Monday, September 7, 2009

In Pursuit of Understanding

Following up on my post of August 23rd, "What If I'm Wrong?" it would be remiss if I were to simply adhere to the proposition that I might be wrong every time I'm faced with a possible conclusion. In all honesty, it would be a bit of lugubrious position to truly consider all answers as questions marked by a period. Radical skepticism is, in the end, radically untenable.

That does not remove the necessity to research, learn, and reassess what I've held this long to be true. To that end, these are the books I am presently devouring, and enjoying quite thoroughly.

Quite honestly, Ehrman's book, far from being polemic or argumentative, is heartfelt and personal. At the same time, he is not short on insights surrounding the issue of theodicy. Ehrman examines not only the philosophical issues surrounding theodicy, but also examines the answers proffered in scripture, and the historical context those answers were couched in. I have learned quite a lot from this pleasant little volume, and will re-visit it in the not-to-distant future.

Karen Armstrong is, quite literally, a phenomenal researcher and writer. Her clarity, wit, and depth of understanding, combined with her report-style narrative is refreshing in a history book. Armstrong is not without her biases (no-one really is), but her attention to detail and ability to synthesize vast domains of religious and philosophical understanding into a historical context is, as far as I'm concerned, almost without parallel (J.N.D. Kelly, Henry Chadwick, and Horace Hummel being other notable exceptions).

I'm almost finished Ehrman's book, and am part way through Armstrong's account of God. To be honest, the more I'm learning from these people, the more I'm enjoying the necessary challenges they bring to my beliefs, and the changes those challenges imply. Refusing to challenge my beliefs, to face the doubts and accusations levelled at a set of beliefs, renders me insincere. I'm not willing to believe dishonestly, or ignorantly. And if the propositional, historical, and physical evidence invalidates my beliefs, then I will have a decision to make: continue to believe despite evidence to the contrary, or, in pursuit of understanding, admit that something other than what I presently believe must be true.


Edward said...

I gotta recommend Inspiration & Incarnation by Peter Enns. It'll be right up your alley.

Edward said...

FYI: I just found out this book got Enns' ass fired last year from his job at a conservative Presbyterian seminary! (Westminster, BTW.) Wow. It's a bit risque, I guess. I need to re-read it. It's been 4 years or so.

Edward said...

If anyone's interested, here's a good review/summary of the book:

Anonymous said...

He wouldn't be the first to be excommunicated from a seminary for "colouring outside" the theological lines.