some thoughts on truth and religious epistemology

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2 Responses

  1. Regarding the Bible, I find the idea of telling us “how the world really is” problematic in that the world we experience is largely a construction on many levels – from the basic level of how our brains interpret perceptions and construct our individual worlds from them to the socially- and biologically-embedded frameworks we inhabit that strongly influence how we make the world out of those perceptions. I see the world fundamentally as something we take, rather than something we are given. Note that I do not mean the same thing when I say “world” as “reality”. The worlds we construct for ourselves may well be (and probably are) at least to some extent false. So to say “the Bible is true and we have access to its contents” is problematic.

    Firstly, I might question your assumption: “The worlds we construct for ourselves may well be (and probably are) at least to some extent false.” Who’s to say they are? Or who is to say they are not? When dealing with truth it seems as though your assumption here simply begs the question. The issue with truth is whether something is true or whether it is false. No?

    Next I am wondering about that last sentance: “So to say ‘the Bible is true and we have access to its contents’ is problematic.” It seems to me that this statement is true regardless of whether one is “modern” or “postmodern” or regardless of what philosophical school one prefers. The greater question, as you seem to be driving at in your other comments, is whether or not we can have “access” to anything in the wider world. Kant seemed to say that we only have our perceptions of what is “out there.” Descartes took a Rational approach. Some discount completely the ability to know anything “out there” with any certainty. But this again strikes me as begging the question. I believe the Bible is true and that I have access to its contents, at least in some way. Yet I would agree that my statement is “problematic.” But whether or not my belief is “problematic” says nothing of its truth value.

  2. Well, part of the reason for framing things the way I did was rhetorical. I perceived that he was trying to get me to make a certain kind of answer that would lead the discussion down a certain logical spiral ending with me either having to admit he was right or appear irrational. By saying the way he framed the question was problematic, I opened up the possibility of dialogue beyond the parameters he was seeking to establish. He has not yet replied, for whatever that’s worth. Probably either I threw him for a loop or he’s decided I’m a fruitcake.

    The issue with truth, I would say, is not whether something’s true or false, but rather what is the relationship between truth and language, and furthermore if all truth is equivalent or if there are different KINDS of truth. The early 20th century Positivists, for example, sought to reduce all “truth” to logical propositions. Something was true only if it could be expressed in terms of a logical formula. Emotions, therefore, were not true, nor were any other kinds of metaphysical or non-logical statements. On the other end of the spectrum, the radical Romantics would have said emotion is true, and language is at best limited in its ability to convey truth. So I have to ask you what sort of question is it I’m begging? I would presume, as a Christian, that it is ultimately up to God to say whether my constructed world is true or false, as God is the only being with enough perspective to finally make that determination. However, in the absence of God’s making a definite declaration, the collective judgments of the various communities in which I dwell will have to influence my construction, hopefully with the effect of making it more accurate.

    If by “true” you mean “a language statement that corresponds to an objective state of being”, then I would have to say I don’t believe this type of truth exists.

    I think the comment I made about the rhetorical thrust of my statement answers your second question. I again do not see what sort of question it is you see me begging, so if you could clarify that for me it would be helpful.

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