The community’s understanding of truth

There was also the Presbyterian minister who commented (and replied to comments, in an obliging and patient way) on Jerry’s post yesterday. He’s the liberal kind of minister, which is good in its way (less likely to persecute sinners and doubters, that kind of thing), but not convincing. What he said sounded merely evasive and empty to me (and to others). It sounded like what you would say if you were a liberal minister in an age of science; it sounded more like excuses than like theology.

For instance:

There are lots of priests, pastors and theologians in the Catholic Church and in many other denominations who would describe the resurrection as mystery or metaphor. What is essential in these branches of Christianity is the confession of faith in the resurrection, not a scientific explanation of how it happened.

I can’t make any sense of that. It’s a mystery or metaphor, yet what is essential is the confession of faith in it. What is a confession of faith in a metaphor?

I asked about that, and he politely answered (he really was generous about replying – if it’s the metaphor that makes him like that, well, that’s some points for the metaphor):

As I said, religious claims don’t fit into some kind of universal discourse. They have a peculiar character rooted in the story of each religious community and its story. So I’m sure that this does not make a whole lot of sense to you, any more than other people’s religious claims make much sense to me.

Which amounts to atheism, if you think about it. He thinks it doesn’t, because the story of each religious community makes sense to that community, therefore atheism, but I think it does, because if the other claims don’t make much sense, then there’s precious little reason to think any such claims make sense.

A later iteration:

Just because it’s a story doesn’t mean it isn’t true, and by true I don’t mean scientifically true, but true within the framework of the community’s understanding of truth, which is a kind of truth that is thousands of years older than scientific truth.

But what does that mean? How is that not just empty verbiage? What does “true within the framework of the community’s understanding of truth” mean? If Wittgenstein were here I would ask him, but he isn’t, and anyway I probably wouldn’t understand if he explained, and he would probably hit me with the poker rather than explain. Meanwhile I can’t make any sense of it – it just looks like an evasion, and (I apoligize, Rev. Simpson) rather smug about it – smug in the sense of being indifferent to its lack of real meaning. There is something rather smug about allowing oneself to be persuaded by verbiage in that way. Communities don’t get to have their own understandings of truth. They get to have their own stories if they want to, but their own truth? No. They can call it that, but it won’t be


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