Added back with major corrections to sections 3 and 4.
Thanks for the valuable replies, @heymike3 and @MarkD
Penner pp 26and 27
In the section Secular Apologetics (pp. 26-36) Penner weaves into his discussion of Modern/Secular apologetics most of the information some of us have been hoping for about the premodern world view.
After looking over this section a few times, I noticed Penner’s very deliberate choice of words, when he describes the modern Condition of Secularity. Take a look:
It is possible…to imagine the world and ourselves in such a way that the existence of God, and a transcendent or “higher” realm that makes sense of our world, is optional.
[I]t (the modern public sphere) is imagined as a neutral, common space free and disengaged from either the political or religious sphere.
It (the modern public sphere) is envisioned as a kind of shared space…
They imagine themselves to be engaged in a “discourse of reason outside power, which nevertheless is normative for power.”
This emphasis on how we conceputalize what we’re doing acknowledges that our understanding of the very things in which we participate may not actually reflect the reality of what we are doing or are participating in.
This acknowledgement is un-modern. Modern thinkers seek intellectual certainty, established through a “discourse of reason.” Penner points out the uncertainty of the very concept of the project. This type of uncertainty leads me to ask, “What if we aren’t doing what we think we’re doing?” and “What
are we actually doing then?”
“THIS!” is the note I wrote next to footnote # 16 at the bottom of page 27.
16 …. [T]he crucial question asked by modern theorists of the public square is the question as to who is administering that neutrality, its norms, and its rules.
This question of who is administering seems fairly straight forward. We want to know that someone is keeping the “space” neutral and enforcing the norms and rules of neutrality.
Postmodern theorists ask differently.
What is neutrality?
Who defines neutrality?
What are the terms of neutrality?
On whose terms is neutrality established?
Whose purposes do the terms of neutrality serve?
Whom do the terms of neutrality benefit? Whom do they harm?
What are the power relationships between the persons involved?
Etc, etc, etc.
and finally, Does neutrality exist?
Actually, the last question will already have been established and will be delivered by the statement: Neutrality (in this context) is impossible and therefore does not exist.
Penner gives us a helpful mnemonic in OUNCE: Obective-Universal-Neutral Complex. This useful tool helps keep in mind the main components of the modern view of reason.
Postmodern theorists, however, demonstrate that each of these components is a fiction, many are bold enough to say “a fiction in every possible application.”
While modernism is seen as a Great Disembedding (pg. 28), postmodernism demonstrates that we are all “embedded” in a variety of somethings, and those somethings are very different. The blindness of modernism that Penner mentions is a blindness to our own embeddedness in culture, world views, results of experiences, exposure to oppression or exploitation, gender, race, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, non/faith traditions, and so on. Postmodernism acknowledges this and shows that, because we humans experience the world in vastly different ways, a single point that is objective and neutral simply does not exist universally. We are not all educated, middle-class, safe, technologically equipped, white, Western men, for example.
Four: Going Back & Secular Apologetics
In slide 343 I published a table with notes I lifted nearly straight from the book, in an attempt to organize Penner’s contrast of premodern and modern selves for MYself.
Earlier in the thread there was some discussion about Penner’s claim that we can’t go back to a premodern world view, and I think he even hints that we wouldn’t want to, if we could. I certainly wouldn’t want to. Being established at the bottom of the Western hierarcy of authority and position, by my gender and inability to produce no more than one child and that one a female, really holds no appeal for me. Along with other aspects of premodernism.
However, as a Christian, looking over this table, I recognize that I hold on to some remnants of that premodern world. Considering the differences between then and now helps me understand, in part, why there are things that are simply hard to integrate with a life in (an old) faith.
Additionally, seeing these differences closely contrasted helps me understand better why I feel like the apologetics I’m familiar with seem like a mismatch for what they attempt to convince people of. One could be using similar tools to develop a mathematical proof, or demonstrate the validity of an educational model, or show the superiority of one sort of alternative energy over another.
While we live in a world that does not bolster faith or see God/god-belief as part and parcel of our concept of the cosmo. However belief in God is still a matter of faith in God, and here specifically in Jesus. The tricky thing is that Jesus is not mathematics or any other similar thing that can be demonstrated through (maybe even exists because of) logic. And even once a belief in Jesus may be established, it’s not the same as faith. Assent to a set of propositions regarding the existence of God or Jesus’s resurrection is a secular kind of belief that we use daily with all sorts of statements of “fact.”
Believing that Jesus Christ, God’s Son, saves, is not quite so straight-forward to demonstrate with “provable” propositions. It could be a result of sacred apologetics, I suppose, but I”m not sure what that looks like. I’m anxious to see how Penner describes them.
Earlier in the chapter Penner hints that Christianity is actually altered by the use of “secular apologetics.”
On page 36, I think Penner gives us an idea of what he means.
What is essential to being a Christian is an objective event: the cognitive acceptance (belief) of specific propositions (doctrines).
While there are facts and doctrines involved in Christianity, cognitive acceptance of those facts and doctrines does not comprise the faith. A system that relies soley on belief in facts and doctrines cannot be Christianity.
Honestly, I strongly doubt that Craig believes that he is promoting by his apologetic model, something like a secular Christianity. However, it’s essential that we continually ask ourselves if the process we are involved in actually produces the desired results, and maybe even ask, why?