Friday, February 20, 2009

Epistemological Modesty

I saw this here:

Epistemological Modesty [Jim Manzi]

Most of what I write about can be summarized in the following four sentences by David Brooks:

The correct position is the one held by self-loathing intellectuals, like Isaiah Berlin, Edmund Burke, James Madison, Michael Oakeshott and others. These were pointy heads who understood the limits of what pointy heads can know. The phrase for this outlook is epistemological modesty, which would make a fine vanity license plate.

The idea is that the world is too complex for us to know, and therefore policies should be designed that take account of our ignorance.

Which is fairly humbling, and not the greatest advertisement in the world for reading any of my essays.

I think the same applies to theology. There are a lot of "pointy headed" theologians who's ideas and teachings undermine key theological truth by layering on precept over precept--Bishop Spong is one famous example. There are examples in all churches I am familiar with. In fact, I think there is a good case that much of the Reformation was a reaction against the "pointy heads" who had some rather elaborate theories about justification for one. Well, if our theories are rally completely novel, such as "development of doctrine", then there is a really high chance that we do not respect pour own ignorance of divine things and end up rejecting what was revealed by God. Now, this is not to say that theology is useless, just that the "pointy heads" should be careful lest their theories supplant what we have received through divine revelation. In fact, I was subjected to this when I was an apologist against skeptics: my arguments began to supplant my faith in Christ, he became more of an idea I could hang other ideas around instead of the Lord of Life come to save me. Of course, my arguments were impeccable, though!

1 comment:

steve martin said...


You start to have faith in faith..instead of faith in God.

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