the faith traditions we are a part of. Of course we believe our interpretation is true or else why bother believing, but it can be arrogant to assume that we somehow have access to scripture that no one else before us has ever had. Subjective doesn't mean "just emotional opinion" it means that our understanding of everything is subject to our experiences (our faith background, the language we speak...). We research and think through what we believe so that we have an informed belief, but all of those choices are relative to the information available to us. It doesn't cheapen our beliefs or make them any less true, just forces us to admit humility in knowledge and the centrality of faith.

     
  • At 3/27/2008 02:22:00 PM, Blogger wit4life

    Julie-From what you say, we may be in close agreement.

    I'm not exactly sure what you mean when you say "know"... whether you mean "comprehend" or "take in" or both, or something else.

    When I refer to Subjective.. as in subjective truth, and picking that over a belief system (or beliefs) in Objective truth, I am referring to the sort of the type thing that happens when "all truths are subjective". They are considered that. The mantra is "Well, ya know, it's subjective. It's truth, but it's all different for you and for me but equally valid." On the surface this seems great. Open minded. Fair. Tolerate. Diplomatic. I'd like to think it could work this way.

    However. If everything is subjective this means true Truth can't be found, of course. It just varies from person to person. (if you are using the dictionary's definition of true (american oxford dict.) Then, it's an illusion that does not exist beyond that-each person. It makes no good sense to believe in a bigger thing, or a (bigger) God even. It's just "god".

    However, people DO believe. (Which is very weird but nice b/c no God is depressing!) Worse than just the contradiction of belief though is, they *assert* beliefs. Even worse, they consider theirs superior (objective). I don't mind this however. I realize we live in an age where we all loath arrogance and then display it. We all do. I do too. I need your grace.

    We (culture in general) contend that something like belief Scripture authority is arrogant, yet in doing so, that stance claims a superior basis of truth. These are the contradictory times we live in, and I'm okay to live and let live, but sometimes some dialogue is useful.

    It should still be okay to have contrary opinions, right?

    I like what Tony Jones says about having "biblical humility", yet not apathy. I think that balance is good. Is that what you mean?

    I would not think it wise and go so far as to throw my hands up and say "this is just about interpretation with these Scriptures, knowing God is about mainly experience, this theology stuff how can we really know?..." etc. b/c we'd be foolish to think we are the best at looking at the Scripture or that 2000 years of scholarship will not lend great guidance to us. Experience is crucial to knowing and loving God, but to me, it can vanquish our reality, just as it's fooling us into thinking it is creating it.

    In truth, God is Reality.
    (I believe the Scriptures informed me on that.)

     
  • At 3/27/2008 04:31:00 PM, Blogger Jemila Kwon

    I think the either/or dichotomy of feeling vs. reason is an inappropriate paradigm for looking at how we know and live truth.

    As I understand it, the Hebrew authors of scripture understood truth as fidelity, rather than a greek idea of truth/false.

    I like how when Paul talks about the fruit of the spirit in Galatians 5:22-23, he says there is no law against love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control (am I missing any?) There is no law against such things precisely because they are self-evident. Our ancestors felt that our in God's image-ness, and therefore our fundamental equality was also self-evident. We may argue about words, but everyone agrees in an idea of human dignity.

    How I know I love my kids? I cannot prove it -- therefore it is subjective. It (love) is neither a mere feeling nor a mere act of will, but a synthesis of both, creating a synergy that transcends either. Likewise, reason and feeling are not in competition in knowing truth, but work best when ultimately in service of our deepest inner knowing -- our spirit-led intuition -- if you will. It is not a feeling OR an abstract idea. It is both and neither and is irreducible to words. As the mystics have always said, "If you can put it into words, that aint IT."

     
  • At 3/27/2008 05:15:00 PM, Blogger wit4life

    Jemila,

    I think you have just the most interesting way of seeing and writing about things. That was really poetic.

    Where did you get your info for the Hebrews?
    Do you me just loyalty for loyalty's sake? Maybe I'm not understanding what you mean, b/c that sounds so empty, it's hard to wrap my brain around it. I've never heard that, and I'm wondering if this was a peer reviewed paper, or just a proposal, or what.

    Regarding the Hebrews. Rob Bell notes that there was no word for "spiritually" in Hebrew. Everything was spiritual. I think that perspective is invigorating. We must be careful to not segment our lives. To me reason, experience, scripture, history, scholarship, and faith integrate into a whole and rich faith walk. Among you all, I am the least.

    What you point about your kids is quite interesting. I would probably see it from the vantage point like this. I love my kids. My reality of this is based in that my source of my love originates in the Sources of all Love. This source, is The Source. He is the true reality. He (not REALLY a he at all, but the Creator, the supreme Being,) is the source of goodness. This is how I would see it. And this would not be subjective, being my own perception, but be one of those found outside myself in another, an object outside myself. I would objectify my reality of loving them, but I would know also that loving them would be a personal subjective experience as well. They could both coexist. From my frame of reference, I would start with God.

    You can't put it into words something like love or beauty, or God, no way, but words point beyond themselves to true things. You can't truly put the aroma of coffee into words, or the experience of tasting it, but one can evoke the imagination to the reality of having a yummy cup of it. Coffee exists, thank God. I'm going to grind some beans right now.


    I would also disagree that we all agree about human dignity. I would LOVE to think so BUT-- Have you heard about the BODIES exhibition? The human plasticized (likely political prisoners) shipped here via the mutual CHINA and US loop hole as "mannequins", and shown in science centers. Their pasts have been erased. They have no names, no origins, no histories. These people, in the prime of their lives, arrived as display pieces. They had families and were loved. Now they are displayed like, material. It's creepy.

    When people don't have God, humans are material. There is no dignity. People are just commodities. They are human crops for corporations or governments to get richer. The Gulags and the Holocaust happened after repercussions the of secular humanist philosophers. The subjective truth is -- this is good for science. People don't have souls, you can't prove that. They don't have dignity- you can't prove that. You can only say people have dignity IF you say GOD gave us dignity.

    If you say God gave us dignity, then how dare you!

    You are imposing your absolute morality and religious mumbo jumbo.

    Well, sorry. The human mannequin thing is totally gross for me. Sorry if that makes me crazy. Put me in jail--- just not Chinese jail, please.


    : )

     
  • At 3/27/2008 08:04:00 PM, Blogger Jemila Kwon

    "You can't put it into words something like love or beauty, or God, no way, but words point beyond themselves to true things. You can't truly put the aroma of coffee into words, or the experience of tasting it, but one can evoke the imagination to the reality of having a yummy cup of it. Coffee exists, thank God."

    I love it! Amen.

    My source material for the connection between truth and fidelity comes both from a New Testament course I took at The Lutheran Seminary at Philadelphia and two books in particular: Colossians Remixed, as as Reading Mark, Engaging the Text.

    I was a little surprised to see such a philosophical treatise about your love for your kids. I have a feeling that even before you thought all that through you knew in a place in your soul that you love your kids, and that you would stake your life on it, proof or not proof, God or no God as the official starting point :)

     
  • At 3/27/2008 09:26:00 PM, Blogger wit4life

    Jemila- About my kids: Yes, I feel that in my inner being, but I realize the why, the reality. And yet the two things live and breathe in harmony, the experience and the reason. My ontology precedes my epistemology. (It really doesn't matter that much what one believes if life doesn't have real meaning, or one doesn't really know what really real is, right?)

    This, of course entails the message of the Good News too, the reality of Jesus to those who have not had the chance to hear what it means to be truly loved, forgiven, and in a deep and loving communion with God.

     
  • At 3/27/2008 10:32:00 PM, Blogger Amy

    Wow, I left a a few days and you all have been having a great conversation.

    Wit, after reading some of your comments, I'm wondering about your idea of "objective". Objective truth, in my understanding, has roots in the sciences and has to do with the ability to observe, document and retest data. That has been something for me that is difficult to translate in to my relationship with God. I consider my experience with God to fit pretty much in a subjective category. I "know" that relationship is real, but for an outsider to come in and observe that and try to repeat it in their life just wouldn't work.

    I think I get where you're going, though. Jemila referenced the book "Colossians Remixed". They have a fabulous discussion in that book that addresses the reality of what many post-moderns are addressing the whole "relativity" discussions, and yet they agree that in order to actually act, a person needs to work with some underlying worldview.

    When I approach this question lately, I keep tripping over how even within Christian groups, there are very different views on what either objective biblical interpretation, or theology, look like. People point fingers, even at other Christians, who believe what may be called the basics, but don't subscribe to what they consider the "plain reading" of the text. So, I question coming at the conversation from that standpoint.

    I do believe that God is truth and it is my goal to seek after that by loving God passionately and love the people around me. It's changed the way I approach my faith, as well as the faith of others.

     
  • At 3/28/2008 07:51:00 AM, Blogger wit4life

    Welcome back Amy,

    It's been fun here. All sorts of conversation. I think you are thinking empirical. (observable, testable facts) Objective means, not influence by personal feeling or opinions, and that sort of thing in accomplished outside of one's self. For instance, a judge as an authority presides over a case theoretically as an impartial and objective judge of a case to hear both sides and decide what should happen.

     
  • At 3/28/2008 08:08:00 AM, Blogger Jemila Kwon

    Wit, I think you've hit the nail on the head with the idea of the judge theoretically being impartial. The fact is, the judge is a human being, and therefore not impartial. At best, the judge can be aware of (some) of her personal biases and attempt to lay them aside as she makes a call, but the preponderance of racism in courts, for example only confirms that judging is far from objective.

     
  • At 3/28/2008 12:26:00 PM, Blogger wit4life

    Yes,Jemila

    I just had this feeling you were going to say that. sigh. I can tell you don't believe in the system any more, and lack faith in authority. I live near a State police barracks where they all speed like crazy, so I struggle bit too.

    Please don't miss my point, by citing exceptions okay? The reason we have judges and bother with the law and court and all that is b/c objective truth exists. If it wasn't impossible to find out the truth, we wouldn't bother with it. Yes there is corruption, yes, interpretation filters in, but you see, the truth of a situation CAN be found. Would you rather a judge not preside? Would you rather no authority at all? The best scenario is honorable judges who believe that they answer to a higher authority higher than themselves. A Being. If they are not corruptible and can listen with impartiality as best they can in their human condition, one can receive something close to a fair slice of justice.

     
  • At 3/28/2008 02:26:00 PM, Blogger Jemila Kwon

    I am not arguing against the existence of Truth or the possibility of tapping into it -- only the impossibility of accessing it objectively. This doesn't mean we should try our best -- ala the judicial system, or our attempts at articulating faith -- only that we should keep in mind that while we may sense that we know something deeply, either in our mind, heart, intuition and spirit, yet we do not know it objectively, absolutely -- this can lead to humility, not despair!

    This judge who says, "I am absolutely certain I judged that case perfectly," is not a judge I would trust, unless that judge is GOD.

    I am not picking apart the exception -- I am using the same illustration you used, which I think points to a principle as broad as being human: we can at times judge well, we often judge wrong and we should always judge with humility, including our intellectual discernments about faith.

     
  • At 3/28/2008 06:00:00 PM, Blogger Julie

    Thanks for giving your definition of "objective." I'm with Jemila though, I don't think any person can ever be impartial without being God. We are all shaped by culture and experience - those influence our perspectives the same as opinions and feeling. We can never escape language and what we understand when we hear certain words. This isn't about emotionalism or being ruled by feelings, just understanding perspectives and getting past false assumptions that humans can be treated as scientific test subjects.

    I think you are only seeing this in the extremes. Either people are objective or they are wishy-washy emotionally subjective. There is a lot of in between. truth being subjective refers to how we grasp it. Sure truth exists (capitalize it, add a modifier like absolute if you like) but our ability to understand it is filtered through our experiences. I don't see that as preventing access to truth or as a reason to give up on trying. It does require that I not be a jerk about it and say stuff like "I have access to true truth and the rest of you are morons". I choose to believe, I will never know, but then again unless I am God (all-knowing, all-powerful...) and above/outside experience I kinda have to believe... that's sorta the purpose of faith.

     
  • At 3/28/2008 06:52:00 PM, Blogger wit4life

    Hi again, Julie,

    I wouldn't go so far as to say humans could be completely impartial or completely objective, or have claim to complete objective truth. Sorry I haven't cleared up my point.

    My point was that God is the Objective reality, he is the source of goodness, truth, and from him we may set up systems outside ourselves and our experiences for judging truth... this Socratic model of the reality of Objective Truth is how our justice system, and others, was based. If it was thought that truth could be decided just just consensus, or experience, or some other subjective means, as in contemporary milieus, it would have been created differently. I'm not so extreme, and I'm surprised you'd think so - - - but maybe you haven't read all my responses along this exchange. No worries.

    But Julie--- you have to tell me--
    Why do you see God as all-knowing and all-powerful? I don't get it? Did you find this out through Scripture? How do you know this is true? So much would indicate to the contrary.

     
  • At 3/28/2008 09:54:00 PM, Blogger Julie

    hi -

    I don't mean to paint you as extreme, just perhaps using extreme forms of the argument as examples.

    I fully admit that there are different theories of truth. Depending on which worldview one chooses to buy into, one's theory of how we know truth varies. Many of the world's governing system were created under one theory. Others of us choose to accept differing theories. As I see it, just because systems (justice...) were set up a certain way (under a certain paradigm of reality and truth) that doesn't make that system true or even a reality. Just because people believe something works a certain way doesn't mean it actually does. Scientists think that they can objectively measure things, but they can never get around the lens of their own perception.

    As for your question about how I know things about God. Simple answer - that is what I have been taught and what I have chosen to believe. And what exactly all-knowing and all-powerful mean is I'm sure dependent on one;s interpretations as well. I don't know God fully, I can't. I'm finite. I believe certain things about God, seek to understand more, and try to avoid assuming the things I believe about God actually represent or contain God (that would turn my ideas into idolatry...).

     
  • At 3/28/2008 09:58:00 PM, Blogger Amy

    Here's a link to the definition on webster's.

    Objective, in this sense is inextricably influenced by what is considered empirical evidence, which as Wit has stated is very much a part of our culture and specifically the judicial system. The definition states that something objective has reality independent of the mind. Part of what post-modern thought entails is questioning whether we can realistically disengage the mind to find this objective reality. Thus, Jemila's comment with regard to judges.

    Here's a quote from Colossians Remixed that has stuck with me since reading it, "Objectivism makes the truth into a passive entity 'out there' that is best discovered and grasped by detached observation of knowing subjects who adopt a stance of neutrality. Objectivism posits that the truth is achieved when we make propositions, statements and reports about the objects "out there" that actually mirror the way things are...The problem is there is no view from nowhere! They go on later in the book to talk about needing to have a worldview of some kind with which to act out of (otherwise, paralysis of thought/action is way too easy).

    Here's where I struggle. At one point, I very much did believe that I could know God through objectivity. God could be proven and the "right" way could as well. As I stated earlier, I grew up Pentecostal. So, in order for the Bible to be true, the only correct way to interpret it was that the physical gifts of the Spirit such as speaking in tongues, words of wisdom, miracles, etc, manifested themselves today the same as in the book of Acts. So, because of our definition of truth, any other Christian denomination that thought differently was wrong. Time was spent defending our interpretation and putting others down because it didn't line up correctly. We were told that if one word was proven false, we might as well throw the whole book out. These were good people teaching and they had the best intentions.

    So, the question I have is how do we know where that line of objectivity is? What is truly that point which becomes the hill we defend and what is the side issue? (Is the battle analogy even an acceptable approach)? How do we approach the text on significant issues such as women in ministry, free will vs. predetermination and various other areas that we use to define how God works and know that "this is it"? Wit, I don't ask these questions of you. These are places I've sat at and will still come back to. I don't have the answers. I have chosen to read the scripture a certain way in many of these areas, but I'm aware that others believe differently based on the way they read the text. I'm OK with that.

    I may be coming at this from a different angle and not understanding you well. It seems that you may feel frustrated. This is a big question and one that discussions become quite heated about. Thanks for engaging and working through...even with different opinions.

     
  • At 3/29/2008 06:07:00 AM, Blogger Jemila Kwon

    I have been reading several books with the belief that truth is BOTH objective and inextricably linked to perception AND that seemingly conflicting beliefs can be simultaneously true at various levels of consciousness. Take for example Newtonian physics, which is modern: gravity exists, stuff falls down, chairs are solid. Then if you get into quantum physics (which I only know a teensy bit on a conceptual level,) it turns out that the chair is not solid, but actually a mass of energy, comprised mostly of space and of dancing particles who probably here, but theoretically also could be there. This might seems very complicated and in a way it is, but all the same it is quite simple to sit in a chair.

    I think it is frightening to acknowledge that Truth, while Real, is like sand slipping through our fingers when we try to define it absolutely because we are afraid we will no longer be able to sit on the chair. The goodness is that chairs are still good for sitting on, even when you understand that at a quantum level, they are not actually solid.

    I am reminded of 1st Corinthians, where Paul warns of the folly of knowledge. It isn't that philosophy or theology is evil, but when it is a substitute for the God who is beyond theology and yet closer than our breath, they can become an idol.

    It is not our intellectual assertions about our spouse or children than lead us to love them with devotion and fidelity; it is our inner sense of connection, our commitment, our deepest unspoken knowing that would lead us to lay down our lives for those we love. And this same with Christ -- I would not lose my life for an intellectual belief, but for a Living Love Infinite, Yes!

     
  • At 3/29/2008 07:24:00 AM, Blogger wit4life

    I would not lose my life over an intectual belief either, but my mind and my heart are a package deal almost all the time.

    Excellent comment about Paul. wow. yep.

    Interesting, I have never heard of the word, "Objectivism", but I would venture that is only an "interpretation" of the word. Would you agree? (I'm kidding)

    Thank you for this engaging discussion. It has been VERY enlightening.

    I agree that as humans discovering truth is a process we engage in and as we align ourselves with God and we can sort it out better. Interpreting what Scripture is the "minor points" (as you mentioned Amy) I also find daunting. Jesus as my salvation is my hope and I find that in Scripture and count that as my authority from that source. He is the major point, and when Christian major on the majors, all the better.

    Thank you all for your Christian love and forbearance with me and my differing with some items. (In truth---ahem, on many points, we don't differ that much at all :)

    In the end, Grace is the only thing that can most help us.

     

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