Sunday, February 24, 2013

Disavowed Unbelief

Peter Rollins teaches me with a blog post titled "The Problem with Unbelief is that it Enables Us to Believe Too Much."  The main point is that "unbelief ... supports and sustains belief".

We commonly think that unbelief is what prevents us from believing in something.  He points out that there are times that disavowed unbelief actually sustains belief. He gives examples from his earlier experiences in the fundamentalist community but points out that other groupings of people also practice it. 

Disavowed unbelief allows us to erect barriers to stop us from believing too much.  Examples of barriers are that what we need to do is pray more or leave it in God's hands or we lack understanding or the Devil is at work.  Barriers serve to prevent us from going too far and actually being true to expressed beliefs.  There are people who believe too much and they are the ones that can cause problems.   For example, Biblical Literalists who physically injure children based on perceived sanctions of that in the Bible.  Also, people who won't allow medical treatment of loved ones because they actually believe in  healing.  The "Faith" in the term "Faith Healing" is a barrier that allows one to believe that miraculous healing will occur if one only has enough faith.  This even though it only works about .001% of the time.

Now I should ask myself where in my life do I exhibit disavowed unbelief?  Do I only visit web sites that support my views?  Only watch news and other media expressions that give support and comfort to my feelings?  Do I go there because of insecurity in myself that needs bolstering? 

Friday, February 15, 2013

Fuzzy Realism

Over at The Church and Postmodern Culture blog, I responded with a tongue-in-cheek reply to a post titled Postmodernism vs Critical Realism which I enjoyed reading and found helpful.  I had some fun with it.

When I first heard the term 'critical realism' and before I learned the definition I thought it was a great name for a philosophy and good PR. It appeared like an upgrade from the everyday bland form of realism. It is always great when something is new and improved. One expects that of everything these days. And if you don't sign on what are you? A naive realist? Yet, I perceive the value and virtue of epistemological humility. And while the extreme postmodernists initially threw me off with their aplomb, "The Gulf War Never Happened" and unnecessarily dense writing, I now get some of it and it has been an aid to me in breaking out of the straightjacket of modernism and its reductionist gray flat world. But yet, I'm a research and development professional. And understanding and working with the shared perception of a real world is important to serving my customers and sponsors. So I guess I still need a form of the real in the name of my philosophy. Science and technology, with a hat tip to Kuhn, still seem to work, you know, the blind see and the lame walk. But, the boundaries are blurry. I see through a glass darkly. Thus, with a little pragmatism thrown in I guess my vision and philosophy may be designated "fuzzy realism".

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Knoxville is the No 1 Bible-Minded City in the U. S.?

Just learned of this on the Stone-Campbell list.  According to a survey by the Barna Group, Knoxville, TN is, by their criteria, the most Bible-minded city in the U. S.  Here is a quote from the Barna Site:

The report ranks the most and least “Bible-minded” cities by looking at how people in those cities view the Bible. The study is based on 42,855 interviews conducted nationwide and the analysis of Bible trends was commissioned by American Bible Society. Individuals who report reading the Bible in a typical week and who strongly assert the Bible is accurate in the principles it teaches are considered to be Bible-minded. This definition captures action and attitude—those who both engage and esteem the Christian scriptures. The rankings thus reflect an overall openness or resistance to the Bible in the country’s largest markets.

Top Cities
Regionally, the South still qualifies as the most Bible-minded. The top ranking cities, where at least half of the population qualifies as Bible-minded, are all Southern cities. This includes the media markets for Knoxville, TN (52% of the population are Bible-minded),.....
I have some reservations about the assumptions of the survey.  Most of these Bible-minded people have their pet regions of the text and their knowledge is limited to within certain prescribed boundaries.  They bring their common-sense realism to it and while they may think they are reading it objectively and properly as independent and rational individuals, it is their upbringing and their community that is reading it for and with them.   If they were really truly Bible-minded they would engage and wrestle with it more.They would know more about the Bible and their religion than they do. 

Also, Bible-minded may not be the best way to describe the results of the survey.  We could think of other designations like Most Biblicist.  For the definition of this and problems related to it I refer you to Scott McKnight's  Jesus Creed Blog and an 8-part series on the topic which he wrote there in July and August of 2011.  The first on is here.  And the second here.  The impetus and motivation of Scott's critique comes in part from thoughts inspired by the book The Bible Made Impossible by Christian Smith. 

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Regarding Cyborg Selves: Part Two

I continue to read and think about Cyborg Selves by Jeannine Thweat-Bates (JTB).  Here are a few notes on Chapter 1 titled “The Cyborg Manifesto”.  In it, she  informs us that the thinking about the future posthuman tends toward two separate visions, the cyborg and the transhumanist.  The people who actively dream about and promote the transhumanist future tend to stay true to their Enlightenment roots.  That would be expected from techno geeks.  The contrasting Cyborg vision was launched by Donna J. Haraway with her “A Cyborg Manifesto:  Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century,” in Simians, Cyborgs and Women:  The Reivention of Nature (New York, 1991).  I suppose with this we are moving more into a postmodern (fuzzy term I know) consideration. 

Haraway discusses the blurring and crossing of several boundaries made possible by the march of technology:  human/animal; human/machine; and the physical/nonphysical.  The second is obvious and the first thing that pops into mind when thinking of our future.  I had never considered the first, that we would and are augmenting our animal friends and changing them also.  The last one has to do with the fact that as technology gets better, it becomes invisible.  JTB quotes Haraway who says 

Our best machines are made of sunshine; they are all light and clean because they are nothing but signals, electromagnetic waves, a section of spectrum, and these machines are eminently portable, mobile….People are nowhere near so fluid, being both material and opaque.” (Haraway page 153).

In these discussions and considerations, redefining and revisioning the role and even the definition of ‘nature’ is unavoidable.  To those of us who have not moved out of enlightenment and its associated science and technology, nature is a given that is there to be exploited and utilized.  JTB informs us in the quote below that the thinking promoted by Haraway and the turn to the Cyborg future see things differently.  

Nature herself becomes a coyote trickster-figure, an active participant in humanity’s technoscientific investigations and not at all the passive resource and recipient of human construction previously presumed.  In this way, Haraway maintains the importance of material reality as something to which our conceptual categories must conform ---a redefined objectivity which becomes a necessary component of her cyborg arguments, for it is the observable, material existence of cyborgs which forces the redrawing of our ontological boundaries in acknowledgement (Cyborg Selves page 29).

We are becoming hybrids.

Cyborg hybridity challenges not just notions of ontological boundaries and natural givens, but also the religious structures, narratives, symbols, and beliefs which frequently and authoritatively articulate and undergird those notions. (Cyborg Selves page 32).  

If we are to be responsible and true to our better "natures" ( a little irony here) and our desire to be good, then we must consider the above so that we can survive and then thrive in the future.  

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