“There are,” a professor once remarked to me, “two types of people in the world:  uniters and dividers.”

Jim Belcher is a uniter par excellance.

Deep Church is a thoughtful, generous, and insightful response to the polarizing dichotomies that characterized the conversation about the emerging church.  Though Belcher writes with a light touch, it is a serious book that I hope is the final word in a contentious and divisive conversation.

Belcher doesn’t try to placate everyone, but rather offers serious and substantial disagreements where he feels appropriate, but in an irenic, respectful, and understanding tone.  While Deep Church functions as a sort of olive branch to both sides, Belcher’s argument isn’t simply that everyone should just get along, but that the Great Tradition—“deep church”—provides the grounds for Christian unity and disagreement.

Belcher’s book has been discussed by nearly everyone else, so I won’t rehearse the bulk of his arguments here (most recently, Ben Simpson has done an admirable job of highlighting many of the main themes).  But in light of the ongoing theme of Christendom here at Mere-O, I will point out Belcher’s approach to “deep culture,” which he thankfully puts after his chapter on “deep ecclesiology.”  Writes Belcher:

This is our goal at Redeemer Presybyterian Church.  We believe we are to be a distinctive counterculture and should live an alternate way.  At times we need to be critical toward the surrounding culture.  But this countercultural attitude must not calcify.  A posture of negativity can lead us to be insular and tribal.  Critique—though necessary to keep us from being pushed into the world’s mold—is secondary to our posture of culture makers.  We should be known as those who create culture for thecommon good, for all people and not just fellow believers, culture that makes life better, whole, for the entire city.

Belcher grounds his approach to culture in the Kuyperian notion of ‘common grace,’ which he contends allows for real communication between us and the world.  I could be suffering from confirmation bias, of course, but it’s precisely this approach that makes me cheer.

Belcher’s book is a fresh of breath air.  In fact, it’s not overstating my case to say that this is a vitally important book that strikes almost all the right notes.  It is almost the exact book I would have written for its attempt at taking the critiques of the emergent/ing church seriously, while pointing to a robust, creedal, historically grounded orthodoxy as the appropriate remedy.  Dare I say that Deep Church does for books what Mere-O has weakly tried to do for blogs?  Yes.  Yes I dare.

Fawning praise aside, I do have some reservations about Belcher’s book.  Allow me to highlight them here.

Reservation #1:  Common Grace and Epistemology

First, Belcher adopts the notion of “common grace” with respect to culture, but not epistemology.  Belcher describes foundationalism as the “view that knowledge can be based on self-evident truths that don’t need any backing from religion or any other external authority, that is, knowledge has “invincible certainty.”’

Belcher rejects the unassailable nature of foundations, but it’s not clear who he is actually disagreeing with on this point.  There are no classical foundationalists anymore. Belcher wants to adopt “post-foundationalism,” which he argues is based on belief, not reason, and that belief is specifically inspired by the Holy Spirit.  But to be consistent with his theory of culture (which itself depends upon an epistemology), Belcher should have deployed the doctrine of common grace at this point.  Had he done so, he might come up with a more sympathetic account of modified foundationalism and its relationship to “deep truth.”  Foundationalism isn’t dead.  It’s simply grown up.

Reservation #2:  Deep Ecclesiology and the Doctrine of God

Second, Belcher unfortunately focuses his chapter on “deep ecclesiology” on the nature of church government and structure.  Belcher turns to the “Great Tradition” to attempt to solve the standstill between the traditionalists and emerging church.  Writes Belcher: “Without the Great Tradition teaching us about the inherited forms of church structure and government, we will continue to talk past one another.”  Belcher articulates his third way, or “deep ecclesiology,” this way:  Bible + Tradition + Mission = Deep Ecclesiology.

I suspect Belcher’s formulation here has to do with the polemical context he is working out of, but that is one of the dangers of using such a context as the starting point for ecclesiology.  What’s missing in Belcher’s formula is, of course, God. To be fair, Belcher makes it abundantly clear elsewhere that the Gospel is the center of his church’s life.  Their four commitments are—in this order—Gospel, Community, Mission, Shalom.  But His absence in the formula for “deep ecclesiology” is significant, and indicative of Belcher’s starting point, which is the visible structure of the church.  I  might commend to the reader instead a helpful set of essays on this theme by John Webster.

Reservation #3:  The Absent Trinitarian Basis

This worry points to the most significant shortcoming of Deep Church.  While Belcher points to the relationship between different theories of the atonement and “deep church,” he left out a clear and clear articulation of how Trinitarian theology and the disagreements therein informs his understanding of the people of God and their life in the world.  Its absence left me with the impression that the Gospel and the Great Tradition can be attained properly without referencing or articulating the nature of God’s inner life—a common problem within both traditionalist and emergent approaches to church, I fear.  While Belcher talks much about Jesus, his references to the Spirit are few (15, actually, and only one substantive “usage) and he has almost no substantive references to God the Father.

But on this point again, I suspect that Belcher’s audience hindered his approach.  For the most part, Trinitarianism seems is deployed only to point out that God is on a mission to help the world, an emphasis which is problematic insofar as it obscures the inner processions of the Divine life.  But those distinctions have–if, again, John Webster is right–important ramifications for ecclesiology, and unfortunately Belcher’s book does not take them up.  What we have, then, is a church centered around a Gospel, but the Trinitarian basis of the Gospel is obscured.

But critiques such as these are largely invitations to write subsequent books, which I sincerely hope Belcher will do.  And it is my hope that he moves beyond the confines of the conversation he has inherited.  Few books deserve to be listened to as closely as Belcher’s and despite these reservations, it is still an excellent work that demands careful attention and deserves the many awards it has received.

Posted by Matthew Lee Anderson

Matthew Lee Anderson is the Founder and Lead Writer of Mere Orthodoxy. He is the author of Earthen Vessels: Why Our Bodies Matter to our Faith and The End of Our Exploring: A Book about Questioning and the Confidence of Faith. Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook.

  • Excellent review. Any viably epistemology, in my opinion, must include a fully functional Trinity, which is further expressed in an ecclesiology that is foundationally true to its origins. Naturally, that would include Grace; otherwise, knowledge is a philosophical exercise based on a faulty foundation. And, as such, is not worthy of theological consideration, except, perhaps, with a passing glance.

  • Christopher Benson

    Thanks for the interesting review, Mr. Anderson. I encourage Mere-O readers to hear Jim Belcher interviewed by Michael Horton, Reformed theologian and host of The White Horse Inn. The broadcast archive for August 9, 2009 can be downloaded at OnePlace.com.

    I agree that the doctrine of common grace should apply to culture and epistemology. I also agree that Mr. Belcher should disclose his foundationalist – classical or modified – dialogue-partners.

    Here’s a question for you: who are the “grown up” foundationalists? Would biblical exegete D. A. Carson qualify? Permit me to quote from James K. A. Smith’s Who’s Afraid of Postmodernism?:

    “Carson is clearly worried that because folks like Stanley Grenz, Brian McLaren, and other ‘hard postmodernists’ (as he calls them) reject modern notions of absolute or ‘objective’ truth, they are giving up on truth altogether. But in his criticisms, it becomes clear that Carson simply conflates truth with objectivity: for Carson, one can only be said to know ‘truly’ if one knows ‘objectively.’ While Carson rightly notes that human knowledge can never pretend to omniscience, this doesn’t mean we can’t claim to know in a finite but real manner. But his affirmation of finite knowledge always elides into an affirmation of objective knowledge. Although he does not define objectivity (quite an oversight, given his project), Carson clearly means this to carry some connotation of self-evident givenness: if a truth is objective, then it is not a matter of interpretation. Thus, if Derrida is not a linguistic idealist but nevertheless asserts that everything is interpretation, then according to folks like Carson, such a claim is antithetical to the (supposedly biblical!) requirement that what is true be objective. If the gospel is an interpretation, and therefore not ‘objective,’ then it would seem that it cannot be true.”

    Nothing strikes me as “grown up” about a view that conflates truth with objectivity. We are still back to classical foundationalism.

  • Christopher,

    I haven’t read Carson, so I’m not going to comment on his work. But if truth is, in fact, a correspondence relationship between reality and propositions, narratives, or our impressions (I don’t care which we choose at the moment), then it is in that sense objective. To claim it isn’t is to fall into the (all too common) error of conflating the epistemological difficulties of knowing with the metaphysics of truth and correspondance. And note that Smith suggests that for Carson, objectivity carries some connotation of “self-evident givenness.” I’d be HIGHLY surprised if Carson conflated (again) self-evidence with objectivity and truth per se, as again that would conflate the epistemology with the metaphysics.

    Best,

    matt

  • Christopher Benson

    You’ve made a distinction between classical foundationalists, who you claim no longer exist, and “modified” or “grown up” foundationalists. I was hoping that you would name the individuals in the latter group. My hunch is that you’ve made a distinction without a difference. D. A. Carson, J. P. Moreland, Douglas Groothuis, R. Douglas Geivett, and R. Scott Smith are classical foundationalists disguised as modified foundationalits because they all satisfy the two criteria in the identification of foundationalism: “first, the assumption that knowledge systems must include a class of beliefs that are somehow immune from challenge; and second, the assumption that all reasoning within the system proceeds in one direction only–from that set of special, indubitable beliefs to others, but not the reverse.”

  • Christopher,

    Yes, I would include Moreland, Groothuis, etc. in that camp. I’d also include Alvin Plantinga.

    Regarding your criteria for foundationalism, I’d point out that what you have identified is the sort of strong foundationalism that Belcher rejects and that no one holds. See this article by JP, where he rejects the definition you hold to. Specifically, Moreland thinks that some beliefs are indubitable, but not enough to ground our noetic structure. And many modified foundationalists (Plantinga, I think) reject that we have indubitable beliefs, but still have beliefs that are properly basic. So the condition that such beliefs be incorrigible isn’t necessary to be a foundationalist.

    There is, then, a distinction and a difference between strong and weak foundationalism, and if you miss it (as Belcher has) then you end up rejecting a straw man.

    Best,

    matt

  • Christopher Benson

    Matt: This conversation has been productive for me because I have “boned up” on foundationalism. When a person is wrong, he should admit to being so. Like Belcher, I was wrong to conflate “strong” and “weak” foundationalism. I was also wrong to suggest there are still adherents to strong foundationalism, which is mortally ill due to the successful postmodern critique. Merold Westphal observes, “That it is philosophically indefensible is so widely agreed that its demise is the closet thing to a philosophical consensus in decades.”

    Our conversation reveals the contrast between what Jamie Smith calls the Biola School of Christian philosophy, which is “devoted to analytic philosophy, a revised foundationalist epistemology, a classical evidentialist apologetics (indeed, it tends to reduce philosophy to apologetics), and a biblicist notion of propositional revelation,” and the Calvin School of Christian philosophy, “which is also found at Yale and Notre Dame – which is less religiously devoted to analytic philosophy, offers a postfoundationalist epistemology that criticizes foundationalism, tends toward a presuppositional apologetics, and adopts a less fundamentalist notion of revelation.”

    Unlike Belcher, Smith addresses whether soft or modest foundationalism is defensible in a response to Biola professor R. Douglas Geivett. I quote this at length because Smith provides what you asked from Belcher:

    The key dispute between foundationalism and the postfoundationalism that Geivett identifies with postmodernism is just what would or could constitute “adequate grounding” or justification. I appreciate Geivett’s criticisms of caricatures of foundationalism that assume that foundationalism requires “invincible certainty.” Nevertheless, he does assert that we can both articulate the conditions for adequate grounding in some universal sense and that these conditions can be met not just for claims such as “There is an orange tree in my yard” but also that “God exists.” When Geivett finally describes how such justification happens–by the “mode of direct acquaintance”–it is hard not to feel that we’ve been shortchanged. It seems that Geivett’s answer to how one is justified in one’s beliefs ends up being some version of: “Well, it’s obvious. It’s just ‘clear and distinct.’ You have this experience or the ‘natural light’ of reason shows you something which you can’t not accept.” And, to top it off, this is then to function as the basis for a demonstration that my belief is true.

    I have two serious problems with this rehabilitation of foundationalism and rejection of postfoundationalist epistemologies (though Geivett doesn’t really offer a critique of the latter, only an alternative). First, while Geivett does help foundationalism slip out of from under the charge of requiring “certainty” by recognizing our fallibility and lowering the bar for justification, it seems to me that he skirts questions about “objectivity” and “universality.” Foundationalist epistemology–and the evidentialist apologetics that Geivett wants to hitch to it–requires the possibility of universal or objective demonstration. But the appeal to “direct acquaintance” seems to beg the question in this regard–akin to Descartes’ “proofs” that demand that one accept the premises dictated by “the natural light.” But from whence does this natural light shine? And to whom? It is here that the postfoundationalist critique takes hold, by taking seriously the particularity of just what appears as “obvious” or “clear and distinct.”

    This leads to my second problem with Geivett’s claim that Christian theology must be committed to a foundationalist epistemology: it simply doesn’t square with the New Testament witness. In fact, the scriptures repeatedly emphasize that because of the noetic effects of sin, the minds–and hearts–of unbelievers are “futile” and “darkened” (Rom. 1:18-31). It is clear from the Gospel narratives, for instance, that not everyone sees what the centurion sees when on Golgotha he proclaims, “Truly this was the Son of God” (Matt. 28:54). Of course, all of the observers at Golgotha see and encounter the same material phenomena–crosses, bodies, and eventually corpses–but these material phenomena are texts that need to be interpreted–just what they’re seeing is not immediately clear. So the very fact that both the centurion and the chief priests are confronted by the same phenomena and yet “see” something very different would seem to demonstrate Derrida’s point: the very experience of the things themselves is a matter of interpretation. Even if we are confronted with the physical and historical evidence of the resurrection–even if we witnessed the resurrection firsthand–what exactly this meant would require interpretation, and this interpretative “seeing” is conditioned by the particularities of my horizon of perception. There is no “neutral seeing” of orange trees or resurrected bodies. Only by means of interpreting the resurrection of Jesus do I see that it confirms that he is the Son of God (Rom. 1:4).

    Moreover, in the epistles we get the same kind of claim, viz., that not everyone can see what the believer sees. While God’s invisible attributes are, on the one hand, “clearly seen” (Rom. 1:20), Paul goes on to emphasize the way in which this is not seen by those whose “foolish hearts [are] darkened” (1:21), who thus construe or interpret the world as something other than God’s creation. That interpreting the world as creation is, I would argue, the true interpretation, does not negate its status as an interpretation or “conditioned seeing” (contra “direct acquaintance”). What is required to interpret the world well are the necessary conditions of interpretation–the right horizons of expectation and the right presuppositions. But as Paul repeatedly emphasizes, these conditions are themselves a gift; in other words, the presuppositions and horizons that make it possible to “read” creation are grace-gifts that attend redemption and regeneration (Rom. 1:18-31, 1 Cor. 1:18-2:15; Eph. 4:17-18). I think this is precisely why we shouldn’t be surprised that not everyone we encounter immediately grasps the “rationality” of the gospel. In fact, we should expect that someone will not be able to properly “see” creation or the crucifixion without the grace of redemption. Or, to put it another way, I think that presuppositional apologetics (and the more nonfoundationalist epistemology that undergirds it)–such as that developed by Francis Schaeffer, but also by Cornelius Van Til and, to a degree, Herman Dooyeweerd–rejects classical apologetics because it recognizes the truth of the postfoundationalist claim that everything is interpretation (qtd. from James K. A. Smith, “Who’s Afraid of Postmodernism? A Response to the Biola School” in Christianity and the Postmodern Turn, edited by Myron B. Penner).

    I find Smith’s critique of modest foundationalism persuasive philosophically, biblically, and theologically. The debate between modest foundationalists and postfoundationalists comes down to this: does the human mind encounter the world through “direct acquaintance” or “conditioned seeing”?

  • Christopher,

    A couple quick thoughts:

    1) Smith’s critique of the noetic effects of sin is consonant with being a modified foundationalist, and with the idea that belief in God can be properly basic through direct acquaintance. That seems to be Alvin Plantinga’s entire project. So making the critique about foundationalism per se seems to be misguided.

    2) I realize that Smith doesn’t believe in anything approaching sphere sovereignty, and I suspect he doesn’t believe in anything approaching common grace, either. My point is that theologically, etc., if we’re going to be consistent we should recognize that common grace has an epistemological component to it, not just a cultural component. After all, the art produced by common grace depends upon a certain sort of “seeing,” too.

    3) I haven’t read Geivett’s essay, but I don’t understand the complaint about “objectivity” and “universality,” as it seems to beg the question about the notion of truth and its relationship to our noetic structures. Let’s just assume Geivett is using the classic justified true belief model for knowledge. If so, then those perceptions are properly basic and justified only on grounds that they do in fact correspond to reality. But then, if they correspond to reality, don’t they do that for everyone? Aren’t they “universal?” And “objective?”

    If Geivett skirted questions about that, it’s largely because they are not immediately germane to the question of foundationalism, which is a question about the structure of justification, not the correspondance of our beliefs to reality.

    4) “Conditioned seeing” is a phenomenon that can exist alongside the phenomenon of direct perception. It’s not clear in every case it’s one or another. Additionally, the foundationalist might simply say that the goal is to move beyond our interpretative frameworks and see the event/text/object as it is, but that process requires work. This, I think, is Van Hoozer’s style of foundationalism.

    But then, this would be why people around Biola actually study hermeneutics and practice them. They understand the interpretative problem.

    Best,

    matt

  • Christopher Benson

    Good morning, Matt. Here’s a quick response before I go to church. Under the influence of postmodern Christian thinkers like Jamie Smith, I simply don’t share your view that “conditioned seeing” can exist alongside “direct acquaintance” because I hold to postfoundationalist claim that everything is interpretation. We can’t “move beyond our interpretive frameworks and see the event/text/object as it is,” no matter how hard we try. –Christopher

  • GaryH

    I hope I can jump in here with a question. Christopher says he holds to the “postfoundationalist claim that everything is interpretation.” And I’m wondering what kind of support is usually offered in support of that claim.

  • Christopher Benson

    Hello Gary. What support is offered for the postfoundationalist claim that everything is interpretation? Answer: human experience, as Jamie Smith writes: “Interpretation is not a series of hoops we jump through in order to eventually reach a realm of unmediated experience where I don’t have to interpret anymore. Rather, interpretation is an inescapable part of being human and experiencing the world. So even this blue cup sitting on my table, which I am drinking my coffee from ‘firsthand,’ as it were, is still a matter of interpretation.” This support will not satisfy the Biola School of Christian philosophy: their favorite criticism of the postfoundationalist claim is self-referential incoherence. I say: “Oh well!”

  • GaryH

    Thanks for the reply. Two questions that I am genuinely interested in:
    (1) Why do you say “Oh well!” when someone else is not satisfied with the support offered?
    (2) Why should the claim that “interpretation is an inescapable part of being human and experiencing the world” be accepted?

  • Christopher Benson

    Hello again Gary. I’ll try my best to answer your questions. I say “Oh well!” if someone is not satisfied with my appeal to human experience because human experience is all we’ve got. I’ve never had any experience – and others would be hard-pressed to point to any experience – that is “not always already interpreted through the mediating lens of language.” Modest foundationalists tend to view language as a prisonhouse that separates us from the world. The goal is to escape this prisonhouse for an extralinguistic encounter with the world as it really is.

    But here’s the key question, as Smith asks: “Was there ever a time without interpretation? Will there ever be a time when we don’t interpret? Do I ever see a cup as it really is?” My answer: “No!” We should not bemoan that the world comes to us through the necessary filter of language, but accept it as part of the created order. God designed us to be interpretive critters. Think of Adam naming all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field.

    Now, I would be a linguist idealist, “who thinks there is only language, not things,” if I asserted that the the cup of coffee is not a material object but a mental idea. With this caveat in mind, I’m never directly acquainted with the cup qua cup. I could call the object something else, such as a “candle” but that would qualify as a bad interpretation because we, as language users, call the object from which we drink coffee a “cup.”

    Does this explanation help?

  • Speaking of the Gospel… here’s something. I’m always looking for new ways to effectively communicate the Gospel.
    Matt – maybe this would be worth creating as a separate post? I hope it doesn’t come across as to “advertisement-ish” but I just want to get the word out! Here are my thoughts…

    I just posted the content below on my little blog: http://yadaknow.blogspot.com/

    ~~

    My friend just showed me this awesome new set of videos called “H2O: A Journey of Faith.” It’s a humble yet dramatic/cinematic look at the quest we’re on – looking to quench our inner thirst. It shows how the real-deal Jesus came to meet that need.

    I’m going to call “H2O” a superior-hybrid mix of the successful
    “Alpha” basics series http://www.alphausa.org/
    and of “Nooma” – the cinematic teaching vids (click for my fave: 002 Flame http://www.youtube.com/user/scriptures4life#p/c/1647AA62C88F619F/8/m4SxsRZUibE ).

    This set has a lot to offer and is cuttingly relevant for people of today’s generation, many of whom have never heard about the REAL Jesus. In one of my favourite episodes, #10, there are a bunch of crazy churches we are told to avoid: a girl is having a nightmare that she walks into a church, the preacher is yelling at a guy (fire & brimstone style), and the guy in the pew bursts into flames! It was totally hilarious!!! They just stand religious paradigms on their head and cut to the core of the thing.

    You can find out more about the video’s producers & can buy the DVDs online at
    http://www.cityonahillproductions.com/our_work.php

    Also, on a semi-related note: in case you haven’t seen it, check out my Youtube-guru channel & playlists.
    http://www.youtube.com/user/scriptures4life#g/p
    In my Youtube playlists, don’t miss “A New Law” by rockofaegis, Cardboard Testimonies, Wedding Dress, Baby Got Book, the Delilah skit by Tim Hawkins, and “How to Worship” (I love it!).

    I’m always on the lookout for blockbusting music, videos, or books of this class. Please let me know if you find any!

    Cheers,
    -Danny
    Twitter @dvanderbyl
    http://sites.google.com/site/dvanderbyl/dan-s-nexus

  • GaryH

    Chris,
    I see how your comments helped me understand my first question, but not my second one. How does one point out that interpretation is part of all human experience? I suppose what’s lacking is an account of what constitutes experience.

    On a side note, you say, “God designed us to be interpretive critters. Think of Adam naming all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field.” Are you suggesting that interpreting and naming are the same thing? They don’t seem to be the same thing to me. Adam wasn’t interpreting the living creatures; he was naming them. An act of interpretation is part of or a kind of an act of understanding; whereas an act of naming can be an act of referring, or drawing one’s attention to something.

  • Christopher Benson

    Gary: You asked, “How does one point out that interpretation is part of all human experience?” Let’s return to the example of the cup. No one is born into the world and has a direct acquaintance with the cup qua cup. The child is taught by his parent that the object containing liquid is called a “cup” – not a “candle.” Naming the material thing “cup” does not get to the thing as it really is; it simply demarcates the thing from other things, so we’re not calling everything on the dinner table a cup.

    You also asked, “Are you suggesting that interpreting and naming are the same thing?” I regard naming as an interpretive act. When Adam names a bird of the air “peacock,” he has understood that this bird, featuring long tail feathers that have eyelike markings, is different from the bird that he named “mallard,” featuring a dark head and white collar. In this case, naming helps Adam to differentiate material phenomena.

  • GaryH

    I’m not persuaded by the cup example. The child is taught by his parent that that over there is called “cup.” To come to conclusions beyond this (e.g., conclusions about who does or does not have direct acquaintance with the cup) is to conclude something beyond what the phenomenon of the child’s learning present.

    On the question of naming and interpreting, you said that “naming helps Adam to differentiate material phenomena.” That seems right, but now the question is whether differentiating is a kind of interpretation. I’m happy to say that it is, but that isn’t how interpretation is generally understood.

  • Christopher Benson

    Gary, let me ask you a question: do you think there’s evidence that we have direct acquaintance with the cup qua cup? The very fact that a child must be taught that the object containing liquid is a “cup” and not a “candle” demonstrates we are thrown into a world where we are always already interpreting through the mediating lens of language.

    I’ve enjoyed our exchange but I’ve reached the limit of my ability to explain why “everything is interpretation.” At this point, I can only pass along a few reading recommendations that have influenced my view:

    • Kevin J. Vanhoozer, James K. A. Smith, and Bruce Ellis Benson (editors), Hermeneutics at the Crossroads

    • James K. A. Smith, The Fall of Interpretation: Philosophical Foundations for a Creational Hermeneutic
    • Merold Westphal, Whose Community? Which Interpretation? Philosophical Hermeneutics for the Church

    • Merold Westphal, “Post-Kantian Reflections on the Importance of Hermeneutics” in Disciplining Hermeneutics: Interpretation in Christian Perspective, edited by Roger Lundin.

  • GaryH

    Chris,
    Thanks for the recommended reading. Some of it is familiar, but some is not. I look forward to reading it.

    You ask me whether “there’s evidence that we have direct acquaintance with the cup qua cup.” I think there’s some. For instance, the fact that I (or a child) can interact with a cup in a number of satisfactory ways (e.g., drinking from it) indicates that I’m not being held up by (or even using) language about cups. My experience of drinking from a cup doesn’t depend on having the linguistic ability to refer to that cup (or even to my act of drinking); similarly, my experience of looking at a cup or knowing a cup (interacting with it in appropriate ways on appropriate bases) doesn’t depend on having the linguistic ability to refer to that cup.

    You state that “The very fact that a child must be taught that the object containing liquid is a ‘cup’ and not a ‘candle’ demonstrates we are thrown into a world where we are always already interpreting through the mediating lens of language.” I don’t think that fact demonstrates that conclusion.

    If you mean that we teach children the names of things, then that doesn’t show that we are always interpreting. Children know how to use cups before they are able to know that a cup is called “cup.” Learning the name “cup” enables a child to make reference to this or that cup, but it doesn’t substantially alter the child’s knowledge of cups. It merely gives the child an agreed upon way to refer to cups.

    I suppose what would be helpful in this discussion (and others like it) is an account of interpretation. What does it mean to interpret something?

  • Danny,

    Thanks for pointing out the H20 videos. I haven’t watched them yet, but they look interesting. And I think you’re right about comparing them to the Nooma videos (which I’ve never talked about much, but are also pretty fascinating).

    matt

  • Christopher,

    Here’s one thing I want to point out: You said above (comment #12): “Modest foundationalists tend to view language as a prisonhouse that separates us from the world. The goal is to escape this prisonhouse for an extralinguistic encounter with the world as it really is.”

    If anything, modest foundationalism rests on the notion (as Gary is, I think arguing) that we actually have knowledge of the world that precedes our linguistic formulations of that knowledge, whether through naming or interpretation. So it seems like if anyone is “trapped” in language, it’s the post-foundationalist. You say, “We can’t “move beyond our interpretive frameworks and see the event/text/object as it is,” no matter how hard we try.” Regardless of whether you think language is a part of the created order–and I think all the modest foundationalists would happily assent to that–your access to the created order is ineradicably mediated. But I just don’t see any mediation occurring between me and the experience of pain in my leg. If anything, my shouting in pain represents the shortcomings of language in the face of my experience of pain, not an essentially mediated experience.

    Best,

    Matt

  • rckhff

    Matt,

    In comment 5 you mentioned an article by Moreland. Do you have a link to that article?

    Thanks.

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  • Interesting to read your thoughts, Matt. Check out my own review if you’re interested: http://gavinortlund.wordpress.com/2010/02/22/thoughts-on-jim-belchers-deep-church/

    Hope you are doing well in St. Louis.

    • Great review, Gavin. I hadn’t seen that. I have many of the same reservations as you…but at the same time, I think his emphasis on tradition does make him kind of a third way. While a lot of “traditionalists” may actually adhere in principle to something like Belcher advocates, it’s not a point of emphasis for them–and therein lies the difference.

      At least that’s how I see it. I hope DC has been awesome for you guys.

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