Wednesday, January 04, 2006

InG we T - Inference in revelation

SInce I have just gotten back from a nice vacation down in southern Utah, I thought I would finish up the posts on "In Gods We Trust". While many of the ideas have been pretty well discussed in the previous posts, I thought I would still finish posting all the notes I jotted down while going through it in November. Again, things are more tangential discussions than substantial commentary.

In Gods We Trust
Commitments 2.0 - Inference in revelation

Accepting a text on authority and faith implies that the listener or reader suspend the universal constraints on ordinary communication, that is, pragmatic considerations of relevance. In ordinary communication the listener or reader "automatically" attempts to fill the gap in understanding between what is merely said or written and what the communicator intends the listener or reader to think or do as a result."

In Gods We Trust, 91

As I read this paragraph it struck me how similar the presentation of this idea was to my thoughts on translation. Revelation seems to involve lots of automatic gap filling. If we move away from a dictographic view of revelation to one where revelatory communication is done in a vicarious manner by individuals who convey it in God's name, problems can be tackled in a unique manner.

For instance, lets assume that when we die we can get a rough feeling of the thoughts and intents of those who are living. Perhaps this is not done overly well. Perhaps information is based on observation or perhaps it is based on a short range spiritual based connections. Perhaps, those on the other side have the same degree of contact with us as we do with them - rare, weak, lots of effort involved, and relatively faith based.

As we can see from experience on our side of the veil, communication is rarely overt. At best it comes across as a fuzzy sense of guidance. So, assuming those on the other side really do want to help us, we can conclude that Christlike tendencies to help people is pretty important if doing so across the veil gets substantially harder. That aside, with fuzzy, broken communication lines, content must be packeted in ways uniquely appropriate. For instance, dictographic translation may not be wise in case packets get dropped. What would seem most wise, would be the transmission of content that builds on receiver intent. Thus one would guide the receiver along, perhaps in a way analogous to a jpg expansion.

Now one doesn't need to go out on a limb with assumptions of vicarious representation. One could certainly take a more traditional view of God, and assume a similar transmission style. Personally I think transmission style is reflective of what works best with those involved, and a post creedal omnipotent God, at least to me, doesn't make much sense with the fuzziness that exists in revelation (and scripture).

To finish up a last quote from page 92

In everyday communication, humans effortlessly, but necessarily and unmistakably, make these many assumptions and inferences [ what the speaker is talking about, intentions, relevance, etc]. Often, they do so very many times in a single minute of ordinary conversation. In interpreting a religious utterance or text, however, people need do very little of the sort. Ordinarily, believers assume that the utterances or texts connected with religious doctrines are authorless, timeless, and true. As a result, people do not apply ordinary relevance criteria to religious communications.

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