Sunday, October 24, 2010

Resurrection.

More from John Webster ... I particularly appreciated the parts concerning the resurrection. It reminded me a bit of this post a while ago. Read that post I linked if you have time. It is one of my favorites.

"A second example of the same process is theological talk of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. In a fashion similar to what took place in the doctrine of revelation, the resurrection shifts from being an
object of belief to being a ground of belief. That is to say, the resurrection comes to perform a function in an apologetic strategy as part of the endeavor of fundamental theology to defend the possibility of revelation and special divine action. And as its role changes, so also does its content. Extracted from its proper Christological home, it is no longer considered part of the Credo. Instead it is handled evidentially, as furnishing extrinsic grounds for subsequent attachment to the Credo. As a result, the more obviously evidential aspects of the resurrection - notably, of course, the empty tomb - come to occupy centre stage, precisely because they can most easily be assigned a job in the search for transcendental foundations for Christian doctrine.

Neither of these moves could have taken place without a certain forgetfulness of the inner structure and dynamic of Christian doctrine, and without the adoption of intellectual procedures which are themselves seriously underdetermined by doctrinal considerations. The effects of this reach deep into theology's self-understanding and practices, and can be seen both in the literary forms of modern theology as well as in the ways in which it has construed itself."

- John Webster,
Confessing God, 20.

2 comments:

Marc Belcastro said...

Kaitlyn:

I'm not sure I fully understand the point which Webster is attempting to make, but he seems to underestimate the substantial value plausibly derived from an apologetic (or evidential) perspective of the resurrection.

[T]he resurrection shifts from being an object of belief to being a ground of belief.

If the resurrection is the centerpiece of the Christian faith, then being in the possession of good reasons for thinking the resurrection occurred might be very helpful for a person's completely embracing Christianity -- with both mind and heart. That is, if one starts with the resurrection as one's belief-ground, perhaps that will facilitate the resurrection's eventually being taken as one's belief-object. Further, although Webster doesn't address this, I don't see why the resurrection couldn't simultaneously be the ground and object of our belief. There doesn't seem to be an impropriety in doing so, or at least in beginning with such a posture.

And as its role changes, so also does its content.

Why do you think we should accept this as being the case?

Neither of these moves could have taken place without a certain forgetfulness of the inner structure and dynamic of Christian doctrine, and without the adoption of intellectual procedures which are themselves seriously underdetermined by doctrinal considerations.

What do you understand him to be suggesting here?

In the interesting post you cited above, Hunsinger says: "I don't think any such reasons, by themselves, would ever be enough for someone to have faith in Christ." Assuming he means what we generally mean by "reasons," this strikes me as a fairly strong claim, and it appears inconsistent with texts like John 4:39-42, 4:46-54, and Acts 17:32-34. But perhaps Hunsinger intends to suggests that "reasons" will never guarantee such results, for he does go on to note, "Even the best of reasons . . . would be insufficient." Insufficient, of course, doesn't have to mean ineffective, which he seems to recognize.

-- Marc

Josh said...

Well I’m not clear on everything Webster has in mind with respect to those remarks, but I find them interesting. I don’t believe that evidential considerations are inherently unimportant. There are some for whom a look at the evidence is needed (I, to some extent and in a strange way, fall into this category). But there are also a lot of people, probably the majority, for whom the evidence isn’t really a concern. I doubt that there is anything wrong with these folks in virtue of their apathy concerning the evidence.

I agree that when one takes an apologist’s stance towards Christianity, many aspects of the faith take on an entirely different role and color. I tend to think of Christian faith as something close to confidence in the redeeming benevolence of God toward humanity in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. Thought of in this manner, it makes little sense to ask whether the Christian faith is true or false. Instead, the only question worth asking is, “Is Christian faith misplaced or not?” Since the apologist’s concern is chiefly with the truth value of propositions, however, the focus is shifted from Christian faith to Christian propositions or beliefs. We then examine these beliefs to figure out if they are rationally held and if they are true.

I have no objection in principle to doing this. Let us critically examine any belief you please, Christian or not. Sharpen your analytic scalpels and plop whatever belief suits you on the table for dissection. Trot out the Bayesian equations, state thy evidence, and let us construct rival hypotheses and make our probabilistic arguments. The danger that I suspect Webster is partly concerned with is that in all of our arguing and defending, our confidence in God’s benevolence, our faith, will be put to one side, waiting patiently until the voice of the verdict, on the basis of the evidence, permits us to continue in our faith. By the time the voice of the verdict speaks, however, we may have already become spiritually malnourished.

Josh

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