Tim Keel and Carla Barnhill share with us how things are going to work with these learning communities – we are encouraged to share even during the time that the speakers are presenting with us.
John Franke (Theologian) @ Biblical Theological Seminary (their whole faculty is here at the convention – apparently they are trying to become the “emergent” seminary).
Todd Hunter (Practitioner) @ President of Alpha USA: “I’m a frustrated evangelist.” Entered into this conversation because the issues that young church planters were dealing with were categorically different than what he had experienced.
Truth: Truth impinges upon all areas of our life. And there are problems with “truth.”
Transrational: something that is not un-rational, or anti-rational, but something that moves beyond the scientific understanding of truth.
Why are we having a session on “Truth”? Because, there is an epistemological anxiety – people are worried about truth and how we think – and this appears to be a recent thing.
Medieval Europe: How do people know?? The Church told them.
Reformation/Christian Renaissance: How do we know Truth? The Bible. The Bible is being translated into the vernacular, all we need is the truth of the Bible – we peeled away one of the layers. BUT, the individual has to figure out what scripture says, instead of listening to the church tell us. So, the “right of private interpretation” came about and now we are at a place where everyone has competing ideas about what the truth about the Bible is – and there were wars. etc.
Enlightenment: It’s not about external authority anymore – we need to be able to do this ourselves. An autonomous self can, for themselves, sort out and determine what is true. If I can find these absolute starting points for myself, then we can gain knowledge. Galileo is looking through his telescope – hey now – it looks like the earth is going around the sun – but the church is saying the opposite. Galileo looks and says that he can’t trust the church, he has to believe what he sees. You know truth when you have certainty – when you have things which you can’t be certain about, then you have “faith” – which is very different than knowledge. Objectivity is crucial – you can’t be biased! You must be neutral.
Absolute/objective truth – these are terms that people (some) are really hoping that we will use when we talk about our faith.
Postmodernity: raises questions about the account of truth that is sketched out in modernity. Postmodernity says that truth is not universal (it’s more local, particular, contextual – every truth statement is relative to its context – we HAVE to think about context).
Postmodern hermeneutical philosophy:
hermeneutics of finitude: how can human beings make these absolutely certain claims about the human experience – we are finite beings, and it is just not possible to do that
hermeneutics of suspicion: even if it were possible to make such claims, postmoderns say that would be very dangerous because humanity tends to really suck. We are power-seeking
For moderns, it appears that postmoderns are denying the presence of any truth.
What does Christianity have to say about this?
The postmodern hermeneutics of suspicion and finitude can be appropriated and re-situated in Christian. Hermeneutics of finitude is an extension of the theology of creation – it’s been said always that humanity is finite – we don’t have even have to talk about sin – God is infinite, we are finite. That’s a Christian position – claims of making “absolute truth statements” about God are limited to us. Hermeneutics of suspicion is an extension of the theology of sin – illegitimate uses of power [again, this is a time that social sin and the systemic nature of sin is helpful here, as opposed to the way that conservative evangelicals hold a more individualistic understanding of sin].
Well, what about truth then? If truth is known fully in community and contextual – what do we want to say about truth?
Postmoderns haven’t given up on truth – but most postmodern theorists have tended to be atheists. Postmoderns would be inclined to say something like this: “The small t truth is that there is no capital T Truth.” They believe in some truth. We can appropriate some postmoderns ideas and re-situate them in the framework of the Christian tradition. Although, we didn’t need postmodernity to bring about these:
The small t truth is that there is capital T Truth, but not for us, only for God.
Only God knows absolute truth, if by absolute truth you mean the sum totality of truth that can be had on any subject.
What about the small t truth? Hasn’t God revealed something of God through revelation and scripture? Yes! God has done that – but as we appropriate revelation and think about what God has revealed – but we should remember something that Calvin says: “All the true and sound wisdom we possess comes from knowledge of God and knowledge of self.” You can’t separate these – there is no knowledge of God apart from knowledge of God. I think John Calvin did a very good job exegeting the doctrine of God; the knowledge of our selves could be beefed up a bit.
Calvin: “So when God decides to reveal revelation, to give us knowledge of God, God has to accommodate to our weakness, to our finitude, so God lisps to us.” God is bending down to us, in our finitude and our fallenness. But that communication is limited by our ability to perceive.
So, what we have is this: God has provided divinely revealed mis-information in order to provide us with come content for the beliefs and practices that we need to cultivate in order to please God.
So what is our challenge? It seems to me that to be faithful Christians who understand the knowledge of God and the knowledge of ourselves, we need to be people who cultivate firm convictions about the truth of the Christian faith that fund our proclamation, and at the same time, we must cultivate an epistemic humility about those very same convictions that were claimed – and that takes wisdom.
[We need to pursue truth…but to understand that this means that we are not going to find the truth necessarily.
Doesn’t capital T truth simply mean Jesus?]
Franke: An alternative to the foundational model, is the idea of the web. The web, it’s back and forth and every which way. Good Christian theology is Christologically coherent, and pneumatologically pragmatic.