Saturday, October 27, 2007

Further Thoughts on Calvinism’s Noetic Effect of Sin

Previous post of a fictional dialog between a Subjectivist and a Calvinist meant to reveal the underlying similar incoherence between both structures of thoughts. The former by arguing for the inexistence of absolute truth is itself proposing an absolute truth. While the latter by contending that the notion that all human cognition is marred by sin and thus unreliable is suggesting that that very notion itself is an unmarred and reliable knowledge.

One reason many find affinity with Noetic effect theology due to its explanatory effectiveness to explain human’s limited and often-mistaken capacity to comprehend. But as demonstrated in my previous post, this theology is incoherent and philosophically rootless. If all human understanding is unreliable as an effect of the Fall, then this very notion is itself unreliable.

Having that said, I am aware that another reason the idea of Noetic effect of sin was still prevalent in Christian communities is its function to uphold the supremacy of Special Revelation against Natural Revelation in Christian Theology. That means this particular theology was meant to place the Scripture above human’s reasoning. For instance, if some Galileos or Copernicuses step up to say that the earth is not the center of the universe as some knowledge that contradict the Church’s teaching, the Church authorities could take refuge by invoking the principle of Noetic effect of sin to emphasis and ground knowledge in the Scripture rather than grounding knowledge on observations of those Galileos and Copernicuses. Through such theology, the Church hopes to retain the Scripture as the ground for human cognition.

There are two problems with this theology. First, very often though not always, whenever the Church argues for the supremacy of the Scripture is really an attempt to elevate the Church’s own posture as superior in the marketplace of ideas rather than that of the Scriptural data. And subsequent to this power-driven manipulative motivation, the imperialistic and hegemonic Church might turn out to be exactly what it was not meant to be: hell. We know what had the Church done with Galileo and Copernicus and, personally, I pray that that will not happen again.

And following this first problem, the second problem is that whenever a church postulates a scrupulous interpretation of the Scriptural data is really, very often though not always, an interpretation comes out from the particular tradition of that particular church and thus would not be the right interpretation after all. Hence in the end, if the Noetic effect theology is correct, is not that particular interpretation a marred interpretation as well?

(Upon reading here, you might ask (1) how then should we contend for the right understanding of the Scripture (2) and how do we understand the Scripture? My own attempt to these questions follows Imre Lakatos’ research program for the contention part, and Anthony Thiselton on the understanding part)

After complaining so much about the Noetic effect principle as detrimental to our theology of human cognition and the philosophical coherence for our epistemology, I hope, now, to refocus this conversation with a proposal that I think is more robust.

The function of Noetic effect to explain the limitation and erroneous-able of human understanding can be replaced by the doctrine of creation. This doctrine affirms that there is an infinitely huge ontological difference between the Creator and the creation. Simply said, human as part of the creation is extremely different from God the Creator. God as a being and possess the ability to know all there is to know contrary to humans as limited and finite beings with limited and finite capability to know.

By grounding the theological problem of cognition in the doctrine of creation instead of the doctrine of sin, we are privileged with two advantages: (1) With such inadequacy, it is expected that our knowledge is not perfectly comprehensive and hence we have incomplete knowledge on almost everything. But such incompleteness does not mean error; it just means we lack the ability to understand certain things in this given moment. (2) There are certain things that we cannot know or understand as limited finite being. And thus, there are space for mysteries and wonders in our ever-discovery and learning.

Moreover, these two advantages do not threaten the canonical status of the Scripture. There is no ‘Scripture VS Reason’, but a continuous dialog between Scripture and Reason. In the many cases of Galileos and Copernicuses, although their discoveries do not gives us the right interpretation of the Scripture, nonetheless, these discoveries correct our wrong ones.

By this simple task of refocusing, I hope I had demonstrate the incoherence of Christian epistemology in invoking the Noetic effect theology. And so, convincingly prompts you to abandon this theology and ground our knowledge on this matter in the doctrine of creation instead.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Thiselton on Ricoeur on Freud

Anthony Thiselton observes how Paul Ricoeur interprets Sigmund Freud's observation on human's interpretation (on the multifaceted dreams in Freud's case. On multifaceted 'texts' and 'self' in broader scope for Ricoeur).

Hermeneutics may be summed up in the two principles: 'willingness to suspect', which destroys idols, and 'willingness to listen' which retrieves the power of symbols and communicative texts... Ricoeur sees [Freud's] procedure as informing and resourcing a 'hermeneutic of suspicion', as the way for a positive 'retrieval'. (Interpreting God and the Postmodern Self, p.69)

I find that to be true and important. In my present context, naive 'hermeneutic of trust' is being again and again promoted by Christians in the reading of the Scriptures. And the adjective 'naive' plays a distinguished role that signifies only a particular hermeneutic of trust from other similar hermeneutic, like one adhered by Richard Hays.

If not careful, adherents to hermeneutics of trust easily slips into the rhetorical 'innocent until proven guilty' stance on Scripture. Many take refuge in such stance, arguing that if court of law uses such determining presumption in matters of judiciary, then our approach to the Bible should be the same.

But the fact is that this 'innocent until proven guilty' stance is not universal applicable in court of law and, not least, in matters of national security. For eg. in local (Malaysia-Singapore context), a suspect can be detained with circumstantial evidents without any prior sufficient evidents. In other word, a suspected terrorist can be arrested and thrown into detention or prison without proving his guilt. That means it is not clear how extensive the concept of 'hermeneutic of trust' should be practiced in churches, not least in the field of apologetic, given the fact that there are data recorded in the Bible that are not historical (for eg. the Exodus and Joshua's massive military conquest of Canaan). There are layers of 'self-protection, manipulation, evasion, or power' (Interpreting God, p.69) in the Biblical texts that need to be interpreted and acknowledged.

On the other hand, the hermeneutic of suspicion is as dangerous and faulty if applied carelessly. Thus Thiselton points out firmly, following Ricoeur, that suspicion has to be utilized as a way towards a positive retrieval of the meaning of the text. But of course, 'positivity' is not a clear idea too. It needs no less critical evaluation on the assumption of what to be considered 'positive'.

Though many things are not clear, one thing still stands out apparent is that both hermeneutics cannot be isolated from one another nor applied incautiously in interpreting a 'text' or a 'self'.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Calvinism's Noetic Effect = Subjectivism

In a sunny and fateful afternoon at Orchard Road, two fellow thinkers bumped into one another. After spending some time talking to each other, one of them started:

Subjectivist: There is no absolute truth!

Calvinist: Isn't that statement an absolute truth?

Subjectivist: .... OK ... there is only one absolute truth, and that is 'there is no absolute truth'.

Calvinist: How do you know there is no absolute truth except that one absolute truth?

Subjectivist: .... Er... I just think that is none based on my observation of the omnipresent plurality around us.

Calvinist: Hmm... But you do realize base only by observation, you can't really say something as true? For eg. The lady over there might just be a man, who knows, right?

Subjectivist:....hmm...

Calvinist: Now can you see the problem of philosophical subjectivism? It is incoherent; it can't justify its own truthfulness.

Subjectivist: Oh I see. You have a point. Then how would a person know what is true or false?

Calvinist: That is a good question, my friend. One of my ancestor, Dr. Cornelius Van Til, following John Calvin, our grand master of understanding, had highlighted earlier last century that human's mind has been affected by sin. This phenomenon is known as the Noetic effect of sin. That means ever since Adam and Eve sinned against God, whole humanity has been affected by it. Our whole being are deeply marred. We are totally depraved. That includes our faculty of cognition and knowledge being seriously impaired and can not help us to grasp true understanding. Thus if a person gets a true understanding, it is solely by the grace of God. That is God unconditionally elected a limited some who will enjoy the effect of Jesus Christ's saving power. And this grace is irresistible. And through this, God will preserve the limited some to know the truth till eternity.

Subjectivist: Oh I see... But wait a minute, if this Noetic effect is true and that our knowing faculty is damaged and we can't know truth, how then do you know this statement about Noetic effect is really true?

Calvinist: As I have said, I know it is true because it was God's grace that I know it is true.

Subjectivist: Ohh... but how do you know that the notion 'you know it is true because of God's grace' is true since all our knowing is affected by sin?

Calvinist:... er....well, that is because there is only one truth that is not affected by sin, and that is the Noetic effect and God's grace to counter it.

--------------------------------------

TULIP is an
undeterminate theology which has very
limited explanation
and kind of
nonsensical at times.

*Let those who have eyes see.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Further Rant on Periods

In my previous post, i've described the 3 periods in a concise and affirming way. Another reason for such categorization is due to ever-present critique of my negative view on pre-critical and critical methods of doing theology, biblical studies, and philosophy; in 3 easy words: of doing Life.

For eg. whenever i condemn pre-critical method of doing biblical studies, Steven and Dave Chong would unleash their ever-ready swords of the(ir) spirit and say that those pre-critical thinkers are no less critical in their exegesis of texts. I admit that the notion 'pre-critical' does naturally connotes non-criticality, but it does not necessarily mean so, and definitely not in the way I (and many others) use it. Pre-critical IS NOT non-critical. Just as post-critical does not mean the abandonment of criticality.

This is my updated appropriation of these periods:

In the Pre-critical period, heretics are burned, slaughtered, guillotined, drowned, castrated(?) or other bloody punishment.

In the Critical Period, heretics are excommunicated and ecclesiastically-condemned.

In the Post-critical period, heretics are not only not being excommunicated or ecclesiastically-condemned, they are still being invited to Christmas parties, children's birthday celebrations, Sunday services, and do life together.

In view with this definitions, one might ask, "where then is the notion of critically applies?"

To use St. Paul as a bad analogy, pre-criticality is the pre-convert Saul. He is faithful to God and in so doing, he went around villages and towns, dragging heretics to be punished. When Saul met Christ on the road to Damascus,
that was the critical period of his life. That time he realizes that the God that he was serving all this while is actually the God who he was persecuting. Thus he was in that sense 'converted' to the belief that Jesus is the promised Messiah who is now known to be divine and eternal, sharing the very throne of YHWH. After the conversion, St. Paul further interpret and appropriat his theology and mission (thus, his life) in accordance with this revelation. This 'further appropriation' is the post-critical.

To draw that to humanity's progress in epistemology, the pre-critical hominids use Reason and apply criticality on that perceived Reason. The Reformation and later, the Enlightenment, played the part of 'Christophany' where humans are being revealed the more encompassing potential of the role of Reason. And the post-critical period marks the further appropriation of the role of Reason, and thus the recognition of the limits and weaknesses of its potential as well.

In other words, humans have never failed to be critical in these 3 periods. The distinction is that they differ in their appreciation and interpretation of the roles, limits, and boundaries of Reason. Thus, whenever I mentioned 'pre-critical', I do not mean that those hominids are not critical. Just as when I use 'post-critical', that does not mean the desertion of criticality.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Pondering On Epistemology

During last super-busy Saturday, I rang up Steven, and to my surprise, he is studying into human cognition and epistemological related topics. Why a 'surprise'? Because I'm doing that too!

Given the fact that we are not identical twin, the undertaken route of our studies are not identical. The difference between us are the different sources that we use and thus different starting point. He digs into A. Thiselton, W. Pannenberg, S. Pinker, M. Gladwell etc on direct studies of cognition, hermeneutics, psychology, and neuroscience; where as I dig A. Thiselton (same author but different source), M. Westphal, J.K Smith, D. Burns, M. Horton etc on shifts between epistemologies within historical periods, in hoping to gain insight from the shifts (at the same time, I'm tampering with 'fire' which some humans call 'trans-modernism').

On other note, the other day, an idiosyncratic yet nuanced categorization between pre-citical, critical, and post-critical period came to mind. I've been trying to find simple way to describe the differences between these 3 periods. The usual manner for this task is to distinguish the distinctive features of each era. And so, these features:

In the Pre-critical period, heretics are burned, slaughtered, guillotined, drowned, castrated(?) or other bloody punishment.

In the Critical Period, heretics are excommunicated and verbally-condemned.

In the Post-critical period, heretics are still being invited to Christmas parties, children's birthday celebrations, and Sunday services.

hahahaha.... if you are smart enough, you might also finds that such categorization do implicitly shows the shift of priorities and thus character-judgment. The otherness of the 'Other' gain more appreciation and acknowledgment in the later period compared to the earlier. In coronary with that, the severity of holding different doctrines are being seen with less intensity. And that implies more freedom to non-conformity with traditional or pre-critical or critical theologization and theologies.

Thus (with a big 'PHEW~') I can unashamedly proclaim to be a postmodern Christian-liberal Presbyterian!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Questions To Ponder

I have been thinking on these same fundamental questions for some time. These questions have been bugging me since the day I realized my own existent. Over the last few years, these questions are being refined. To some, these questions are irrelevant. To others, these are life & death. Yet still, to some others, these are curios pathway to enlightenment.

These are the questions:

1) What is Reality?
2) How do we know Reality?
3) Who are we to know Reality?
4) What is there to know in Reality?
5) When does one know reality?
6) When can one know reality?

To these questions, I shall probe.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Alibaba, Hermeneutics, and Whims

Alibaba became a Christian and since then he had this desire to serve full time in church-based work. As he grew in the faith, there came a point in life that he took the step of faith to study in a theological institution. In his heart, he has prophet Samuel in view as one who had prepared himself for his service since young. Just like Samuel, being nurtured by Eli during his childhood, Alibaba saw theological education as the nurture that he needs.

But then Alibaba has issues which are troubling him. Although his retired parents and sister do not require him to contribute to their expenses, nonetheless, Alibaba felt the requirement. So he was torn in between. Should he go for his education or should he continue to provide for his family? He opened the Bible to look for answers, he sought friends' advise, he spoke to the church's leaders. All of them signal that he need to have faith that God will provides.

His friends and the church's leaders share the same source to support Alibaba in pursuing his passion. They cite Bible passages like Matthew 6.31-34 and Mark 10.29-30 to assure Alibaba that God will provides. And so Alibaba was encouraged.

When he went home, he went on to read the gospel according to Matthew to find out more. Then he came to chapter 15.1-9. The stroy is about the Pharisees' tradition of giving to God what should be given to their parents instead. And Jesus condemned that tradition. Upon reading this, Alibaba realized that he is facing a dilemma. On one hand, his friends and the church's leaders showed him passages that encourage him to go all out to answer God's call. On the other hand, there is that conflicting story. Alibaba does not know what to do.

So he consulted his friends and the church's leaders on this. They unanimously said that Alibaba has to read the gospel in context. In Matt 15.1-9, Jesus was condemning that particular corrupted Pharisees and their corrupted tradition at that time. It is not applicable now. And so Alibaba felt relief.

While on his way home, he suddenly thought of something. 'Wait a minute,' sought Alibaba to himself, 'if Matt 15.1-9 is to be read in its historical context, then shouldn't Matt 6.31-34 and Mark 10.29-30 be read in that manner too?' He realized that if he is to be consistent, those assuring passages are to be understood in that particular context for those particular hearers and disciples at that time. If so, how can such stories be any more assuring to Alibaba than Genghis Khan's speech to his soldiers? And so he does not know what to do again.

After some while of praying and contemplating, Alibaba decided to answer God's call. So he decided to apply for a course in a local theological institution. He chose to interpret Matt 6.31-34 and Mark 10.29-30 as some sort of 'eternal message' while Matt 15.1-9 as some historically constraint story.

He went through all the required procedures of the application. It took him 2 weeks to get everything done; from filling up forms to student pass application to medical check-up. After all the hassle, he submitted all the documents. Happily, he walked away from the registra's office, anticipating the coming new chapter in his life. On that night, with a smile, he slept.

Two months passed. The new in-take semester arrived. Alibaba attended his first lecture. While waiting for the lecturer in the theatre, with the new pen he bought, he gently wrote on his notepad the date of the first lecture. The lecturer came in. She is the foremost scholar on the subject in this region. She introduced herself while Alibaba was recalling all her bibliography and credential that he read about her. As the lecturer about to speak on the subject, there was a knock at the theatre's door. There came the Registra. She whispered to the lecturer softly. Immediately after than, Alibaba just realized that the Registra was looking for him. So Alibaba stood up from his chair and walked out from the theatre together with the Registra. Then Alibaba was being told that his student pass was being rejected by the authorities. And so he does not know what to do.

Feeling a bit tired and exasperate, he pondered whether does God really calls him for such work. As he walked home, his memory brought back those sermons, lectures, and testimonies about 'waiting on the Lord'. He then understands that it is about God's timing. Perhaps it is as Ecclesiastes 3 ,"For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven".

With that as assurance, he slept.

The next morning, Alibaba determined to find out whether is he really being called for that particular vocation. He examined his own desires, passions, and ambitions. He talked to his friends and the church's leaders about his reflection. He spent time reading the Bible and books on this particular subject. After a few weeks of thinking and re-thinking, he finally decided that there is really no objective indicator or certainty on whether did God really call him to do this or that. All along it was his own disposition that makes him to be what he wants to think he is. His friends, the church leaders, the books, and the Bible indicates that passions is one good pointer that God wants someone to do something. And so far, that is the best one can believes. No further condition or indicator can make one thinks otherwise. Alibaba thinks that he might be like Samuel who was groomed to serve in the area God has prepared him for. But if that did not turn out well, it is perhaps not what or how God wants Alibaba to serve. It is God's timing. Or is it so?

Why are Alibaba, his friends, and the church's leaders interpret the Bible to cover for God? Does God needs such covering? Or are they, all this while, covering only their own desires and mistaken justifications and rationalizations? At any moment, they are just supplementing their belief so that they can go on believing what they want to believe as true?

Can Alibaba, his friends, and the church leaders be humble enough to acknowledge that they have mistakenly interpret God's calling for Alibaba (assuming there is such calling)? But it is not a case of humility. It's about 'confidence'. They can't be sure.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Dogma v.s History

Yes, I'm evolving, but not knowing what am I evolving into. The religious identity on my Facebook account states 'Postmodern Christianity, Liberal Presbyterian'. Reason is simply that i don't find the Christian tradition as i knew and grew into fit my experience with the world, through constant process of self-appropriation. That is appropriating one self in responding to the world at best. Through this process, I've come to apply these labels as meaning:

'Postmodern' is not only because I can't go back to pre-modern, but also the fact that Modernism is impossible to carry out its ideal and thus betrays its impracticality. I attach to postmodernity not due to its subjectivistic nature but more on its better acknowledgement and appreciation of the 'Other'. 'Christianity' is an exclusive-yet-inclusive worldview by which one interprets the world through the affirmation of the mysterious yet diachronically revealed God's dealing with the ever-changing troublesome creatures 'humans'.

'Liberal' is not the usual 'theological-liberalism', which one does not affirm the 'realness' of God's existence. The term used to denote one's freedom to practice and comprehend one's faith, not bound by constructed authoritarianism, orthodoxy, and tradition. 'Presbyterian' suggests one's adherent to the governing rules practiced by the Church of Scotland, though with its prevalent short-comings.

Nothing is perfect, nothing. (God is not a 'thing'!)

Yesterday Nalika saw my previous entry and the comments left by a caring friend who prefer to stays
anonymous. Nalika is concern over my 'evolvement' and want to talk about it. This is the first time she brought up my religious issue after a long forgotten time.

She said that the caring friend has a good point to make when he/she quotes Colossian 1.21-23. The gist is that If Jesus is not a real historical person, then that would have negative implication to our assurance of salvation.

The sooner her utterance was being digested by my brain juice, i started jumping and jumping. I kept jumping for the next half a minute. She was shocked and worried that my mind has blown off. In an anxious tone, she stopped me and asked why am i jumping. In a calm tone, I told her that I wish to have no wrinkles as i grow old. So in order to do that, i have to believe that i am living in a zero-gravity zone. She was puzzled.


Then i explained, "You see, if the reason why one affirms the historicity of Jesus just because the person wants an assurance of his/her personal salvation, then that is like me wanting to believe that I'm in a zero-gravity zone due to my wanting of an assurance that there won't be wrinkles."

Some might thought this is 'intellectual pursuit' and nothing more than just that. But this really is the problem with dogma and history. In our case, one's belief will not change history. That means, the craving for an assurance of salvation does not guarantee a history. So the way to respond to my kind of evolution is not to go around it with dogmas, but to tackle the problem at its root; that is to find out whether did Jesus really exist. And do the finding without dogmatic baggages. I can't say that i affirm the historicity of Jesus because i don't to go to hell, but rather, i want to find out the truth about the existence of Jesus, no matter the conclusion paves a way to hell or heaven.

Paraphrase from Lee Strobel, "If Christianity is true, it can withstands any kind of scrutiny".

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Worldview In Interpreting Our Lives

In the past 3 weeks, I was involved in a rigorous dialog with friends over the interpretation and the historicity of the data recorded in the Bible. Long-story short, in the end, we mainly talked about philosophical methodology.

Yesterday i brought up a similar issue to David Burke, since he has done some reading on this. After the talk, i think i get what Tien Fock is hinting on during the dialog. So, when i was waiting for MRT to arrived, i SMS Steven "God could use myth like d person called Jesus of Nazareth to save humanity from self-destruction. Thus Jesus don necessary nid to exist, neither does moses :)'

What underlies my thought is that the most important thing to one's ever-lasting searching for meaning of one's life in this world is through something called 'worldview'. Worldview is that which presents to us the best explanation of ours, others, and the world's existence. And it is through our worldview that we interpret our surroundings, and thus gaining comprehension.

Now, to relate that to the historicity of the biblical data, it doesn't matter as much if these data are not verifiable based on up-to-date archaeology. We might or might not know for sure whether did something like the Joshua's Conquest of Canaan took place. At best, with up-to-date archaeological findings, there wasn't such massive military conquest in the 15th-13th centuries BC. If that's true, it could be that the Conquest data is a propaganda made during King Josiah's national reform movement. Nonetheless, that does not preclude God working through such propaganda to bring about his message to fellow creatures.

Anyway, the below is a loathsome short-hand of the dialog in Agora Forum.

My contention:
We cannot read the scripture with the assumption that it is historical and give it 'benefit of doubt until proven otherwise'. I think we shouldn't assume the historicity of the data recorded in the Scriptures unless proven to be true. Until then, we can neither say it is historically true or false. I agree with Niels Peter Lemche's statement:

Everything narrated by them [Scriptures authors] may be historical, but biblical text cannot in advance be accepted as historical source...It might be the description of the reign of David contained in the books of Samuel is historically correct, as seen from the perspective of its late author...However, it has to be proved that the narrative in Samuel is historically reliable as far as the tenth century is concerned. It is not something that can be assumed in advance. (The Israelites in History and Tradition, p.29. Emphasis mine)

My reasons:
1) Scriptures is an ancient document, which we can't interrogate its authors to clarify.

2) Scriptures contains data that are inconsistent with 'the modern experience'.

3) There are other similar ancient documents which contain such data which are inconsistent with 'the modern experience'.

The implications when one disagree with my contention:
1) One have difficulty to explain why the preference for the Bible than other similar ancient texts.

2) One either has to accept many other (not all) data which is not similar with 'the modern experience' from other ancient texts, or one be viewed as arbitrary in accepting only those alien data in the Bible and not data from other similar texts. In other words, one does not have intelligible and objective* reason to prefer the Bible than other texts as their canon.

3) It makes those who claim that the Bible is true looks like they are claiming it because it is only true to them. That means their claim for the exclusivity of the Bible over other ancient texts is just because it suits their personal taste (their worldview on the world etc) and nothing else.

*Objectivity does not entail a modernistic notion of a possibility possess pure objective judgment in all things [to discover facts], but, nonetheless, as John Searle argues 'social facts' are not inventions, or free constructions of the human mind. They are to be regarded as realities consisting objective facts. (McGrath, Science of God, p.138) Thus, when i use 'objective reason' here does not mean a pure judgment over all matters, but an objective measurement which is a social construct but nonetheless real.

Objections (some overlap with and derived from others and manifest in different ways):
1) We can trust that Scriptures are historical because ancient documents should be given benefit of doubt unless proven otherwise. If not, then we will have to doubt all histories.Thus one might as well doubt the historicity of Alexander the Great etc.

2) We can trust that Scriptures are historical because 'trusting tradition' is a norm in life. Everyday people exercise 'trust' to testimonies by others and ourselves. It's properly basic to trust testimonies even if it's testimonies from the past.

3) The 'modern experience' is problematic because it is not universal and in no way it is objective.

4) Skepticism is self-refuting because how sure can one be sure of anything? And since we can't get certainty in anything, thus we shouldn't be skeptical. In this case, we shouldn't be so skeptical to the Scriptures.

5) We need to read the Scriptures in the worldview of the Scriptures authors so that we can reach common ground. It does not yield any positive effect if we impose our worldview onto the Scriptures because we wouldn't rule out many points and in the end the Scriptures do not make sense to us.

6) We can't examined all claims, thus we will have to cultivate a trusting attitude towards authorities such as scholars who did the carbon-dating etc. If not we are left with no-knowledge.

7) We shouldn't wear a 'modern' (Enlightenment-anti-supernatura
lism) lens when we approach the Bible.

8) We have to read the OT or any literature according to its genre instead of superimposed on the literature our own presupposition or worldview.

My responses:
1) If it is to be our principle to give every ancient texts the benefit of doubt and regard them as innocent until proven otherwise, then our worldview will be heavily affected. We will be obliged to believed in all of the divinities mentioned in all the ancient texts. Thus, we shouldn't give ancient texts the benefit of doubt. We should approach each document with suspicion until our own discoveries convince us of their veracity.

2) Trusting our everyday experience and trusting ancient documents are two different things. It doesn't help if one confuses both and regard both trusting objects as the same, that is 'tradition'. Both are different. Our everyday testimony has the privilege to be checked most of the time, while the ancient documents does not. Other than the text itself and archaeological discovery, we have nothing much to refer to.

3) The 'modern experience' has already become part of our being. We are living in and with the 'modern experience' whether we are aware or not. There are people who do not yet come to know about the 'modern experience' but when they do, usually this new experience will prevail against other experience. This experience is most productive and effective in explaining the natural world, so no matter one agree with this experience or not, it persists to be a big influence to modern humans.

We can't move back to pre-Enlightenment, nor can we dwell ourselves with nihilistic postmodernism. Most human are born into the 'modern experience'. We use modern technology developed by the 'modern experience' in our daily living. To go pre-Enlightened will only make one naive, while the other end of nihilistic postmodernism make one irrelevant.

4) Being skeptical does not mean one embrace skepticism. The former is a critical way of seeing some particular things while the latter is doubting everything. There are events in life that we have reasons to doubt and there are events that require less or no doubt. With regards to ancient texts, i have listed 3 reasons above why we should be skeptical. Disclaimer: i'm not suggesting that everyone of us have to embrace skepticism, and thus be skeptical on everything.

5) This is tough one on hermeneutics. I think common ground is not establish by taking in the worldview of the 'Other', but rather being aware of it. If one already presupposes the worldview of a system, then one hardly able to criticize it from within. Usually when criticism arises, the critic is exposed to other than one's worldview.

6) I'm in total agreement with that. Here again, i would like to emphasize that i'm not saying we should embrace skepticism. I'm just asking us to be skeptical towards a particular object, that is ancient text which is contrary to the 'modern experience'.

7) If not of the modern lens, we will be believing many folklores and myths.

8) The problem is we hardly know what is the genre of an ancient text even if it is stated as a particular genre. Here, we have to be extra careful because we, given the 'modern experience', know that winners love (re)writing histories. A document can be claimed as 'historical' in genre, and if we believe blindly to this claim, then we risk ourselves as victims to these 'winner's histories'. This happened not only in the past, but also in modern time. The different is that, in modern times, we have technologies (global media, eyewitness, cross-checking etc) to help us 'neutralize' such agenda-laden histories. Regarding ancient documents, we dont have eye-witness to interrogate and neither can we do 'cross-checking' with others. What we have is only the texts. In some cases, we can do cross-checking, but in most, particularly the ancient texts, we have limited external evidents.

End