February 6, 2015

Sophia, Part 3

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 12:25 pm

Apparently that last post wasn’t the big finish I thought it was. The song isn’t over it would seem.

The Slacktivist sharply criticizes the epistemological arrogance of Christians who insist the Bible only has one correct interpretation (theirs) and disagreement with this interpretation is due to a moral error which inevitably leads to eternal damnation.

How can these Christians be certain that their particular interpretation of the Bible is the one correct one — the narrow way that leadeth to life and not one of the many incorrect interpretations along the broad, wide way that leadeth to destruction?

Their answer is that we have the blessed assurance that the Holy Spirit will guide us in understanding the Bible correctly, if only we devoutly open ourselves to such spiritual guidance. If we turn to the Bible with pure hearts and the best of intentions, then the Spirit will not allow us to go astray.

That sounds lovely, at first. It seems for a moment to be a devout expression of evangelical piety and the kind of intensely personal devotion it can produce. But then, once it sinks in that this idea is a response to the inescapable fact of interpretive pluralism, you begin to realize that it isn’t lovely at all. It’s actually just a sanctimonious euphemism for a really vicious and nasty accusation being made against every other Christian or group of Christians in every other place and time.

Oh, I agree. While I described the Holy Spirit as the provider of Sophia, this does not mean we should accept whatever rosy sentiment we experience as epistemological proof of divine guidance and moral certainty. Sophia is always always an aspiration, a distant goal never to be reached. The Holy Spirit guides us, but also demands discernment and a humility as we stumble and mistake an undigested bit of beef for ultimate truth. Andrew Sullivan (Godspeed Andrew) has a quote today from Gotthold Ephraim Lessing that describes it nicely:

The true value of a [person] is not determined by his possession, supposed or real, of Truth, but rather by his sincere exertion to get to the Truth. It is not possession of the Truth, but rather the pursuit of Truth by which he extends his powers and in which his ever-growing perfectibility is to be found. Possession makes one passive, indifferent, proud.

If God were to hold all Truth concealed in his right hand, and in his left only the steady and diligent drive for Truth, albeit with the proviso that I would always and forever err in the process, and to offer me the choice, I would with all humility take the left hand, and say: Father, I will take this – the pure Truth is for You alone.

Both posts excerpted above are well worth reading in full. Oh, and Emo Phillips:

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