Monday, 31 May 2004

Must a Christian be a realist?

'Realism' isn't a very descriptive term. It could mean a whole range of things. But what it usually refers to in philosophy and theology is the view that things (in particular, God) exist independently of human experience, and that we can talk about things (or God) truly. In other words, our language refers to something 'real'. I've been thinking about it while preparing the course on postmodernism that begins here at New College on Thursday night. It seems to me that a Christian must be a realist about God's existence, but can probably hold varying positions about pretty much anything else. We come to realist positions about other matters (e.g. how well language matches with reality; whether the Jesus of history is the Christ of faith) by trusting this real God who does in fact exist. Who agrees?


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4 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is totally unrelated but nice new blogger template! :) /Karen/

CraigS said...

Yes, this is an interesting question. Obviously we must be realist about the existence of God. It seems to me that the Christian concept of absolute truth demands a fair bit of realism about the surrounding world. As you pointed out, belief in the Word of God requires a prior belief in the reality of meaningful language.

The problem with realism is what is the source of our categories? Is belief in platonic forms consistent with Christianity? If so, where do they come from? Are they a separate creation of God, or do the universal forms somehow reside in God Himself - his perception of creation?

The Borg said...

"We come to realist positions about other matters (e.g. how well language matches with reality; whether the Jesus of history is the Christ of faith) by trusting this real God who does in fact exist"

Supposing that we are realists on God's existance and everything else falls into place due to that fact. What then is our basis for claiming God's existance? I think we have two options: We could say that 1) The basis for God's existance is apologetical (is that a word?). God can be inductively proved from the created order, the Bible and the person of Jesus Christ. The other option is 2) We hold God's existance as a presupposition.

The problem with 1) is that proofs from nature, the Bible and Jesus rely on realism about these things. So as Craig said, you might have to be realist about such things. The question is again, on what basis are you realist about the Bible, nature and Jesus??

The problem with 2) is that the athiest will be no more or less right on our grounds (assuming they weren't realists). We'd just have to say "Let's wait till the Return of Christ and see who is right" or appeal to emotive arguments in order to convince the athiest.

It's a tricky one...

Anonymous said...

I don't see how the Borg sees option 2 as presenting a problem - the presuppositional nature of our belief in the existence of God in no way whatsoever affects its certainty.

Read Bavinck's The Certainty of Faith.

JTD