He who learns must suffer, and, even in our sleep, pain that we cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God. - Aeschylus

Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Christological Analysis

The analytical framework I use as a foundational approach to understanding the world has changed several times.  I went from not having an explicit analytical approach to actively adopting one: scientific realism.  Admittedly, I wasn't very good at using it consistently at first, but I found it to be a very powerful and useful analytical approach, later understanding it much better than I had initially when I inherited it from my parents.

I moved from understanding the world as a scientific realist, operating through the lens of the methodological assumptions of science, to understanding the world through a sort of pseudo-progressive religious universalist lens as I tried to figure out whether to remain a Christian or become a Buddhist.

By that time, I had already rejected the sort of contemporary atheism that often accompanies scientific realism along with my rejection of scientific realism, though I did take that perspective seriously as a live option.

Eventually, I learned to utilize some analytical approaches in some areas of life and other analytical approaches in other areas of life.  When trying to understand physical phenomena, or social phenomena in the aggregate, I break out the analytical toolkit of science.  When trying to understand science itself, I break out the analytical toolkit I obtained from taking too many philosophy courses.

When trying to understand philosophy, I break out the analytical toolkit of the historian, the linguist, and the literary critic.  When trying to understand historical work...you get the idea.  I bring to bear other analytical frameworks on various fields of student to help make sense of them.  And often, I use multiple analytical toolkits just to see what happens.

But none of this is the foundational analytical approach for me.  None of it, not even my epistemology, provides me with a way of understanding the fullness of my own nature, my own purpose, my own meaning.  Even with a wide variety of these analytical toolkits, the best I can do is understand a small part of these things.

Generally, analysis is a matter of breaking things into pieces in order to understand them.  And that's very useful; I do it quite often.  But one thing that most analytical approaches cannot do is to help put them together, to synthesize the data into a more coherent and holistic picture of ourselves and our world.

For that, we need a keystone in the lovely and complex arch of our beliefs.  We need something that holds it all together firmly, something that can make all the pieces of the puzzle of our experiences fit together as they were meant to fit together.

This requires that we have a meta-philosophical answer to the Problem of the Criterion.  One popular answer to the problem (at least in the West) is Critical Theory.  I am not accusing it of being a very good answer, but it does seem to be an answer many have accepted.

It provides a sense of purpose and meaning to the lives of many people, which is worthwhile.  It provides them with analytical approaches for understanding everything that is happening to them or to their loved ones in the context of our societies.  It provides them with a casus belli, a reason to fight for something like a transcendent good: material equality and social justice.

And they have the physical sciences to explain the rest of material reality.  As do many people who do not subscribe to Critical Theorists' fundamental assumptions about human nature, social relations, and causal relationships.  The majority of people who do not accept those assumptions are religious, though not all of them are.

Devout practitioners of Buddhism, Christianity, various Hindu traditions, Islam, and many other religions have quite different ways of synthesizing a holistic understanding of reality.  Though they generally make some quite different claims, traditional religions consistently have an understanding of human nature, social relations, and causal relationships that is not compatible the assumptions embedded in Critical Theory.

These devout practitioners have taken up other meta-philosophical answers to the Problem of the Criterion which are grounded in the central claims of their religion that help them synthesize an understanding of reality.  For Christians like me, the keystone is Christ crucified as understood in light of the Gospels and interpreted in light of the traditions of the Apostles and their successors.

This is the Christological analysis which leads to a Christian synthesis of our understanding of reality.  To be a Christian means to put on the Christian mind by way of adopting the Christological analysis, by understanding reality through making Christ crucified as understood in light of the Gospels the central experience which guides our minds ultimate to Truth.

The Christological analysis provides me with the casus belli which moves me to fight daily against my own selfishness so that I might learn to love God more fully, and thereby learn to love all of humanity and the Creation of which we are stewards more fully as well.

It is the Christological analysis which leads me to care for the material needs of those who are materially poor, for the emotional needs of the broken-hearted, for the intellectual needs of those caught in the whirlpools of irrationality, and the spiritual needs of those whose souls are restless until they rest in the gentle arms of their Creator.

It is the Christological analysis which leads us to act for justice and peace on Earth so that it might reflect ever more clearly the divine Justice and divine Peace which is perfectly present in Heaven.  It is Christ's sacrifice on the Holy Cross which shows me the kenosis which is necessary for me to carry out this great commission of Love, to bring Love Himself to all people.

Note:  The above is a picture of an icon cross from Greece which recently came into my possession by surprise.


  1. I'm not well-versed in the Problem of the Criterion, but it seems that the idea of Christ as the Logos--the One Who endows the created order with intelligibility--is the answer that I would give. I can both know and have a method for figuring out what I know, because the Logos precedes me. I simply borrow from His store of knowledge when I learn what is true, and insofar as my mind is in communion with His Truth, He guides me to the way of understanding what I do and what I don't know. I think of His knowledge as a single Divine Intuition--He intuits all of reality without having to break it down into concrete little bits of component knowledge, as I must (being a created being). Please forgive me for my answer, which is a poetic one and undoubtedly sloppy from a philosophical standpoint. It's been a blessing reading some of your blog posts tonight, I am way behind.

    1. Jack, that seems quite compatible with ancient Christian reasoning about how we know and to what extent we can know. A poetic answer isn't necessarily a bad one.