Re: The state of suburban theology

From: D. F. Siemens, Jr. <>
Date: Tue Jun 15 2004 - 19:13:43 EDT

On Tue, 15 Jun 2004 16:51:14 -0500 "Steve Petermann"
<> writes:
us to understand ourselves and the world.
> I view fideism as a stance of being *uncritical* about one's
> beliefs. This
> does not mean that faith is trumped by something else, but it does
> mean
> taking seriously the challenges that spring up during an era and
> being
> willing to change one's faithing views. The issue, however, for
> those who
> opt for a "critical faith" is what criterion to use in this
> "critiquing"
> process. Clearly, unambiguous solutions to conflicts in science
> and
> religion are not often forthcoming so this rules an algorithmic
> process.
> However, I agree with Arthur Peacocke's suggestion in the recent new
> journal that the criterion should be *reasonableness*. While
> reasonableness
> still has a subjective element to it, it does point to a critical
> evaluation
> of all elements of an issue.
> For instance, because of their sense of causation and observation
> that has
> been engendered by experience, many people do not consider
> entertaining the
> idea of supernatural interventions as a reasonable position. The
> locus of
> divine action in quantum events is for some reasonable and others
> not. The
> issue, I think, is not a detailed mathematical theory of divine
> action but
> one that is theologically compelling and scientifically reasonable
> enough to
> satisfy a "critical faith" and arm those in and considering the
> faith for
> their dialog in an often unbelieving and hostile world.
> Steve Petermann
Every philosophical position has a set of prime principles on which the
position builds. For example, Bentham and the Mills held that (1)
pleasure is the ultimate good; pain the ultimate evil; and (2) one ought
to act to produce the greatest good for the greatest number. These were
givens to them. They continue to be obvious truths for utilitarians who,
however, have split into rule and act schools. Epicurus held to (1), but
insisted that the second principle is to reduce one's desires to
necessities. We who are not hedonists look on from outside and are
critical of their commitments. I don't see that they are fideistic and we
are rational because of this.

Science is somewhat different. One group says that they will investigate
only macro objects; another, only submicro objects. So we have thereby
two major branches of physics. Investigating only certain interactions of
material objects produces chemistry, etc. What is different from
philosophy is that a scientist does not claim that what she investigates
is the whole truth--unless the discipline is combined with scientism,
which is not part of any science.

Theology is like philosophy rather than science, though it tends to bring
in historical evidence in apologetics, in Christianity though not likely
in other faiths. But eventually one comes down to fundamental
commitments. Shared commitments mean that the sharers are intelligent and
critical. A stray commitment means that the person holding it is
fideistic, heretical, perverse and probably damned. It's really amazing
how solid subjective judgments become.

My observation is that discovering one's fundamental commitments is the
most difficult task for any philosopher. Scientists and theologians
seldom dig that deep, but work from commitments. Most of us react like a
professor I once had, a devout Kantian. According to him, Kant had no
presuppositions: he merely presented matters as they really are. He was
puzzled as to why his students did not embrace reality. He also was
opposed to the study of logic.
Received on Tue Jun 15 19:42:33 2004

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Tue Jun 15 2004 - 19:42:34 EDT