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Four Principles of Rational Fideism

From Epistemics of Divine Reality

Principles of Rational Fideism

Four principles of rational fideism will be discussed here. The principles follow from the subjective-objective hypothesis of rational fideism and the discussion of the Indian criterion. The principles are as follows:

Consistency is not the same as conceivability. The rationality of Revelation requires the consistency of its content. However, the inability to conceptualize the Divine as reported by Revelation cannot be qualification for its rejection as being inconsistent. Conceptions are basically empirical. Therefore, an attempt to conceptualize the Divine is tantamount to doing empirical epistemics and not rational fideistic epistemics. To cite as an example, it is evident that the doctrine of Trinity must not be approached empirically. For that will only lead to frustration. Consistency is not the same as correspondence; for in that case, the positivist law of verification would determine theological justifiability. But this law has already been shown to be inapplicable to theological epistemics owing to its failure to be applicable to itself in the first instance. The law transcends itself and proves the non-empiricality of itself thus violating its own proposition. Experience doesn’t provide a sure basis for divine knowledge and possess a high degree of ambiguity and probability. In addition, truths that transcend the limits of ‘present’ experience cannot be sourced from experience. For instance, one can know nothing about the truth of the origin of the universe, if Revelation reveals of it, since no one has witnessed any origin of the universe in order to know what it is like with which the revelatory content must be in correspondence. Consistency, however, means that the revelatory content must not conflict with itself on any given point. However, this doesn’t mean that divine reality can’t find any conceptual analogy (though misty) in experience.

Faith must anchor in the ultimate. Existential fulfillment must be anchored in the knowledge of divine reality. However, divine reality cannot attract faith unless it manifests itself as concerned with human reality. Unless God is concerned with humans, all human striving is pointless. Further, unless God reveals Himself to man, faith as nothing substantial to base itself on. Rational faith cannot build castles in the air. It needs a solid ground on which it can stand. Therefore, Revelation must give some ultimate basis in which faith can lay its anchor. Consequently, any Revelation that assumes ultimate reality to be a transcendent negative (as in non-dualism) or an immanent anything (as in pantheism or polytheism) offers no ground for rational faith. A transcendent negative equals nothing and an immanent anything is not only dispersive ground but also an attempt to pull oneself up by one’s bootstraps, for human reality is itself co-immanent with everything else. Therefore, Revelation must provide a content to the transcendent ideal. As seen earlier, two necessary anchoring attributes of the transcendent must be personality and concern without which a meaningful I-Thou relationship is impossible. To say that the transcendent cannot be known is to obstruct the epistemics of divine reality. Further, in that sense, Revelation itself is no revelation at all: it reveals nothing but that nothing can be known. Therefore, it is argued Revelation must provide a positive, yet transcendental anchoring ground for faith.

Supernatural phenomena do not serve as data for rational fideism. Faith may wish to be strengthened by phenomenal religious experience of signs, wonders, visions, and miracles. However, supernatural phenomena in, of, and by themselves have no revelatory content to serve as unambiguous data for rational fideism. Such phenomena can serve as data for empirical epistemics but not for rational fideism; and the results of empirical epistemics have been discussed at length to conclude that it leads us nowhere beyond the horizons of our experience alone. Such empirical epistemics can ultimately lead only to some form of naturalism, even if qualified by the ideal of divinity. Further, there is no reason to doubt that the supernatural phenomena might be designed in such a way as to mislead humans. This possibility is heightened by the biblical proposition that the spirit-world is divided into two antagonistic kingdoms with a political system and strategies, of which one kingdom is all set for deceiving humanity to believe its lie.  In such a case, it is almost or absolutely impossible for humans to really know whether he is being deceived or not. Thus, no supernatural phenomena, even religious experience such as visions of ‘God’, can be the grounds for the rational fideistic epistemics of divine reality. This has already been demonstrated earlier. It needs only to be added here that only when supernatural phenomena is given an interpretive revelatory content can it assume the status of ‘proof’, though in a relative sense; however, it can never assume the status of data for theologizing in the rational fideistic epistemics.

Rational fideism is not fusion epistemics. On the other hand, it is harmony epistemics. The only fusion possible is at the dispensing of the other. Harmony is the gaining of value not from within the system of contingent being but from without. Fusion, it has been seen, either leads to the attribution of the transcendental attributes to the empirical world or the contentment with the empirical attributes as constituting reality. Thus, reason, as in non-dualism, looks at all empirical reality as illusion, while experience sees the pluralistic and contingent nature of reality as self-evident and regards the concept of rational or metaphysical reality nonsensical, useless, and in Hume’s words, consignable to the flames. Reason and experience cannot fuse together absolutely to form some new epistemics. However, they can be harmonized in their distinctions as distinct tones are harmonized in music. The question of rational fideism is whether any revelation can provide such harmonizing content to resolve the paradoxical disharmony between reason and experience in the existential person. This also defines the inquiry of rational fideism.

About Domenic Marbaniang

is Christian Minister at House of Prayer, Provost/Professor at Central India Theological Seminary, and Author of Explorations of Faith, Epistemics of Divine Reality, and Secularism in India.

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    Posted by Can God Foresee the Future? Epistemic Concerns in Theology « Earthpages.org | October 12, 2011, 3:27 am

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