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Augustine and Polanyi: Towards an Understanding of Conversion and Conviviality with Application to Modern Diversity and Peaceful Co-existence

 

 

(Caveats:  I am no authority on either Augustine or Polanyi.  I have studied Polanyi for the past year and Augustine mostly for the preparation of this paper.  Perhaps, however, I will throw out some ideas for discussion and more in depth study at a later time.  As long time Polanyians, you can teach me.)

 

Augustine stands large—quite large—in fields of scholarship.  No theologian, historian, or philosopher may claim epistemological substance in his field without at least studying and acknowledging Augustine’s breadth and depth in these areas.  As if this stature were not large enough, one author has posited Augustine as both the Father of Roman Catholicism and Protestantism—two churches often at loggerheads with each other.[1]  B. B. Warfield posits that Catholicism adopted his ecclesiology, and Protestantism grew out of the Reformation’s call to his soteriology.  While Augustine had no progeny that continued his family line, there have never been greater family quarrels than these two ecclesial offspring!  Perhaps, Polanyi can open more communication between the two, as I will propose for all groups in conflict.

 

Unfortunately, Polanyi stands smaller in his fields of philosophy of science and epistemology.  But historians and sociologists are not always epistemologically sound thinkers!  It is my hope that Polanyi can be raised to prominence in modern society because his epistemology has great potential to minimize conflicts and promote tolerance among divergent, and often hostile, points of view, as well as dethrone the objectivism of science.

 

A common criticism of Augustine is his inconsistent methodology.[2]  At times he is a rationalist, and other times he is a fideist and even an empiricist. Frederick Copleston concluded his chapter on Augustine’s epistemology with this statement. “It does not seem possible to obtain a definitive interpretation of his thought which would adequately explain all the statements that he made.”[3]  As you well know, however, His primary link with Polanyi is his fideism, in which Polanyi was thoroughly consistent in methodology, if not in terminology.  Let us explore that commonality and other similarities between Augustine and Polanyi.

 

 

Conceptual Similarities in Augustine and Polanyi

 

Fideism.  Several times in his writings, Polanyi cites Augustine’s, “I believe in order to understand.”  Augustine’s belief is founded upon the God who converted him and God’s revealed knowledge in the Holy Scriptures.  Polanyi’s terminology is that of “personal and post-critical knowledge.”[4]  Augustine was concerned with the truth of theology, while Polanyi was concerned with the truth of science.  While the tacit and explicit foundations of the two men differ, the methodology for the most part did not.  It is the method that is explicit and not tacit—that is, this focus is necessary, and indeed crucial, to 21st century epistemology.  Within primary and secondary education, the intellectual academy, political correctness, politics, the media, and most, if not all, other means of communication, “modern science” has an aura of “objectivity” that gives its pronouncements and proposals a certainty that overpowers any countering ideas.  Many, if not most, of the crises that the West now faces may be attributed to this misunderstanding.  The postmodern movement developed because of the troubling nature of this certainty. 

 

So, faith, as foundational to knowledge is at the center of modern problems—no less than the future of the West rest upon Augustine’s and Polanyi’s epistemology.  Augustine was concerned with salvation, the glory of God, worship, the church, and other Christian ideas.  Polanyi was concerned with the totalitarian direction of scientism, positivism, and empirical science.  I will return to a more particular focus of these issues later.[5]

 

Community and authority.  For Augustine, the church is the community of Christians with its hierarchy of offices, tradition, and teaching.  Most importantly, the church is the “pillar and foundation of the truth.”[6]  For Polanyi, a community provides an authority and establishes a tradition in which persons with passions to commitments and callings both confirm and challenge this institutional knowledge.  For Polanyi, the scientific community is the “pillar and foundation of present-day scientific truth.”  Both Augustine and Polanyi saw that authority in all of life, particularly Christian belief and natural science respectively, was inescapable.  We learn from others and trust others to know many things and to understand our universe.  Among Christians, the idea of a “generic” faith apart from Christian faith is almost unknown.  Among scientists, the idea of any faith at all in their understanding is almost unknown.  Yet, faith permeates all of life, even the most explicit dogmas of Christianity and science.

 

Circularity.  Many philosophers, logicians, and theologians try to shun circularity, but both Augustine and Polanyi saw that the person is ultimately his own final authority.  While evidence and authority are necessary to developing ones’ knowledge, the person finally must decide what is and is not valid.  Augustine said that we must be wise to be able to recognize wisdom itself, so there is a continuous feedback loop of accepting what is wisdom by faith, evaluating it, and re-evaluating what we will accept as wisdom—virtually our entire lives.  Perhaps the postmodern concept of the “hermeneutical circle,” reflects this circularity.  Once we read a text, we are changed so that the next time we read the same text or any other, we are different persons who do so.

 

Moon and sun, tacit and explicit.  In De Magistro and elsewhere, Augustine discusses divine illumination, sometimes called ontologism,[7] which has some relation to Plato’s anamnesis—the idea that knowledge comes from remembrance in a prior existence.  The Sun (God’s mind) illumines the moon (man’s mind).  The moon can never reveal all that the sun is.  We can know God in part, but never the whole in the way that God knows it.   Polanyi says that “we know more than we can tell.”  All explicit knowledge comes from integration of this wellspring of tacit knowledge.  Explicit knowledge is that which can be articulated, but language is inadequate to fully express knowledge, so even the explicit remains tacit in its roots and articulate-inarticulate language.  The explicit is always rooted in the tacit and necessarily dependent upon it.

 

A real universe.  For Augustine, God created the cosmos.  For Polanyi, the idea of creation was not as clear, but there exists an “ordering principle,” “morphogenetic fields,” and emergence—powers of wholes not found in their parts that moved organic life to its current level of development.  Definitively, Polanyi found serious fault with classical Darwinianism in its inability to explain the complexity of life that we now know.  For both, a real, objective world existed to be investigated and explored.

 

Conversion.  Both believed that the movement or change of convictions from one tradition to another involved “conversion.”  Since knowledge is held according to basic, personal beliefs, those beliefs must change before acceptance of the opposing position can be accepted.  This change can be difficult, if not impossible, and is somewhat mysterious.  Only briefly stated for now, we will return to this concept later in an application to social interactions.

 

Predestination.  For Augustine, his conversion convinced him that God had predestined his “restless soul” to “find rest in Thee.”  For Polanyi, predestination is more subtle and tacit, but nevertheless present.  Scientists and others have “callings.”  There are morphogenetic fields and an organizing principle that “predestined” the development of organic life as we know it today.  This movement is not a sterile, impersonal force, but one that works itself out through emergence in nature and in persons.  While some Polanyians may balk at “predestination,” stated in Meaning:

 

It is for this reason that this present work is not directed toward effecting conversions to any religion.  At the most, it is directed toward unstopping our ears so that we may hear a liturgical summons should one ever come our way.  As Saint Augustine viewed it, a religious belief cannot be achieved by our deliberate efforts and choice.  It is a gift of God and may remain inexplicably denied to some of us.[8]

 

I believe that Polanyi’s epistemology requires a sort of predestination to give wholeness to its parts.

 

Passion.  Augustine’s passion centered in God and theology.  The restless soul finding rest in God.    Augustine’s Confessions are suffused with passion: agonies over personal sin, ecstasies of God’s grandeur, zealous defenses in The City of God, and ardent calls to conversion of sinners in his preaching.  Polanyi uses similar terms in his discussions of “calling,” “passion” of the scientist, “dwelling in and breaking out,” “commitment” to one’s work and its defense, and “creativity” in forging new directions.  Polanyi’s call to conviviality echoes Augustine’s call to brotherly love with a similar methodology, but with differing subject matter.

 

Freedom.  Augustine writes about the freedom from sin of the converted person in the grace and mercy of Christ.  He reflects the truths of the Scriptures which describe all men guilty in their bondage to sin and trespass—finding freedom in forgiveness in Christ’s sacrifice in their stead.  Polanyi writes of the need for freedom for the scientist and all legitimate vocations to pursue their work without the coercive power of an over-bearing or even tyrannical, totalitarian state.  Without this freedom from sin or the bonds of the state, neither persons nor scholarship can reach their full potential.

 

Study of Revelation.  In theology, there is a distinction made between Special Revelation and Natural Revelation, that is, God’s revelation of Himself and His work.  The former is the Bible or Holy Scriptures, and the latter is His Creation—human, animal, vegetable and mineral.  Augustine’s work concerned Special Revelation; Polanyi’s Natural Revelation—both studying the revelations of God.

 

Truth and universality.  Derivative from their respective studies of revelation, Augustine was concerned with the truth of theological concepts, and Polanyi was concerned with truths found in nature.  Both passionately believed that these truths should be placed in the community to be considered as universal truths.

 

Semiotics and language.  Both wrote about semiotics—the study of letters and words as symbols of things and concepts and the centrality of language for who and what man is. 

 

Embeddedness, indwelling, and personal embodiment.  Personal and community.

 

 

Differences in Augustine and Polanyi

 

Primary concerns.  Augustine was concerned with present and eternal verities—truths about God, His relationship to man, and God’s Providence in history.  Polanyi was concerned with standing against scientism, as the fixed, objective nature of scientific conclusions.  Augustine was concerned with the Person of God and His work, and Polanyi, the human person and his work.  One was concerned with the supernatural working itself out in persons and in history; the other concerned with the natural working itself out through person in science and society.

 

Creation or independent universe.  Augustine clearly believed that the universe and all its inhabitants were created ex nihilo—out of nothing—by God.[9]  Polanyi is less clear.  He rejected classical Darwinianism, favoring an “organizing principle” and emergent properties that eventually produced life as we know it.  As far as I know, he never commented on how these processes came to be.  This subject is another that I will return to later.

 

Monism vs. dualism.  Augustine was a dualist in at least two senses.  (1) There is the uncreated God and the created cosmos—two substances.  In this schema, only God is true substance.  Simplicity, and a se—complete in Himself—with everything else being derivative. (2) There is the spiritual world in which God is Primary, angels and demons are pure spirits, animals have a “soul” (of some sort),[10] and humans with a body and soul.  Polanyi only wrote and spoke with clarity as a monist or physicalist.  However, his unpredictable and unexpected mentions of God, that Marjorie Grene found unsettling, surely spoke of his belief in something beyond the material world, and in particular, the God of Christianity.

                                

Origin of knowledge is perhaps the big question in Polanyi’s reasoning.  In epistemology, the question is “How to we know?”  But a prior question is “How are we able to know?,” and  “What is the origin of knowledge?”  For Augustine, the eternal God always knew, knowing everything past, present, and future.  He has imparted to man the ability to know and investigate His Natural and Special Revelations.  For Polanyi, the answer is not so clear.  While he describes an “organizing principle” of the universe out of which the current cosmos exists, what as far as I have read, he never discusses the origin of this organizing principle?  I contend that a person something like the God of the Bible is necessary to Polanyi’s thinking, and to the thinking of every person.

 

That is, whenever we encounter organization, we think “person.”  There is the hidden gardener of Antony Flew—who eventually became a theist before his recent death.  There is the idea of intelligent design—a structured universe designed by someone or something.[11]  But, more basically, every individual thinks “person” when he or she sees any small degree of organization.  Every parent has had “drawings” of two and three year olds which have almost no resemblance to any known object, yet if we found them on the street, we would instantly think “a child (a person) did this.”  I was raised amidst the pines of the southern states.  Using tree limbs and pine straw, we could make a sort of tepee—a simple structure indeed.  And, if I were to come upon such a structure while walking in the woods, I would think “a person did this,” as I could walk the entire forest of the South and never find this simple structure “by accident.”  We work against our most basic, tacit instincts and thinking that there is no person who created or designed the universe.  Perhaps, this instinct is why Polanyi unexpectedly in many of his writings makes reference to God and His work.

 

Conversion and Conviviality in Augustine and Polanyi—A Hope for an Irenic Process

 

“Faith and non-faith groups.  One of the great conflicts in America is that of “faith” groups, and “non-faith” groups or “religious” and “non-religious” groups.  A more universal understanding of the fiduciary nature of Polanyi’s “personal knowledge” could break down some of this contention.  Every person is a “believer”; every person’s knowledge is based upon his personal faith commitments; there are no “unbelievers,” only a difference in what each person believes.  Of course, a core issue in this disjunction is the church-state distinction made by the U.S. Constitution.  However, that constitutional issue is exactly that—“church and state,” not “individual belief and state.”  The Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, atheist, agnostic, etc. has every right within this system to voice, vote, and legislate according to dictates of individual conscience.  It is a huge perversion and misunderstanding that Christians, who are the primary targets of the church-state issue, cannot influence the public and civil arena with their beliefs as persons.  It is a denomination or sect that is excluded constitutionally.[12]  There is no greater issue in America than an understanding that everyone operates by faith commitments, not just those of a “religious” nature.

 

Conversion.  Conversion is central to the fiduciary nature of both Augustine and Polanyi and an important factor in this “faith vs. non-faith” issue.  Just how does one get from one belief system to another?  From Augustine’s perspective, God makes the transition possible.  For Polanyi, it is partially a path of intellectual maturity, but also a change of particular beliefs partially dependent upon one’s community of faith (whether religious, scientific, or other) and some mysterious, tacit integration of one’s prior beliefs and knowledge.  The mystery is why some “convert” and others do not.  Level of intelligence, degree of study, personality, and other factors do not seem to matter.  For example, some persons today still defend geocentrism.  There are greatly differing views on quantum physics.  And, then there is the matter of entrenched “religious” beliefs, for example, of Muslims, Jews, and Christians who claim Abraham as their ancestor.

 

Polanyi’s detailed explanation of fiduciary commitment and its heuristic nature in everyday, professional, and religious endeavors could be a method by which everyone can understand each other better.  Polanyi even calls this understanding “empathy.”[13]  We could all be more empathetic and sympathetic with each other, even as we pursue our commitment to make universal our own beliefs.

 

Now, on the one hand, history proves the difficulty of “empathy” between factions who are intent on warring with each other—both figuratively and literally.   On the other hand, every tool should be used to minimize tensions between such groups.  At least on the figurative level, Polanyi’s detailed methodology could have a major impact among intellectuals who are engaged in scholarly endeavors.  Can this audience imagine a broad scale reality of the conviviality yourselves with your growing base and lengthening history?

 

So, Polanyi who repeatedly and pointedly called for the rejection of “cold” impersonalism and a sterile, impersonal science has a much broader application to the debates of academia, political discussions, and social agendas?  Polanyians can and should hope and pray to that end. 

 

Augustine and Polanyi Offer Us Hope

 

Meek on Scripture.  Dale Cannon in his review of Esther Meek’s book, Longing to Know, accurately reflects her position and mine, “The assumption of the authority of Scripture as the principal reliable means of access to knowledge of God is the kingpin on which Meek’s central argument for how we can know God hangs.”[14]  I would contend further that the authority of Scripture, which I prefer to call the inerrancy of Scripture, is the only position for any Christianity that claims to be orthodox.[15] 

 

Christianity comes is a wide variety of flavors today: Roman Catholicism, Protestantism with its divisions of Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, Episcopalian, etc., and within each of these is an entire spectrum.  On the “left” there are liberal versions that use little, if any Christian jargon, and find identity with leftist leaning communists, socialists, liberation theology, etc.  On the “right” are Bible-believing evangelicals who hold to the inerrancy of Scripture and its applications to all areas of life, including the individual, family, society, and civil law.  There is one estimate of 38,000 “Christian denominations.” 

 

With such diversity, there hardly seems to be a “Christian” message to proclaim.  However, I would like to suggest otherwise.  I call some strange witnesses and a few facts.  In an interview with a Unitarian minister, who called herself a “liberal Christian,” Christopher Hitchins, the avowed atheist and enemy of Christianity, responded.  “I would say that if you don’t believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ and Messiah, and that he rose again from the dead and by his sacrifice our sins are forgiven, you’re really not in any meaningful sense a Christian.”[16]  Hitchens, an anti-Christian, is only making an observation consistent with virtually all the major historic creeds of Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, and Protestant churches.  He recognized certain central tenets of Christianity, even while being in the opposite camp.

 

Terry Eagleton, also an atheist, a “distinguished professor” at University of Lancaster (England), National University of Ireland, and University of Notre Dame, in his vibrant style describes the lack of understanding of central beliefs of Christianity.

 

The straw-targeting of Christianity is now commonplace among academics and intellectuals—that is, to say among those who would allow a first-year student to get away with caricatures in which they themselves indulge with such insouciance.[17]

 

Without doubt, there has been a basic friendliness to Christianity from The Polanyi Society and Polanyians in general in all their scholarly endeavors.  And, to make Polanyi’s work explicitly Christian might detract from its intellectual appeal to a wide audience.  However, Polanyi himself would never endorse any activities about a subject that did not make every attempt to understand, as fully as possible, explicit characteristics of that subject.  Thus, I want to state five facts about Christianity.

 

(1) Christianity does not exist apart from the 66 books of “agreed-upon” Bible and general standards of hermeneutics.  By agreed-upon, I mean the historical “agreed-upon” canon of the Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, and Protestant churches.  We cannot get into the problems of the so-called Apocrypha and other books not “agreed-upon,” but can make the startling assertion of this Biblical orthodoxy among Christians worldwide.  Further, this orthodoxy is being underscored by the tremendous revival of Christianity below the equator, sometimes labeled “Southern Christianity.” 

 

(2) The Bible must be taken as a whole, commonly labeled “the inerrancy of Scripture” by evangelicals.  Once certain parts are selected out or removed, the cohesion of the Bible is destroyed—a position that differs from historical, orthodox Christianity.

 

(3) The Western mind suffers from “critical” or Enlightenment barriers that Polanyi and others have addressed.  Meek states:

 

The barrier is a “default mode,” a metaepistemology, among ordinary Westerners, that sees knowledge as “statements and proofs” from which knowledge of God is excluded. This metaepistemology has divorced not only faith from reason, and science from faith, but science from art, mind from body, knowing from doing, knowing from both knower and known. We in the Western tradition suffer an angst directly stemming from these disconnects, and appropriately painful, as well as prohibitive not just for considering Christianity but for effective knowing of every kind.[18]

 

(4) The greatness of the West cannot be separated from Christianity.  I would prefer to make the claim that the greatness of the West was caused by Christianity—one that I believe.  However, that would be a difficult claim to prove.  The claim that I have made is inescapable.  From Augustine’s City of God to medievalism to Scholasticism to the Renaissance and Reformation, the West is suffused and saturated with Christians trying to live their beliefs in their best understanding, even though sometimes making tragic mistakes.  I do not have time to list the great achievements in the West that are being adopted worldwide, but a few are universal education, the abolition of the slave trade, the English and American systems of government, hospitals and health care, innumerable charities, etc.  The fact that The Polanyi Society is having this meeting may be attributed to the freedoms implemented by Reformation thinking from Calvin to Knox to Rutherford to our American Declaration of Independence and Constitution.

 

(5) Freedom, as it is known in the West, cannot survive without Biblical Christianity.  To quote Noah Webster

In my view, the Christian religion is the most important and one of the first things in which all children, under a free government ought to be instructed.. .No truth is more evident to my mind than that the Christian religion must be the basis of any government intended to secure the rights and privileges of a free people.[19]

 Polanyi’s great concern was the evil of the totalitarian state.  If man will not submit to the grace and mercy of God and His law, man will make his own law.  It is a simple, but supremely profound issue.  How can ethics, and derived laws, be determined?  There are possibly three, but really only one, method.  The three might be contrived as (1) the rule of the plurality or majority, (2) submission to an authority, or (3) individualism.  If the first, then the largest group may freely impose its will on the minorities.  We could have no quarrel with any elected official or legislative action.  If the second, we submit to totalitarianism willingly and lovingly.  Or the third in which everyone does his own thing.

Immediately, we can dismiss the third heuristically—a powerful person or group will emerge, as illustrated in the book, Lord of the Flies.  The other two may be dismissed heuristically, as well, as we are all inconsistent, incoherent, and irrational.  Regardless of the authority or voted action, we constantly speak our disagreements!  We are always stating our opinions in a Polanyian, universal fashion.  No one is willing to give up their individual authority!  In the words of Arthur Leff, a former great law professor at Yale University, “the grand sez Who?”[20]  There must be an answer to the ethical dilemma.

 

But what if we could fashion the best of all these approaches?  I submit that the Bible should be our source of ethics and law through individuals, not the church, as I believe in total separation of church and state.   Indeed, that is primarily, although not exclusively what happened in the founding of the United States.  Individuals, instructed by Biblical preaching and study, founded a nation on “inalienable rights endowed by … nature (natural revelation) and nature’s God (special revelation).”  We must remember the words of Fyodor Dostoevsky, “If there is no God, everything is permitted.”

 

Thus, I suggest two foundations for a free society.  (1) The conviviality of the Polanyians, based upon their understanding of the formation of personal beliefs, the difficulty of conversion from this individual, personal knowledge, and the necessity for groups to live together with differing beliefs.  (2) The only epistemological certainty for ethics and law is the Christian Bible—by the necessary origin of order and knowledge in a Person, by Biblical Christianity having the most solid claim to epistemology, rationally and historically. 

 

I conclude with a frightful prediction, a hopeful request, and prayers for our country and the world.  If Christian influence in all levels of society and government continues to wane, we will face the atrocities of Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot, and Mao Tse Sung.  We already see some of these in the news almost every day. Neither atheism nor any other religion can found the greatness that the West has experienced.

 

My request is that in spite of any unbelief that you might have about Christianity, aversion, or even hatred of it, one should at least try to understand it in the way that atheists Hitchins and Eagleton have portrayed.  At least consider that without Christianity, the ideals of the West would never have come about, and that they fade with the fading of Christian influence.  To quote Meek again, “in the spirit of Polanyi, may we not shrink from the ‘Here I stand: I cannot do otherwise’ of the fiduciary act in religion even as we would not in scientific discovery?”[21]

 

Polanyi himself ends his chapter, “Dedication or Servitude,” in Science, Faith and Society with:

 

“Such an interpretation of society would seem to call for an extension in the direction towards God.  If the intellectual and moral tasks of society rest in the last resort on the free consciences of every generation, and these are continually making essentially new additions to our spiritual heritage, we may well assume that they are in continuous communication with the same source that first gave men their society-forming knowledge of abiding things.  How near that source is to God, I shall not try to conjecture.  But I would express my belief that modern man will eventually return to God through the clarification of his cultural and social purposes.  Knowledge of reality and the acceptance of obligations which guide our consciences, once firmly realized, will reveal to us God in man and society.”[22]

 

 

Finally, I call for believers in Christ to pray, as we are called so to do in I Timothy, Chapter 2.  Let the light of God, as described by Augustine, the detailed understanding of Polanyi’s fideism and tolerance, if not conversion, lead to a convivial culture that is the true hope of all Polanyians.

 

Bibliography

 

 

Augustine, Aurelius.  Concerning the Teacher (De Magistro).  Unicoi, TN: The Trinity Foundation, 1994.  Reprint of 1938 Prentiss-Hall publication.

 

Cavanaugh, William T.  The Myth of Religious Violence.  New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2009.

 

Clayton, Philip.  Various publications and books.

 

Copleston, Frederick.  A History of Philosophy. New York, NY: Image-Doubleday, 1950.

 

Douthat, Ross.  Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics. (New York, NY: Free Press, 2012).

 

Gilson, Etienne.  The Christian Philosophy of Saint Augustine.  New York, NY: Random House, 1960.

 

Arthur Leff.  “Unspeakable Ethics, Unspeakable Law, “ Duke Law Journal, 1979(6): 1229-1250.

 

Nash, Ronald H.  The Light on the Mind: St. Augustine’s Theory of Knowledge.  Lima, OH: Academic Renewal Press, 2003.

 

Polanyi, Michael.  Various works and general reading.  Some specific sources cited.

 

Warfield, B. B. Calvin and Augustine.  Philadelphia, PA: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1956.

 

 

 

Personal Notes on this paper

 

Augustine and consciousness: http://lonergan.org/?p=871 Self-consciousness in language development;

 

__Waning of Materialism…. An increasing number of non-physicalists…

 

__Vigorous disagreement with Polanyi: Polanyi’s goal of the worshipper: to be lost in mysticism—NO!  Hall’s emphasis on the explicit

 

__Pelagianism and the law:

 

__Only religion, tradition can give values—ethics, but whose ethics? If ethics comes from person knowledge, how are differing ethics decided?

 

__Embodiment: the body has nothing to do with empiricism…better = ensouled… or en-minded

 

Naturalistic fallacy of ethics, “no ought from an is”…

 

Chesterton:  When people turn from God, “They don’t believe in nothing—they believe in anything.” 

 

Bob Dylan: “You gotta serve somebody… It may be the devil or it may be the Lord.”

 

Breaking out after dwelling in… See Mullins’ “Religious Meaning….” 

 

Primacy of the Explicit: Conviviality when conversions is not possible, and an understanding of faith necessitates  “freedom of speech” (Ron Hall, “Primacy of Explicit, p. 37”

 

Not: “faith-groups” vs. non-faith groups

 

The cosmos is supernatural.  Emergence, consciousness and self-consciousness (and memory), leap from non-life to life, origin of matter, origin of knowledge (organization) and language, possibility of communication (George Steiner- Real Presences), 66 books of the Bible as orthodoxy, finely tuned universe that allows life, that humans are concerned about morality (no “is” from an “ought”, morals from random “chance,” etc.), innate knowledge, diversity of persons (many, many “mini-beliefs”), the idea and reality of transcendence, that man is concerned about meaning and purpose in life, the need for “god” (fixed structure in the midst of change—Heraclitus’ logos),

 

New Scientists: Philip Clayton, Paul Davies, Arizona MD, etc.

 

Waning of Materialism book says that the majority of philosophers are non-materialists.

 

Plantinga’s paper that science does not require the exclusion of supernatural beliefs.

 

Polanyi’s idea of personal knowledge… his idea of “person” is transcendent.

 

Embodiment, ensoulment. 

 

 

Those who recognize the supernatural.  Philip Clayton, Harold Morowitz, Paul Davies, Stuart Hameroff, and others (Christian and non-Christian): supernatural and emergence, transcendence, etc.

 

 

 

 

Various Notes during and after the paper’s being written

 

Traditional faith/reason dichotomy: Polanyi’s system would give faith and reason their proper places in man’s epistemology.  Everyone has a “personal” faith and reasons from there.

 

2500 years of philosophy: no agreement, no closer to “knowing,” unless… Scripture is truth.

 

Only two possibilities of consciousness: a sort of panpsychism or emergence.  Stanford

 

“Seeing” and understanding (“seeing with the mind’s eye)…

 

Rough synonyms:  tacit integration, emergence, supervenience, whole more than the sum of its parts, abstraction, abduction, art, chaos theory, turbulence, quantum mechanics, dreaming (?), imagination,

 

God is hidden in plain sight: origins of anything, presence of life, the delicate balance of physics that sustains life in the universe, emergence (supervenience, parts/wholes, etc.), consciousness, ethics and values (naturalistic fallacy), Special Revelation,

 

The problem of a definition of “religion.”  Polanyi helps: “religious” belief is personal and individual…

 

The Second Friend: “But the Second Friend is the man who disagrees with you about everything. He is not so much the alter ego as the antiself. Of course he shares your interests; otherwise he would not become your friend at all. But he has approached them all at a different angle. He has read all the right books but has got the wrong thing out of every one. It is as if he spoke your language but mispronounced it. How can he be so nearly right and yet, invariably, just not right?”  Quote from Wikipedia on “Owen Barfield,” one of the Inklings and friend of C.S. Lewis.

 

George Steiner on language.  "Any coherent understanding of what language is and how language performs, that any coherent account of the capacity of human speech to communicate meaning and feeling is, in the final analysis, underwritten by the assumption of God's presence.... the experience of aesthetic meaning, that of literature, of the arts, of musical form, infers the necessary possibility of this 'real presence' .... The wager on the meaning of meaning, on the potential of insight and response when one human voice addresses another, when we come face to face with the text and work of art or music, which is to say when we encounter the other in its condition of freedom, is a wager on transcendence."

 

The Bible in the Polanyian system.  The Bible is both tacit and explicit.  It is first explicit—the words are extant, virtually unarguable as the Canon.  However, the interpretation involves a personal, tacit, pre-conditioned commitment (personal and ecclesial faith) that influences interpretation.  Arguments are deductive, rather than inductive, but there are personal mini-beliefs that influence interpretation.

 

Good intentions pave the road to Hell.  How powerful is this statement!  The Enlightenment had the best of intentions—to improve the lot of man and to “objectify” (find) truth.  What they left out in their “good” intentions was persons—the human person and his convivial groups and the Person of God.

 

Humanity and God.  Without God, there is no humanity.  An impersonal universe is only a blind, purposeless collocation of sub-atomic processes.  Without God, there is no way to save man.

 

“Dwelling in” and tabernacle (Bible).  “In my Father’s house are many tabernacles…” and I Cor. 5:1ff… earthly body for heavenly body (tabernacle).  “Dwelling in” one’s beliefs… we walk by faith and not by sight!

 

There is no epistemology (knowledge) without omniscience.  Charles Peirce, Martin Heidegger, and other philosophers have noted that any proposition (claim to knowledge) is predicated on prior knowledge and that knowledge predicated on its prior knowledge ad infinitum and infinite regress.  In natural science this process has come to be known as the Duhem-Quine thesis.  Thus, any claim to knowledge requires omniscience—all prior knowledge.  As Christians, we know Who is omniscient.  Thus, only God has knowledge; that is, only God is epistemologically sound.  But... we have His Special Revelation: The Holy Bible.  Thus, any knowledge presented in the Bible is grounded in God's omniscience.  The only logical conclusion, then, is that the only knowledge (synonym of truth) available to humans is the Bible.

P.S. By the way knowledge is not an infinite regress.  If it were, God could not know everything.

P.P.S.  See "transcendental argument" below... more on knowledge and the necessity for God.

 



[1] B. B. Warfield, Calvin and Augustine (Philadelphia, PA: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1956), 321-322,

[2] One has to remember the time of Augustine’s writing.  He had one foot in the Greek-Roman culture, particularly influenced, by Neo-Platonism.  He had one foot more firmly planted in the doctrinal development of the new religion—Christianity—and its attempts to differentiate the Scriptures from pagan ideas to preserve its unique identity.  There was an equally great need to demonstrate how the Scriptures meet and overcome the cultural challenges of these other beliefs.  He was a pioneer hewing out a City of God in the forest of prevailing ideas.  Pioneers provide foundations for others to build upon.  Nothing should be taken away from Augustine’s work simply because of any inconsistencies on his part.  Indeed, many philosophers and theologians after him were and are far worse on this point that Augustine ever was!

[3] Frederick Copleston, A History of Philosophy, (New York, NY: Doubleday, 1950), 67.

[4] From the title of Polanyi’s magnus opus, Personal Knowledge: Towards a Post-Critical Philosophy.

[5] See Chapter III of Polanyi’s book, Science, Faith, and Society for the totalitarian effects of scientism.

[6] I Timothy 3:15

[7] Those who discuss Augustine have differing views of exactly what ontologism is and its method in Augustine.  I have to leave this areas unexplored and is relevant to our discussion here only in a general way.

[8] Meaning, (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1975), 180.

[9] Actually, Augustine believed that everything was created in a moment.  The seven day week was a logical framework for the education of mankind. 

[10] Ecclesiastes 3:21

[11] I do not endorse all that persons in the Intelligent Design movement have said.  They have made some serious errors—for example, that there is a designer apart from the God of the Bible and trying to force its teaching in public schools.  But the basic premise of their position is correct—no organization without a person or Person.

[12] One should remember that states under the U.S. constitution may adopt a religious group and are thus only limited if their own constitution prohibits it.

[13] Michael Polanyi, “Faith and Reason,” The Journal of Religion 41(4): 237-247, 1961.

[14] Esther L. Meek, “Longing to Know and the Complexities of Knowing God,” Tradition and Discovery 31(3): 31.

[15] Ibid. Meek discusses the authority of Scripture and its acceptance in the modern and postmodern context.

[16] http://www.portlandmonthlymag.com/arts-and-entertainment/category/book-and-talks/articles/religion-god-0110/#

[17] Reason, Faith, and Revolution: Reflections on the God Debate (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2009), 52.

[18] Meek, op cit.

[19] Preface, Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language (1828) Edition, found at http://1828.mshaffer.com/

[20] Arthur Leff, “Unspeakable Ethics, Unspeakable Law, “Duke Law Journal, 1979(6): 1229-1250.

[21] Meek, 37.  This quote comes from Martin Luther’s stand at the Diet of Worms.

[22] Science, Faith, and Society (1964), 84.

 


 

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