Faith in the future

August 6, 2016 (Kampala):

I finished reading Thomas Kuhn’s famous book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions…parts of which I had read ten years ago in Dallas. This go-around, I mostly read it in terms of the ‘revolution’ I see myself as being a part of. For a few hundred years, non-Catholic Christianity has been doing ‘normal religion’ under the biblical ‘paradigm’. Yet under this paradigm have arisen ‘anomalies’ that cannot be accounted for under the paradigm. These include issues like homosexuality and gender fluidity, feminism and women in authority over men, environmentalism and ecological crisis, the rights of animals and the natural world, etc. They also include such intractable theological problems like free-will/predestination, the nature of atonement, evolution/creation, the definition of the ‘gospel’, the (non)existence of hell, (un)justified war and capital punishment, the ‘problem’ of evil, etc.

All these anomalies have led to mini-crises over the years, but, in my view, are leading, or have led already, to a major crisis for the paradigm of Biblical Christianity. That is, a Christian worldview with strictly biblical definitions and proportions, with its epistemic foundation of an infallible book, can not provide solutions to the problems arising within its own paradigm.

Christians working in the biblical paradigm have articulated and expanded the paradigm successfully for centuries, but this effort has not been enough as evidenced by the mass defection from churches throughout the West and the increasing irrelevance the paradigm has in the age we are living in.

A new paradigm is needed.

I want to propose that the revolution or ‘paradigm shift’ from a biblical Christianity to a cosmic Christianity can be facilitated by relocating the ‘Word of God’ from a mere book back into the World at Large. I intuit that this radical shift in perspective could release a tide of creativity, spiritual power, and proliferating life-forms (cultural, intellectual, social, etc.) unlike the world has ever seen. It would unshackle the Christian mind from its subservience to an outdated and maladapted principle of knowledge.

What the Christian and wider community needs is a new heuristic (tool of observation) and a new hermeneutic (key of interpretation) – a new paradigm and methodology of how to learn the will and mind of God-in-the-flesh and use it to meet our greatest challenges and rise above them.

Read, then, the following quotes from Kuhn in terms of a religious revolution:

“By themselves [problems] cannot and will not falsify that philosophical theory [in which they arise], for its defenders will do what we have already seen scientists doing when confronted by anomaly. They will devise numerous articulations and ad hoc modifications of their theory in order to eliminate an apparent conflict.”

“The transition from a paradigm in crisis to a new one from which a new tradition of normal science [or religion] can emerge is far from a cumulative process, one achieved by an articulation or extension of the old paradigm. Rather it is a reconstruction of the field from new fundamentals, a reconstruction that changes some of the field’s most elementary theoretical generalizations as well as many of its paradigm methods and applications.”

“Almost always the men [and women] who achieve these fundamental inventions of a new paradigm have been either very young or very new to the field…being little committed by prior practice to the traditional rules…likely to see that those rules no longer define a playable game and to conceive another set that can replace them.”

“Scientific revolutions are inaugurated by a growing sense, again often restricted to a narrow subdivision of the scientific community, that an existing paradigm has ceased to function adequately in the exploration of an aspect of nature to which that paradigm itself had previously led the way. In both political and scientific development the sense of malfunction that can lead to crisis is prerequisite to revolution.”

“Paradigms are not corrigible by normal science at all. Instead…normal science ultimately leads only to the recognition of anomalies and to crises. And these are terminated, not by deliberation and interpretation, but by a relatively sudden and unstructured event like the gestalt switch.”

“Any new interpretation of nature, whether a discovery or a theory, emerges first in the mind of one or a few individuals. Is it they who first learn to see science and the world differently…invariably their attention has been intensely concentrated upon crisis-provoking problems….”

“Probably the single most prevalent claim advanced by the proponents of a new paradigm is that they can solve the problems that have led the old one to a crisis.”

“Since new paradigms are born from old ones, they ordinarily incorporate much of the vocabulary and apparatus, both conceptual and manipulative, that the traditional paradigm had previously employed. But they seldom employ these borrowed elements in quite the traditional way. Within the new paradigm, old terms, concepts, and experiments fall into new relationships one with the other The inevitable result is what we must all call…a [mutual] misunderstanding.”

“Before they can hope to communicate fully, one group or the other must experience the conversion that we have been calling a paradigm shift. Just because it is a transition between incommensurables, the transition between competing paradigms cannot be made a step at at time, forced by logic and neutral experience. Like the gestalt switch, it must occur all at once…or not at all.”

“Particularly persuasive arguments can be developed if the new paradigm permits the prediction of phenomena that had been entirely unsuspected while the old one prevailed.”

“These are the arguments, rarely made entirely explicit, that appeal to the individual’s sense of the appropriate or the aesthetic – the new theory is said to be ‘neater’, ‘more suitable’, or ‘simpler’ than the old [and more beautiful!].”

“A decision between alternate ways of practicing science [and religion] is called for, and in the circumstances that decision must be based less on past achievement than on future promise. The man who embraces a new paradigm at an early stage must often do so in defiance of the evidence provided by problem-solving. He must, that is, have faith that the new paradigm will succeed with the many large problems that confront it, knowing only that the older paradigm failed with a few…

“A decision of that kind can only be made in faith.”



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