6.27.2010

A Taste pt II



There is a form of thought (often called 'Modern' in philosophical conversation) that bends itself toward concrete analysis. It is a way of approaching the world that seeks to reduce everything to the smallest possible unit, in order to understand its functions, attributes, relationship to the whole, and so to approach knowledge of the universe.

These people ask, "Is the apple real? Can we know anything about the apple? What is it's color, texture, weight, and size?"

Moderns talk only of the observable truth of the apple; it is solid, actionable, universal, public knowledge. This is the strength of modern thought. It allows us to build buildings that withstand earthquakes, to raise large metal objects into the sky for extended periods of time, discover unique compounds of matter that removes pests, or alter certain plant species to make them yield greater caloric output for the same resource input. (Even in this list, is the beginning of the critique!) Modern thought has many strengths, its weakness, however, is its impersonal and calculating heart.

This type of thought yields tremendous evidence for the existence of the apple. There are hard arguments about its makeup. These arguments are convincing, but...

...the apple is dissected and categorized but untasted, it is understood and yet, not understood.

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This same approach is taken to spiritual matters. As ~eljeffe points out, "I wonder if these common battles lead the earlier Church to develop the famous "Creeds" that have been recited over the generations." Concrete thoughts and definitions are deeply needed, however (while the Creeds are a formulation of a premodern Church) the people of God in Modern times have adopted Modern thought uncritically. The emphasis has become convincing argument, propositional truth claims, often to the exclusion (or even outright disparaging) of experience...

We understand the map, we dissect the apple, we recite the Creed; but we do not take the journey, eat the apple, or listen to Jesus.

3 comments:

michelle bae said...

i totally agree. modern thoughts based on scientific and logic methods creates objective knoweldge of an apple. Experiential knowledge of an apple creates plurality of meanings. Like this, experiential knowing of God from our subjective emotional and spiritual relationship is also a way of knowing God, which modern thoughts had ignored. a thought to share...

Steve S. said...

Hey Michelle,

thanks for chiming in!

Hopefully we can embrace both; knowing about the apple, and enjoying it!

Reciting the Creeds, gaining knowledge about God and His project through them; but also submitting to Him, and participating in that Project!

I look forward to meeting you...

Adam said...

Great post. I know I am a decade behind but I finally cracked McLaren's "A New Kind of Christian," and I really like how he contrasts modern and post-modern thought. It may be even over-simplified, but it works for his purpose.

I've also heard modern thought likened to building a brick wall. Every "truth" builds upon the other but if you start pulling some bricks out the whole wall is liable to collapse in on itself.

And I believe you're right that a synthesis of both is a good thing--though it seems through dialog with people that most are one or the other.