Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Spiritualizing Absurdity

Agnosticism regarding almost anything is quite in vogue, today. This is especially true of the postmodern sort where supposed Christians will argue that nobody can know anything, that nobody can really read the Bible, and that knowledge is totally elusive. This is especially relevant today, since Christian writers and leaders - especially the Emergent sort - assert repeatedly that we really can't know anything about the Bible. One factor in the rise of this sort of thinking is the mistaken notion that it is "humble" to think this way. Perhaps a sociologist or student of modern theology can trace this thinking for us at some point.

For example, Donald Miller, in his uber-popular book Blue Like Jazz talks about what a waste of time discussions about God's existence are, and he rhetorically asks, "Who knows anything anyway?" He later says that if he walks away from God, "I will walk away for social reasons, identity reasons, deep emotional reasons, the same reasons that any of us do anything." But not because of truth claims since nobody can get to the bottom of these questions. He appears to be somewhat of a Kierkegaardian fideist in his identity as a Christian. Apparently blindly leaping into truth claims is in his gut. Another friend of mine on Facebook, regarding yesterday's post about agnosticism said somewhat wryly, "I'm a Christian and I still don't believe I know anything."

All that to say that the preceding discussion of agnosticism and its destruction of knowledge is also relevant within Christian (defined broadly) circles. This deserves some attention because it is becoming more and more common to meet Christians who claim to follow Christ and yet eschew any possibility of real knowledge.

While I am reticent to actually label this Emergent-style agnosticism, I will do it for my own convenience. I am almost tempted to call it something like post-emergent, but I will probably address my proposal for that term at a later date. If you will, allow me set forth an argument against this popular modern Christian Agnosticism (hereafter "CA") with Christian Agnosticism being defined as the belief that while one can be a Christian and also reject the possibility of attaining a basic understanding of truth:
1. If CA is true, then no one has knowledge.
2. CA is true.
So 3. No one has knowledge.

This is meant as a reductio ad absurdum against this Emergent sort of "lazy Christianity" for whom Christianity is simply a conveniently adopted lifestyle with no basis in truth. While I would argue we should affirm (1), let me suggest that (2) ought to be rejected since (3) following from it would lead to absurdity.

In order to substantiate this conclusion, let me state my argument positively:
1. If CA is true, then no one has knowledge.
2. Someone has knowledge.
So 3. Therefore, CA is not true.

Now, let me substantiate (1). As Plantinga showed in yesterday's post, skepticism regarding our origins means that we cannot know that we are right or wrong about anything. This cuts the CA position just as well, because if possibility of knowledge is really impossible, then so is the proposition that "possibility of knowledge is really possible." If one cannot even state one's doubts without having doubts about one's doubts, then the CA must simply sit on their hands and admit that they're fideists and have as much ground for being Christians as they do for converting to Islam.

3 comments:

  1. CA is definitely en vogue. I think it was moreso about 5-10 years ago when McLaren, Pagitt, Jones, Rollins and David Dark were more popular. I think all would consider themselves theists and even believe in the resurrection (with the possible exception of Rollins). Their main thrust seemed to be that evangelicals had focused so strongly on belief that action was ignored outside of the culture wars. In response they swung so far in the other direction that they basically have denied the importance of belief if practice is right. Honestly, it's Machen v. Liberalism again.

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  2. I actually think that the rise if the New Atheists helped kill the influence of Emergents among evangelicals. I also think the rise of the Young, Restless and Reformed that focused so much on doctrine made a difference.

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  3. I was about to write something to this effect. You're spot on, G. Kyle.

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