Caution: this post is a bit of a Ramble. . .I'm thinking something through.
In a post below I wrote: "All of this means that we need a workable apologetics; that is, a means of teaching, defending, and living the faith that doesn't adopt modernist assumptions about truth, beauty, and goodness; or simply concede to the Enlightenment its definition of reason."
The idea expressed in that sentence was prompted by a book I've been reading titled, The End of Apologetics: Christian Witness in a Postmodern Context by Myron B. Penner.
Penner argues that most contemporary Christian apologetics fails in teaching, defending, and living the faith by adopting an Enlightenment understanding of reason, a move which logically requires conceding to modernist epistemological standards of evidence/truth.
What does this mean? Basically, it means that (for the most part) we have surrendered the public presentation and defense of the faith to the 20th/21st century heirs of our 16th/17th century enemies. We're playing on their home field by their rules.
It means that we've conceded that Christian truth is largely a matter of propositional statements that can and should be vetted by natural reason according to the rules of logic and empirical method.
Penner points out a number of unfavorable consequences of our surrender. Chief among these is the loss of mystery, properly understood. Another loss: the ability to translate biblical teaching into our daily lives. How are we supposed to live the Gospel when it has been reduced to a set of logically defensible propositions?
Penner's solution is problematic for a Catholic. He suggests that we abandon the Enlightenment Project of rational justification and its monstrous offspring, empirical evidence gathering, and choose instead to teach, defend, and live out our faith as a matter of hermeneutics; that is, we approach scripture, doctrine/dogma, etc. as meaning-making narratives that tell Our Christian Story.
He suggests that we replace the Enlightenment model of truth -- "propositions corresponding with reality" -- with a uniquely Christian model of truth: "existential edification." Rather than defending the Incarnation as a logically consistent description of reality, we live out the Incarnation as way of making sense of our belief that we are human creatures destined for union with God.
I am sympathetic with Penner's critique of modern apologetics b/c too often we concede to empirical science its standards for evidence and reason; for example, 20th century attempts to defend transubstantiation using scientific methods and tools, which always end with our surrender to the modernist idea that reality is basically physical and only physical.
In a recent blog post, Msgr Charles Pope reports on his efforts to restore a living catechesis to his parish. He calls his approach "Whole Family Catechesis." I'm not sure if he knows that he's challenging modernist standards of truth and evidence, but the way he describes what he's doing seems to indicate that he has intuitively grasped that the propositional approach is largely fruitless.
When leading a Bible study or teaching a scripture class, I tell the students that all facts are true but not all truths are factual. Some truths can be told and understood outside the limits of facts.__________________
Follow HancAquam or Subscribe ----->