Wednesday, June 3, 2009

On Knowledge and Worldviews

Brett commendably acknowledges his inability to know a lot of things.  This is good.  We need more humility in this world and among self-righteous and seemingly all-knowing Christians.  I sense to some degree from Brett’s writings, that he is reacting (as the postmodern culture has) to the optimistic claims of modernism (in the secular  & Christian ranks) that exhaustive and certain knowledge is possible. Modernism did not bring in utopia or establish a consensus of all truth.  Thus the postmodern era in which we now live burst forth with its skepticism and asserts that truth is unknowable.  Postmodernism has dealt a good dose of humility to all.  But the postmodernism climate goes too far.  The inability to know exhaustively does not mean we cannot know partially.  There are perpetual mysteries that the Christian worldview will not illumine for me (Deut 29:29).  However, the Christian worldview will give me an understanding of my inability to not understand everything—I am finite and there is an infinite God.  I will necessarily have limitations on my understanding.  The Christian worldview claims this.  I must humbly accept this.  So, I welcome Brett’s refreshing humility of saying, “I would be fooling myself to think that I had the answers all worked out. I didn't have the answers, but was that such a bad thing?”  No.  But partial truth and sufficient truth for what we need in this life is available. 

Careful analysis of Brett’s troubling initial concerns will show that a true Christian worldview constructed from the Scriptures is more than adequate to handle them.  Compared to the often-cited “problem of evil” of the Christian worldview, Brett’s concerns, while legitimate, are relatively minor in comparison.  Furthermore, it would seem that Brett’s initial issues did not arise from a true Christian worldview, but from false perceptions about what he thought was included in a Christian worldview.  And, upon realization that these conclusions in his mind were not justified, he abandoned the core of the Christian worldview instead of abandoning/refining the assertions.   This seems to be consistent with the metaphor of “throwing the baby out with the bathwater.”   There was no warrant for abandoning the worldview based upon the initial unresolved doubts. 

Using another metaphor, a worldview can be pictured as a “web.” A spider’s web holds together because of the central core strands of fiber.  The strands of the web on the extremities are less essential to hold the web together than its core strands.  If one of the outer strands is broken the spider can repair it and strengthen it.  If on the other hand, the core of the web has been found to be lacking integrity THEN the entire web needs to be discarded.  A worldview is like a web in the sense of a system of interrelating beliefs and assertions about reality.  The core assertions of our worldview form the inner part of the web.  However, all of us have perceptions about reality incorporated into our worldview that would be akin to the outer extremity of a spider’s web that is easy broken (and sometimes need to be). Sometimes, the beliefs are not essential, nor even consistent or congruent with our core.  The realization of the inconsistency/incongruence is the beginning of the doubting process.  However, the testing/breaking/then strengthening of these flimsy outer extremities is necessary to continue to refine our beliefs.  The refining of the outer extremities does not necessitate the jettison of the core web.  What Brett has apparently done is akin to a spider throwing away the core of the web when only a few outer strands failed.  And, instead of strengthening or refining the outer strands, the spider simply abandons the web.  There is no warrant for the spider to do this and there was no warrant for Brett to do this.

Brett makes clear what his three major concerns were that seemed to lead to a state of disillusionment with Christianity.

  1. The ineffectiveness of apologetics and its role of only being significant to believers
  2. The inability to discern supernatural activity in daily experiences
  3. Ministries thrive because of people not because of supernatural intercession by God.

I plan to deal with each of these concerns in the upcoming blog posts.

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