Russell and Duenes

The Objective Character of Scripture as Truth Validates My Subjective Experience of Its Truth.

with 4 comments

One of my regular readers and I have had some exchanges about the “objective” historical data in the Scripture and the necessity of such data for anyone to have true Christian faith. I have argued that historical facts – the death of Jesus on a Roman cross, his bodily resurrection from the dead and appearances to his disciples, and his ascension into heaven – cannot be jettisoned without also jettisoning the gospel. We have also discussed the necessity of the Christian’s having an existential “encounter” with the living Christ. Along these lines, I found this thought from Philip Edgcumbe Hughes from his chapter, The Problem of Historical Relativity, in the wonderful book, Scripture and Truth (ed., D.A. Carson and John D. Woodbridge). Hughes writes,

We may readily acknowledge that the message of the gospel, as it is read in the Scripture and heard in preaching, is thoroughly existential. There is indeed such a thing as a dynamic moment of encounter, when the message meets with faith and becomes truly and transformingly present and the Bible leaps to life in the experience of the believer as the authentic Word of God. But this is not the same thing as the illuminism of Karl Barth, according to which a fallible word of man may at a given moment become the veritable Word of God to me; nor is it compatible with the humanistic egocentrism of Rudolf Bultmann, which tears the heart out of the gospel record and makes the value of the Scripture dependent on the judgment of my experience of its worth. What is at stake is the actual truth of the biblical witness; not in the first place its truth for me…but its truth as coming from God. In other words, the objective character of Scripture as truth given by God comes before and validates my subjective experience of its truth. A person may willfully shut his eyes and deny that the sun is shining, and in doing so he is truly in darkness, both physical and intellectual; but once he opens his eyes, the sun’s brightness will transform his outlook. Though it is at that moment that his darkness is dispelled, the sun has never ceased objectively to be the sun and to radiate forth its brilliance.

-D

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Written by Michael Duenes

August 29, 2010 at 3:21 pm

Posted in Duenes, Theology

4 Responses

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  1. First of all, most of what he says is in agreement with the authors he takes disagreement with. It reaffirms my conviction that most theologians speaking against the existential theologians simply don’t understand them.

    “What is at stake is the actual truth of the biblical witness; not in the first place its truth for me…but its truth as coming from God.”

    Distinguishing the “from God” and “for me” is the issue. The point is revelation is from God to us and we are convicted, subjectively, of its truth by the Spirit. Revelation is defined as a subjective encounter with the objective reality.

    For example, Jesus’ many objective signs did nothing to subjectively convince the religious leaders that he was the true messiah. A billion miracles would not have worked, because they were blinded by their sin. The reality was objective, but they could not see it. It would not due to scientifically and objectively prove the veracity of Jesus’ signs and teaching; they needed the subjective experience.

    Of course, the question is why do we need subjectivity when we have objective proof. This is Kierkegaard’s main question in all his philosophical works. It is the question of faith. In short, his answer is that objective, scientific proof does not provide 100% certainty – only very accurate approximations. Once we are subjectively convinced of truth, however, it becomes 100% true to us. It becomes certain, so much so that we may base our eternal happiness upon it.

    Hughes is completely in agreement with the existentialist theologians when he says that “[a] person may willfully shut his eyes and deny that the sun is shining, and in doing so he is truly in darkness, both physical and intellectual; but once he opens his eyes, the sun’s brightness will transform his outlook. Though it is at that moment that his darkness is dispelled, the sun has never ceased objectively to be the sun and to radiate forth its brilliance.” Perhaps an existentialist might add that, because we are all in sin (i.e., not God), we keep our eyes permanently closed. It is only through faith (which is subjectivity) that they open.

    Joshua House

    August 29, 2010 at 4:19 pm

    • Josh – I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that, in fact, it is you who does not understand. It really strains credulity to think that you, a true novitiate in these matters, understands the vast literature on this, whilst these men, long professors and scholars in their fields, have misread it all. If that smacks of ad hominem attack, it’s not meant to. It’s only meant to say that I think you’d better get a good bit farther down the road before you start assuming the scholars in the field have misread things.

      Second, who told you that “revelation is defined as a subjective encounter with objective reality?” Is that from the Bible? Can you justify this assertion from the Scriptures you claim to be in allegiance to? Hughes is not disagreeing with your assertion about the religious leaders. All Hughes is trying to say is that behind the subjective encounter, there is historical reality, and apart from the historical reality, there can be no subjective encounter. With this statement, Bultmann and his ilk manifestly DO NOT agree.

      -D

      russellandduenes

      August 29, 2010 at 7:36 pm

      • If I see two men arguing, one speaking French and the other Chinese, it does not strain credulity to point out that they are speaking past one another. I need not even comprehend either language; reason is sufficient to come to the conclusion that their disagreement will not be resolved in the current state of affairs.

        Next, “revelation is defined as a subjective encounter with objective reality?” – I was giving an account of what the existentialist theologian would say, not my own belief. Forgive me for not making that more clear. I am sympathetic to the idea that one could interpret that from scripture. Likewise, one could try to derive it through reason (which is a precursor to scriptural revelation anyway). I’d like to think those theologians that agree with that statement do so in an intellectually honest way.

        “All Hughes is trying to say is that behind the subjective encounter, there is historical reality, and apart from the historical reality, there can be no subjective encounter. With this statement, Bultmann and his ilk manifestly DO NOT agree.”
        Again, I can’t comment on Bultmann, since his views on this stuff confuse me (I’m also not as well-read in him because of said confusion). If his “ilk” were to include the aforementioned Barth, then I can tell you that Barth would probably agree with the idea of that statement. I know for sure that Tillich would. Then again, relating back to point 1, I could be completely misunderstanding Hughes since I have not read the whole of his works and I am using my own definitions of “objective”, “subjective”, and “reality” – all of which are often tweaked by each philosopher that uses them.

        Joshua House

        August 29, 2010 at 9:27 pm

  2. What’s happened here is an abstraction of the words “truth” and “faith” from their concrete usage in the practices of the Church. Ordinarily speaking, those of us who profess faith will continue to act as if the contents of that faith did indeed happen. Any questioning of whether such contents “objectively” or “subjectively” happened is simply a befuddling of language that removes us from the rough ground of everyday practices and tasks.

    anonymous

    September 2, 2010 at 12:42 pm


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