A Pastor's Notes

notes, comments, and sermons — sometimes even mine

Metaphysical and Ontological Preconceptions, Part 7

One consequence of a “Scripture Wins”, Meta/Ontological Agnostic position is that there is no longer a need to cling to the tired language of paradox. These so-called paradoxes are such only to those whose preconceptions are violated; Scripture, however, does not seem terribly enthused about such language.

The erasure of paradox is not the same as the elimination of the observed phenomena. Simul justus et peccator is just as true (i.e., Scriptural) in this account of things as it is in traditional, paradox-oriented accounts. However, it may now be recognized not as a difficulty to be tolerated, accepted, or lived with, but instead as a description the way things actually are in a sin-broken world. Notice how Paul, in Romans 7, does not dwell on what we might choose to call the paradoxical experience of willing one thing yet doing quite another. He instead accepts this as the way things actually are, yet looks ahead to the redemption of our bodies in the resurrection of the dead and the end of this battle with and within himself. What we as Lutherans have consistently said to ourselves and to others, that we live in tension between two equally true poles, is much better and more simply explained as the clear presentation of the way things actually are for sinners in the world. It is far easier to grasp this, and leaves much less room for getting lost in implications. The reason we resort to the language of paradox is that we assume that our assumed metaphysics accurately expresses the way things actually are; this is incompatible with our Confessions (see some similar cases/statements: SA [II].5, II.8, 15; (confession); AP 22, 23.8; etc.).

The sensible objection arises: if this is an equivalent form of the traditional language of paradox, why change? There are two primary reasons. First, this language is far more accurate, consistent, and rooted in Scriptural language. While there is nothing specifically wrong with the use of paradox to express what is found in Scripture, it sets an unnecessary bar in place for both non-Christians exposed to Lutheran teaching and for Christians from other traditions. Both find the language of paradox to be non-rational (and unsatisfying), and neither has their presuppositions about the structure of the world challenged through contact with the Word when the answer “It’s a paradox!” is set before them. Lutherans born into this find no real issue with the language, or grasping what is going on, but it is nigh impenetrable for many who come from “outside”. Second, the language of paradox easily leads to wooly thinking and excessive attempts to explain what is meant by and because of the paradox at hand.

That having been said, the language of paradox will still be useful in demonstrating to ourselves and others the cases where beliefs about the metaphysical structure of the world are at odds with Scripture. Working to eliminate reliance on meta/ontological assumptions not rooted in Scripture is not so much a way of thinking or a method as it is a self-diagnostic tool.

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Written by pastor

15 January 2018 at 1:50 pm

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