In my previous life, the aphorism was often repeated: “We must teach propositional truths.” This was usually the irrefutable “ender” to a long discussion about new teaching technology like PowerPoint in the classroom.
The discussion I remember most vividly was about the “Christian” validity of my employer’s distance learning venture, LINC (now defunct). Its critic (now a powerful administrator, but who, at the time, was my peer and colleague) said, trying to don a McLuhanesque-air, “I don’t approve of LINC because it cannot teach propositional truths. It has too many stories and dramatizations.”
Huh? My immediate response to him at the time was, “What? What are you talking about? Have you read the Bible?”
At this point in our postmodern condition, if someone is bandying about the term “propositional truths,” you can pretty much guarantee that they are summoning the spirit of Francis Schaeffer — that conservative Evangelical persona who made apologetics “cool” in the 1980s. There was something oddly hip about him for Evangelicalism as it tried to shake the fundy dust off its feet.
So it’s extra funny when a fundy tries to sound like him. Funny like when you see goatees on the FMA platform.
Colson still likes to do it. To the point that he makes no sense whatsoever:
The theologian—we’ll call him Jim—argued that emerging church leaders are trying to translate the gospel for a postmodern generation. That’s a commendable goal, I agreed. Though in their effort to reach postmoderns—who question the existence and knowability of truth—I expressed fear that they are coming dangerously close to teaching that objective truth does not exist.
A lengthy e-mail exchange with Jim followed. In defense of emerging church leaders, he insisted that truth is paradoxical, simultaneously personal and propositional. It is objectively true that Jesus Christ is Lord no matter what anyone thinks, Jim wrote. But, he added, “Propositional truth is not the highest truth. Indeed, the highest truth is personal.”
Like all statements that can lead us into error, those have the ring of truth. Of course, truth becomes relational when we come to Jesus, Truth himself. But our doing that isn’t what makes it true. He is the truth whether or not we ever experience him. Scripture is never less than revealed propositional truth.
It’s that last sentence that is especially nonsensical: “Scripture is never less than revealed propositional truth.” What is he talking about? How did he now equate so-called “propositional Truth” as “Scripture”? What “Scripture” is he reading?
Obviously it’s objectivity he’s worried about as if his worrying about it makes it more detached, more defended, more objective. Calvin’s progeny worries that we’re going to get too man-centered and so they Platonize that worry into saying that we need to focus on the objective. LOVE the Objective. BEEEEE the Objective.
No, irony is not dead.
The notion of objectivity qua objectivity isn’t in Scripture. It didn’t exist as an idea until after Moses, after the Judges, after King David, and after Nebuchadnezzar. And the only Platonic moment we ever get in Holy Writ is Paul’s use as a literary device. Maybe. Maybe he was quoting some other Wisdom literature.
Both are products of same ideological trajectory.
And when you’re outside their cult, both make no sense. At all.