Is a good place to start in context of doing theology. I think that this process of negotiation you refer to is not far off from the hospitality I referred to above.* But I am curious, which specific Christian truth claims emerge from processes of negotiation?
Well, I am thinking primarily of Paul's realisation that the heretics he had been persecuting were in some way allied with messiah, and the way in which the New Testament is formed in part through having to deal with the interaction between Jewish and Gentile Christians.
But I suppose more philosophically I'm thinking of the Girardian point that truth always comes from the victim, who can see the truth of the group one is part of, having suffered from its violence. Reading James Alison's work has really influenced me in this regard, especially the essay 'Theology amidst the dust and stones'. Alison would also say that the emergence of monotheism is best understood as a crisis in group identity, not simply as a sort of gradual realisation that this is the most philosophical viable route (which is how I think we are most likely to see it in retrospect). He wants to say that any revelation always occurs through, and as part of, some change in one's sense of belonging. Perhaps, putting a spin on Bonhoeffer, this means that there is a cheap and a costly relativism, and that Christian truth comes through the latter, as embodied by Peter being willing to countenence the words "kill and eat".
But to return to the point about the separation of the two questions...
Another way of trying to express my point would be to frame it in terms of the question 'what is really happening?'
So, two people are having an argument, say, if they're Christians about biblical inspiration. It's a heated argument, there's the beginnings of real resentment, frustration, aggression, defensiveness, etc. What is happening? What kind of description best describes the reality of the situation? Is it best understood in terms of two opposed sets of claims about the bible? Or as a failure of human understanding, acceptance, kindness?
Or suppose there are two different religious groupings sharing the same space, the same living facilities. They get on ok, somehow. They would make very different claims - if asked - about the nature of God, and religious duty. But there is respect, sharing, mutual concern. Is the best word for what is going on in a situation like this 'truth' or 'peace'? Or both?
What I find so fascinating about the Milbank bit I quoted earlier is the sense that peaceable human interaction actually the condition for the emergence of truth (even though it seems to me that Radical Orthodoxy fails to embody this, since it seems frames the history of thought as a history of strife...). The existential willingess to understand another human being is actually the condition for coming to understand 'life' better, simply because it is always through human beings that we hear any propositional truth, and because propositional truth only ever exists as a kind of moment in a human life, as a life event, it is something humans experience and do, closely related to feeling and practice. God speaks through human people and events, according to Christianity, not in some vaccuum of revelation, in which the lack of humanness guarantees accuracy.
Um. So, I suppose what I'm saying is: if any of this is at all right, then it must mean that Christianity has the capacity to interact with alternative truth claims in a very different way. I really think that it's insane to think that you can have an ethic of non-violence without a non-violent conception of truth. I don't know how this happens in practice, but perhaps no-one really knows yet, because in large part, the Christian west has been violent, its truth has been linked to, and led to, violence. If you see truth as emerging from strife, then I don't see how you can fail to see stife as necessary in practice given the fact of disagreement.
Whereas if you see the possibility of seemingly competing insights being combined, harmoniously, in the same way that seemingly competing human interests can often - with sacrifice, honesty, patience - be combined harmoniously, then you're not stuck with a picture in which 'reaching a conclusion' is a something like a moment of triumph, a solider planting a flag in the ground, but more like signing a peace treaty, in which no-one got exactly what they wanted, but feels unexpectedly satisfied anyway.
(That last bit was a bit weird, but I am leaving it in...)
Edited by stu, 15 April 2010 - 10:15 AM.