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Guide The Journey of the Dialectic: Knowing God, Volume 3

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Again, a parallel with a mythic or folkloric theme or feature may inform the context or the rhetorical target of a text, but such might not imply direct derivation. Too easily it is assumed that biblical writers simply took over contemporary religious themes, non- thinkingly, allowing interpreters to characterize meanings of a text in a particular way, often contrary to the point the author was making. Therefore, if there are religious parallels to biblical texts—Jewish, Mesopotamian, Greco-Roman, or otherwise—asking how and why a motif is being engaged or employed relates centrally to considering the motive of the author.

While some borrowing from texts did occur especially among the Synoptic Gospels and among the Jewish historical traditions , not all of these inferences are critically solid. Saul of Tarsus reports to have had an understanding of covenantal Judaism to which the Jesus movement was a perceived threat; thus, what might have caused his own change of heart and mind!

And, what sorts of experiences might Paul have had among fellow Jewish leaders and among Gentiles, whose reception of the gospel message was variable and uneven? Might Paul also have struggled existentially, even as a grounded believer, when his expectations and hopes failed or were frustrated amidst his personal struggles and sufferings? Are there research- established disciplines that help analysts appreciate more clearly how understandings change and perceptions are challenged by contravening experiences?

Did his understandings— even post-calling or post-conversion —develop, and if so, how might this have happened? It may also be the case that more than one interpretive approach may be worthily applied to a text, and several factors may contribute to understanding its meaning and implications. Therefore, as an interdisciplinary approach to the Pauline 9 In any critical analysis of a classic text, its polyvalence—including theological, historical, and literary riddles and perplexities—must be considered if interpretation is to be at its interdisciplinary finest. My approach to Cognitive-Critical Biblical Analysis is thus to employ any respectable disciplinary approach that both provides an understanding of some aspect of human cognition— including perception, experience, reflection, articulation, presentation—and serves effectively in elucidating an understanding of a thought behind a biblical text.

Any strong disciplinary approach can be applied to biblical texts, but following are four useful models. Second, the intensity of the drive to moderate the dissonance is in direct proportion to the importance of the issues at stake to the subject, often leading to siding with the more highly valued element; resistance to change will also be a factor of the perceived importance of the feature being challenged. Third, the drive to alleviate cognitive dissonance leads to changes in both behavior and attitude but also finds its way into expression, as the subject reflects upon his or her dialect between earlier perceptions, contravening experiences, and subsequent understandings.

Human anxiety, according to Rogers, is often a factor of incongruence between the perceived self and the experienced self. What the therapist contributes is a cognitive understanding of the disparity, allowing the subject first to acknowledge the incongruity and then to decide whether to modify the perceived self, the actualized self, or both. In that sense, truth is liberating, and one is enabled to make existential choices with greater self-understanding and authenticity. Robert A. Wicklund and Jack W. Loder, knowing is primarily an event, and any such event will involve at least five stages.

According to Loder, these elements of any knowing event also connect with four facets of human existence, including the lived world, the self, the void, and the holy. In that sense, while it applies to Jewish and Christian faiths, it also extends beyond them in terms of applicability.

Building on the work of his Harvard mentor, Lawrence Kohlberg, Fowler also posits six stages of faith development moving from embryonic child-like faith to various levels of adult faith. Relevant for our study are especially Stages Religiously, it involves the ability to appreciate symbols as rich representations of clusters of meaning. The synthetic- conventional stage locates authority external to the self, or in internalized versions of established authority.

It does not yet have a well-developed capacity for third-person perspective-taking, in which the self sees itself and those with whom it is in relations from an independent angle. Religious communities principally composed of persons best described by Synthetic-Conventional faith tend to form around authoritative leadership and to rely upon their authorizing interpretations of religious traditions. The Individuative-Reflective stage [Stage 4] grows out of two decisive cognitive and emotional steps.

These steps may come in either sequence, or simultaneously. First, developing the capacities for third-person perspective-taking, the person becomes capable of constructing an inquiring and evaluative approach to interactions with significant others.

The Journey of the Dialectic: Knowing God, Volume 3

The relationship itself whether with a person or a group becomes an object of inquiry and evaluations. With the exercise of these new capacities, the locus of authority shifts from external to internal. It tends to disvalue symbol, myth, ritual, and non-cognitive sources of faith-knowing.

This stage looks for intellectual formulations regarding faith and living that have the qualities of ideological clarity, apparent comprehensiveness, and affirmation of the possibilities of individual mastery and control. The Conjunctive stage can arise from one or more sources.

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Central among these may be fatigue of the ego and of the conscious self from the processes of trying to manage a complex world without ways to comprehend factors that elude the cognitive structures with which they operate. For women, it may come with the growing confidence that the spiritual limits of inherited institutionalized traditions are not adequate to sustain the affective and moral lives they are evolving.

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By working through the differences, the contradictions, and the contrarieties of these first two terms, a new, more productive term emerges. This critical approach is useful to "propose a startling new perspective from which to rethink the novelty in question, to defamiliarize our ordinary habits of mind and to make us suddenly conscious not only of our own non-dialectical obtuseness but also of the strangeness of reality as such" Valences Jameson's use of dialectical criticism, most notably in Archaeologies of the Future, is particularly useful in works of science fiction and Utopia, which present a negation of our reality and thus can present an implied critique of political, social, and other systems.

This paradox-by design leads readers to think dialectically, comparing their own world to the fictional one and constructing mentally a synthesis of the two, which Jameson argues is the ultimate productivity of Utopian texts Archaeologies By following Jameson's lead, we can better understand the contradictory, Utopian, and dialectical possibilities of Pullman's fantastic universe. This article will first evaluate the positioning of the mulefa within the novels and within the critical reception of the novels. Then, by examining the dialectical nature of the mulefa and Dust, it will become clear that the land of the mulefa is uniquely drawn as the only space in which Mary can come to understand the nature of Dust.

Mary's journey and engagement with dialectic thought allows the reader to develop a dialectical understanding of the contradictions of Dust in order to reach a higher understanding of the universe. Through the dialectical examination of Mary's story line within the novels, it is possible to demonstrate that Mary's investigations into the meaning of Dust, her intervention in the lives of the mulefa, and the aid she offers to Lyra are essential to the trilogy's successful conclusion, both in narrative and thematic terms.

Such rejection persisted, and persists, although there has been a significant revival of natural theology in recent years. The story of natural theology begins where theology begins. For the Greeks the term theology originally referred to inquiry into the lives and activities of the gods or divinities. In the Greek world, theology and mythology were the same concept. The theologians were the poets whose task it was to present accounts of the gods in poetic form.

In the same age when the gods dominated popular thinking, however, another movement was growing: philosophy. The first philosophers, the pre-Socratics, undertook a quest to find the first principle of things. Plato and Aristotle each recognized the distinction between the two ways of inquiring into ultimate truth: the poetic-mythological-theological way and the purely rational way. Plato — B. True education consists in being led from the bondage of sensory appearances into the light of knowledge afforded by the form of the Good. The form of the Good is the cause of all being and all knowledge the first principle.

Knowledge of the form of the Good is arrived at through the struggle of dialectical argumentation. The dialectical arguments of philosophy do not prove the existence of the form of the Good, but contribute to inducing a non-inferential perception of it. Although Plato himself does not identify the form of the Good as God, later thinkers surely did.

Aristotle — B. On the basis of his theory of motion , change, and causality presented in Physics , Aristotle proceeds to offer a demonstration that there exists a first mover of all other movers which is not itself moved in any respect. The first, unmoved mover is a postulate intended to account for the perpetuity of motion and change around us. In the later books of Metaphysics , Aristotle goes further and identifies the unmoved mover as separated from matter and as n ous or Mind.

It is thought thinking itself. Both Plato and Aristotle have one view in common. They hold that through a form of rational argumentation whether it be demonstrative or dialectical , one can — without appeal to the authority of sacred writings — arrive at some knowledge or awareness of a first principle that is separated from matter. As philosophy was developing from the Pre-Socratics through to Plato and Aristotle, another development was taking place among the Israelites or the ancient Jews. What was developing was their understanding of their corporate identity as the chosen people of God YHWH.

They conceived of themselves as a people established in a covenant with him, and bound to serve him according to the law and ritual prescriptions they had received from him. Texts received as sacred and as the word of God were an essential basis for their life, practice and thought.

Section One: Proving God

It was among Jews and as a Jew that Jesus of Nazareth was born, lived his life, and gathered his first adherents. As Christianity spread, so did its faith-based and text-based method for approaching an understanding of God. As a minority practice within a predominantly Roman-Hellenistic culture, Christianity soon faced two new questions. The first question — do Christians have a theology?

New Thoughts on the Dialectics of Organization and Philosophy

All Christians rejected the views of the mythological-poets the theologians. Under the new conditions, Christians found themselves more widely capable of saying that they had a theology. The second question — what should Christians make of philosophy? Some Christians considered philosophy essentially incompatible with Christianity; other Christians considered the possibility of a sort of intellectual alliance between philosophy and Christianity.

On the other hand, some Christians who were roughly his contemporaries happily availed themselves of contemporary philosophical vocabulary, concepts, and reasoning to expound Christian teaching. For example, Justin the Martyr , a convert to Christianity from Platonism, developed an account of the activity of Christ in terms of a medley of Platonist and Stoic ideas.

Clement of Alexandria developed an account of Christian knowledge gnosis based on a variety of ideas drawn from prevalent philosophies. Greek speaking eastern Christians more quickly than Latin speaking ones began a process of borrowing, altering, and then using prevalent philosophical categories to corroborate and clarify their faith-based views of God.

But is philosophical thought that has been used to clarify and corroborate faith-based and text-based beliefs still philosophical thought? Philosophy, after all, proceeds without appeal to the authority of sacred texts, and Christian theology proceeded by way of appeal to Christian sacred texts. There was now need for a new degree of precision regarding the ways to arrive at knowledge of God. The distinction between revealed theology and natural theology eventually grew out of the distinction between what is held by faith and what is held by understanding or reason.

Augustine , in describing how he was taught as a catechumen in the Church, writes:. I thought it more modest and not in the least misleading to be told by the Church to believe what could not be demonstrated — whether that was because a demonstration existed but could not be understood by all or whether the matter was not one open to rational proof…You [God] persuaded me that the defect lay not with those who believed your books, which you have established with such great authority amongst almost all nations, but with those who did not believe them.

VI, v 7. Chadwick, Here Augustine describes being asked to believe certain things, that is, take them on authority, even though they could not be demonstrated. These two ways of holding claims about God correspond roughly with things one accepts by faith and things that proceed from understanding or reason. Each of the two ways will produce a type of theology. The distinction between holding something by faith and holding it by reason, as well as the distinction between the two types of theology that each way produces, can be traced through some major figures of the Middle Ages.

Two examples follow. Although a Christian, Boethius brings together in his Consolation of Philosophy the best of various ancient philosophical currents about God. Without any appeal to the authority of Christian Scripture, Boethius elaborated his account of God as eternal, provident, good, and so forth. Second, Pseudo-Dionysius late 5th century also raised the distinction between knowing things from the authority of Scripture and knowing them from rational arguments:. The one resorts to symbolism and involves initiation. The other is philosophic and employs the method of demonstration.

Here we have the distinction between the two ways of approaching God explicitly identified as two aspects of theology. Augustine, Boethius, and Pseudo-Dionysius to name but a few thus make possible a more refined distinction between two types of aspects to theology. On the one hand, there is a program of inquiry that aims to understand what one accepts in faith as divine revelation from above. On the other hand, there is a program of inquiry that proceeds without appeal to revelation and aims to obtain some knowledge of God from below.

The eighth to the twelfth centuries are often considered the years of monastic theology. The speculative ambitions of earlier Christian theologians for example, Origen, Augustine, the Cappadocians, and so forth were succeeded by the tendency of the monks to meditate upon, but not to speculate beyond, the Scriptures and the theological tradition received from earlier Christians. The monk aimed primarily at experiencing what the texts revealed about God rather than to understanding what the texts revealed about God in terms afforded by reason and philosophy see LeClerq, This began to change with Anselm of Canterbury - Anselm is best known in contemporary philosophical circles for his ontological argument for the existence of God.

As the argument is commonly understood, Anselm aimed to show that God exists without making appeal to any sacred texts and also without basing his argument upon any empirical or observable truth. The argument consists entirely of an analysis of the idea of God, and a tracing of the implications of that idea given the laws of logic, for example, the principle of non-contradiction. Anselm, however, is known among medieval specialists for much more.

Although a monk himself, he is known as the first to go beyond the purely meditative and experiential aims of monastic theology, and to pursue a serious speculative ambition. He wished to find the necessary reasons for why God acted as he has in history as revealed by the Bible. There arose a need for a new degree of precision on the relationship between philosophy and theology, faith and understanding.

One classic account to provide that precision came from Thomas Aquinas who had at his disposal many centuries of preliminary reflection on the issues. In the work of Thomas Aquinas - , one finds two distinctions that serve to clarify the nature and status of natural theology. Aquinas distinguishes between two sorts of truths and between two ways of knowing them. Some truths about God exceed all the ability of human reason.

Such is the truth that God is triune. But there are some truths which the natural reason also is able to reach. Such are the truth that God exists, that he is one, and the like. In fact, such truths about God have been proved demonstratively by the philosophers, guided by the light of natural reason. On the one hand, there are truths beyond the capacity of the human intellect to discover or verify and, on the other hand, there are truths falling within the capacity of human intellect to discover and verify.

Let us call the first sort truths beyond reason and the latter sort truths of natural reason. There are different ways of knowing or obtaining access to each sort of truth. The truths of natural reason are discovered or obtained by using the natural light of reason. The natural light of reason is the capacity for intelligent thought that all human beings have just by virtue of being human. By exercising their native intelligence, human beings can discover, verify, and organize many truths of natural reason.

Aquinas thinks that human beings have discovered many such truths and he expects human beings to discover many more. Although there is progress amidst the human race in understanding truths of natural reason, Aquinas thinks there are truths that are totally beyond the intelligence of the entire human race. The truths beyond reason are outside the aptitude of the natural light of reason to discover or verify.

The cognitive power of all humanity combined, all humanity of the past, present, and future, does not suffice to discover or verify one of the truths beyond reason.

How then does an individual or humanity arrive at such truths? Humanity does not arrive at them. Rather, the truths arrive at humanity from a higher intellect — God. They come by way of divine revelation, that is, by God testifying to them.


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God testifies to them in a three-step process. First, God elevates the cognitive powers of certain human beings so that their cognitive powers operate at a level of aptitude beyond what they are capable of by nature. Thanks to the divinely enhanced cognition, such people see more deeply into things than is possible for humans whose cognition has not been so enhanced.

The heightened cognition is compared to light, and is often said to be a higher light than the light of natural reason. It is called the light of prophecy or the light of revelation. The recipients of the light of prophecy see certain things that God sees but that the rest of humanity does not. Having seen higher truths in a higher light, the recipients of the higher light are ready for the second step. Second, God sends those who see things in the higher light to bear witness and to testify to what they see in the higher light.

By so testifying, the witnesses the prophets and Apostles of old served as instruments or a mouthpiece through which God made accessible to humanity some of those truths that God sees but that humanity does not see. The Bible makes for the third step. Third, in the present God uses the Bible as a current, active instrument for teaching the same truths to humanity. By accepting in faith God speaking through the Bible, people today have a second-hand knowledge of certain truths that God alone sees first-hand.

Just as God illuminated the prophets and apostles in the light of prophecy to see what God alone sees, God also illuminates people today to have faith in God speaking through the Bible. This illumination is called the light of faith. Just as one sees certain claims of natural reason by the light of natural reason, so the Christian faith hold certain claims beyond reason by the God-given light of faith.

In the thought of Thomas Aquinas, the traditional distinction between two domains of truths and the distinctive way of knowing truth in each domain, reaches a point of clarity. This distinction is at the basis of the distinction between theology and natural theology.

Theology in the Thomistic sense , as it later came to be called, is the program for inquiring by the light of faith into what one believes by faith to be truths beyond reason that are revealed by God. Natural theology , as it later came to be called, is the program for inquiring by the light of natural reason alone into whatever truths of natural reason human beings might be able to find about God.

Theology and natural theology differ in what they inquire into, and in what manner they inquire. What theology inquires into is what God has revealed himself to be. What natural theology inquires into is what human intelligence can figure out about God without using any of the truths beyond reason, that is, the truths divinely revealed. To see how theology and natural theology differ for Aquinas, it may help to look into faith and theology in more detail.

One seems blind in accepting on faith the truths of revelation found in the Bible. They seem blind because faith is a way of knowing something second-hand. A faithful person is in the position of believing what another intellect the divine intellect sees. Now although one does not see for oneself the truths accepted in faith, one desires to see them for oneself. Faith tends to prompt intellectual questioning, inquiry, and seeking into the meaning and intelligibility of the mystery held in faith.

Why did God create the world?