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Document Details :

Title: Scheppingsleer vs. animisme - Creation Belief vs. Animism
Subtitle: Vergeving vragen aan bomen: over geloofstaal - Asking Trees for Forgiveness: on the Language of Faith
Author(s): KROESBERGEN, Hermen
Journal: Bijdragen
Volume: 66    Issue: 4   Date: 2005   
Pages: 379-401
DOI: 10.2143/BIJ.66.4.2004376

Abstract :
Nowadays faith is often seen in two contradictory ways: on the one hand faith is private feeling, on the other hand a faith is a given set of values and pictures.
Theologians reflect on what religious believers say about their faith. Given the current ideas about faith theologians try to avoid on the one hand representing language of faith as arbitrary, and on the other hand making it not genuine. Two types of solutions to this task are prominent, but mistaken.
First of all exists the critical realist approach: language of faith is seen as not arbitrary, because everybody is supposed to have some ‘language of faith’, and it is genuine because everybody has rightfully its own kind of language of faith. The failure of this approach is that it makes language of faith both arbitrary and not genuine. The contents of any language of faith becomes irrelevant, since everybody rightfully adopts whatever he likes. And it is not genuine, since everybody has ‘language of faith’ no matter in what way one is involved in it.
The second approach is the post-liberal or fideist approach: language of faith is not arbitrary because every tradition has got its given rules, and it is genuine because everybody is free to chose the tradition that suits him. This approach however fails its task as well: contrary to its intentions it makes language of faith both arbitrary and not genuine. Language of faith is arbitrary because the ‘choice’ for a tradition cannot be an informed choice, since at that moment no tradition is present yet to inform the choice. Language of faith is neither genuine, because once you have chosen you simply have to follow the given rules.
The attraction of both approaches is that it provides an anchorpoint for faith to distinguish it from pre-Enlightenment’s superstition. Both approaches create a safe space for faith with regard to science, historical changes and religious pluralism.
What both approaches miss, is contextuality; there is no room left for discussion and finding out the truth in concrete life. Both approaches attempt to provide general answers. Their answers are meant to be once and for all safeguards for the religious sphere. Both approaches attempt to describe language of faith objectively from an outsiders’ perspective. They regard language of faith as a description of a reality which exists externally to that language of faith itself, of which the theologian has an overview. This descriptive interpretation of language of faith is the reason why both approaches fail. Langauge of faith is a more basic use of language than descriptive language.
Language of faith is only language of faith within a concrete life. It is a kind of existential language, like autobiographical language. Identifications (e.g. with the national soccer-team) play an important role in existential language. Discovery and descision are not as easily to be separated as in descriptive language, one is both responsible for what one says and one only describes what is given (compare ‘I am simply lazy’). One expresses eternal truths, that nonetheless can change in time.
The anchorpoint that the critical realist and post-liberal approache are looking for logically can never be described generally, as they attempt to do. Since whatever one would have to provide a surer basis than what is the very basis of existence, that is expressed existential language. Language itself is not a description of something else; people describe in language. No (naturally linguistic!) description of language in general from an outsiders’ point of view makes sense. In their zeal to safeguard faith from accusations of being superstitious the critical realist and the post-liberal misrepresent the existential character of language of faith, thereby creating their own kind of superstition (that is: something that looks like faith but lacks the reality of concrete life). In response to both these attractive but flawed theological approaches an important task for theology is to fight the craving for generality.