Friday, March 26, 2010

The Death of Presumption

Today's post was written by George Elerick. Enjoy!

We have this stereotype about old people that has been around for quite a while. We say something like ‘they’re just afraid of change!’ or ‘they’ll never change!’ It’s almost as if they have been painted with a brush that they don’t get to pick. And the more we perpetuate all of our clich├ęs, they more true they seem to become. But, what about theology? Have all of our assumptions about God become true as well? Have we become afraid of change? I think Hume, the Scottish philosopher might have something to say to these questions.

Hume posed the principle of ‘is-ought’ which in short is the presupposition that what ‘is’ is also what ‘ought’ to be. The problem with this assumption is when we apply this rule to discovering who God is. Some might say that because our theology has been inherited since Eden that the doctrines and dogma’s we have adhered to should be the truths we ought to hold fast to. The issue with this approach is that it only allows singular interpretations to arrive on the scene and for the audience to choose the truths that fit their current worldview. Another issue is that the ‘ought-is’ principle doesn’t allow much room for the ancient voices to speak on the matter. The ancient Jews believed God was perfect, but they also believed that perfection evolved. That perfection moved forward and wasn’t stagnant. In the West, we tend to think of perfection as a static state of being, the Jews did not. The Jews also saw truth as something that unfolds. Truth itself is in progress. Truth is also not static, rather it is dynamic. If they are right on both counts, then the theory of ‘is-ought’ is a bit anaemic and leaves us wanting. It makes us prisoners of our own truths, doctrines and dogmas. The flaw of the is-ought theory is that it assumes that history { or certain authoritative figures throughout history} has/have commented on certain aspects of God and that their contributions must be true because they said it and it ought not to be challenged. That premise is built upon the assertion that tradition or what has been accepted as tradition is the only valuable thing in development process for global community. A flaw in that premisee is that it leaves only room for what is considered acceptable to those who might be in charge. This approach to any philosophy is quite limited in its scope. It leaves room for oppression, denial of other truths, and fosters the ever growing fear of change. When applied to God-discoveries it makes God appear small, and there is an underlying assumption that we could know all things about God and who this being is.

Theological Non-Cognitivism is a theory in Atheism that simply states that words like ‘God’ and religious language alike do not have cognitive value. That we don’t fully grasp the meanings of the words we use when trying to explain our experiences of the divine. Some Atheists use this as an argument to prove that God does not exist. Maybe we can humbly borrow their language to allow a pregnant space for God to speak to humanity in the inadequacy of our language. Maybe what we really need is the death of theology all together. Or at least the death of the presumptions that tend to come with it. Maybe we can come together and realise that all of our theological meandering is at best an attempt to touch the vastness of the Divine. Maybe we could come to realize that there isn’t one acceptable view on God. He’s too big! And to assume so is to make us God’s puppeteer and the rest of humanity the players on a stage. Maybe all of humanity could come together and celebrate the immense reality that is God by immersing ourselves in the silence and awe. Which would be the recognition that our word, philosophies, thoughts, scriptures and books only touch a corner of who this Being is. At least that’s the way it ought to be!

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