Thursday, April 10, 2008

"Sundays" are for Volf - Chapter 6: Deception and Truth

Once classes began this semester, my desire to post something intelligent on each chapter of Exclusion and Embrace slowed down my reading. So I'll content myself with a couple brief quotations from Volf's excellent penultimate chapter on a chastened epistemology:

"The argument that there is a single truth about some important matters and that one should strive to find it should be plausible to Christians. After all, do we not believe that the day will come when the secrets of the hearts will be revealed and when God will say out loud the way things really were--who did what to whom and by what means?...Trying is not the same as succeeding, however. Though God knows the way things were and will one day say it out aloud, human beings know only partially and can say it only inadequately. There is now way to climb up to God's judgment seat to make infallible pronouncements, so to speak, in God's stead as God's vicars on earth" (242-3).

"To be a witness means to strive to do the self-effacing and noncreative work of--telling the truth. That does not mean that a witness will have to situate herself 'nowhere' and in sublime disinterestedness make perspectiveless pronouncements about what everyone and anyone must have seen or heard. No, standing at one place or another she will tell in her own words what she has seen or heard. But though a good witness cannot and need not abstract from her particular situatedness, she will seek to renounce the clandestine imperialism of her own self-enclosed self which refuses to make space for the other as other in its cognition. That a witness will rarely fully succeed and sometimes not even try, goes without saying. Hence we keep suspicion close at hand even when listening to those whom we take to be good witnesses. But neither our suspicion nor witnesses' frequent failure alters the obligation and the ability of the witness to respect the otherness of the other--by seeking to tell the truth" (268).

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