Fundamentalism: Both sides of the same correspondence theory epistemological coin

I would recommend this book to my intrepid interlocutor (see last post).  Perhaps you, Moreland, and the rest of the contributors to this book should sit down over a cup of coffee and hash out how you all hold to the same theory of “truth” and yet come to diametrically opposed conclusions.  Wait, how did that happen…?  Wow, that outcome would demonstrate the post-modern turn!
Fundamentalism is partly formed when we believe there is a one-to-one correspondence between a literal surface reading of a text (or the world—empiricism) and one’s ability to determine the absolute truth contained therein (it is a clear obvious meaning), whereby (and here comes the violence) we should all interpret and see the same thing (it is obvious this text means that or this piece of “evidence” means such an such—and has to!).
In the third essay, J.P. Moreland, professor of philosophy of religion at Biola University, discusses “Truth, Contemporary Philosophy, and the Postmodern Turn.”  Moreland contends that postmodernism is “an immoral and cowardly viewpoint” that those who love truth should endeavor to heal.  Over against those who would replace the classic correspondence theory of truth—that notion that truth corresponds to reality—with a neo-pragmatic or non-realist model.  Moreland identifies himself at the outset as “an unrepentant correspondence advocate who eschews the various anti-realist views of truth.”
So a toast to my atheist friend who has embarked, with those like Moreland, as a lover of “truth” to “heal” those “immoral cowards” out there who think it just a little more complicated (damn them!).
You are clearly in good company—the other side of the coin of the same fundamentalist sensibility and viewpoint.  Nice.
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14 Responses to Fundamentalism: Both sides of the same correspondence theory epistemological coin

  1. Burk Braun says:

    “This book explores what it should mean to say that Christians know the truth, doing so in ways that are searching, sure-footed, biblically convincing, and intellectually satisfying.”

    “In the end this book points to God’s Word of truth, the Scriptures, and God’s incarnate truth, his Son.”

    Really, this sounds much more up your alley than mine.

    I have a sneaking suspicion that you believe you know the truth, as much as these authors. I do not think we dispute that truth can be had (more or less) about many topics. The question is whether we know and use reliable techniques to do so, tailored to the specific topic at issue. And whether one is actually intellectually sure-footed in doing so.

    Answer: I would argue that Mr. Moorland et al, for all their confidence, are wrong. They think they posess a truth (as do you) which has resulted from neither the method nor the intellectual integrity one needs to actually answer the questions they pose.

    Now, to your mysticism about the totalitarianism of the science fact and its uniform interpretation. This seems like pathetic whining to me. Science comes up with our best models of non-psychological reality by way of structured empirical encounter. It is never perfect or perfectly correct. But it is far, far better than armchair navelgazing and mystical intuition, not to mention scriptural tale-telling. If you have better models about things, -concepts-, then you can promote your interpretation and maybe it will win as the next step in better interpretation of reality.

    But if your model is that god impregnated a virgin to have a son, and has some other magical bit called the holy ghost, then, Halloween fun aside, you are not posing a winning argument, on any ground whatsoever. Be as post-modern as you like- it can not be true.

    This is why I focus on psychological projection so much, since if we wish to get beyond “a literal surface reading of a text” which in this case is so nonsensical, we arrive at the text's true import, which is of a psychologically expressive and activating variety, and has nothing to do with portraying either historical or scientific facts.


  2. Darrell says:

    “Really, this sounds much more up your alley than mine.”

    I don't hold to a correspondence theory of truth–you do.

    Why not address this key irony? By the way, your “answer” would be the same asserted by Mr. Moreland regarding your atheism.

    Back to a post-modern answer then. Your response proves the very point!


  3. Burk Braun says:

    It escapes me what the problem is with the correspondence theory of truth. Here you are promoting the “truth” of specific historical events that happened to physical people at unique times in history, yet you do not think that we hold in our heads concepts that seek to align with those supposed realities? What planet are you on?

    Looking at the Wiki site, it seems like the contrary to correspondence theory is pretty much an idealism that holds that reality is itself not existing.. just ideas in our heads. I wouldn't agree with that.

    Perhaps you could explain how postmodernism differs from these views. Does it accept reality, but hold that it is so hopelessly complex that we can make up any stories we want and not worry too much about “proving” one or the other?


  4. Darrell says:


    You are dodging the question and point here. Do you mean to tell me you don’t see any irony or problem with the fact you adhere to the very same theory as does J.P. Moreland and yet come to completely different conclusions regarding reality?


    And I've gone over postmoderism with you ad nauseum.


  5. Burk Braun says:

    I am sure I agree with you on many philosophical points as well- that hardly means we agree on everything. I can sympathize with Moorland's horror of postmodernism- it is a pretty absurd doctrine in its farther precincts. He thinks he can stake his truth on scripture, while I think we can stake other truths on a process of empirical engagement.. is that odd to you? Just because he is wrong in his facts doesn't mean he is necessarily wrong in his epistemology.


  6. Darrell says:

    We are not talking about points of philosophy. We are talking about a comprehensive epistemology that tells us what is true or real.

    He thinks you wrong in your “facts.” Don’t you see the irony here? The point you keep harping on is that I and others (Kotsko) fail because we don’t understand or apply the correspondence theory of truth. Well how is that theory supposed to help us when you and Moreland hold it and can’t agree?

    And why do you disagree? Because once we have all agreed that certain facts correspond to “the way things are” we still have to interpret what “the way things are” means. Further, our very arrival and articulation of “the way things are” is always/already an interpretive process.

    That is the postmodern critique and you and Moreland prove its very point.

    The only person who is sure he knows the TRUTH here is you (no sneaking suspicion needed). And Moreland…wow…


  7. Burk Braun says:

    Thanks for that explanation. So it seems that while to me, disagreement over things like every religious narrative ever devised indicates they are all wrong on their face (while being congruently true to some psychological needs and valences), disagreement to you signifies the impossibility of truth ever happening at all.

    So how does one exist in the world, under this philosophy? You are offered two cars identical in every respect, but one costs twice as much. Do you find yourself at a loss which one to purchase? Does this disagreement over price/value indicate some postmodern turn with regard to auto values?

    If one is making a definitive statement, like god exists and other historical/mythical sequalae, then one is intrinsically making statements of truth that may be correct or incorrect. That is intrinsic to the language and the statement. “Reading that text” in some deeper way may be warrented, but the prima facie claims deserve the presumptive respect of being taken seriously, meaning that we regard them true or false in a correspondence sense.

    Interpretation has its place, but if you claim that Mary was knocked up by god, you are making a correspondence claim. That is, unless you are reading this metaphorically now and not historically.


  8. Darrell says:

    So if people believe a religious narrative and disagree at points, it means to you that all such narratives must be false? That is hardly reasonable or logical. Disagreement to me means exactly that and doesn’t for one second mean that finding the truth is impossible. It simply means that people disagree. I know you find that troubling, but it’s really okay—and who knows, may lead to some humility.

    And I love the switch you try where we are talking about metaphysical topics such as God’s existence and now you want to equate how correspondence works when purchasing a car. Gee, isn’t it the same thing? Ummm, no, not really. Nice try though.

    You still haven’t explained how you and Moreland start with the same comprehensive epistemology and come to completely different conclusions. Again, how does the correspondence theory help us in this type of conversation? Remember, we are not asking- is the stove hot, but rather does God exist.

    I love your statement, “interpretation has its place…” to then follow it with “but if you don’t interpret things the way I do, you are clearly wrong…”

    Just like all fundamentalism…


  9. Burk Braun says:

    Well, if you are interested in a “comprehensive epistemology”, then you can not very well try to separate the metaphysical from the physical. Is one just guessing, and the other not? Do we know about one by magical mystical means, and about the other by hard-headed reason and engagement with reality?

    The path you are taking here is painfully obvious, giving yourself special outs and epistemologies by which to obfuscate what you can not defend and to cast aspersions on that which you can not successfully attack.

    I don't know anything really about Mr. Mooreland, but I will assume that he takes the bible as factual in the most fundamental sense, from which follows all the rest of his system. While we both believe in the possibility of truth in the sense of … something happened that only happened in one way…, he would clearly discount the evidence of scientific methods & concepts and their generalisation/extrapolation backwards, in favor of his favored authority whose correctness is taken on faith.

    It is a classic instance where one can use philosophically proper methods to get to divergent conclusions from wildly different premises. It only remains for us to investigate the relative quality of the premises in order to evaluate the whole logical operation. But we have gone through that process, putatively, and you appear to pooh-pooh such exercises in logic as being beneath your vaunted postmodernist understanding of our inability to understand anything in a stable way.


  10. Darrell says:

    Well, if you are interested in a “comprehensive epistemology”,”

    But that is what the correspondence theory is…YOU have a comprehensive epistemology—you are the one interested.

    “The path you are taking here is painfully obvious, giving yourself special outs and epistemologies by which to obfuscate what you can not defend and to cast aspersions on that which you can not successfully attack.”

    Translation: Burk is upset that no one will agree with his view that God has to be like a rock or a force we can weigh, measure, and detect (something no one is asserting) allowing him to trot out the “evidence” red herring.

    “I don't know anything really about Mr. Mooreland …, he would clearly discount the evidence of scientific methods & concepts…”

    Well perhaps you should read some of his books, since you both share this affinity for the same epistemological theories. And since he has a B.S. from the University of Missouri in chemistry I doubt he discounts any such methods or concepts. He just (shocker) interprets such differently.
    “It is a classic instance where one can use philosophically proper methods to get to divergent conclusions from wildly different premises.”

    Thank you—that is the postmodern assertion. Welcome.

    “…It only remains for us to investigate the relative quality of the premises…”

    Which we are always doing…from some premise! Otherwise, you are back in the same boat with Moreland as he would make the very same qualifier you just did. Result: Completely different conclusions. Why? Because at no point are premises not involved.


  11. Burk Braun says:

    Thus I guess what I am hearing from you is that one is not ultimately responsible for the quality or truth of one's beliefs because at some level, one's premises can not be examined. Ergo, one can believe anything one likes, and call it veridical!

    I disagree, and see every premise as subject to investigation. Eventually we get back to premises upon we can agree, based on our physical existence and evironment. But that is only if one is serious about building one's models of the world on solid foundations rather than seeking to support a pre-given doctrine.


  12. Darrell says:

    You hear wrong. We are all very responsible for what we believe to be true.

    Our premises can be examined and in fact, that is part of what postmodernism is all about, deconstructing our hidden premises and unmasking what is really going on. This is no doubt why fundamentalists hate it. It reveals they are standing in mid-air and not upon some foundational TRUTH.

    “But that is only if one is serious about building one's models of the world on solid foundations rather than seeking to support a pre-given doctrine.”

    Here is a classic example of that very point and Moreland would say the very same thing. Just as long as it’s my preferred “foundation” and not the other guy’s.

    Wait, I think your “pre-given doctrinal” slip is showing–you know, that one you claim not to have.



  13. Burk Braun says:

    Right.. so the question began as: which view of reality can be better explained as psychological projection, meaning that it is less in accord with how reality actually operates, while more in accord with our psychological wishes and predilections.

    If one side confines itself to known properties of reality and declines to go beyond them to proposed hidded entities and motivations, etc. While the other side does propose just those things, as it has been proposing from prehistorical times with tic-like obsessiveness despite their never having actually expained anything (oh, sorry- it explains “everything”). Then the relation between these models is rather clear.


  14. Darrell says:

    Yes, I'm sure for you and those like Moreland it is all very clear.


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