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13112Re: [XTalk] When Historians do Theology

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  • Mike Grondin
    Apr 5, 2003
      --- Jim West wrote:
      > ... "history" and "historical reconstruction" are more often
      > than not based on the "faith" of the writer of that particular
      > reconstruction. Or, to put it another way, historians operate
      > with a priori faith assumptions that privilege texts and harvest
      > presuppositions. In short, they are no different than theologians.

      (Says the theologian.) This is such a tired argument, Jim. It
      ignores the _content_ of presuppositions and "a priori faith
      assumptions", as if any one were as good as any other. (Does the
      presupposition that the subject of our study was a human being count
      as an "a priori faith assumption"?) Then you presume that historians
      do little more than "harvest presuppositions", which may certainly
      be regarded as a psychological tendency (how could it be
      otherwise?), but ignores the role of presuppositional change over

      > If one wants to
      > believe (as I do) that we're evolving toward the good within us,
      > The good within Hitler? Hussein? Bush?

      Don't be silly. A few particulars don't disprove the general.

      > that too is a matter of faith, but at least it doesn't invoke all
      > the hoary old mythologies that we've invented to explain things to
      > ourselves.
      > Yes it does. It involves the mythological view of the
      > Enlightenment and the presuppositions of Kant and the skewed
      > perspective of Freud (who saw phallics everywhere).

      By the "mythological view of the Englightenment", are you referring
      to the idea of an idyllic state of nature? Well, I don't believe in
      any such thing, so I don't see how that or Kant or Freud has
      anything to do with my "faith", such as it is (although Freud
      brought to the forefront the discovery that we often do things for
      reasons we aren't consciously aware of). I guess I have a more
      optimistic assessment of the vast sweep of human history than you -
      and not in any Hegelian sense either. It has to do with what I
      presume to be the evolution of the human mind, with a consequent
      increase in sensitivity to others. I'm aware of all the counter-
      factual evidence one can throw, and yet I think that _overall_,
      the direction is toward greater good than lesser. You may call
      that "faith", but it seems to me to be an accurate inductive
      judgment, even with respect to the small amount of history within my
      own lifetime.

      > At the end of _Jesus of Nazareth_, Allison opines that
      > without the notion of (a good) God, there's no hope. I'd opine
      > that this is putting the cart before the horse. The concept of a
      > good God is the cart, and the horse that pulls it (inherent human
      > hope) won't go away if the cart is detached from it.
      > This too is a theological perspective; for whenever one speaks of
      > God, one is doing theology. But, theology is silly.... So you
      > have involved yourself in the same contradiction that you accuse
      > Allison of.

      In the first place, the contradiction that I saw in Allison's
      beliefs was that (1) the world is good, but yet (2) it's so bad
      that we can't fix it. I certainly haven't involved myself in any
      contradiction like that, that I can see. Secondly, I wasn't
      speaking "of God", I was talking about the _concept_ of God, which
      is quite a different thing (the mental image or construct of
      something isn't generally the thing itself).

      Mike Grondin
      Mt. Clemens, MI
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