Our generation has seen the tremendous influence that the choice of a
hermeneutical viewpoint can have… (Wheeler, p. 126)
This is no new point for this blog; I’ve expressed this before. Process philosopher-theologian Wheeler asserts,
…faith’s home is to some extent a function of the contingencies of one’s birth,
upbringing, and historical-cultural location, and to some extent a function of
one’s own temperament and choices. Fundamentalists of every ilk ignore
this truism (p. 104).
…concrete faith communities, no matter how great their vitality and their
efficacy in producing concord and well-being for their believers, do not exhaust
the possibilities of encounter with the Real, nor do they exclude the
possibility of other faith communities and traditions. …the core images of
my faith tradition are ‘true,” in the sense that they are a faithful response to
God’s self-communication within the limits of human symbol-forming capacity (pgs
I live this reality—I have “lived” in numerous “faith homes,” I have run with numerous religious paradigms. This is no mere boast. I am a capable of rendering a coherent, robust, and thorough defense of any of the following paradigms, among others: metaphysical naturalism (atheism), agnosticism, Moody-Bible styled Evangelicalism, Assembly of God (first-wave Pentecostalism), Fundamentalist Baptist, Seventh-day Adventist, Messianic Jewish, Roman Catholic, Orthodox Christian, Orthodox Jewish, Conservative Jewish, traditional Karaite Judaism, hyper-scriptural Karaite Judaism, Sunni Islam, Shiite Islam, young-earth creationism, etc. I can enter into any of these paradigms and provide a strong defense. As a result, I feel that my choice of paradigm is, just that, a choice.
The primary driving variable then for me becomes, “What do I want to believe or disbelieve?” And, subsequently, I ask, “What makes me a better person?” There are times and there are situations when I feel that a conservative Christian theism impels me to be and to become a better person. Examples of such settings include times when I am dealing with guilt or seeking forgiveness. In such contexts the idea of a God who forgives and who calls to forgiveness helps me to assume a restorative stance and behavior patterns associated with confession or confrontation (depending on who the offender is) and apology. This is not to deny that such patterns and offerings cannot be found in other paradigms, but I find them the most meaningful for me against the backdrop of Christian theism. Additionally, there are other contexts where I find the same Christian paradigm to be morally retrograde and an obstruction to an inclusive vision of justice.
Granted, there are rules of logic that make methodological naturalism positivistically desirable and logically consistent. I am not denying this. Rather, I am asserting that I come away from my encounter with ultimate reality profoundly agnostic and aware of the embodiedness of my reason, experience, and thinking. Plato would not like me so well at the moment.
Wheeler, David. “Confessional Communities and Public Worldviews: A Case Study” in Searching for an Adequate God. Eerdmans, Grand Rapids: 2000 Eerdmans, Grand Rapids: 2000