One of the things I’ve been thinking about is the morass that the modern man faces. There’s a seeming loneliness and existential search for meaning, love and happiness despite being born in the wealthiest, most technologically advanced society in history. I want to trace back based on my readings in philosophy and religion the basis for this. I’m deeply influence by Lesslie Newbigin and Alysdair McIntyre for their thoughts on this subject as well as Polyani and others.
Separation of public and private due to enlightenment thought. Scientific naturalism became the dominant paradigm with thinkers like Hume , Hobbs, Kant, Kiekergaard, Newton where they tried to develop an ethic and basis for morals without God. In the public world of facts things are considered true or false but in the world of private values pluralism reigns. There isn’t an agreed upon standard for morality and they tried to ground it in reason. Kiekergaard by will. Hume by the passions. Baconian thought grounded people in “evidence” and a reductionist view of reality. The church retreated after successive failures with Galileo.
However their efforts were destined to fail because the all lacked a teleology for man. You can only define something is good if you understand it’s purpose. Utilitarianism is a failure. The problem is the definition of good. Kant tried to use the universal imperative. Nietzsche pulled the covers back and said all these efforts are a failure and front to hide personal agendas. There is only the super man an will to power.
Aristotlean thought was about virtue and creating habits that produce the kind of goods based in end of life. But without a clear purpose in life we have the heretic imperative where everything is a one off. Humans crave purpose and is it any wonder the most popular spiritual book was the purpose driven life. So faith became relegated to a ghetto where we couldn’t reconcile in our public secular facts without our private values so the option is to go anti-intellectual. We have to resolve the cognitive dissidence and for some we have gone all spiritual an negated the world of facts. The predominant worldview is a secular one. The presupposition is a naturalistic one that can not be supported by science but rather by philosophy. Augustine was in a similar situation with the baba roams at the door and wrote city of God and shaped western thought for the next 1,000 years. We are in a similar situation except the barbarians are already in seats of power.
Syncretism like Hinduism. The attraction of eastern thought is that it doesn’t make a truth claim about reality. God makes a claim and the reason of Christianity can embrace and has room for science but scientific naturalism has no room for Chrisianity.
Polynesian culture faced something similar. They had things that were Taboo. But when King Kamehameha banished the taboos there was little resistance. Why? Because those taboos were artifacts and vestiges from another time but their foundation was removed. Our culture and time is similar. Our morals are artifacts from another time but we have divorced them from the context from which they came. There is no basis for morality apart from purpose of life and telos.
pluralism is thought to be the proper perspective in a modern society. secular humanism and “modern society” lacks an agreed upon pattern of belief or conduct. therefore, it is conceived to be a “free society.” One in which every dogma is subjected to a critical and even spectical examination.
Lessing – the accidental truths of history can never establish the universal truths of reason
similar to Hindu faith – there was a wall of pictures of religious leaders and Jesus was one of them. they worshipped him on one day out of the year but it was clear proof that their acceptance of Jesus was not a step closer to Christian faith but rather a co-option of Jesus into the Hindu worldview. Jesus was just one of a # of figures in the endless cycle of karma and samsara.
we do the same in the west. our reigning plausibility structure (Peter Berger) is a consumer society (Jethani) and we have co-opted Jesus to make our lives more tolerable.
The Bible became the lens in which the soul was interpreted and became private and removed from the public sphere.
There was a world of “facts” and “values”. Facts existed and were true regardless of who believe. Values didn’t matter if they were true as they were only opinions and the only thing that mattered was the sincerity of your belief. In this world, you can share your faith with someone else otherwise it’s seen as arrogant and imperialistic because you have a belief but it’s not an objective truth. Also, you won’t live your life as if Jesus is Lord and the life/death/resurrection of Christ won’t impact you because it’s has no moral weight. Jesus is just one voice and picture on the wall of your life. We have co-opted Jesus.
Christianity and the resurrection rests on no authority but itself. it is not something to look “at” but something to look “through”. it is the lens through which we tacitly inhabit but we focus on the world through this “tool” or “telescope/lens” through which we understand the world.
the church is ok when it offers its belief as one of many brands in the ideological market. but the affirmation of the truth of the Gospel in the public market is seen as offensive.
no coherent thought is possible without taken some things as given.
critique of doubt and enlightment thought
1. dogma is not peculiar only to the church
2. social conditioning of belief (Berger) plausibility structures come to us through tradition and history and experience
3. story of king/courters watching blind men grope elephant as analogy of religions trying to understand truth. they only get part of it. it’s meant to seem humble. and yet it is the opposite. the story is told from the perspective of the noblemen who can “see all”. no one can stand back and say they have an objective view of reality. the story is told to neutralize the affirmation of the great religions but it is an immensely arrogant claim to say you can see what all the religions of the world are blind to.
a. the gospel must be true for all peoples but dogma has always been associated with coercion and it can not be used that way
b. we do not defend the Christian message by domesticating it in the reigning plausibility structure.
c. to be witnesses does not mean we are the possessors of all truth. but rather by being placed on this path we are on the pathway to truth. there is indeed a proper place for agnosticism in the Christian life.
the 18th/19th century defenders of the faith were wrong in seeking to defend a system of timeless metaphysical truths about God, nature and man. The Bible was a source of information about such of these eternal truths as could not be discovered by direct observation of nature. But the Christian faith, rooted in the Bible, is primarily to be understood as an interpretation of the story-the human story set within the story of nature and history.
Allen Bloom in the closing of the american mind argues how relativism has creeped into our culture and education. There is no longer talk of right and wrong but rather of “values”. The source of which started when Enlightment thought said the world has no purpose. To understand the physics of something is to understand it. We only see things in light of cause/effect and not purpose. You can not judge the rightness or wrongness of something unless you understand it’s purpose. The only thing left then is choice. With choice comes the will and the will to power is all that is left. Nietzsche. the factual, ontological basis for using such language was removed.
Facts are the things we have to reckon with whether we want to or not. Values are what we choose because we want them – either for ourselves or for someone else.
Polanyi – the critique of doubt. all critique of doubt is based on some belief. you can not doubt both the statement and the beliefs on the basis of which the statement is doubted.
the distinction between “facts” and “beliefs” rests on an illusion. facts are only grasped by an activity of the knower which is impossible without long training. this training begins in infancy and so-called facts are interpreted facts. what we see depends on the way our minds have been trained. at one time people saw the night sky as chinks ithe celestial sphere through which the light shone from beyond. later they saw heavenly bodies circling the earth. now we see us as a fraction of a universe vaster than the human mind can grasp.
in pluralism – to confess Jesus as Lord and Savior and to worship him is a proper expression of our devotion. But this does not entitle us to make the same claim outside the context of the life and worship of our Church. Our creedal statements are not to be understood as universal truths or as objective truth. To do so is arrogance. They are not matters of public knowledge but of private faith.
Foolishness to the Greeks
In premodern cultures the heretic was in a minority. In medieval Europe or in contemporary Saudi Arabia, for example only the rare individual questions the accepted framework of belief. It is just “how things are and have always been.” In modern Western culture, so Berger argues, we are all required to be heretics, for there is no accepted plausibility structure. With respect to ultimate beliefs, pluralism rules, and thus each individual has to make a personal decision about ultimate questions. In that sense, we are all now subject to the “heretical imperative.”
With aid of modern technology, modern man chooses when he will live, to whom he will talk, how he will behave, what style of life he will adopt. He can, if he has successfully mastered the techniques of modern living change at will his job, his home, his company, and his spouse. The old patterns of belief and behavior that ruled because they were not questioned have largely dissolved. Each person makes his or her own decision about what to believe and how to behave. location 176
With respect to facts a statement is either right or wrong, true or false. But with respect to the values, and supremely with respect to the religious beliefs on which these values ultimately rest, one does not use this kind of language. Value systems embodied in styles of living are not right or wrong true or false. they are matters of personal choice. Here the operative principle is pluralism, respect for the freedom of each person to choose the values that he or she will live by.
Religious experience occurs in the sanctuary, but its claim to truth has to be tested in the public world of facts where scientific disciplines operate.
Pluralism isn’t accepted in public world of science and ‘facts’. No place is given to the possibility that was given in the religious experience could provide insight into truth that might radically relativize the presuppositions of the scientific disciplines.
2 assumptions are made here: the essence of Christianity is the same as that of other world religions, and second, that all the religions have to submit their truth-claims to the discipline of the scientific method.
there is a separation between the private world and the public world. public world is world of facts upon which every intelligent person is expected to agree or be capable of being persuaded. We implicitly trust experts to be scrupulously honest and careful in their analysis and testing. If we had the time and training we could verify for ourselves. There are no “right” and “wrong” styles of life. In the field of personal values pluralism reigns.
the response of the Christian church to the Enlightment challenge was to accept the dichotomy and withdraw into the private sector. Having lost the battle to control education, and having been badly battered in its encounter with modern science, Christianity in its Protestant form has largely accepted relegation to the private sector, where it can influence the choice of values by those who take this option. By doing so, it has secured for itself a continuing place, at the cost of surrendering the crucial field. As an option for the private field, as the the protagonist for certain values, Christianity can enjoy considerable success.
W.E. Gladstone – English statesman – Should the Christian faith ever become but one among many co-equal pensioners of a government, it will be a proof that subjective religion has again lost its God-given hold upon objective reality, or when, under the thin shelter of its name, a multitude of discordant schemes shall have been put upon a footing of essential parity, and shall together receive the bounty of the legislature, this will prove that we are once more in a transition-state-that we are travelling back again from the region to which the Gospel brought us, toward that in which it found us.
The result is not as we once imagined, a secular society. It is a pagan society, and its paganism, having been born our of the rejection of Christianity, is far more resistant to the gospel than the pre-Christian paganism with which cross-cultural missions have been familiar. Here, surely, is the most challenging missionary frontier of our time.
The ideal of secular society is to remove all purpose and ideals from society. This fissure results in a dichotomy between public and private and facts vs values.
We must look for the explanation of everything including animal and human behavior in terms of cause and effect but without purpose.
The mind and brain and reductionistic approach to explain biology purely in terms of physics and chemistry is an absurd goal. We know difference a hand jerking from electrical stimulation vs purposeful use. It does not negate the immense discoveries of biology but it does show biology cannot explain something anymore than I can explain the intimate workings of a car in all it’s minutiae and yet I have not understood a car without knowing its purpose.
You cannot judge the rightness or wrongness of an action or being apart from understanding it’s purpose. If there is no purpose than there is no basis for judgment other than the will to power.
If facts have no place for purpose than if humans want to choose a purpose they must make one up themselves without any authority apart from their own sincere desire. Purpose becomes a private value which as long as I don’t infringe upon another’s purpose than its fine.
Also if we define human purpose is to be happy then we have no moral basis other than self fulfillment as the basis of our joy. It also does not affirm our real purpose
You cannot derive an ought from an “is”statement alisdair macyntire. Statements of fact do not contain statements of purpose.