(I am responding to Andrew's comment here
. The commenting system would have limited the HTML that can be used, and I am again wanting to boost my permanent stats.)
Good points. I'll see what I can do about responding, and I will respond with numbers corresponding the points you made with your numbers (i.e., my point 1 responds to your point 1, etc...).
(1) To get us on the same page about what "Christian logic" really is, I really like what G.K. Chesterton said in his book, Orthodoxy
(chapter 6). He writes:
The real trouble with this world of ours is not that it is an unreasonable world, nor even that it is a reasonable one. The commonest kind of trouble is that it is nearly reasonable, but not quite. Life is not an illogicality; yet it is a trap for logicians. It looks just a little more mathematical and regular than it is; its exactitude is obvious, but its inexactitude is hidden; its wildness lies in wait. I give one coarse instance of what I mean. Suppose some mathematical creature from the moon were to reckon up the human body; he would at once see that the essential thing about it was that it was duplicate. A man is two men, he on the right exactly resembling him on the left. Having noted that there was an arm on the right and one on the left, a leg on the right and one on the left, he might go further and still find on each side the same number of fingers, the same number of toes, twin eyes, twin ears, twin nostrils, and even twin lobes of the brain. At last he would take it as a law; and then, where he found a heart on one side, would deduce that there was another heart on the other. And just then, where he most felt he was right, he would be wrong.
Now, actual insight or inspiration is best tested by whether it guesses these hidden malformations or surprises. If our mathematician from the moon saw the two arms and the two ears, he might deduce the two shoulder-blades and the two halves of the brain. But if he guessed that the manÂs heart was in the right place, then I should call him something more than a mathematician. Now, this is exactly the claim which I have since come to propound for Christianity. Not merely that it deduces logical truths, but that when it suddenly becomes illogical, it has found, so to speak, an illogical truth. It not only goes right about things, but it goes wrong (if one may say so) exactly where the things go wrong. Its plan suits the secret irregularities, and expects the unexpected. It is simple about the simple truth; but it is stubborn about the subtle truth. It will admit that a man has two hands, it will not admit (though all the Modernists wail to it) the obvious deduction that he has two hearts. It is my only purpose in this chapter to point this out; to show that whenever we feel there is something odd in Christian theology, we shall generally find that there is something odd in the truth.
I think Chesterton is really onto something here--for example, Christianity would say that right living generally makes life easier (e.g., if I abstain from sexual behavior before marriage, I do not have to worry about diseases, unwanted pregnancies, and the extreme emotional and psychological pain that comes from sex outside marriage), but Christianity does not go so far as to say that bad things never happen to good people (for the best example of such a doctrine, see the crucifixion of Jesus). I am not sure how I would formulate a logical expression from this, but I think that it can be reasonably argued that such a doctrine "fits":
This is why the faith has that elaboration of doctrines and details which so much distresses those who admire Christianity without believing in it. When once one believes in a creed, one is proud of its complexity, as scientists are proud of the complexity of science. It shows how rich it is in discoveries. If it is right at all, it is a compliment to say that itÂs elaborately right. A stick might fit a hole or a stone a hollow by accident. But a key and a lock are both complex. And if a key fits a lock, you know it is the right key. (Chesterton, Orthodoxy, ch. 6)
You ask, "Can't [other worldviews] too say that their system is consistent, if only we were able to properly understand it?" Again, I would point to Chesterton's work (he really grows on a person--I can see not only what C.S. Lewis saw in him, but how it affected the way he thought about Christianity). I am not familiar enough with the books to point you to specific passages, but his works, especially Everlasting Man
, provide penetrating insight into why various other religions implode on themselves.
So, returning to the question of logic, I do not think that Christianity lends itself to logic in the sense that we might be able to make a proof that would once and for all prove Christianity's correctness. I do, however, think that we can reasonably argue Christianity, but, in doing so, I think that we must appeal to things in the universe that are both more basic and more ethereal than the sorts of things we are used to deal with. (This last statement would take an extremely
long post to explain fully, so I'm just going to leave it at that for the time being.)
(2) I would actually say that what you quoted from the Westminster Confession is not actually narrative, but propositional--notice that it simply declares what has happened without actually leading us through the process of what happened. I think that what you would make of narrative (based solely on your calling this example "narrative") would make absolutely every conceivable sentence narrative. The distinction, I think, has more to do with elements of poetry and of story-telling than with whether facts are presented in a linear, logical fashion.
For example, Christ's parable of the prodigal son
was narrative because Christ used story-telling techniques (plot, character development, imagery, etc...). If Christ had instead summed up his teaching by saying something like, "Our father in heaven is so gracious that, even if you stray as far away as possible, he is ready to greet you with open arms at yourepentancece," he would be giving a more propositional explanation of who God is (i.e., "God's character is such that..."). It almost seems like this could
be narrative, because there is a kind of linear progression (1. You stray; 2. You repent; 3. God welcomes you with open arms), but this is not "narrative" per se
As far as my Oxford English Dictionary comment, what I was trying to get at (albeit not very well) is that our systematic theology textbooks are arranged to cover every nuance of a particular theological term (as a dictionary would cover every nuance of a particular term), instead of moving us through a progression of a story (as a novel would). So, as I said in my last post, systematic/propositional theology causes us to "descend" onto a framework of truth (each piece being buttressed by texts from across the Bible) instead of moving through a story, with all the parts moving in and out of the spotlight.
Those are my thoughts, but keep in mind that I have not read the piece you suggested yet.
Labels: Philosophy, Theology