Saturday, June 20, 2009

Nice Post by President of OWU

Nice thought by Everett Piper, President of Oklahoma Wesleyan University. I would say that his thinking and mine are a little like Paul and James sometimes: we agree but are emphasizing different pieces of the puzzle.

For example, he says, "I have maintained for years that those who say that an objective defense of truth is obsolete are dead wrong. To abandon apologetics and, thereby, embrace the relational at the expense of the rational is simply a false dichotomy."

I agree. This is a false dichotomy. The relational is not anti-rational and any abandonment of there being better and worse answers to questions is foolhearty. There is such a thing as right and wrong, just and unjust, and as Christians who love our neighbors it is our responsibility to work for them in effective and fully Christian ways.

Again, "They don’t need nor will they accept some watered down 'generous orthodoxy' that really is nothing but a lie born of Man’s oxymoronic canonization of the relative."

I agree. Any watered down sense of generous orthodoxy that leaves us with nothing in our hands because it has all washed away is worthless. The phrase I use is "identity within diversity." We know who we are and what we believe with full awareness and love toward the myriad of other identities and beliefs, at the same time humble at the realization of the limitations of our own knowledge.


DBrothers said...

Ken, I appreciate your comments about the President of OWU's comments. However, I am a little unsure of the terms of the modern /postmodern epistemological debate. The key comment is that we should not give up an "objective defense of truth" and apologetics. The main word for me here is "objective". What does that mean? Are we claiming that there is some UNMEDIATED place that we can find absolute truth?

Ken Schenck said...

Where Dr. Piper and I would probably begin to disagree a little is on how well we as finite, fallen humans can be certain of absolute, objective truth. But I affirm that there is such truth and that God knows it perfectly. Our access to it will always be colored to varying degree, I think.

DBrothers said...

Thanks again. I didn't quote Dr Piper quite right, but hopefully I didn't abuse the sense of what he was saying. Since you used the same wording in your response, let me ask the question again but a little differently.

I appreciate that you state that our access to truth will always be colored - so in what sense do we still need to use the word "objective" to describe truth. Why do critics of postmodernism always believe that it is a denial of "OBJECTIVE truth"?

DBrothers said...

I am not calling you a critic of postmodernism by the way, because I don't know that to be the case. I am just intriqued by reading critics of postmoderism and they always insist on using the term "objective truth" and that they feel postmoderism attacks it in some sense.

Ken Schenck said...

I think it is sloppy thinking to lump all of "postmodernism" into one ball of wax. The word is so squishy we really need to know exactly what is meant before we can discuss the pros and cons. "Labelism" is an effective rhetorical and political technique, 1) convincing an audience that a particular label is always good (e.g., "conservative," "capitalism," "Republican") or always bad (e.g., "liberal," "communist," "Democrat"). 2) Then you find some similarity between what you are wanting to dismiss and one of these labels. 3) Once label is attached, you then dismiss whatever you are wanting to dismiss.

Of course this process usually involves bad logic. It is only as effective as the audience is ignorant. Unfortunately, it usually is effective, which I suppose says something about average human intelligence.

Jonathan Parsons said...

DBrothers, I think you point out part of the problem with using words like "objective" and "subjective"--the fact that we don't always know how exactly we are using these words. As I understand it, I think we either use these words in a metaphysical sense or an epistemological one. Metaphysically, speaking of "objectivity" refers to facts that exist independently of human cognition, while "subjectivity" refers to "facts" that are somehow constructed by human cognition. I think part of the "postmodernism paranoia" that seems to grip some people assumes that a postmodern criticism of "objectivity" somehow means a rejection of facts that exist independently of our cognition. Now, it certainly is the case that some thinkers that are typically understood as "postmodern" believe that somehow "reality" is nothing more than a human construction--i.e., poststructuralists, certain constructivists, solipsists etc.--but it seems to me that postmodernism in general is more of a concern with epistemology. I will explain what I mean by that.
Postmodernism emphasizes the fact that our "knowledge" is conditioned by the way the world appears to us, such that there is an epistemic gap between reality itself and our perception of it. Postmodernism involves a basic suspicion of exclusive, absolute claims--the "metanarrative"--because of this fact. As far as I am concerned, this is EXACTLY why postmodernism is nowhere close to relativism, because relativism denies that there is such a gap: for relativists, perception is reality so there obviously there cannot be any gap.
I can appreciate this general fact, but what I do not agree with is how some postmodern thinkers believe that we are INCAPABLE of even trying to close this gap. I consider myself a modernist of sorts, because I don't think that one has to be a postmodernist to understand the epistemological gap between reality and how it appears to us.
So, it certainly is the case that we don't have to give up on "objectivity" in a metaphysical sense if we are postmodernists, but as far as I am concerned it is not necessary to be a postmodernist in order to understand the dilemma of epistemological objectivity.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

I agree that reason and relationship is not a dichotomy. In fact, I would argue that relationship should be based on reason.

Social contract is understood to be the basis of democracy, where social control is "agreed" under law. These are objective commitments based on reason.

Relationship is based on various colors of intimacy. The social contract is only the first step toward intimacy, marriage being the most intimate. And hopefully, though we sometimes "think" with our hearts in matters of "love", we will not base our choice of a mate, without considering "reasonable considerations" of what that commitment means to this particular individual. Each marriage will be differnt in how the two understand their responsibilities, obligations, compormises, etc. And all of these understandings will only come about to the depth of communication and negotiation.