Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Plausibility Structures and the Gospel

"As a Christian I seek so to live within the biblical tradition, using its language as my language, its models as the models through which I make sense of my experience, its story as the clue to my story, that I help to strengthen and carry forward this tradition of rationality. But as a member of contemporary British society I am all the time living in, or at least sharing my life with, those who live in the other tradition. What they call self-evident truths are not self-evident to me, and vice versa. When they speak of reason they mean what is reasonable within their plausibility structure. I do not live in that plausibility, but I know what it feels like to live in it. Within my own mind there is a continuing dialogue between the two. Insofar as my own participation in the Christian tradition is healthy and vigorous, both in thought and in practice, I shall be equipped for the external dialogue with the other tradition. There is no external criterion above us both to which I and my opposite number can appeal for a decision."
-Lesslie Newbigin, The Gospel in a Pluralist Society, 65.

1 comment:

Corey said...

"There is no external criterion above us both to which I and my opposite number can appeal for a decision."

I ask you dear sir to please explain what exactly you are trying to convey with the whole quote here and specifically the part I've drawn out above. If your goal is to show how it those who are Christians and those who are not are operating on two different worldviews and, as a result, have difficulties communicating with each other because they may use similar words and language and be communicating two different concepts (i.e God, faith, truth, ect), then that is certainly true to an extent. But if, as I fear, you are drawing out a conclusion that there is NO transcendent middle ground to which both parties may appeal to, I must disagree with you. Both are capable and can have fruitful discussion were both to recognize that they can both use reason critically first (as opposed to first constructively which, from what I understand, is what Mr. Newbigin argues against, and rightly so). Both parties can and do make ample use of reason as the laws of thought (identity, non-contradiction, and excluded middle) and it is here that both parties can appeal. Reason is natural in us, it does not need to be taught and there is no difference between male, female, white, black, young, and old reason. Reason is ontological in that it applies to being as well as thought. If something violates a law of thought, it cannot have meaning and therefore cannot exist (i.e there are no square circles. This violates the law of non-contradiction and thus cannot exist). Reason is transcendental in that you cannot question the laws of thought because they make questioning possible. Reason is also fundamental to all aspect of human personality. Thoughts influence feelings which influence our actions.

People from all worldviews and backgrounds can always fall back on reason as authoritative to reconcile differences. The problems in communication referenced in the quote arise when people speak of that which is less basic without first seeking unity on what is more basic.

Corey Grable