Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Nicholas Wolterstorff on Christian scholarship

"For the Christian to undertake scholarship is to undertake a course of action that may lead him into the painful process of revising his actual Christian commitment, sorting through his beliefs, and discarding some from a position where they can any longer function as control. It may, indeed, even lead him to a point where his authentic commitment has undergone change. We are all profoundly historical creatures."
(Nicholas Wolterstorff, Reason within the Bounds of Religion [USA: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co, 1976; Second edition, 1984], p.96-97. Emphasis original.)
Being historical means that none of our learning is final as all of it are subjected to the constraint of history, and so non-objective. It is not only the process of continuous investigation and revising that is painful. The fact that knowing the absolute tentativeness of one's current knowledge and belief is very very unsettling.

8 comments:

reasonable said...

Regarding: Being historical means that none of our learning is final as all of it are subjected to the constraint of history... The fact that knowing the absolute tentativeness of one's current knowledge and belief is very very unsettling...

One positive aspect is that it keeps us in humility (hopefully).

And yes, even our conviction about the Christian faith can be wrong or may require major modification from the ultimate objective point of view.

But within the "now" and "present", we should just produce the best tentative conclusion, and revise it accordingly as new evidence or better arguments demands revision.

Alex Tang said...

Nicholas Wolterstorff is a Christian educator and often writes from the perspective of Christian education and learning. His writings are very insightful and basically espouse 'learning to shalom'. To him,both learning and shalom are verbs. Thus there is no final learning. Humans being historical creatures being confined to linear space and time are always learning.

Sze Zeng said...

Hi reasonable,

Thanks for the time spent chatting over this and other stuffs last week.

It is not consoling for me when we all know that tentative conclusion is never the historically objective truth. But that's the best we can do and live by. Thank you for the comment.

Sze Zeng said...

Hi Alex,

At first, I thought Wolterstorff's notion of man chief end is the pursue of peace was convincing. Then I thought of Matt 10.34 "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword."

That caused me to think more about Wolterstorff's insight.

Alex Tang said...

context, my brother, context. Understand Jesus' sayings and Nicholas' writings in context :)

Sze Zeng said...

Hi Alex,

If I apply certain theological interpretation, say the speech-act theory or canonical approach, to what Jesus said in Matt 10.34, then that would fuse Jesus' context to Wolterstorff's context :)

Make sense?

Alex Tang said...

so, bro, you lost me there. :)
do not make sense.

Sze Zeng said...

Hi Alex,

That's fine if it doesn't. Not life & death matter :)