Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Open...or Closed?

So I have been thinking a lot lately about the beliefs that I hold key and how strongly I believe, or even should believe them. While learning a lot about epistemology I have come to the conclusion that, though I do have justification for most of the beliefs I hold, I think I do hold some rather dogmatically (that is, without proper epistemic justification). The issue that comes mainly to my mind is the debate between Calvinism and Arminianism. I have been dogmatically against Calvinism pretty much ever since I discovered what belief in that theology entails. While holding the belief in Arminianism rather dogmatically, I still do maintain several lines of argumentation to justify my overall rejection. I do have to admit that I have just as many philosophical misgivings about the theology as I do theological misgivings. However, I am afraid that I have come to the point where there is no amount of information that could change my mind on this issue. This scares me because I want to maintain an openness about the issue that allows me to change positions based on where the evidence, biblical, theological and philosophical, leads. While I do know that several of my dogmatic beliefs are properly, and justifiable, lodged in the "unchangeable" section of my mind, I'm not sure if this belief belongs there or not.

Of course, this kind of closed-mindedness about certain beliefs isn't a bad thing. In fact it is called foundationalism, which is the major epistemological theory of justification for knowledge-claims that many of us hold, especially the theists among us. Basically, foundationalism holds that there are certain key beliefs that do not need justification and instead provide the foundation for all other knowledge. Strong foundationalism has been shown to be sorely lacking in philosophical sophistication and subsequently rejected by most scholars since not ALL of our beliefs can actually be traced back to these basic or foundational beliefs. However, a weaker form of foundationalism can, I believe, be rationally defended and maintained. This weaker form (also called moderate or broad foundationalism) just holds that we do indeed have beliefs that do not need justification and are just "given". It's really up for grabs how many beliefs that really encompasses. Recognizing that I can't make a strict case for theological beliefs being so foundational as to lack the the need for justification (because I think most are, and need to be, justified) I think their is a parallel between foundationalism in regards to basic beliefs and a sort of theological foundationalism (those beliefs we take as a given) in theologizing. For instance, some of the beliefs that I hold, while I feel they are completely justified, cannot be rejected based on any amount of evidence - no matter what form that comes in. Some of these beliefs are: the proposition that God exists, the deity of Christ, the historicity and salvific accomplishment of the Cross, etc. And I don't know where to stop adding beliefs. Are there ones I have included (in my stock of knowledge, not in this list) which need to be open to amendment? This issue bothers me because I want to be open new issues. I can't decide where Calvinism falls in this matter. Though I completely affirm those who do hold this view, I wonder how far we have all come from being open to contradictory evidence. I know, for instance, that there is a Calvinistic response to every argument or verse I could bring up - as the Calvinist knows in regards to my own view. But on something like the deity of Christ there are also secular liberal critics who could probably argue quite effectively that this fact is a myth. And on the issue of divinity, I cannot be persuaded, no matter how convincing the evidence, that it is not true. So I guess the question is, what beliefs do I put in the "unchangeable" box and which do I remain open about?


jeremy zach said...

A few comments.

1) God ordained you to write this post about how you are not a Calvinist.

2) Interesting explanation of this paradox of openness and closeness. From my perspective, one first be open, and while the individuals learns and explore the idea/theology/dogma/doctrine/ one is entitled to start making conclusions. This does not mean you are completely closed, you are only partly closed. However you still practice the art of learning, studying, and exegeting in order to strengthen or weaken your position on calvinism.

3) In making conclusions on calvinism there are two indirect features that may play a role in shaping your convictions namely, personality and personal experience. How you are wired and how you see life will greatly alter your perspective on how God functions. Second, what God has done or doing in your life will also lend a contribution to your calvinism conclusions.
To be honest, calvinsim looks really good on paper. Ideally it works, however in the real it does not work.

4) Jake you are smart. How the hell are you 21? and thinking like this.....This is not fair.

Jake C. said...

Haha JZ i love u bro. i think u r right on in the 2nd point and its what i need to start doing. i also need to examine my own personal experience and make sure that that isnt leading me into wrong understandings about the nature of God. thanks for the advice man i really appreciate it - seeing as i am only a lowly 21 year old...albeit a definite lover of wisdom (oddly enough that is the definition and meaning of "philosopher").

Seth said...
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