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2 + 2 = “Propositional truth”?

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.

It’s really no surprise that Chuck and Gary agree. The University Family and the Family did try to woo each other back in the day.

Both are products of same ideological trajectory.

And when you’re outside their cult, both make no sense. At all.

12 thoughts on “2 + 2 = “Propositional truth”?

  1. OK. I get you. I agree 100%. And I love the way you write this stuff. 🙂

    My problem is not in agreeing with this, but in communicating it. When I’ve tried to explain the insufficiency of “propositional-only” truth, people look at me funny. They ask for examples, and I must not do a good job explaining because they still look at me funny.

    How do you explain to people in OUR denomination, Camille, given its propensity for propositional-only stances, that they’re missing something important? Because for them, even the non-propositional parts of Scripture are only there to teach propositions.

  2. Wow this was great. Thanks for sharing. The hardest thing that I’ve had to come to terms with since leaving BJU is that truth, and our understanding/interpretation of truth are not the same thing. And that is ultimately where I break completely off of Fundamentalism. To them it is not truth that they are going after. No to them it is their understanding that becomes their truth. Anyone who disagrees with that is disagreeing with their made up truth.

    In a sense I’d say I’m very comfortable with the idea that truth is relative in that truth must be understood and interpreted and therefore is subject subjectivity. If there is an ultimate and objective truth then as Paul said we behold it dimly as through a dirty mirror.

  3. Hey, Camille, great article! Funny looking at the ‘great white’ leaders in the newspaper clipping. They look so gullibly happy thinking thy’ve ‘got the truth’, lock, stock, and barrel. ALL THEY HAVE TO DO IS ‘RELOAD’ AND FIRE IT AT ANYONE WHO CHALLENGES THE GREAT WHITE LEADERS with a different opinion! I don’t understand the language, ‘propositional truth’ but I will try to, hopefully without going koo koo! I really want to better understand how fundies ‘think’ so I can better understand how to reach them. I love knowing in my heart, and with my renewed mind, that TRUTH is a wonderful person. And His name is Jesus. And HE doesn’t go around firing truth at people to shoot them down, belittle them, or try to intimidate them. JESUS’S TRUTH SETS US FREE! Experience is important, but it must not overule wisdom and common sense, nor the importance of being rooted in Divine Love and the Living Word of our precious Lord. We need the freedom to have and exress our own opinions, and we also need to recognize that opinion should not be allowed to challenge the Word, but for us to be willing to humble our intellects, and let the Word be, dwell and abide in us as a life giving transformation of His Presence. I have often wondered how much of fundyville’s private interpretations, are more ‘personal opinions’ than actual personal revelation of the Holy Spirit truth from the Word? This whole subject is such a challenge, but with Grace we can face it. Peace, Barbara Quinn. Sure hope I can get to sleep now!

  4. Hmmm…I’m still looking for the part in your article that refutes the idea of Scripture (i.e. The Scriptures of the Old and New Testament as contained in the Holy Bible) as objective truth presented in the form of propositional revelation. I see you mocking those who hold to that idea, but you say nothing to actually contradict or disprove it.

    1. Riiiiiight. ‘Cause it’s all about proving to you in these short paragraphs whether I’m in the club in my expression of Platonism.

      Move along, Mr. Anonymous. You shan’t find what you’re looking for here.

      1. Not at all. You don’t need to prove a thing to me or anyone else. But isn’t it a bit disingenuous to write an article that is a.) critical of objective truth presented as propositional revelation and b.) mocking of those who hold to it without giving a basis for the critique or the mockery?

        As to being anonymous, you can call me Al. Yes, it is my real name. Part of it, at least. 😉

  5. PS: My wife is a professional wife and mother, and we have a child that has gone on before us to be with the Lord. We have at least that much in common.

    PPS: I do not suggest that Scripture is only objective truth, propositionally stated. It is so very much more than that.

  6. You’re writing is very clique and Nuevo Christian, but the fact is that Paul often presents us with propositional truths. (I won’t patronize you by citing them.) Further, the fact that the words or logic that have been encapsulated in Platonism wasn’t in existence during the days of Moses carries no more weight than the fact that the concept of the round earth didn’t exist then either. Truth is always there even if not previously articulated. There are always foundational, objective, truths upon which real relationships are built. Just ask your spouse.

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