I see that there is the line that I can't get around, so I'll italicize
On Mon, 03 Dec 2001 16:51:58 -0500 "Howard J. Van Till"
From: "D. F. Siemens, Jr." <email@example.com>
DFS: So you don't like the medieval philosophers.
HVT: That is not what I intended to convey. They obviously said a lot on
interesting and valuable things. What I am saying is that they give us a
good place to begin, but we need not take up permanent residence there.
We should feel compelled to do more than repeat what they said. As I've
said re even the writers of the biblical text, we should _do_ as they did
(reflect on all of our human experience, including our experience of God,
and articulate our own reflection), not simply _say_ as they said (repeat
_their_ reflection on _their_ experience).
I agree wholeheartedly. I am no adherent to Thomas and his
Aristotelianism, holding that Augustine and Plato represent a more
coherent biblical position. As for where we go from there, I adhere
firmly to the sola scriptura of the reformers. I have observed the
problems arising from those who bring scripture to match their
experience. It is as serious a problem as the old modernists who brought
scripture to match their naturalistic presuppositions.
DFS: So? They saw rather clearly what I see in the book of Job. After the
comforters had given all the human answers, the question comes, "Who are
these obfuscating fools?" The old boys didn't get everything right, for
some answers contradict others. They are human, something I find
inconvenient, but the best available to me.
HVT: Why not add to what they contributed what has been contributed by
others since that time? That's what we do in the sciences. Why not do the
same in philosophy & theology?
How will this work? Tycho was a fabulous naked-eye observer. But Galileo
and Kepler, with their simple telescopes, saw things that Tycho could not
see. Newton improved the telescope design and others improved their
resolustion, but were restricted to what the eye could detect. Then came
plates, which picked up weaker light with longer exposures, as well as
radiation to which the human eye is insensitive. After improving
emulsions, astronomers moved to solid state devices and orbited
telescopes. There were, additionally, many other developments that
allowed the formulation of more exact and complex theories to test.
Where are the comparable developments affecting philosophy and theology?
There has been a small movement in exegesis, with the discovery of a
larger number of texts and the availability of a wider range of
linguistic studies. But this has hardly altered hermeneutics, except for
changing fashions. Analytical philosophy tended to make us more careful
of language, but deconstructionism has language as pretty much
irrelevant. How does this build on discovery so as to advance? I find
nothing comparable to science and technology in theology and philosophy.
DFS: In contrast, contemporary philosophers suffer from tunnel vision and
the stupid pride of thinking they can fit everything into their
understanding. So God is restricted to the temporal understanding of
human ability, and his being to the level of what can be studied
scientifically. So they "solve" the problem of human responsibility by
cutting God down to size. They never consider that this brings up a need
to explain either how the deity and the universe began simultaneously
(neo-Platonic emanationism? Then what is the nature of the higher deity?)
or why did a time-bound god wait to produce a world, and what was it
doing earlier, probably through a past eternity? I know you rather like
process theology. But I ask you to consider what assumptions it forces on
its adherents. I think you will conclude that it makes less sense than
atheism, and is not compatible with the biblical statements about the
knowledge and being of the Trinity.
HVT: To use words used before: So you don't like the contemporary
philosophers? OK, but I think we would miss something by ignoring them.
This isn't the point. Some modern philosophers have clarified some
matters. But more have produced a bigger muddle by being restricted to
tunnel vision. Since my approach is delimited by revelation, I have no
place for views that contradict the Word. I do not mean that my theology
is set in stone. I have been forced by the evidence to move from a naive
literalism to a position closer to the Westminster Confession and the
reformers. I reject many of the pronouncements of contemporary
philosophers and theologians for being incoherent and inadequate.
Let me suggest an area in science where I believe you react similarly.
The bubble cosmology was, so far as I have been able to determine,
devised to avoid the creationistic implications of Big Bang. I understand
that the infinity of universes is possible, but I see it as special
pleading with no relevant scientific base. Further, it merely shoves the
fundamental problem of a beginning back into a more difficult limbo. In
plain language, it is a notion that does not have to be considered
seriously. Having looked into process theology, I contend that it has a
similar kind of irrelevance.
Years ago I read a statement (I don't recall the author) that there were
4 basic philosophical views that could be consistent: materialism,
formism (Plato and Aristotle), absolute idealism (anti logic) and
pragmatism (moderate skepticism). There is no way that Whitehead's
thought and its extensions can be added to the list.
Howard Van Till
Sorry about that,
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