criteria for theological truth
Fri, 27 Aug 1999 19:49:49 EDT

My response to Glenn, Preston, and George on theological truth:
How does one discern theological truth? Can it be objective? Is
historical accuracy necessary but not sufficient to establish the validity of
that truth? Glenn sees no objectivity in establishing that truth. Preston
apparently sees a correlation to true historic events as supportive of some
objectivity. George does not see historical correlations as necessary to see
theological truth in scripture. George apparently prefers a centering
approach to biblical theology, such as Christ and the cross. One could also
choose specific polarities or tensions to establish that theological truth.
The gender tension is a focus for feminists. Freedom is a focus for
liberationists. Coherence makes a good focus relative to the writer.

Is this not all dependent on the intentions of the writer. Perhaps the
focus should center on the intentions of God and not some human. How well
are God's intentions revealed by the intentions of Jesus? Are some of the
intentions of the disciples a little off base because of their cultural
conditioning? How much do our personal intentions influence our
presentations of biblical theology. Are there not God intended tensions and
directions of service?

It is my belief that:
Objectivity is achieved in science through quantification, which is not
possible in theology. Theology is built upon the intentions shown in a set
of assumptions relative to the speaker or writer. The only possible
objectivity is to build a logical consistency between those assumptions and
eventually upon them to form an authoritative story. It is the building of a
coherent world view. Each person must first logically test those initial
assumptions for any possible contradictions, which should be removed before
trying to build a meaningful story upon that set.

Now, to establish objectivity between different writers, they must share and
agree on the beginning assumptions. If they differ on those initial
assumptions, they can only share why they have chosen to believe in it. They
can point out useful contradictions within the other person's fundamental set
of assumptions. Contradictions between the fundamental sets of two persons
reveal a different grounding. Moving to a common ground can only be done
through intentional change by each person. It can not be established
logically. Attempted persuation to change almost always fails, especially if
they are of a different faith such as Islam or Mormon. Each of us must
choose to change.

The common ground that many do share across diverse religions is known as the
perennial wisdom. We can build on this common ground by agreeing to openly
respect honest chosen differences and not judge each other as being right or
wrong. Secondly, we can all recognize that our personal groundings represent
only our own brands of truth. We can help each other to logically polish our
personal brands of truth (world views) and assist intentional change to a
common higher ground by giving our allegiance to THE truth that is always
beyond any brand of truth. That truth is always beyond any person or
community of believers.

We appear to be involved in the privatizing of all religions. Our challenge
is to build healthy world views based on God's intentions. There is no one
right brand of truth for everyone. We all can choose to give our allegiance
to seeking THE truth and be open to intentional change to our own world
views. That healthy view should involve the necessary set of values that
would lead to world peace. By seeking THE truth we choose to serve God
rather than the self. God's gift of freedom created an intended tension
between serving the self and serving God. We can explore within that self
but we must reach beyond that self to connect to THE truth. We must not try
to use force to implement any changes. That change must be intentional.
Jesus shifted the focus of service from God through the tribe to God through
the self. To me the Bible describes a theology of intentional change by the
individual to the individual and the world.

Evidence about evolution or design provide just possible details of periodic
intentional change constrained by fixed laws. It can only be shared and
freely chosen or rejected by others on the basis of its relevancy to
strengthening or rebuilding our personal world views. We can not persuade
each other to change our world views. We can only allow free will to trigger
any change and ask God to guide its use.

Jim Stark