Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Faith and the problem of perspectivalism

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. (Jn. 16:13)

Scripture is truth (Jn. 17:17). [Absolute] truth is therefore available to us in the pages of Scripture. However, even if truth is available to us, how do we know whether we are reading it alright in the pages of Scripture?

One basic notion of perspectivalism lies in the fact that human beings are subjective creatures. All facts are interpreted by us through the lens of our distinctive culture, context and worldviews, and nowhere is this seen more than the case of the usage and interpretation of language. Each of us therefore frame our own individual perspective on things, and it is this subjective human element of interpretation that plaques the quest for truth. Even if absolute truth is present, can we as finite creatures attain it?

The knowledge of absolute truth thus hits a stone wall. How can we as finite subjective humans attain to objective truth? In the case of Christian knowledge, how can we interpret Scripture to get absolute truth, knowing that our interpretation is necessarily tainted by our perspectives?

Scripture gives us the answer to this question. In Jn. 17:8, the words of Christ establish the truth in us regarding Him. The words of Christ are now mediated by the Holy Spirit (Jn. 15:26) who will lead us into all the truth (Jn. 16:13). The Spirit therefore guides our interpretation of Scripture and enable us to understand what He has previously breathed-out (2 Tim. 3:16). In this way, we can come to know absolute truth.

The problem of perspectivalism therefore does not affect Christianity. Rather, knowledge is attainable because the only objective person (God) has condescended to tell us the truth. By biblical child-like faith (as opposed to mysticism), we submit to God and His Word and are able to know the truth as the Spirit guides us.

2 comments:

Joel Tay said...

Very good post.

As a matter of faith, not being able to know the truth is a mark of an unregenerate person. (1 Cor 2:14; Luke 8:10; Isa 44:18; Mark 8:17-21; John 8:43-47;)

To refuse to accept the possibility of knowing absolute truth when God Himself teaches that we can and will know absolute truth, is to call God a liar and to rebel against him.

PuritanReformed said...

@Joel:

you're very welcome