Comparing worldviews

We have come to a full cycle in a preliminary, philosophical explanation of truth - for the task of theologizing. Let us now provide some comparisons on Christian interaction with various worldviews in the intellectual thought

Philosophy and theological methodology 87 periods and how they relate to Christian worldviews. For fuller discussion of Christian reviews of ideological postmodernism and their rejection of modernism more than two decades ago, see David S. Dockery, The Challenge of Postmodernism: An Evangelical Engagement, 2nd edn, Baker Academic, 1995, 2001; and for a more recent review, consider James K.A. Smith, Who’s Afraid of Relativism: Community, Contingency and Creaturehood, Baker Academic, 2014, among other sources. For early theological reviewers, see the contents of Table 5.1.

We see that the quest for the subjective experience in our milieu, and the rejection of anything foundational or thought to be comprehensible only within a system, are really but the development of theory of knowledge. Theological conversations about sources and methods of theology could never steer off the course, whether thinkers use religious language or not.

Theological implication: the discovery of philosophical presuppositions in theologizing and its method

Surveying the broad trajectories of theological engagement with philosophy and vice versa (albeit in painting with too broad brushstrokes) one would have to agree (to a large extent) with Stanley Grenz and Roger Olson’s 20th Century Theology. There is no neutral ground for doing theology. Theologizing is not a pure objective exercise, or a pure subjective exercise, but implicit and explicit philosophical (and theological) presuppositions shape each formulation and theological proposal. Truth then is a richly textured reality whose complexity merits more examination than merely a rehashing of older caricatures and

Table 5.1 An overview of basic worldviews

Christian worldview

Modern worldview

Postmodern worldview

Universal, objective truth

Truth not in tradition

Truth is illusion, subjective

Truth in revelation

Truth in reason not revelation

Suspect truth, affirm progress

Certainty of knowledge

Certainty of rational knowing

Uncertainty of knowledge

Wisdom over knowledge

Dispassionate observed truth

Knowledge prizes pragmatics

Historical veracity

If history conforms science

History is fictional

God-centered universe

Values-based system

Depends on science

Godless universe

Valueless system -subjective

Privileges authorial intent

Individual autonomy

Free play of meaning/ language

Christ as unifying center

Science as unifying center

Multiplicity of interpretations

Christ is the only way

Science as way to Ultimate

Christ is a way to God

perspectives whilst ignoring (or dismissing) all too quickly presuppositions and contexts that guided various renditions in the formulation of truth (cf. Chapter 10, current volume).There are always explicit, and if not, underlying reasons and motifs for why certain theologians develop theology in the way they did, no less because these theologians were responding to particular ideologies that either have been used to challenge theological paradigms or have been developed as complementary for the theological enterprise. And often, the reasons rest on one or more philosophical leitmotifs, even if some theologians may not be well-versed in the philosophical underpinnings of the theological discussions in their own milieus. In the end, nothing exists in a vacuum regardless of whether we know the connections these theological concepts share with philosophical concepts. As Balthasar once explained,

whether God’s truth can exhibit and express itself (in various forms) within the structures of creaturely truth. By its nature, theological insight into God’s glory, goodness and truth presupposes an ontological, and not merely formal or gnoseological, infrastructure of worldly being. Without philosophy, there can be no theology.

(Hans Urs von Balthasar, Theo-Logic: Theological Logical Theory, Vol. 1, Truth of the World, trans. Adain J. Walker, Ignatius Press, 2000, 7)

But, to be blind-sided to undergirding, underlying or even explicit philosophical streams that fed into various theological programs, as well as an ignorance or a lack of willingness to recognize one’s philosophical presuppositions that inform one’s theologization, would unwittingly steer a theological course to a less than desirable output. Thus, theological prolegomenon seeks truth as a reasoned enterprise.

Insofar as truth is a reasoned enterprise, then one would better learn from Anselm of Havelberg, who became bishop of Germany in 1129 and who provided counsel and advise to emperors. In his Dialogues (better known as Anticimenon, 1149/1150) Anselm argued that institutional and individual understanding, reception and expression of truth and religious belief will have to find new and better expression suited for each era for faith to be understood and applied to folks in each milieu, even though the faith that embeds truth remains essentially unchanged. To be sure, Anselm of Havelberg’s openness to the reformulation and revision of truth is grounded in his conception of history as an unfolding progressive movement of reform (and should I add, development, because of the work of providence). One needs not agree fully with Hegel, Comte, or Whitehead to see the value and benefit of changing one’s worldview when older understanding is found to be no longer tenable. The next chapter will investigate the notion of truth in the sciences.

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