May 13, 2007

An Addendum: Beyond Rationality

I wrote this in response to my last post after I received back comments on the paper from the grader, who it seems completely missed the point. The grader wrote: "But how then do we KNOW Christianity to be true? I'm not sure how your somewhat skeptical worldview accounts for Christianity being true above other religions other than (by the) subjective criteria of corrsepondance with experience." While I am bothered by his inability to grasp what I thought was obvious from my writing, it just goes to prove - in a manner of speaking - that our subjective lenses cloud everything about reality.

This is as far as science and "rationality" can take us. I believe I have sufficiently answered the question "can we know our faith to be true?" in my previous post. It is with respect to the previous post that we must begin to ask ourselves a new question, "does this matter?" Does the question itself matter, in light of the answer?

Again, it's entirely possible that no, it doesn't. If faith is itself the basis for everything we know to be true, then it's possible that knowledge is only part of the answer. If God is there - again, a leap of faith - then it stands to reason that, if His character is that of reknown, he would not create anything - in its intended form - without integrity. Our senses are all we have to depend on and, like it or not, the only senses that give us information. As such, we have to trust them; it's not optional. But if we are being deceived, it is at once a clever deception and one which we will have a hard time deciphering. But if God is there - and I submit that he is - then it is by him, through him, and ultimately FOR him that our senses are useful. If we can know something to be true, it is only in light of our creator.

The question only matters if God is not there; if our creator is a creator of things of integrity, our senses will work and it is only by our senses that we will see him. But if he is not there, our senses can then be called into question on a more profound level, and the question becomes "can we know anything to be true at all?" It is thus an artificial question perpetuated by the enlightenment philosophy that denies God in the first place in favor of naturalism, a question we no longer really have to answer because fewer and fewer are actually asking it. Relativism is less about a plethera of absolute truths but more about a plethora of subjective lenses with respect to a mystical truth about which we can know very little for sure. The objective observer is dead, and many are questioning if he ever existed in the first place.

The thing that bothered me the most about the grader's response was that he was obviously intent on an agenda: "proving" Christendom to be true was more about disproving the validity of the beliefs of others instead of actively seeking the reality that I believe we all experience everyday, but that our lingual systems and cultural beliefs have ill-prepared us to express in similar language. I'm not saying that everybody's beliefs are true - far from it - but I am saying that our ability to prove anything misses the point. Truth isn't simply a matter of fact, though fact is part of it. Truth is beyond fact, beyond rationality, encompassing the effects as well as the causes, intuition as well as science, belief as well as rationality, and above all, the leaps of faith we all make by simply waking up in the morning. In this view I think that reality is restored its sense of mystery and wonder, and our place in the universe is restored: seekers of truth, not knowers of fact. In this view we can begin to inhabit, rather than evaluate, our subjective relationships with the world and with the divine, and thus move beyond the artificial into the living world in which we as humans were always meant to reside.


shawna said...

Well the bible does say " For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing but to us who are being saved it is the power of God" 1Cor 1:18. So there is obviouslly no way to prove it until we all stand before Jesus...there will always be a measure of faith until Jesus comes again. And Paul says if we don't believe the word of God as truth (implying, again, that measure of faith) then we are wasting our time(I can't remember which verse that is)
I'm curious about your profs response...does he have a view on the whole issue himself?

Chris said...

I think my professor (who didn't grade it, by the way, he has people to do that for him) is most definitely a modernist who believes that we can empirically prove pretty much anything through philosophical or rational debate. Faith is an idea, religion a set of beliefs. I've disagreed with most everything he's said; I got into an argument with him (not emotional, or at least, not on his part) on the second day of class over this very subject: he gave us the definition of knowledge and I was stupid enough to contest it; when he asked if I knew my faith to be true I was dumb and said yes, but I really should've said a qualified no (because that's what I really believe); I believe it to be true, but I don't know it to be true. Live and learn, I guess.

shawna said...

I don't know...I think you can, as a confident Christian, say that you know your faith to be true..yes it takes faith, but what is the point in living for God and becoming more like Christ if you don't know within yourself that it is true...maybe I'm missing the point?? I think that prof would frustrate me a bit too

Chris said...

well ... basically my essay contests the traditional philosophical definition of the verb "to know," which is not really the contemporary connotation of the word. We westerners use the word "know" much more lightly than most philosophers do; for them it involves a number of qualifications, not the least of which is that it has to be true ... which I contest is the problem in the first place, because we can't quite be sure if it's true or not, ergo we can't be said to "know" it. But yeah, I know my faith is true in the same way I know that I love my wife ... but it's through my own subjective lens that I know this, it's by faith, it's not by the sort of certainty that a philosopher born in the enlightenment wants to have.