Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Aristotle Saves Jesus

Aristotle saves Jesus of the evangelical Christian church in the Western world. And saves him from liberal university types, from postmodernism, and from the appearances of anti-intellectualism.

Look. Here's from conservative evangelical Christian professor Randal Rauser of Christianpost.com (letting Aristotle, not Jesus, answer Pilate):
"What is truth?" Pilate's memorable question was thrown out unexpectedly by an audience member when I was lecturing a few years ago on Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code. . .

One hears of such skepticism often these days, frequently associated with the term "postmodernism" (though the term is slowly becoming passé). But is the nature of truth really as mysterious as this student suggested?

It is true that philosophers debate the metaphysical nature of truth. But such intramural debates can often obscure a deeper and wider agreement over the core essence of truth. That essence is captured in the common sense observation articulated long ago by Aristotle: "to say of what is, that it is, and of what is not, that it is not, is true."

Perhaps you were expecting an earthshaking profundity? If so then Aristotle's definition may appear deflationary, even trivial. (Surely truth cannot be as simple and boring as Aristotle suggests?!)

Maybe it is for this reason that some people have suggested alternatives to the common sense conception of truth. Thus, some have suggested that truth is consensus (that is, truth is whatever everybody agrees upon). Others have suggested that truth is what works (or more colorfully, whatever gets you through the day). Unfortunately, neither offers a remotely credible alternative to the conception codified by Aristotle. After all the faddism of skeptical philosophy the fact remains that truth is a statement which corresponds to reality.

From this it would follow that an essential (if not yet sufficient) criterion for being a person of truth is to be the kind of person who ensures that your statements are accurate, that is that they correspond to reality.This means (among other things) carefully and charitably coming to understand and engage the views of others rather than brashly caricaturing and prematurely dismissing them.

One might think then that evangelicals, who brand themselves as people of truth, would be well known as people who only make statements that reflect the nature of reality accurately.

[sigh] "Who needs truth when you've got Jesus," is Rauser's sarcastic (i.e., evangelical sarcasm) title for his blog post. "Truth" (i.e., The Truth of such a christ-ianity) is an essential category (i.e., Aristotle's notion, and Pilate's). Until the evangelicals' Jesus follows Aristotle's simple "Truth" - evangelicals won't be True intellectuals, concludes Rauser.

And philosophy prof Dallas Willard notes in one of his books for his evangelical Christian audiences (Divine Conspiracy, page 135):
The world has succeeded in opposing intelligence to goodness. A Russian saying speaks of those who are "stupid to the point of sanctity." In other words, you have to be really dumb in order to qualify for saintliness. Centuries ago, even, when Dante assigned the title "master of those who know," he mistakenly gave it to Aristotle, not Jesus, for Jesus is holy."
But notice that Willard succeeds in opposing the world to the church. But notice that Dante, opposing intelligence to goodness, was not only of this "world" but was also of the rather aristotelian Western church.

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