Thursday, January 20, 2011

The New Testament and the People of God - Knowledge: Problems and Varieties

In this chapter Wright outlines the three basic areas that affect New Testament interpretation: literature, history and theology. Wright will spend a considerable amount of time discussing each of these sections independently. Against modernism and post-modernism, Wright advances a critical realist position (one that he is happy to say he has not invented or been the first to consider).

Modernism, Wright argues, calls back to positivism. In its desire to have objective truth, optimistic positivism sacrifices human experience. Tastes, mood, ethics, etc. cannot be talked about within positivism: "Aesthetics and ethics are reduced to functions of the experiences of one or more people׃ 'beautiful' and 'good' simply mean 'I/we like this' or 'I/we approve of that'" (p. 33). This positivism can be likened to the recent scienctism we have experience a la Hitchens, Dawkins, et. al. Along with Ayer, they would call all god-talk nonsensical from the word "go." We should consider seriously what Wright says,
"In the New Testament field, some critics have made a great song and dance about the fact that the details of Jesus' life, or the fact of his resurrection, cannot be proved 'scientifically'; philosophical rigor should compel them to admit that the same problem pertains to the vast range of ordinary human knowledge, including the implicit claim that knowledge requires empirical verification" (p. 34).
Against the optimistic (positivist) view, Wright contends that the postmodern view (pessimistic) view is only aware of its own "sense-data". With this sense-data only view, every is called into question (to the extent that even the thing from which you are collecting sense-data is questioned).
"When I seem to be looking at a text, or at an author's mind within a text, or at the events of which the text seems to be speaking, all I am really doing is seeing the author's view of events, or the text's appearance of authorial intent, or maybe only my own thoughts in the presence of the text...and is it even a text?" (p. 35)
And against both of these, we have critical realism. "This is a way of describing the process of 'knowing' that acknowledges the reality of the thing known, as something other than the knower (hence realism), while also fully acknowledging that only only access we have to this reality lies along the spiraling path of appropriate dialogue or conversation between the knower and the thing known (hence critical)" (p. 35).

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