A Pastor's Notes

notes, comments, and sermons — sometimes even mine

Metaphysical and Ontological Preconceptions, Part 4

Or, A Not-So-Common Example: Perditory.

If disagreement over just what the Lord’s Supper is functions as a large-scale example of the danger of unexamined preconceptions, the idea of Perditory is a fine small-scale example of the same danger. What is Perditory, you ask? It is a logical — albeit unscriptural — concept growing out of the same metaphysical assumptions which lead to the teaching of Purgatory. If there must be a purification of Christians before they enter heaven (sort of sanding down the eight-ball so it will fit into the pocket), then why wouldn’t there be an equivalent place for those going into hell, so that nothing good which attaches to them will end up in perdition? The idea that both good and evil acts are things which are attached to souls/things/people as barnacles attach themselves onto a ship (so to speak) leads to a concept such as Perditory (just as it led to Purgatory). As has been noted already: we have ideas about the world, and we naturally spin them out to see where they go. This idea falls down, however, when its background presupposition — that good and evil are (or at the least function in the same way as) things — is set against Scripture.[8]

It boils down to this question: does Scripture or an assumed metaphysics win? If an assumed metaphysics trump Scripture, then there is little reason to hold to Scripture as an authority for much of anything at all either for you or your worldview, as you have everything you need already in your prior assumptions (Scripture may still, however, be a fine tool indeed to establish authority over others who may or may not share your presuppositions). A majority of errors throughout the history of the church come not from a simple misreading of Scripture, or a lack of respect for its authority, but from the deep-seated human desire to defend a received view of how the world works, to make God and His Word compatible with, or palatable for, the errant’s culture. Thus, again and again, Scripture is not understood as speaking against the assumed worldview, but is instead re-read to fit, and even defend, the assumed metaphysical structure of the world which would otherwise be problematical at best because of its actual conflict with Scripture.

(A Note on Perditory: there has been more than one at-length discussion of Perditory on the internet. Sadly, the more detailed discussion which appeared at the old Pontifications site (now succeeded and replaced by the newer (and infrequently, if ever, updated) Pontifications site is no longer available. Another, less formal discussion of this idea is found here.)

[8] Notice how hard it is for support to be found for the idea: an apocryphal text (2 Maccabees 12:38-45) is its strongest textual backing! Yet it endures as a teaching of the Roman church — precisely because unexamined presuppositions are accepted as the Truth of Things.

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Written by pastor

15 January 2018 at 1:32 pm

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