01 March 2017

Ockham's Razor, Scepticism and Biblicism Part 5

Recovering Authoritative Scripture and Questioning the Western Heritage

Both the Coherentist and Empiricist roads end in some form of scepticism. It starts by being directed at the text in the form of 'problem texts'. Philosophical Nominalism ends up being sceptical about the whole realm of metaphysical certainty, which in itself is not a bad thing. It will destroy the confidence of the unbeliever and bring us to a point of being impoverished, despondent, meek and prepared to embrace revelation. Theological Nominalism generates scepticism regarding Sola Scriptura and will ultimately end up in the same place as its theological cousin.

These rationalistic theologies are a denial of Sola Scriptura. Roman Catholics have Scripture and Tradition. Rationalistic Protestant theologies all too easily fall into the same trap of epistemologically and authoritatively equating Scripture and Systematics. This position is also known as Confessionalism or Creedalism.

We need to reconsider utilizing Aristotle's categories, his legacy and ultimately need to consider rejecting the Aristotelian attempt at formulating metaphysics. I am calling for a Biblical Theology that submits to the Bible, and a theology that is Christocentric, thematic and textual rather than abstract.
The embrace of Scripture and rejection of Athens will also lead us to question the so-called glory of the Western tradition and it further aids in exposing the magnitude of the error that would equate the West and with it Christendom as a manifestation (literally an epiphany) of God's Truth and Christ's Kingdom.
In many respects the Enlightenment actually represented a return to Aristotelian Method, minus the Scholastic synthesis with Scripture and Tradition. I realize many view it as a breaking with Aristotle and indeed many aspects of Aristotle's system were shattered. But it was largely a return to the Empirical method and logical authority, the method of which Aristotle might be reckoned the father. Even Protestant Scholasticism kept with this trend. It's the only way to build coherent systems and make them applicable to other realms like society. Since Scripture doesn't present a picture of Christendom let alone how to build it, the only way to probe the questions and categories is through philosophical speculation. How is it verified? It must pass a coherence test that cross-checks and is justified by Scripture. In order for Scripture to operate on this level a coherentist-philosophical grid must be placed upon it.
The Enlightenment was born of Protestantism. It represented the principles that Scholastic Protestantism utilised, but in a new context of discovery, a broken Christendom and a West shattered by vicious wars. This produced a context of tolerance that in previous generations the totalitarian Roman system would have crushed the Inquisitorial fires.
But in embracing Scholasticism, Magisterial Protestantism infected itself with the virus, the destructive principle of Ockham's Razor.
Hume like an Enlightenment reincarnation of Ockham followed through on the implications. Scepticism was back but this time with a vengeance. Despite Kant's brilliant insights he could not save Empiricism and the subjective Idealism which followed, aptly demonstrates the reality (status lapsum) of the trap we as fallen beings are in.
I recall a cartoon that depicted a massive complicated edifice and the caption read "Western Metaphysics Before Kant". Then it showed the German philosopher walking away from a building reduced to rubble and the caption pointed out this was "after Kant".
To many this proved tragic and not a few have pointed out that in many respects the publication of Kant's Critique of Pure Reason in 1781 was perhaps of greater overall historical importance than the British surrender to the American colonies which took place the same year. That may indeed be the case. Kant (and we really must include Hume) had done to the Enlightenment, what Ockham did to Scholasticism. Kant in attempting to save the project from Hume's destructive tendencies produced a solution that in the end proved just as destructive.
It was sure to initiate a new age of history and thought. The fact that the American and French Revolutions took place within the same decade is also worthy of note and tells us something of the time. The revolutions were not just of a political order but we were built on changing thought. New orders were being created that would shape the modern world we know today.
And yet it can be contended that the removal of such a metaphysical structure was in fact a blessing. It had obscured the view. Beyond the rubble, if you have eyes to see it, there's another massive an infinitely grander edifice, or is it a mountain? Once seen the whole of the metaphysical project looks like a paper castle, a cheap imitation. In fact looking at its ruins one realizes it was just a vapour. Access is only through the regenerative work of the Spirit and yet once we stand on that mountain most real, we can begin to understand, albeit in a limited capacity, the nature of the created world we live in. Turning and looking the other direction we have an even better and certainly more profound view. We begin to experience The Age to Come, the Age of the New Heavens and New Earth.

Theology is intimately related to metaphysics and our theological method is determined by metaphysical presuppositions which guide our epistemology. We cannot wholly abandon the question but the project as such needs to be set aside. The calling of the redeemed is to understand the doctrine of Scripture and through it Jesus Christ. The act of understanding is itself metaphysical and theological, but the Biblicist quest for doxological apprehension is not the same as the systematic, holistic project of metaphysics which often passes for theology.