Archive for the ‘fact value distinction’ Category

Irrational Faith

August 23, 2009

The only knowledge I and all men possess that is firm, incontestable, and clear is here, and it cannot be explained by reason — this knowledge is outside the sphere of reason.

Levin, in Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy, p.832

see also pp.741, 74, 830 for similar sentiments perhaps representative of Tolstoy’s own view of the relationship between faith and reason.

Here is another section:

Would reason ever have proved to me that I must love my neighbour instead of strangling him? I was told that in my childhood, and I believed it gladly, for they told me what was already in my soul. But who discovered it? Not reason. Reason discovered the struggle for existence, and the law demanding that I should strangle all who hinder the satisfaction of my desires. That is the deduction of reason. But loving one’s neighbour reason could never discover, because it’s unreasonable.

I would argue that love of neighbour is not irrational. But I agree it is not discovered through reason as if it were some natural law. That is why we need God’s revelation.


Reasonable Faith

August 23, 2009

We are told again and again that faith is irrational. In fact, the more one can believe despite the evidence, the more this is seen to be genuine faith. We are called upon to believe against reason and to accept the paradoxical, to take a blind leap and leave our minds behind.

So we must pour scorn on Peter and the other disciple when told by Mary that the body was gone from the tomb for being so unbelieving that they went to see for themselves. We must, if we are to people of our day and age, disapprove of their desire to check the linen that once covered Jesus’ dead body. They should have just believed; and not believed after seeing.

So we think, but not so Scripture which invite us to consider the evidence and believe on the basis of it, rather than contrary to it. The facts are clear: the best explanation for the empty tomb, the most reasonable hypothesis for the abandoned linen, the rolled stone and the church’s faith is the resurrection of Jesus. Faith is not mere intellectual assent, but neither is it contrary to the facts.

Jim Gourlay 8/6/98

Modernity – value pluralism

August 17, 2009

It is one of the key features of our culture … that we make a sharp distinction between a world of what we call “values” and a world of what we call “facts.” In the former world we are pluralists; values are a matter of personal choice. In the latter we are not; facts are facts, whether you like them or not. It follows that, in this culture, the Church and its preaching belong to the world of “values.” … In this cultural milieu, the confident announcement of the Christian faith sounds like an arrogant attempt of some people to impose their values on others. As long as the Church is content to offer its beliefs modestly as simply one of the many brands available in the ideological supermarket, no offense is taken. But the affirmation that the truth revealed in the gospel ought to govern public life is offensive.

The Gospel in a Pluralist Society, Lesslie Newbigin, 1989, p.7

The Fact Value Distinction

August 17, 2009

Middle-class parents want values to be taught to children in schools because life will be more pleasant if these values are adhered to. But they do not ask whether these values have any relation to the “facts” as taught in school. They do not ask whether it is possible to believe that concern for minorities, for the poor, for the disabled is important if the fact is that human life is the result of the success of the strong in eliminating the weak.  If it is a ‘fact’ that human life is the accidental result of the ruthless suppression of the weak by the strong, and it is not a fact that ‘Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever,’ then ‘values’ have no factual basis.  They can only be the expression of what some people choose, and–inevitably–it will be the strong who prevail. The language of “values” is simply the will to power wrapped up in cotton wool. And we cannot use the language of right and wrong because it has no basis in the ‘facts’ as we understand them.

Lesslie Newbigin, The Gospel in a Pluralist Society, 1989, p.17