Saturday, August 1, 2009

The "Forever" Pursuit of Finding a Universal

People like to understand universals, because only in the universal, can all things be understood. The "universal" holds the "common thread" to understand human beings and and the "world". Universals, though, will never be found apart for specificities, because we are bound within frames of references of personal and cultural histories and we "put our worlds" together differently, depending not only on these universals of personal and cultural history, but also the individual and thier value system.

Our contextuality has been understood and accepted in postmodernity. The individual is the 'universal". But, scientists, who like to explain the "world" more thoroughly, are investigating different aspects of the individual. The individual could be viewed in physical ways, metaphysical ways and social ways. Somewhere in the midst of the physical and social is the answer. The metaphysical can only be understood thorough the understanding of the "mind", as the metaphysical is about the individual's "construct" of "mind".

Universal ideology is a dangerous way to approach individual situations and contexts, as these are not understood "out there" but "in here", by the individual and within his framing of mind. Biblical scholars all understand that it is impossible to know for certain what was in the "mind" of the Prophets, the disciples, or Paul, for instance. This is the modern paradigm of understanding context, socially, historically, and contextually. But, these understandings are limited as we do not know the whole story around the "stories" contained in the biblical text. We can only surmise and think as far as probabilities. So, to extract universals from the biblical text is dangerous and misguided.

Not only is it problematic to make the Biblical text universal, but also theology has its limitations. Any theologian also, knows that there are as many theologies as there are contexts and "themes" and ways of approaching and understanding "god". This is why some think that theology is contextually bound. But, God is not a 'universal. God cannot be a universal, because of the lack of understanding to a "universal metaphysics".

I think that the Church is seeking a way to explain without explaining away, but this is almost impossible when modernity undercuts the universal in the text and the contextual undercuts the universal in theology. The only universal left is the "human", but what makes the human, "human", or a "universal". That is the biggest question facing anyone of any faith, whether of a traditional kind or an atheistic one.

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