Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Views of Truth continued in Postmodernity

Last night I wrote about three different understandings of truth. Of course this does not exhaust the "theories" concerning truth. Some would not root truth in philosophical terms and ways, but would understand truth in the postmodern sense, as a way of life, in cultural terms. This understanding of truth is a linguistic approach, where words have meanings and is text and culturally bound.

But, last night I suggested three ways of understanding that I think follow historical development of philosophical stances toward truth. The first, correspondence was useful in understand the Middle Ages. The Church, the text and the people represented truth, as they corresponded to a transcentdent realm. This view is held in evangelical and consevative circles where Church and/or text, point back to God.

The second view of truth is the coherent view, which is a scientific understanding. The Modern Age where critical inquiry was useful in determining what was real according to scientific investigation. Evidence found in archeological science supported historical science. These disciplines brought a more comprehensive view of ancient history and culture, which undermined the Church's claims on truth. Just recently the James ossuary which supported the historical Jesus was viewed as fradulant. Other findings show that Christian faith is not spcecial revelation, but one of many attempts by man to understand the transcentdent. The Bible, as understood by conservatives is a text of coherency, but textual criticism shows that Scripture reveals diverse views, peoples, and languages. The text has no coherent meaning, which leaves the believer in the quandary of questions concerning faith.

Pragmatism is the postmodern view, where there is no universal, but only individual understandings. These understandings are cultural understandings and identification factors for the individual. Because of the diversity and fragmentation to universal truth claims, which is highly problematic for conservatives, there has been an attempt to build some understanding of universal truth. Some have fallen back on the text, and "replacement theory", where the Church replaces Israel, as the "covenant people of God". This view understands the Church as mandated to herald the "Kingdom of God" on earth. Questions arise in ethics, where it concerns diversity issues in a modern society. Others, in relying on the text, limit their understanding to the early Church as a way to understand truth. Not understanding fully the early Church's context, these believers try to create "communities of faith". This is the emergent movement. Others have fallen back on theological rendering of the Trinity.

All of these attempts to create a transcendental and universal realm are short-sighted. Whether one creates an "Old Testament People of God" implementing God's Kingdom upon others, like Islam; creating local communities of faith, as the early Church; or create identification factors, such as Trinitarian attempts, all have ethical problems in bringing about an understanding unity in diversity. Postmodernity has attempted to bring about a "new identity" through these means of creating a unified identity, because the Church has an identification crisis.

Where does the Church go from here, as pragmatism is a means to accomplish things on earth, while having no need for the transcendent. Is the transcdent necessary? Some believe, not, as just as long as needs are met in the present, then it doesn't matter about God, the afterlife, or the Church. What do you think? Do you think that the transcendent is necessary? Is the church and if so, what for?


David said...


I wonder if you would consider adding another paradigm or worldview to your list: what might be called "applied phenomenology".

According to phenomenology, which includes elements of cognitive psychology and the psychology of perception, all of our experiences are constructed by our minds out of a wealth of sensory data. We literally do not know what is "out there" beyond our sensory organs, because all we can know are our interpretations of what we think reality is. This implies that all thinking patterns, including beliefs, are human-made and therefore could be partially or completely wrong. Ultimately, this means that everything we think or believe is at some level a delusion (maya), with some people being more delusional (less quality processing and interpreting) than others.

When we share our interpretations with others and obtain agreement from others, then we construct worldviews and belief systems and ideologies, none of which have validity beyond our mutual agreements.

So, using a phenomenological approach, let me propose a spiritually-inclined but non-religious view for your consideration:

It seems to me that one can take either of 2 interpretations about human spirituality that have far-reaching consequences for humanity:

1. We are mere humans attempting (and generally failing) to have spiritual experiences. Why? Because we are separate from God (or less than or not divine). Because of original sin? Because we can't know God directly?


2. We are spiritual beings having a human experience, the primary challenge of which is to handle the mind/ego which tries to convince us that we are separate from God/Source.

The consequences of making this choice are tremendous. All 3 monotheisms make(probably unconsciously) the first assumption, which gives them room to engage in a bunch of "evils"; sexism, prejudice against gays, disapproval of other religions who can't also be "right", violence in some cases aginst people who believe differently. The list is endless and damning.

The second approach makes all of these practices seem obscene and impossible to support with integrity. If you believe that we are spiritual beings having a human experience, and that we are always connected to Source (however you wish to language that experience), you will connect with people rather than kill or punish them. You will embrace diversity of all types rather than exclude those who do not match your prejudices.

The second approach also pretty much reduces to silliness many of the defining moments of early Christianity, such as the heated arguments about which Christology was correct (settled by violence and political shennanigans).

What do you think?


I apologize if this is a duplicate. The first time I submitted it didn't seem to do anything.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

I find what you propose helpful because it affirms the human being, and his/her experience as sacred. It is not based on group identifcation factors, where boundary markers become important. It allow the person to have opinions, desires, convictions, that are independent of religion. It helps create a humanism that is healthy in affirming ego development (egoism) and limits egotism...I like all of that. But, I'm sure I will think on it more...

How would you understand Kant in this view?

David said...

Kant... wasn't he one of those long-winded philosophers? Sorry, I can't answer this, since I don't follow Kant or his peers. I find all that high fallutin philosophy talk mind-bending. But for some reason, phenomenology doesn't have the same effect on me. Go figure.

I came to this Buddhist-sounding approach through the Toltec Path (Four Agreement, etc.), which is all about applied phenomenology. No dogma, just practice as ongoing research.

Anonymous said...

The James ossuary MAY be fraudulent. But the historical Jesus is evidenced by this authentic Bone Box

Angie Van De Merwe said...

What difference does it make if Jesus existed or not? Even if we prove he did, then, we have to interpret his life's meaning and value. That is what I think happened historically in the Christian Church. The Church became an institution because of its development of dogma and the hierarchy to "protect" that dogma...worshipping a historical figure is what religion is all about...