The word properly required only for this sentence, not for the next or the next and not the Word of the Lord, nor of any of the Philosophical Fathers

Geneva Bible
Circumstances mean that I currently find myself in situations in which two different groups of people with whom I need to engage are convinced they have, not only the Truth, but the last word on this Truth.

The first group is political and it is in the form of orthodox Marxism. If you want to know what this position says click on the following link:

Orthodox Marxism

The second group is religious and it comes in the form of conservative evangelical Christianity, a position that can best ascertained by taking a spin over to the webpage of Wycliffe Hall in Oxford (with whom I had more than a few run-ins whilst I was studying theology in Oxford):

Wycliffe Hall

The problem in both cases is that the people concerned believe, as I have just said, that they have the Truth and the last word on this Truth.

However, in raising this matter I’m not saying that, by contrast, I have the Truth and, therefore, I should have the last word on political matter X and religious matter Y. Not at all. I’m simply saying that human experience tells us over and over that there is no simple access to some simple overarching Truth and the consequence of this is, therefore, that there can be no last word but only a commitment to an open-ended, critical dialogue in which appropriate ways to proceed are continuously to be worked out together.

Naturally, I find myself ridiculed by both groups when I suggest that we best proceed by sharing perspectives and allowing ourselves not only to attempt to change other people’s opinions, but also genuinely to be prepared to allow our own opinions to be changed by engaging in such a dialogue. The wager being that a genuinely useful, ad hoc (i.e. for this moment), lower case "truth" may emerge between us that is appropriate, now for this situation, now that.  

As James C. Edwards, a philosopher whose work I admire greatly and which had a profound impact upon me, said in his "Plain Sense of Things":

However good and true a poem [or, I would add, any other creative texts like Engels’ “Dialectics of Nature” and “Socialism: Utopian and Scientific”, or the Bible] there is always call for more such poems [or other creative texts] . . . . There is, after all, the right word to speak, the one properly required for this sentence (if only I can hear it), but it is the word properly required only for this sentence, not for the next or the next. It is the right word, the only right word; but it is not the Word of the Lord, nor of any of the Philosophical Fathers (p. 234).

I’m a great believer that, in the beginning is the word but it is always the right word of which Edwards speaks, one for this sentence but not (necessarily) the next, for this situation but not (necessarily) for the next.
 
Post a Comment

Popular Posts