Friday, June 13, 2014

Simon Chan and the demonic assault upon the sufficiency of language

... The very being of the church cannot be understood apart from the narrative of the God who reveals himself by sending Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit

This point needs to be reiterated in our postmodern context. The problem is particularly acute for postmodern theologians who, having quite rightly done away with a positivistic view of doctrines as universal timeless truth, end up without any particular truth claims to make. (p. 12)

Perhaps Kevin Vanhoozer's idea of doctrine as drama provides a better way of understanding the relationship between the scriptural text and the ecclesial community that uses the text. According to Vanhoozer, "Doctrine is not merely a proposition, or an expression, but a prompt; a spiritual direction for one's fitting performance of the script."... (p. 13)

To use a different analogy, Scripture sets the initial trajectory for the subsequent development of doctrine in the Christian tradition. There is no separation between Scripture and tradition since Scripture is apostolic tradition. ... (p. 14)

As we have seen in the previous post, Simon Chan follows formally in the footsteps of the Roman Catholic Nouvelle Theologians in the way he goes about interacting with Scripture and tradition. We have a hint already in the manner by which he will discount Sola Scriptura through his framing of ressourcement as not just return to the past but creative engagement with those sources, or in other words interaction without necessary agreement with anything the sources say. All of this comes about through the postmodern linguistic skubalon Chan embraces.

Chan's philosophy of language is nihilistic to the core. He start off by denying doctrinal propositional truths through an attack against "positivism" as stating "eternal, timeless truths." First of all, propositions are not necessarily eternal or timeless, and they might not be true (there are after all false propositional statements). Chan and Vanhoozer and those like them doesn't even seem to understand what propositions are. Propositions are merely statements with a truth claim, which could be contingent or timeless. Chan's book is made up of all manner of propositions, like the statement quoted from Vanhoozer "Doctrine is not merely a proposition, or an expression, but a prompt; a spiritual direction for one's fitting performance of the script." Technically, it is four different propositions in one sentence. It is simply ludicrous when Chan attacks propositions when he is using propositions to do the job. Or does he even understand what the definition of "proposition" is?

As I have written, logic is epistemologically prior to even God, for one cannot even begin to say a single word without presupposing the basic laws of logic. Call me a "rationalist" if you so desire, but that is a fact. The minute you open our mouth or write a single word, you are already presupposing the rules of logic. Likewise, the mere act of refuting propositions requires the writing of propositions to do so. Even if one does not attempt a refutation of propositions, the mere act of stating what one believes uses propositions. Only postmodern linguists are so blind to what they are doing that they commit linguistic suicide over and over again. Chan, while disavowing postmodernism, does not seem to realize that he is doing the very same thing they do when he attacks propositions.

So yes, Scripture has poetry, and drama, and others. But all of these are conveyed using propositional sentences. Propositions stand behind the literary genres as the means through which they are expressed. The failure to recognize this is the fault of all who attack propositional truths, and as such deny the sufficiency of language to convey truth. Behind it all is the devil who first did the same when he questioned, "Has God said?".

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