I know it has been a while since I touched on these topics and this site was alive with debate about any particular topic (Mike, Rhian, Sze Zeng, Susy and others I need help in this department!). However as Mike and Rhian discovered some months ago (read about it here), a lot of debates return to common themes. Nick and Samir are considering the idea of a website devoted to these and other themes which I think is a totaly terrific idea.
To get back on track, a few people may remember when I made a post in comment to another Blog site operated by The Agora (Refresh your memory) and some comments by a Dr leong which made for interesting reading in regards to faith and postmodernism. That post drew some interesting comments and I have since received some interesting emails, of which I am now going to attempt to reply too – you can read the comments on the link above. The thing that most interests me in these discussions is of course faith in god, and the alternative ways of life (ie. Pomo).
Dr Leong’s post was the origin of this debate, and as The Hedonese has suggested, his intent was to discuss ways of sharing the gospel and ’employing insights from pomo to dismantle the enlightenment project’ and then explaining the flaws of Pomo (Pomo being Post Modernism – most associated with opinions of the like of Nietszche and Foucault – See previous posts for what those views actually are!). The major flaw of pomo that was pointed out was the contention that it is ‘unliveable’.
As The Hedonese (TH) suggested, ‘liveability’ could be consider a criteria of the purpose to life or even truth. The idea being that the more ‘liveable’ an idea is, the more plausible it is as a ‘world view’. This idea is similar to that of Ockhams Razor (or however you spell his name) which is a theory applied to evaluate other theories, where the simplest theory or explanation for an observation is the best theory. By world view, I’m guessing TH means a kind of mass purpose to life – a purpose to life that can be adapted by everyone. Certain religions would then be considered as ‘World Views’ – ie Christianity.
Now I’m exposing my poor understanding of religion to take a stab at the underlying ‘world view’ inherrent in Christianity – that is very basically to get into heaven. Be a good person – go to Heaven, live happily in eternity. According to Christianity Heaven is the end result of leading a good and proper life full of servitude to God, faith and love.
So, TH (And Dr leong) claims this world view is more ‘liveable’ then that of a Pomo ‘world view’. Here we hit a problem, as I find it very hard to outline what exactly the Pomo World view is – much harder then that for Christianity. (An aside – this difficulty in itself should not be considered an affirmation that Christianity is more plausible then Pomo, its simply a lack of skill and knowledge of Pomo on my behalf).
“Postmodernity is first and foremost a disenchantment with the brassy confidence of the modern world—confidence in reason, science, progress, equality, individuality, and freedom”. On this general level it seems very plausible, but when you delve into the details and the more fanatical beliefs it becomes a little more of a stretch of the imagination. For instance is Nietszches infamous claim – All claims to Truth is a will to power, then considers Foucaults claim that Truth does not exist or is too much for us to handle, and I get confused. Both of these guys would like us to live in a world of lies, to live under the umbrella of protection that ignorance can offer. Not my idea of a fantastic way to live, but their claim is that it is a better way to live then the modern way – which is an eternal search for truth and knowledge through science, reason etc.
What TH does agree is that Dr leongs argument is not trying to prove that in the event Pomo is unliveable, it “doesnt by default lead us to the Trinitarian God.” Or any specific God of any religion for that matter, but God is still an alternative. Personally I find this some what depressing, because it brings us to the crux of the discussion: Is God just an excuse? – Is God just another alternative which is provided because the existence of an omnipotent being is arguably by definition capable of solving all problems (he/she/it must be right, because they are omnipotent)?
TH and Sze Zeng both went to lengths to explain how Dr leong avoided this problem, and I’ll try to recap them now. TH explained that because liveability was a criteria of plausibility, and Christianity fitted that criteria better then Pomo, then it must be a better explanation. That seems logical to me – Now we just need to prove that it does fit the criteria better then Pomo – which is where Sze Zeng comes into the conversation.
Sze Zeng Recaps Dr Leongs definition of faith with an example “without faith we cannot live. Though you would not walk into a building you have reasons to believe is unsafe, when you do walk into one you do so by faith as you cannot be sure that it will not collapse. The same goes for the food you eat everyday, and so on.”
So Faith as I understand Sze Zens definition of it is not essetially a religous belief at all. This definition of Faith basicaly encapusulates everything we do in the existence of doubt. Where doubt exists and a person acts in the face of that doubt or uncertainty, faith exists. I disagree. Take for instance the building example – Whilst I cannot be 100% sure an unsafe building will not colapse when I walk into it, I can take precautions to ensure it does not colapse whislt I’m inside. I can have an engineer examine the building, I can reduce the uncertainty – does that reduce the amount of faith I employ?
As for the food we eat, again we cannot be 100% sure that it is healthy, but our decision (I can forsee a freedom of thought debate coming up!) is based on observation. I may have eaten food from the same place a number of times before and it was ok, or everytime I have bought green Bananas they have been unripe. Uncertainty certainly exists (Haha) and whilst Faith may be realted to it, I think a better definition of Faith would encapsulate the conscious decision required to ‘have faith,’ it cannot merely exist without conscious consent. The examples provided describe a more pesonal conviction. It is possible to convince yourself that the building is stable because you have read the engineers report, does that mean you have faith in the engineers report? Faith, Trust, Conviction, Confidence – they are all similar words, but similar is not the same. This needs more work.
The idea of existence is an interesting one and an argument that I know infuriates some friends of mine (Hi Reid, Magda!) and Sze Seng is correct, it is not a view that we can realistically live with. However, again i would dispte the definition and example of faith taht was given. When we are young it could be said we have faith that our parents are indeed our biological parents. However, when we are young and innocent – it could be said we have no doubt, doubt does not exist for the innocent. They believe what they are told.
When we grow up, innocence slackens its grip, and many people may well question their parental connection. But we do not continue to blindly (Faithfully?) believe that our parents are our biological parents, we see birth certificates, we identify biological similarities, we observe and record information in the traditional modernist way – scientifically, logically, reasonably, and some of that information is undoubtedly assimialted unconsciously.
In contrast to this – the belief that any God other then the’God of philosophical gaps’, the belief that a God of one specific religion exists is a belief based on faith, it is a belief with very little reason or observation to support it, it is a belief with a large degree of uncertainty.
Wow – this has turned into a mammoth post – I hope somebody comments on it!