Wednesday, September 19, 2012

“Nothing can be asserted theologically that cannot also be experienced”?

One line I heard during the Colin Gunton Day at King’s College London, today, was: “Nothing can be asserted theologically that cannot also be experienced”. The speaker was not entirely endorsing this, and was using this as  part of a launchpad into an interesting paper about Schleiermacher. But it made me slow down and ponder. Although I think that this sentiment contains a germ of truth, I cannot agree (it is locked into a dated and problematic epistemology). What do you think?

On a different note, one very good paper discussed Augustine and Kant on sin, its origin etc. and while I am grateful to remain a member of the New Testament guild, I find it amazing that some would think that these kind of matters are anything but potentially very enlightening for our own work. This one, for example, took me right back to Romans 5:12 with a keen sensitivity to conceptually related matters of some significance.

5 Comments:

At 9/19/2012 9:18 PM, Blogger Pseudo-Augustine said...

I am not sure what he means by "experience". Surely, someone could make an assertion about plenty of things in theology we have not experienced. For instance, I am not sure what it means to "experience" divine simplicity. I guess if you mean there is a "cognitive feel" or a "what its like" to think about abstract notions, then maybe there isn't a way out of what he is saying, but I am not sure what he means.

 
At 9/19/2012 9:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

King's is a very different place to when Colin was alive. The new lecturers are trying to baptise Kant. Of course, they end up Kantinizing God.

 
At 9/20/2012 10:54 AM, Blogger Terry Wright said...

To be clear, the paper on Kant that Chris mentioned was delivered by a student rather than a lecturer. (You may feel that validates your point, of course...)

 
At 9/21/2012 8:50 AM, OpenID Ryan Jones said...

I don't understand what it means. Is he saying that if you can state it theologically, you ought to be able to experience it? Or is he saying that if you can't experience it theologically, you can't state it theologically?

Either way, it seems to me that it is a self-refuting statement. I've never experienced that statement to be true. Nor can I think of any way in which I could experience it.

 
At 9/21/2012 6:13 PM, Blogger Jeff Marx said...

Perhaps he is focused on the word assert(To speak forcefully about something or authoritatively). Perhaps the assumption is that which is not able to be experienced has a degree of "unproveness" about it?
I do think as others have pointed out, the entire statement is probably self-referentially inconsistent. However, it may be an overstatement of something which has truth in it, what we talk about in theology is not unrelated to human experience...

 

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