by Greg Spearritt
I was once criticised by a Christian friend for studying theology at the Religious Studies Department (as it then was) of the University of Queensland. His gripe was that their courses began with secular assumptions. Perhaps he thought I’d get closer to the truth of things if I attended one of the many Bible Colleges around Queensland where biblical inerrancy was taken for granted.
Peter Slezak of the Uni of NSW takes up this theme, arguing the dangers of assuming what we seek to prove if we are genuinely looking for truth – which, surely, is the goal of academic study.
There are a number of ways by which knowledge is generated: one uses the methods of science, another is based on revelatory experiences of individuals. There are others of course but these are the two we are addressing here.
The first is open to verification by others; the second is not.
Is there any need to talk about this anymore? They are obviously different, incompatible and incommensurable.
One can't argue against the universality of knowledge generated by the methods of science (though this knowledge can be superceded by future findings). But there is no universality attributable to something that is unique to an individual, as is revelation. The fact that an institution (the Church)stands behind such knowledge doesn't alter the fact that its source is revelation and not of the same order as scientific knowledge.
That is not to say that such knowledge has no merit, rather that comparing it with scientific knowledge is like comparing apples and (dead) oranges.
Belief without evidence - as simple as that. (Objective evidence anyway. The religious will always claim that their subjective experience provides evidence.)
Posted by Scott McKenzie