More on Consequences…

Here is another piece noting the link between a narrative and how it actually makes an empirical difference in the lives of people.  Even though the essay is about the recent passing of legislation in Australia regarding the granting or denial of asylum, it certainly touches the issues noted in my recent post.  Again, this doesn’t “prove” empirically that God exists or that the narrative leading to the results is “True.”  There is no attempt here to create an algebraic syllogism.  However, can these types of empirical results and their link to the narrative be seen as signs, clues, nods, or leanings toward the truth explicated and woven through that very narrative?  While not the only form of evaluation, again, it is one way of reflecting upon differing narratives and how we might determine their truth.
One can assert that a differing narrative should or could provide the same consequences.  That is great in theory, but the question will always be, “But has it?”  Can we look at history, or the present day, and draw a direct link between the ideas contained within the narrative and their intended consequences?  If we can’t, then one’s talk of what any supposed narrative should or could do is just that, talk.
Here we see the difference between a transcendent view of humanity as opposed to the immanent, secular, and purely material view of humanity.  The argument here is not for any one transcendent view (Christianity, Judaism, Islam), but simply for the religious or transcendent view and what it has meant in creating a “hospitable” world, a world that “ought” to be over and against the world that “is.”
Does this mean that all three religious are “True”?  No.  It means that a certain way of viewing the world has significant and life changing consequences.  Should it dispose us toward one religion over the other?  No, not on this basis alone.  Further, the writer is trying to make a different case, one noting the limitations of secular states, and not as something in favor of a specific transcendental narrative.  But it should cause any secular person to reflect upon why it is that these views tend to create a more hospitable world and why opposing narratives have no historical record of doing the same.  And by opposing narratives I mean any narrative of a purely materialistic nature—one that holds the physical/material is all there is and thus tied to an epistemology of empiricism.  From the essay:   
“The religious foundations of hospitality”
“…There are two key theological arguments that often underpin the work of organisations offering hospitality to asylum seekers. The first is God’s love for the whole of humanity. As Timothy Keller has recently argued, it is the transformative power of God’s grace that should inspire Christians to pursue justice on behalf of the poor, oppressed and vulnerable. The second is the sacredness of the human being – the belief that every human is marked with the image of God, establishing a fundamental dignity that cannot be removed or undermined.
Elie Wiesel emphasises the same belief within the Jewish tradition: “Any human being is a sanctuary. Every human being is the dwelling of God – man or woman or child, Christian or Jewish or Buddhist. Any person, by virtue of being a son or daughter of humanity, is a living sanctuary whom nobody has the right to invade.” Muddathir ‘Abd al-Rahim likewise highlights a long tradition of hospitality towards asylum seekers and refugees in Islam coming directly out of the belief that all human beings have been transformed by God’s love and grace and thus possess dignity that makes them worthy of compassion and respect. 

These views provide grounding for the universality of human rights that goes beyond the immanent frame of nation-states and is embedded in more transcendental, eternal perspectives. But they also offer additional reasons why religious believers should agree to accord one another dignity and equality – because of their belief in the eternal consequences of such actions, that the lives we live now matter for the future, in both the immanent and the transcendent realms.”
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8 Responses to More on Consequences…

  1. Burk Braun says:


    ” There is no attempt here to create an algebraic syllogism. However, can these types of empirical results and their link to the narrative be seen as signs, clues, nods, or leanings toward the truth explicated and woven through that very narrative? “

    There is very much an attempt to algebraically equate narrative with truth, goodness and empirical results.

    Anyhow, no one disputes the psychological power of narratives. If a car dealer sells me a lemon based on a wonderful narrative about how it was driven to church once a week by the original owner, then a narrative has made an empirical difference in someone's life.

    Obviously, narratives can be true or false. Though I think that some would make the case, in a postmodernist tradition, and every narrative is false. Indeed, the most accurate narrative still has its problems, and the best science is always in a process of being improved and revised.

    Still, one can, from that truthiness perspective, get better or worse narratives. And on an orthogonal dimenstion, narratives can be better or worse in their dramatic impact, idealism, and ability to move us to moral action. All those are independent dimensions. The Christian narrative has many virtues, but truth is not among them.


  2. Darrell says:

    Hi Burk,

    “If a car dealer sells me a lemon based on a wonderful narrative about how it was driven to church once a week by the original owner, then a narrative has made an empirical difference in someone's life.”

    Actually you make my point. If the car is indeed a lemon, no matter how “wonderful” the narrative, the new owner is eventually going to realize he bought a lemon as the car will of course break down. He will then not believe anything that salesman says from there on.

    In other words, over time people begin to figure out which narratives are “lemons” because they either help explain our world and their lives in meaningful ways or they “break” down and leave them stranded. I think we have every right to then question the story we were told and reflect upon whether or not it was true.

    As to the rest, see my earlier responses to Bernard.


  3. Darrell says:

    By the way Burk, if you had an algebra or philosophy professor who allowed you to say that parts of your equations were clues, signs, nods, or leanings, then you certainly went to a much easier school than I.


  4. JP says:

    Hi Darrell,

    […] the limitations of secular states.

    Are you seriously trying to make a case for theocracies against secular states? It's all very well to criticize but would you rather live in a Muslim theocracy than in western Europe? Are you suggesting the US would be a better place under a state religion?

    You're not explicitly saying this but I'm not clear about your thinking here. A clarification would be useful.


  5. Darrell says:

    Hi JP,

    I am making my point as it relates to my earlier post. The author of this essay is making her point about asylum. But do you really think that such is what she is advocating? I don’t see that at all.

    I think she is advocating exactly what she is advocating. What do you think her point is?


  6. Darrell says:

    Also…how in the world do you equate someone advocating for the importance of transcendent narratives in these areas to advocating for a theocracy?

    And are you suggesting that secular states have no limitations?


  7. JP says:

    Hi Darrell,

    The thing is, you have repeatedly criticized secular worldviews, arguing passionately that they are lacking something fundamentally important that is provided by the christian narrative. What then of secular states, largely an embodiment of secular values?

    The article seems to suggest (and you apparently agree) that being a secular state has something to do with the passing of the law discussed in the link (about which I have no opinion, knowing next to nothing of the Australian situation). What would you have then? How do you see the relationship between religion and the state?

    This is not directly what your post is about, although there is a connection, but this is a subject of great practical importance. I'm curious as to where you stand on these issues.


  8. Darrell says:

    Hi JP,

    This just seems to be coming out of left field here. You are making some leaps that certainly aren’t even hinted at in the essay or my post. You raise some interesting questions, but it would take other posts to address. Putting that aside, I can tell you that I would never support a theocracy of any sort.


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