According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for
this world to recreate, reclaim, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of
explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. - anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. - anon
... Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument.
There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is
irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a
power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table
to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace,
reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants
us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. - anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul

Friday, September 9, 2011

Classic Evangelical Epistemology, Part 1

This will be a fairly long article to read and absorb as I discovered myself when reviewing its contents. However, it is pertinent to the newer efforts of deconstructionism now prevalent in epistemological research of language and communication, in meta-narrative discussions of hermeneutic, and in the basic postmodernistic discussions relating to emergent Christian issues. I recently saw it come up (unstated of course) in Catherine Keller's Process Theology discussion and Roger Olson's Theism v. Open Theism discussions, not to mention the themes found in Analytic Theology, and Hermeneutics.

And so, for all these reasons and more, we must plow through Paul Hiebert's earlier, modernistic, epistemological discussion of God, and of personal salvation, from both a "bounded set" and a "centered set" framework while keeping in mind that his analysis comes from a classic Christian understanding of religious epistemology. It would be somewhat akin to classical physical science as versus quantum physical science, in that the set-theory shown here is a production of late-modernistic thought, and not the postmodernistic thought currently underway in the researches of deconstructivism.

After reading Hiebert's very careful analysis of the process of salvation for a non-Christian far removed from modern society I have provided an additional set of remarks that may (or may not) be helpful. Please read those remarks only after reading Hiebert's article as they will perhaps make more sense in light of this effort. Thank you.

RE Slater
September 9, 2011


Article on “centered” versus “bounded” sets

by Roger Olson
posted on September 8, 2011

Someone asked me for my source regarding the difference between “centered sets” and “bounded sets.” (This is with reference to my [recent] argument that evangelicalism is a centered set and not a bounded set; ).

I first encountered this distinction in the following article by missiologist Paul Hiebert: “Coversion, Culture and Cognitive Categories” in Gospel in Context 1:4 (October, 1978), 24-29. I highly recommend it if you can locate it. I believe it was republished as a chapter in a later book by Hiebert, but I don’t know the title (found below in the comments section by readers). The article’s subtitle is “How much must Papayya ‘know’ about the gospel to be converted?” (“Papayya” is a hypothetical native of a newly reached people group.

Comments & Observations

Commentor 1 - Paul H. Hiebert, Anthropological Reflections on Missiological Issues (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1994), ISBN # 978-0-8010-4394-9. The whole book is very good and the chapter referred to is called “The Catogory Christian in the Mission Task” but also of interest I hope is the opening chapter “Epistemological Foundations for Science and Theology”.

Commentor 2 - Hiebert’s discussion of a centered set approach is expanded and set in a broader context in his posthumously published, Transforming Worldviews.


Conversion, Culture and Cognitive Categories

 By Hiebert, Paul G. 1978. ‘Conversion, Culture and Cognitive Categories’.
Gospel in Context 1(4):24-29.

How much must Papayya ‘know’ about the Gospel to be converted?

by Paul G. Hiebert


Go here to read ! 

Go here to read !


Additional Comments

by RE Slater
on September 9, 2011

I had lost my earlier commentary when first submitting it and will limit this discussion to these several ideas more poorly written than my former words.... First, after reading Hiebert's discussion - which I faintly remember from early seminary work in missiology - I would be interested in knowing more about category #3 regarding the fuzzy subsets to either position. (If anyone has a link please pass this along and I will list it here. Thanks.)

Secondly, this Westernized version of epistemology (and more specific, of a Christian missiological understanding of itself) seems less than satisfying and makes me more inclined to seek a broader, non-religious philosophical epistemology to work forwards from than starting from Hiebert's religious analysis (though seemingly true) and working backwards. For myself, I prefer to look at the larger picture first before seeking an enhanced subset of the larger picture, and/or before seeking to Christianize a topic if relevant and true. Hiebert most probably has already done this for us, but being a skeptic at heart, I would like to first know what he knows about a subject before jumping to these epistemological conclusions and creating a broad working theory for the evangelic Christian faith.

If creating a non-Christian epistemology than it should also include Eastern cultural constructs as well as aboriginal native/tribal constructs; pagan views as well as disparate religious views; historical frameworks in combination with more recent eras; sociological rich settings and sociologically poor settings; and so forth. For the human language of communication changes from time and place, era and geography, people group and organization. Making latent epistemological theory both fluid and dynamic, and showing to us that by its very dynamism it can affect our hermeneutical reading of the Bible composed of so many peoples, and places, times and locations. Too, because I am not an epistemologist by training, it would be interesting to know if this subject matter rests on several firm and inflexible/pervasive theories that can then be re-contextualized for each given human era and circumstance. Which is more probably where the areas of existentialism and phenomenology would then enter in, though I would like to keep them out as much as possible (though I doubt this would be realistic).

Moreover, it seems that the current postmodernisticcommunicational underpinnings should help in this effort. Much like the postmodern day effort of re-making the Tower of Babel in its antecedal communications previous to its construction organized under one language group before God smote its laborers with many different languages. More probably because, like Hiebert who worked within foreign cultures, we in our technological cultures, are discovering the need for establishing a common ground of relating to one another within our ever expanding social networks (whether Christian or non-Christian), as well as globally, with other cultures.

Overall, I think Hiebert expresses the current need for postmodernism's deconstructive theology occurring in (1) our own personal existential narratives, and (2) the meta-narratives that we find ourselves in, as well as (3) those narratives and meta-narratives found within the biblically authoritative stories of Jesus in the Gospels, of Paul, of Old and New Testament stories and figures alike. And yet, by creating an epistemological redaction (or reconstruction) of our lives - and those of scripture - we must realize that this can be fraught with unsolvable, perhaps long-term, epistemological tension. But still, as man evolves in his communications with one another, it would seem that at some very fundamental levels of local, regional and global interactions, that his task of re-vitalizing language into a wholistic set of uni-languages must necessarily occur. More probably because this same activity will actually occur through contemporary shared cultural experiences as technology binds global peoples everywhere towards more enlightened understandings of one another through world events, tragedies, catastrophes, human-interest stories, and the like.

Lastly, I have recently been reading through Rob Bell's book, Love Wins, and now better understand his frustration in relating spiritual concepts to a global audience; and specifically, his frustration over his own background's understanding of those spiritual concepts when fraught by limited, conservative, Christian epistemologies. And I would applaud any constructive effort in re-discovering the dynamism that I know is present in the words of God to us through his Word, his Spirit, and his people. Not simply in its authority, but in its ground of guidance for our daily lives, if it is possible to delimit ourselves from our past parochial understandings of childhood, as young students and parents, and even as older Christians. All the while exploring the import of God's revelation to our lives and to the world around us as we minister God's grace and grow old in our span of years.