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Document Details :
Title: De weg, de waarheid en het leven - The Way, the Truth and the Life
Subtitle: Religieuze traditie en waarheid in de postmoderne context - Religious Tradition and Truth in the Postmodern Context
Author(s): BOEVE, Lieven
Volume: 58 Issue: 2 Date: 1997
In our postmodern times, the question 'where is truth' and surely 'truth with regard to religion' (wherein truth and salvation are implicated with each other) appears to be answered especially with the reply 'in particular traditions'. The combination 'truth, particular tradition and salvation', however, still leaves a number of avenues open.
In the first part, we go over the ideas of Herman De Dijn, Richard Rorty, Peter Koslowski and Jürgen Habermas respectively with regard to truth and particularity. The first two desire to respect fully the particular and contingent character of traditions that accord meaning. The other two authors also take this starting point but nonetheless deem it necessary to ensure the truth content of traditions in that which rises above that particularity and contingency. Koslowski chooses the metaphysical anchoring of the truth - an anchoring which only becomes public with the philosophical re-reading of the Christian tradition. Habermas appeals to the criterion of intersubjectivity and immediately links this to a universal validity; the procedures make it precisely possible - surely in the ideal case of 'unimpaired intersubjectivity' - to relativize the particular as such. For Rorty, on the contrary, the intersubjective recognition of insights and attitudes does not neutralize its contingent particularity; he does not dub generally diveded insights and attitudes as universal, even if they would indeed fit into a world that is becoming all the more small within a cosmopolitan evolution - they cannot lay claim to anything more than being cosmopolitan. De Dijn, on his part, distinguishes the truth of the cognitive-scientific domain of knowledge, characterized by demonstrable universality, and the 'truth to live by' that cannot be explicitated and is always incarnated in concrete praxis. This 'truth to live by' is proper to the domain of meaning-giving, and is necessarily particular and contingent. A different demarcation line distinguishes Rorty and Habermas from De Dijn and Koslowski: in contrast to the modern Habermas and to Rorty who seems to take a leap forward, De Dijn and Koslowski choose to return, in a 'post'-modern way, to the wisdom content of the Christian tradition as a normative foundation for life and society. It seems that only De Dijn has somewhat done justice to the combination 'religious truth, particular tradition and salvation', but he has done so at such a high price, especially for the theologian.
This is the reason why we opt to approach the combination 'religious truth, particular tradition and salvation' from the standpoint of the question raised by our current situation of plurality with regard to the question of truth, more specifically from the standpoint of the confrontation with the truth of the other. The narrative (or the plurality of narratives) of the other does not so much as make me give up the truth claim of my own narrative, but point to the deficiency in my truth, a deficiency that cannot be supplemented considering the inevitably particular and contingent character of my narrative. It is owing to this that the truth is finally no longer a matter of authentic content, but rather of coming to relate to the deficiency so much so that it precisely opens up the order of truth.
Such a concept of truth offers perspectives to the theologian in order to qualify the truth content of the Christian tradition. The truth deficiency of the Christian tradition and the awareness of its particular and contingent character, are not - theologically speaking - counter indications of its truth, but rather constitutive of it insofar as the Christian truth concerns itself with (i.e., stands open for and bears witness to) that which ultimately withdraws itself from every truth expression, which, in theological discourse, is called God.
Any talk about truth in a condition marked with ineradicable plurality immediately requires, however, a talk about justice. Plurality necessarily brings along conflict. A Christian narrative that develops sensibility for the deficiency in one's own and in the others' truth narratives will criticize, out of this sensitivity, hegemonic narratives that fail to see their own deficiencies and thereby oppress other narratives. Postmodern talk about truth likewise enables the theologian to articulate in a contextually meaningful way the evangelical option for the poor, the outcast, and the 'sinner', and to point out and indict the injustice committed against those who do not fit into the ruling discourse.