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Sylvest manuscript 2011

  1. 1. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011INTRODUCTIONAfter they had both heard the Gospel preached by the missionary bishop Paulinus, anadvisor of King Edwin of Northumberland said to him:The present life of man, O king, seems to me, in comparison of that time which isunknown to us, like to the swift flight of a sparrow through the room wherein you sit atsupper in winter, with your commanders and ministers, and a good fire in the midst,whilst the storms of rain and snow prevail abroad; the sparrow, I say, flying in at onedoor, and immediately out at another, whilst he is within, is safe from the wintry storm;but after a short space of fair weather, he immediately vanishes out of your sight, into thedark winter from which he had emerged. So this life of man appears for a short space,but of what went before, or what is to follow, we are utterly ignorant. If, therefore, thisnew doctrine contains something more certain, it seems justly to deserve to be followed.1Like King Edwin and his council of elders, who among us has not been warmed by life‘sgoodness, fed by its truth, inspired by its beauty? Even then, who has not also poignantlyexperienced the wintry storms of life‘s poverty in so many different forms, the hungerpangs of our ignorance regarding life‘s ultimate concerns and the always swift flight oflife‘s beauty from our sight? Prompting all of us to ask whether there might be more?To the extent that human life has always been an ongoing quest in pursuit of suchvalue-realizations as truth, beauty, goodness, unity and mercy, life‘s unavoidablevalue-frustrations have given rise to many questions with clear existential imperatives.What is that? Describe it. What is that to us? Evaluate it. How might we best acquire (oravoid) that? Norm it. Might there be more? Interpret all of that!Thus it is that humanity‘s perennial value-pursuits have given rise to life‘s many differentmethods --- descriptive sciences, evaluative cultures, normative philosophies andinterpretive religions --- each autonomous, all necessary, none alone sufficient, for everyvalue-realization. The value-pursuits of truth, beauty and goodness, in a context offreedom, comprise an essential axiology, or interpretive axis, presupposed even by anevolutionary epistemology.2Beyond this essential axiology, humankind has embarked on many different religiousquests. That is also to say, we have adopted many different interpretive stances toward1 Bede, The Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation, L.C. Janes 1903 TempleClassics translation, introduction by Vida D. Scudder, (London: J.M. Dent; New YorkE.P. Dutton, 1910)2 For a compelling example of such an account, see Goodenough, Ursula and TerrenceW. Deacon. 2003. "From Biology to Consciousness to Morality." Zygon: Journal ofReligion and Science 38 (December): 801-819.
  2. 2. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011reality. The primary religious quest pursues truth, beauty and goodness, in a context offreedom, through a basic cosmology via a participatory imagination, which isrespectively engaged with historical, socio-cultural and economic concerns in a politicalcontext (freedom presenting in degrees). Beyond this cosmology, though certainly notwithout its perspective, a theological imagination then respectively engages these sameconcerns through creed, cult-community and code, in a context open to transcendence(what we might call an ―outside assist‖). A more distinctly pneumatological imaginationdivines, again respectively, more precisely how it is that we are thus oriented,empowered-sanctified and healed, in a context of being saved. The Christologicalimagination then breaks open these categories of human concern and divine interactivityelaborating various approaches to eschatology, ecclesiology-theological anthropologyand sacramentology within a context of soteriology-political theology. In no waynecessarily mutually exclusive, these various imaginative engagements of reality reflectthe urgency of our existential concerns with their forced and vital natures as eachinterrogates reality, once again, with that question born of our most insistent longings ---might there be more?While we will aspire to describe here some significant measure of the sought after unitybetween traditions through this account of humanity‘s common methods and sharedvalues, at the same time, this should in no way be mistaken for any facile syncretism,false irenicism or insidious indifferentism, for we will not be at all suggesting that everysuch engagement of humanity‘s forced and vital concerns is also, necessarily, a liveoption.3Still, what we may discover in this excursus is that, while many of our great and evenindigenous traditions can not in the final analysis be fully live options, theoretically, inthat they appeal to putative descriptions and norms that are on their face incompatible,they otherwise will have to be considered so, nonetheless, for all practical purposes,because it is just too early on humankind‘s journey to imagine that we can successfullyadjudicate between all such disparate approaches. This is also to suggest that not allaffirmations of religious plurality will be grounded the same way, methodologically,which is to say that some approaches may remain live options only because we remainignorant, while others may be live options, indeed, because they reflect merely alegitimate plurality of aesthetical expression, which is otherwise ordered toward the sametruth and goodness, and a bona fide diversity of ministry, though otherwise enjoying agreat unity of mission. Finally, in none of this will we be saying that it is too early onhumankind‘s journey to successfully adjudicate between at least some disparateapproaches, especially where it is patently obvious that a growth in human authenticity isbeing either wondrously fostered or miserably thwarted by this or that religious cohort.Of course, many approaches will lie between these extremes and will thus serve us,because they are, as they say, good enough, even if not optimal. The quest thus perdures!What we hope to offer in this collaborative exercise is an axiological vision of the whole3 Cf. The Will to Believe by William James. An Address to the Philosophical Clubs ofYale and Brown Universities. Published in the New World, June, 1896.
  3. 3. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011of reality that will assist all those who aspire to foster a growth in human authenticity inthe members of their faith community. This vision, we hope, will also offer a meaningfulcontextualization of the Good News of Jesus Christ, one that answers humankind‘s quest--- not only for more, but --- for superabundance, pressed down, shaken together, runningover, poured into our laps.About Our Triads and TetradsFrom whence and whither the Fourthness of our tetradic arrangement of phenomenology,axiology, epistemology and theology, as well as the tetrads nested within them (i.e. thetriad within each immanent frame plus a fourth element of transcendence) ? Is it aPlatonic artifact? Certainly it makes no a priori claim on our metaphysics? Perhaps itsimply mirrors the functions of the human brain quadrants as inventoried by our Jungianintuitions? Clearly, in semiotics, it reduces to the irreducible Thirdness of Peirces modalontology of the possible, actual and necessary, as inspired by an axiology of truth, beautyand goodness, as modeled by an epistemology of icon, index and symbol?We have presented a tetradic architectonic within which we have framed our triadicphenomenology, trialectical axiology, trialogical epistemology and trinitarian theology,each situated in both immanent and transcendent frames. In one sense, perhaps implicit inour transcendent frames, we are simply recognizing realitys depth dimensions as realityconfronts us, respectively, with ontological vagueness, axiological frustration, epistemicindeterminacy and hermeneutical interpretation. In another sense, our radical finitude andfallibility leave us perennially wanting, always probing for something more. But is therenecessarily more?We have characterized our descriptive sciences, evaluative cultures and normativephilosophies as interrogations of reality, respectively asking: What is that? What is that tous? How can we, therefore, best acquire (or avoid) that? And we have recognizedinterpretive religion as a quest asking: Is there more where that came from? And suchultimate concerns, correspond to, in the case of what we would like to acquire, ourfondest existential hopes, and in the case of what we would like to avoid, our worstexistential fears. As they say, we thus hope vaguely and dread precisely. Mertondescribes these existential crises in terms of continuity (not mincing words, here, we allfear death in its many forms) and creativity (we all want to somehow matter and make adifference).In our view, it is precisely continuity and creativity that hold the key as we try to breakopen the portal of Fourthness to transcendentally gaze beyond our immanent frame. Ifreality is in any manner either pervasively triadic or tetradic, this does not necessarilyentail our eschewal of such dyadic conceptions as we use to describe such polar realities,for example, as true and false (principle of noncontradiction), either- or (principle ofexcluded middle), this not that (haecceity, Peirces nondescriptive reference), faith anddoubt, beautiful and ugly, good and evil, right and wrong. But we will discuss later howsuch First Principles as noncontradiction and excluded middle will either hold or fold ineach modal category of the possible, actual and necessary, particularly noting how
  4. 4. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011metaphysical necessity often yields to probability in the Peircean category of Thirdness(which relates to laws, axioms, regularities and such). It is especially in this category ofThirdness that we can bring into sharp relief the tensions between pattern and paradox,symmetry and asymmetry, order and chaos, random and systematic, chance andnecessity, vague and specific, determinate and indeterminate, and, finally, Mertonsconcerns with continuity and discontinuity, creativity and insignificance.Might there be a root metaphor that would best capture Thirdness, Fourthness and all ofthe above-described polarities, dynamisms and tensions? And that might also unitivelyreframe the dichotomy of immanence and transcendence, presenting a single polar realityto be realized in measures of degrees?The best such metaphor, in our view, would be that of freedom, the deprivation of whichwe often describe as coercion, the dynamism of which we recognize as the political4,broadly conceived.In our triadic phenomenology, determinate reality issues forth (ex nihilo) precisely asnecessity kenotically prescinds to probability as the Creator shrinks to "free" newactualities from the realm of possibility. In our trialectical teleology, we grow in humanauthenticity (humanization is divinization is our theosis) precisely through a progressiverealization of freedom via ongoing intellectual, affective, moral, sociopolitical andreligious conversions. Lord Acton has clarified our confusion regarding this authentichuman freedom, which, per his counsel, we should not misinterpret as a license todo what we merely want, but as the liberty, rather, to do what we simply must. Freedomrealized down a path toward necessity? How dramatically ironic!Again, we encounter the utterly paradoxical but clearly efficacious kenotic dynamic ofself-emptying as we co-creatively participate in our own shrinking (imago Dei) to free upnovel realities from the realm of possibility in a reality framed by an aesthetic teleology,which realizes value precisely through the shedding of monotony and appropriation ofnovelty as our will is surrendered only to be transformed into a will that is free, indeed.The paradox lies in our striving to participate in the perichoretic dance of the EnsNecessarium, Who, necessarily, only loves, but with a love that issues forth from an utterfullness of freedom.In becoming a prisoner of love, paradoxically, we are thus transformed and realizeauthentic freedom. Perhaps this is what Maritain5 recognized as la dialectique immanentedu premier acte de liberté (the immanent dialectic of the first act of freedom).In our trialogical epistemology, we amplify the epistemic risks weve already taken in ourdescriptive sciences, evaluative cultures and normative philosophies in order to augmentour human value-realizations through an interpretive surrender that expands our horizons4 See Yong‘s In the Days of Caesar – Pentecostalism and Political Theology, Wm. B.Eeerdmans Piublishing Co. 2010.5 Jacques Maritain, Raisons et raisons 1947
  5. 5. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011of concern thus freeing us up to realize new possibilities. Our trinitarian theologyprecisely addresses our most insistent human longings and most urgent existentialconcerns, again, inviting a paradoxical surrender to manifold assists coming to us frombeyond (Patrology) , beside (Christology) and within (Pneumatology) and promising tothereby set us free, indeed, in a word, saving us. In another irony, perhaps few understandthis as well as those who are marginalized socially, economically, culturally, politicallyand even religiously, or who are otherwise radically in touch with our radical poverty inour dependence on God. As Richard Rohr suggests, there are generally two routes totransformation – suffering and mysticism.In other words, we don‘t enter the monastery or undertake a life of prayer to make usbetter human beings — rather, we urgently and in crisis and seriously and radicallyplace the utter dependency and abject poverty of our selves (which are neverthelessgood) at God‘s disposal in order to be dramatically rescued. Thomas MertonPericean Thirdness, now conceived as necessity, next conceived as probability, might bereconceived in terms of realitys realization of various degrees of freedom, alwaysparadoxically gifted through surrender. As a single polar reality, both our immanent andtranscendent frames recognize it, even if in unfathomably different measures, as weparticipate in freedom in a way that is, at once, indeterminately transcendent, vaguelyimmanent, proleptically realized and always mediated, whether theologically,axiologically or semiotically. Fourthness thus conceptually reduces to that aspectof Thirdness which we experience as horizon, thirdness itself corresponding to variousdegrees of freedom in a reality that sometimes appears nearly wholly determined, whileat other times very much free, at least within what we might otherwise imagine to bereality‘s initial, boundary and limit conditions.It is further interesting to note that emergence, itself, relies on information loss (mistakeseven) in each introduction of novelty, in a teleodynamic process of alternating forgettingand remembering (anamnesis) that we‘ll explore later. It is no accident, then, thatstrategic sacrifice and surrender recur as a central motif in so many of our world‘sphenomenologies and theologies.About Our PathwaysIn the East, a distinction is drawn between the ―way of the baby monkey‖ and the ―way ofthe kitten,‖ the first way describing that of the ascetics in pursuit of Enlightenment,Knowledge and Wisdom, the second that of Devotion. The metaphorical implications arethat there is more effort on the part of the baby monkey, which must actively cling tightlyto its parent in getting transported around, while, as we are all aware, the kitten ispassively transported by the nape of its neck in its mother‘s teeth. I offer anotherdistinction, which is the ―way of the baby goose,‖ implying an imprinted following of theparent or an imitation of Action. Finally, we might consider the ―way of the babymartin,‖ which is familiar to any who‘ve observed the parents knocking a fledgling off ofthe Purple Martin House that it might thereby learn to fly, the implication here describing
  6. 6. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011the Way of the Cross via formative, reformative and transformative suffering.If these are different path-ways, perhaps roughly corresponding to creed, cult, code andcommunity in our great traditions, where do they ultimately lead?We will explore, herein, how they are all ordered toward a unitive Life in the Spirit andare animated via Lonergan‘s conversions (intellectual, affective, moral, social andreligious) by the very same Spirit.One of the richest reflections on the contemplative life is in Merton‘s __New Seeds ofContemplation__, especially in the preface and first three chapters, which reflect on whatcontemplation is and is not and what the true self and false self are.We will engage Merton‘s formative spirituality at some length, but concise summarywould be that, 1) for our true self, our joy is found in God‘s glory; 2) our will is oriented to God‘s love; 3) the work of our journey is to co-create with God our identity through and withand in God; 4) that we may become wholly in His image, holy in His image; 5) when we do have our memory, understanding and will integrated andholisticallyoperative, we experience our true self but 6) this co-creation of our identity and this surrender of our memory,understanding and willto faith, hope and love are effected through theological virtue gifted by the Spirit by anelevation of nature through grace and transmutation of experience through grace and notby a perfection of the natural order by our natural efforts, which is to say 7) we are in need of salvation to overcome both death and sin and the mostfundamental vocational call we answer is 8 ) to be saved and then 9) transformed.An Ecumenical Pneumatological EcclesiologyA new generation of pentecostal scholars has entered into a credible dialogue withmodern science, modern philosophy and modern theology. These approaches haveprofound implications for ecclesiology. What is emerging is nothing less than anecumenical pneumatological ecclesiology.6 It criticizes our Western approach, which islargely discursive theology. It emphasizes that Life in the Spirit is also an experience.6 The Spirit Poured Out on All Flesh by Amos Yong (2005 Baker Academic).
  7. 7. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011They believe that our coming Christendom will be radically pluralistic, centered not inRome or Canterbury but variously in Seoul, Beijing, Singapore, Bombay, Lagos, Rio,Sao Paulo and Mexico City. The emphases in dialogue will be: 1) postmodern theologythat hears the voices of the marginalized 2) postpatriarchal theology 3)postfoundationalist theology that values methodological pluralism 4) postcolonialtheology that privileges local traditions, languages and practices 5) posthierarchical thatembraces dialogical and democratic processes 6) post-Cartesian theology that givesrecognition to the inductive, lived, existential and nondual character of reflectionalongside deductive, propositional, more abstract and dualistic forms of theologizing 7)post-Western and post-European theology open to engaging the multiple religious,cultural and philosophical voices of Asian traditions and spiritualities.A pneumatological approach to revelation will then be 1) transcendental – Spiritbreaks thru human condition from beyond ourselves 2) historical 3) contextual,concerned with real lives, real histories, real societies 4) personal, both interpersonal andintersubjective 5) transformational 6) communal 7) a verb not just a noun 8 )progressive & dynamic Spirit calls us to interpret, respond and act 9) marked by love,an unmistakable criterion for discernment 10) received by humble faith seekingunderstanding 11) propositional and resisting our fallen interpretations 12)eschatological.Getting from Is to OughtOur descriptive sciences and normative philosophies, in many ways, respectively, grapplewith the "is" and "ought" of reality. Beyond the most general of norms (that is also to saywithin the constraints of the initial, boundary and limit conditions of realitys givens), ourevaluative cultures will then otherwise enjoy and employ (co-creatively) the freedomweve been given, which we celebrate through a wonderful diversity of ministry andbeautiful plurality of expression, historically, socially, economically and politically.Historical tensions forever push and pull us between an uncertain future and unforgivingpast. But we continuously manage to get oriented and reoriented nonetheless.Social tensions have human dignity always precariously perched between individualautonomy and institutional necessity. But subsidiarity principles, when in play, will oftenenlighten and empower such decisions.Cultural tensions result from choices we must make between competing values. But weusually imagine that we and our choices can, perhaps, be sanctioned, maybe evensanctified.
  8. 8. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011We inevitably experience economic tensions as we fail in our willingness to distinguishbetween wants and needs and our ability to match needs with goods and services. Buthealing, in all sorts of ways, keeps coming our way.We experience political tensions (broadly conceived) precisely because reality presentsus with both coercion and freedom. But we always imagine that we can be saved,somehow, from realitys manifold and multiform coercions.How is it that humanity continues to be oriented, empowered – sanctified, healed andsaved albeit in ways that are variously (more and less) efficacious?Might these be tantalizingly proleptic (value-)realizations of realitys enticingly telicdimensions, which gently coax (and sometimes impolitically cajole) us along on whatseems to be a journey, on what undeniably is an adventure?7One compelling hypothesis is that, in many of our Great Traditions our interpretivereligions have gifted us with a pneumatological imagination, which discerns a Spiritactive in every aspect of our lives, broadening our horizons of concern beyond --- the starkly historical to the remarkably eschatological (orienting us); the simply social to the robustly ecclesiological (empowering us); a merely cultural to a fully theological anthropology (sanctifying us); the mercilessly economic to the mercifully sacramental (healing us). and the nakedly political to the compassionately soteriological (saving us);This Spirit, Who is holy, has broken open our philosophies with the novel questionsposed (although not answered) by our natural theologies and enlivened our sciences withan evocative poetry inspired by our theologies of nature.The reality of the Incarnation, Jesus, then further reveals how we are being: 1) oriented, as the historical tension between past and future has been transcended by One Who broke into our now from eternity --- not to transfix our gaze on the utterly beyond, but --- to infinitely transvalue the significance of our fragile, temporal existence (cf. the Lukan gospel narrative); 2) empowered, as the social tension between individuals and institutions has been transcended by One Who promised to be present where two or more are gathered7 Our essential axiology and basic cosmology already recognize a minimalist telos atplay in reality, prior to the more robustly telic dimension suggested by ourpneumatological imagination. Modern semiotic science has room for both the formal andfinal causations as analogs to those of a classical aristotelian metaphysics. Obviously, anemergentist perspective, which would admit such causations and telos, need not violatephysical causal closure. But neither would a more robustly telic dimension that isoperative at the level of primal reality in its initial, boundary and limit conditions.Scientific methods, which are empirical and probabilistic, relying on falsification, wouldnot, in principle, measure such improbable proleptic realizations, which otherwise getrecorded as inexplicable anomalies.
  9. 9. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011 in His Name and affirmed an even more radical solidarity in establishing --- not an earthly realm, but --- a Kingdom wherein belonging (community) and desiring (cult-ivation) enjoy a clear primacy over (even if not a complete autonomy from) behaving (code) and believing (creed) (cf. Sylvest & Yongs Contemplative Phenomenology, 2010 ); 3) sanctified, as the cultural tension between competing (and extrinsic) values has been transcended by One Who invites us to savor the intrinsically valuable approaches of faith, hope and love in the pursuit of truth, beauty and goodness (cf. the Lukan narrative, Acts); 4) healed, as the economic tension between our needs and our means has been transcended by One Who, by initiating us all into a grand solidarity, has ushered in a compassion (that inevitably ensues from any awareness of our oneness) whereby a love begun in the Kingdom, now, will get perfected as it more fully comes to realization, eternally (cf. the Our Father); and 5) saved, as the political tension between realitys coercions and freedoms has been transcended by One Who deemed even equality with God as nothing at which one should grasp (cf. also the Magnificat); saved, as the political tension between realitys coercions and freedoms has been transcended by One Who deemed even equality with God as nothing at which one should grasp (cf. also the Magnificat);The tensions we experience present in many ways and are not confined to thoseinventoried and fleshed out above regarding our evaluative and interpretive methods. Ourdescriptive sciences and normative philosophies have their own tensions and paradoxes,some which we are able to dissolve such as through perspectival and paradigm shifts,some which we can successfully resolve dialectically such as through an Hegelian-likeapproach, some which we simply evade by ignoring, at least, for all practical purposes,and some which we discover can be maintained in a creative tension to our utmostedification. We cannot know a priori which paradoxes will thus submit to which strategy.Neither can we a priori know when it is that our knowledge is being thwarted onlytemporarily due to methodological constraints or permanently due to some type ofin-principle ontological occulting.What we do know is that reality presents us with values, affords us methods and providesus perspectives. It is a story of rewards, risks and relationships. Many of ourvalue-augmentations precisely derive from strategic risk-amplifications. But rewards donot come from risk, alone; rather, they result from properly managed risk. Riskmanagement involves a knowledge of reality‘s relationships, both its functional(objective) and personal (subjective) relationships. To the extent that much of reality isindeterminate and that certain of its relationships are not specifiable, it suggests thatmany of reality‘s relationships are interobjective, whereby we somehow recognize thatthere are various effects proper to no known causes even though we can in no way get athow this might be so due to an interobjective indeterminacy, which hints at some type ofduality or degree of ontological discontinuity . However, a great deal of reality is indeeddeterminate and specifiable, even if sometimes in varying degrees of epistemicdeterminacy and ontological vagueness, and we have been able to establish both thatthere are certain effects as well as how they are caused because such relationships derivefrom a type of intraobjective identity, affirming a nondual aspect to many of reality‘s
  10. 10. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011functional relationships. Humankind‘s greatest value-realizations are intersubjective,relationships between persons. And the quality of these relationships, often measured indegrees of intersubjective intimacy, is very much determined by one‘s relationship to selfor one‘s intrasubjective integrity.The histories of philosophy and religion are littered with one school after another thatover- or under-emphasized some method, value or perspective (or some risk, reward orrelationship) in a fetish-like manner. This includes many of philosophy‘s so-called turnsand many of religion‘s schisms as well as all manner of insidious –isms, which weneedn‘t inventory here. We can affirm this – that methods precede systems. And we doaccept that epistemology models ontology. However, to the extent we affirm only afallibilist epistemology, any ontology will therefore be more than a tad tentative and anymodeling power will be, shall we say, weak. Our deontologies, then, should be as modestas our ontologies are tentative. We are not at all suggesting that one should not takeepistemic risks for these risk-amplifications are indispensable to ourvalue-augmentations. We do, however, aspire to properly adjudicate between thoseoptions that are indeed live vis a vis epistemic virtue and those that fall prey to either anexcess hubris or humility, respectively, the excesses of modernity (e.g. bothEnlightenment and religious fundamentalisms) or of any radically deconstructivepostmodernism (e.g. vulgar Rortyism).Any God-concept, suitably predicated apophatically, will take into account thisinterobjective indeterminacy. God‘s determinate nature, revealed in creation andamplified in special revelation, presents in a creative tension between some type ofintraobjective identity, for our autonomy can only be quasi-, and some type ofintersubjective intimacy, for this love has been revealed. Our own relationships to God,others and creation require a proper relationship to self or intraobjective integrity. All ofthese relationships can be cultivated through various ascetic displines and spiritualpractices. These are addressed more fully, below, under Formative Spirituality.What does it mean to express faith, hope, and love in the 21st Century (orPost-postmodern world)?We should amplify the risks we took when we moved from our exclusivisticecclesiocentrisms to a more inclusivistic Christocentricism by exploring a robustpneumatological inclusivism in our interreligious dialogue. Put simply, we should takemore risks in our faith outlook by being more open regarding where we expect to find theSpirit at work in our world, for example, among other peoples, in both sacred and secularsettings, thereby augmenting the value to be realized from a broader ecumenism.We should amplify the risks we‘ve already taken liturgically being more open to how it isthe Spirit can form our desires, recognizing that we can fruitfully adopt the spiritualtechnology of other religions, such as certain asceticisms, disciplines and practices,without necessarily adopting their conclusions, thus augmenting the value to be minedfrom desiring the Kingdom above all else and being sensitive to its less visible
  11. 11. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011manifestations.We should amplify the risks involved in our dualistic, problem-solving mind, with itsempirical, rational, practical and moral approach to reality to engage reality moreholistically and integrally with our nondual mind and its contemplative stance thusaugmenting the value of relationship to God, others, the environment and even self.We should amplify the risks involved in our moral ventures by moving beyond ourlegalistic approach to moral realities in society to a more social justice orientedapproach, striving less for a theocratic and coercive moral statism and more for theestablishment of the Kingdom via our successful institutionalization of the corporalworks of mercy, thus augmenting the value to be mined on behalf of those who‘ve beenmarginalized.We should amplify the risks involved in conducting a more scientifically rigorousBiblical exegesis, unafraid of historical-critical methods, literary criticism and honestJesus scholarship, thus augmenting the value of the Good News for all people of theworld through enhanced reliability, credibility and authoritativeness.We should amplify the risks involved in ministering to the world throughnoninstitutional vehicles, affirming them as partners and mining the value they create inthe ecclesiological models they afford us, egalitarian models that are free of clericalism,paternalism, hierarchicalism, colonialism, parochialism, sexism, institutionalism and soon, thereby augmenting the value to be realized from a more dutiful engagement of theSensus Fidelium.The Risk-based Approach to Value-RealizationFaith, hope and love are adventures in that they involve risk or what Pascal called awager. And it is a grand cosmic adventure in which we are invited to participate as weunconditionally assent to the proposition that the pursuits of truth, beauty and goodnessare their own reward. This quest, itself, becomes our grail. This journey becomes ourdestination.As we observe this 13.7 billion year old universe, notwithstanding humankind‘scumulative advances in science, philosophy, culture and religion, questions still begregarding the initial, boundary and limit conditions of the cosmos. There is, however, anoverarching narrative that begins to address these questions. It is the story of Emergence.Emergence gifts the universe with an increasing complexity as its novel structures andproperties present the beauty that surrounds us. It is a complexity, however, that iswilling to run the risk of disintegration. The greater the number of bifurcations andpermutations involved in any given system, the more fragile. And, the more fragile, themore beautiful. Put most simply, an emergent cosmos amplifies risk and thus augmentsbeauty.
  12. 12. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011These are realities we can understand without the benefit of special divine revelation. Wehave explored how: A descriptive human science queries reality asking: What is that?Our evaluative human culture inquires: What‘s that to us? And our normative humanphilosophy then aspires to answer the ensuing question: How do we best acquire or avoidthat?The answers we have derived for these perennial questions take the form of truth, beautyand goodness.And while each individual asks these questions everyday, as radically social animals,these values are realized in community. Because we are radically finite, henceneedy, we form communities of value-realizers. Thus we talk about the scientificcommunity, philosophic community, cultural community and so on. Each suchcommunity, in its pursuit of value, in its own way, embarks on a risk-taking adventure,amplifying risks in order to augment our human value-realizations of truth, beauty andgoodness.The scientist, for her part, ventures forth with hypotheses that are inherently falsifiable bydesign. The philosopher, for his part, articulates a provisional closure, which isrepresented as this school or that. Human culture has been a veritable laboratory, whereinour falsifiable sciences and provisional philosophies have played out as anthropologicalexplorations, as we know, sometimes to humankind‘s utmost benefit but, all to often, tohumanity‘s everlasting dismay.Before we introduce competing meta-narratives, or axes of interpretation of reality, wealready observe our communities of value-realization in pursuit of the intrinsicallyrewarding values of truth, beauty and goodness. And we observe science, philosophy andculture harvesting these values in abundance in what is an inherently spiritual quest.Before our interpretive narratives (religions) are introduced, our descriptive, evaluativeand normative narratives are in place, as a cosmology, amplifying risks and therebyaugmenting our value-realizations. In this regard, they might very well be consideredboth necessary and sufficient.Still, as the ultimate value-realizer, our species might naturally wonder: Is there,perhaps, more?In our distinctly human way, most of us not only wonder but also pursue more truth,more beauty and more goodness, than is already realizable by science, culture andphilosophy. In so doing, we ask: How does all of that tie-together? And this re-ligationquery is a distinctly religious question. It is, then, the interpretive aspect of our axiology.Now, if science, culture and philosophy, each in their own way, comprise a risk-venturein pursuit of truth, beauty and goodness, amplifying our epistemic, normative andevaluative risks toward the end of augmenting these intrinsically rewarding values, thenwhat inheres in the very fabric of the religious quest is a further amplification of risks.These amplified risks are nothing less, then, than faith, hope and love.
  13. 13. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011It is no accident, then, that the world‘s literature has ubiquitously employed the journey,the quest, the adventure as its root metaphor for the religious quest and that its preferredallegory has been an erotic love that risks all for the sake of all.We‘ve come a long way in this presentation without addressing the postmodern influenceon our 21st Century expressions of faith, hope and love. And if you‘ve hung in here withme thus far, know that we‘re now on the threshold of describing the postmodernprescription for what has ailed our modernistic religious quest.The chief problem with the modernistic approach to the religious quest is that it losttouch with the essential risk-taking nature of faith, hope and love. Perhaps due to ournatural human anxiety to banish all mystery, perhaps due to our rather feeble ability totolerate ambiguity, and perhaps due to our insatiable need to either resolve, dissolve orevade all paradox, humanity has largely surrendered to a neurotically-induced hubris thatimagines that all mystery has thus been comprehended, all ambiguity has thus beeneliminated and all paradox is subject to either synthetic resolution, perspectivaldissolution or practical evasion.The practical upshot of such hubris is that we begin to imagine that there are no risks toundertake, much less amplify, no further values to pursue, much less augment, no queststo launch, no journeys on which to embark. Life, then, is no longer an adventure.The chief malady of such a malaise is that an insidious ennui settles over us. It‘s not somuch that we think we have all the right answers, which is bad enough, but that weimagine that we even have all the right questions. Our science devolves into scientism.Our culture caves into a practical nihilism. Our philosophies decay into a sterilerationalism. The only thing that remains to be seen is whether our planet will go out witha silent ecological whimper or a fiery nuclear holocaust.Our religion, for its part, gets hyper-eschatological with heavenly notions that are of littleearthly use. A once enchanted world becomes inhabited with terribly disenchanteddenizens.Modernism, in its pretense, bottled up the elixir of risk and offered us instead a vileconcoction that it mistook for some type of truth serum, a formula with all the answers,which diluted any risk. It‘s ingredients included a fideism, which walled itself in to ahouse of language game mirrors claiming immunity for religion to cultural critique. Italso mixed in an inordinate amount of theological nonrealism due to a hyper-activedialectical imagination that approached God as not only wholly incomprehensible (whichHe is), but as not even partly intelligible (which She is). It suggested that no reasonscould be given for religious belief as if all reasons necessarily derived from empirical andrational argumentation with their informative propositions and epistemic warrants, when,so much of human reasoning, instead, is prudential and moral with performativesignificance and normative justification.
  14. 14. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011Put much more simply, modernism overemphasized reasons of the head and relegatedreasons of the heart to history‘s propositional dustbin.A radically deconstructive postmodernism, in one of philosophy‘s most tragic ironies,ends up being nothing more than a hypermodernistic outlook, with great hubris putting apriori limits on human knowledge … except, well, for one singular exception, whichwould be the limits they refuse to place on their own anthropology. In their caricature ofall human communication as language games, the Wittgensteinian fideists misappropriateWittgenstein as they saw off the epistemological limbs wherein their own ontologicaleggs are nested. In their anxiety to annihilate metaphysics, both the social constructiontheorists and the scientistic cabal do away with the very analogia that fuel both highlytheoretical science and speculative cosmology. This is just as insidious as the tautologiesthat were inhabited by those who bought into Feuerbach, Marx, Freud, Nietzsche andothers, whose anthropological conclusions were buried in their reductionistic premisesand hidden in their cynical definitions.None of this is to deny that we do not all inhabit elaborate tautologies with their variouscircular references, causal disjunctions, infinite regressions and question begging. It is tosuggest that not all tautologies are equally taut and that we can and should attempt toadjudicate between them based on such anthropological metrics as provided byLonergan‘s conversions (expanded by Gelpi): intellectual, affective, moral, sociopoliticaland religious.And this is not to claim that such sociologic metrics are readily available or easilyinterpretable but, come on folks, some religious cohorts are rather transparentlydysfunctional, wouldn‘t you say? And judging different approaches to faith by employingsuch pragmatic criteria is admittedly not robustly truth-conducive but it is certainlyreasonable to imagine that it is truth-indicative. Our inability to finally discriminatebetween all religious approaches, some which end up being quite equiplausible, even ifnot equiprobable, does not make our approach moot; rather, it makes it problematical. Itdoes not mean that we do not have reasons (and very good reasons, at that) to embraceone faith approach and to eschew another; it only means that those reasons will not beuniversally compelling.Faith, hope and love in the 21st Century will look like an adventure. It will look like arisk-filled adventure where believers run the cosmic risk of disintegration inself-emptying kenotic love. Like Pip in Great Expectations, we will embark on a searchfor our Benefactor. Like Mark Twain‘s Huckleberry Finn, we will be a people of hope,always looking in expectant anticipation for what‘s around the river‘s bend. Like thecosmos, itself, and with the grand Cosmic Adventurer, we will actively participate, notwithout some moaning and groaning, in the great act of giving birth.Faith, hope and love in the 21st Century will look a lot more like that time ofenchantment in the early days of Christianity, when the apostles and disciples and closestconfidants of Jesus, Himself, took great risks in following Him. It will look a lot less likethat self-righteous certitude of fundamentalistic religion, scientistic philosophy or even,
  15. 15. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011ironically, a social constructionist nonrealism. These are, in the end, very pessimisticanthropologies whether gnostic or agnostic. We simply cannot a priori know howknowable or unknowable reality will turn out to be.It makes a lot more sense to believe that, as we progressively enhance our modelingpower of reality, albeit in a very fallibilist way, our concepts and constructs andcategories are making some of our tautologies much more taut vis a vis reality writ large.And this includes our God-concepts, which, in-principle, must be inherently vague. Ifthere is a grand telic design and we actively participate in same, there is every goodreason to hypothesize that the inexorable advance of human knowledge gifts us with amore coherent outlook on both proximate and ultimate reality. To the extent weunderstand reality better, the analogs we apply to ultimate reality will improve. This isnot to deny that such analogs will invoke an infinite number of dissimilarities overagainst the similarities they will reveal. It is to affirm that those similarities, howevermeager, have profound existential import because they pertain to a VERY BIG reality,indeed.Over against any radically positive theology (kataphasis) of the gnostics, fundamentalistsand rationalists, and over against any radically negative theology (apophasis) of theagnostics, nonrealists and fideists, a postmodern theology eschews both an epistemichubris and an excessive epistemic humility in favor of a Goldilocks approach that is justright, an epistemic holism with an integral approach to reality.In our postmodern milieu, science, culture, philosophy and religion are intertwined.When one advances, they all advance. When one regresses, they all regress. This is not tosay that they are not otherwise autonomous methodologies. A postmodern theologyrecognizes and affirms this autonomy. It is to say that these approaches to reality areintegrally-related in every human value-realization. They are, then,methodologically-autonomous but axiologically-integral.Enhanced modeling power of reality, whether in science, culture, philosophy or religion,translates into an enhanced modeling power of reality writ large. We best not set thesevalue-pursuits over against or in competition.A modernist rationalism is a failed risk-management technique, attempting todomesticate this risk and ameliorate its adventuresome nature. A modernist fideism is afailed risk-elimination technique, attempting to immunize faith from critique by reducingit to mere expression. Only a constructive postmodern approach can successfullyretrieve, revive and renew our sense of adventure, enchantment and risk-taking, invitingus anew to journey on a quest for a grail worthy of our ineradicable human aspirations formore, a LOT more!Thus we amplify our risk in our pursuit of truth into a faith, often articulated in creed; inour pursuit of beauty into a hope, often celebrated in the cultivation of liturgy and ritual;in our pursuit of goodness in love, often preserved in our codes and laws; in our pursuitof community, often enjoyed in our fellowship and unity of believers. Thus humankind
  16. 16. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011augments truth, beauty, goodness and unity in creed, cult, code and community. Thuswe participate in the grand cosmic adventure, amplifying risks and thereby augmentingvalues, courageously running the risk of disintegration as God‘s fragile, but beautifulcreatures.Retrieval, Revival and Renewal DynamicsWhile propositional or theoretical or creedal aspects of a movement are not unimportant,there seems to be a much greater emphasis on the primacy of the participatory andpractical and experiential aspects. Thus questions of ecclesiology and pneumatology, orhow to be church and respond in the Spirit, are being answered existentially in the waywe live and move and have our being. One could not better describe our 20th Centurychurch-emergent.To the extent theological breakthroughs occur, there are no new discoveries inanthropology, soteriology, Christology and eschatology, providing new propositionsabout what it means to be human, what is wrong with humanity and how to fix it, WhoJesus is and why our hopes are fixed on Him.Rather, there are rediscoveries of the truths long articulated in our creeds, of the beautieswell cultivated in our celebrations of liturgy and ritual, of the goodness well preserved inGod‘s laws and of the fellowship long enjoyed in our communities. There are correctionsin various over- and under-emphases as we then eschew any decay (seemingly inevitable& recurring) of dogma into dogmatism, ritual into ritualism, law into legalism &moralism, and institution into institutionalism. The latest iteration of our church-emergentprecisely emulates such retrieval, revival and renewal dynamics.And there is a reawakened nurturance of creative tensions as we re-cognize that life‘sdeepest paradoxes remain ours to exploit, transformatively, and will not otherwise yieldto our attempts to resolve (dialectically thru synthesis), dissolve (perspectivally thruparadigm shifts) or evade (practically by ignoring) them, reductively, as happens withlife‘s lesser paradoxes of science, philosophy and metaphysics. Our world remainsenchanted and needs re-enchantment, on an ongoing basis it seems, but only in our stancetoward reality and not in Nature, Herself, which is enchanted through and through!When it comes to life‘s most important questions, then, the church-emergent du jourprecisely resists the fundamentalistic, rationalistic, reductionistic strategies of dualisticproblem-solving and nurtures a robustly nondual contemplative stance toward ourultimate concerns.The paradox is really the pathos of intellectual life and just as only great souls areexposed to passions it is only the great thinker who is exposed to what I call paradoxes,which are nothing else than grandiose thoughts in embryo. … … Take away paradoxfrom the thinker and you have a professor. ~ Soren KierkegaardTo the extent our anthropologies, soteriologies, Christologies and eschatologies do get
  17. 17. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011rearticulated propositionally, there does seem to be an ongoing and ever-growinguniversalizing tendency (an ecumenical and inclusivistic catholicity) to affirm theradically egalitarian nature of the Good News as we better come to realize — overagainst our own marginalizations, hierarchicalisms, colonialisms, patriarchicalisms,clericalisms, sexisms, ecclesiocentrisms, exclusivisms, traditionalisms, institutionalisms,gnosticisms and, finally, even movementisms — that, sooner or later, the Gospel‘spreferential option for the poor will be consolation for every last one of us. To paraphrasePogo: ―We have met the poor and they are us.‖So, as the Spirit moves when He wills, where She wills, how They will, may the Spirit ofGod‘s love, now, move within me and you and all. That‘s the fugal movement thatperdures even as other movements, most assuredly, do come and go. When we lookcarefully at what is going on, what we call emergent, in one sense, might be there-emergence of a reality that, inevitably, gets submerged, time and again. It‘s areignition and conflagration of a Fire lit long ago.Emergence also has a more generic sense and, in that sense, is inextricably associatedwith novelty, a reality that will not go away for those of us who buy into telos, aninexorable movement built into the very fabric of creation. What seems radically new ishumankind‘s conscious appropriation of emergentist dynamics and how they possess anautopoietic (self organizing, for better or worse) trait, which is to say that we now knowwe can harness some evolutionary impulses and possibly kedge forward8 with a moreconsciously competent emergence, shaping and forming9, as co-creators10 the unfoldingof the Kingdom that we desire (Ps. 37:4). Conversely, we ignore this dynamic andforsake this movement at our own peril.The Nature of Our Theological ConvergencesTo the extent our discussion often primarily involves a consideration of methods,practices and experiences and not, rather, belief systems, conclusions and propositions,and given our conversation‘s postfoundational orientation, what emerges will not alwaysbe in the form of arguments in the strict sense. Instead, we are discovering a convergencethat is more so of nonpropositional nature.This is to say that this convergence does not articulate, for example, a new narrative archof a distinctly descriptive, normative or speculative nature, which would be acosmological enterprise. Rather, this convergence has an axiological trajectory, which isto say that it fosters a harmonic resonance of an evaluative, interpretive or existentialnature.Interpretively, we are coming away with a deepened sense of solidarity. Evaluatively, weshare a profound sense of compassion. We share, then, a great unity of mission even as8 cf Mike Morrell & Frank Spencer‘s website – need url9 cf. Jamie Smith‘s ―Desiring the Kingdom‖) need citation10 cf. Phil Hefner
  18. 18. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011we recognize our diversity of ministry and acknowledge our plurality of belief systems.What emerges, then, is not so much a convergence of metanarratives but, instead, ofmeta-perspectives. It is a convergence of perspectives that conditions HOW we will firstsee and experience reality, so to speak, desiring the Kingdom, and not of narrativessetting forth WHAT we will eventually think about reality in order to somehow argueand prove the Kingdom.A lot of people, who remain immersed in dualistic mindsets with their problem-solvingorientation to all of reality, have a difficult time evaluating such conversations. For somany, apologetics is primarily evidential, rational and presuppositional, proceeding withempirical, logical, practical and moral reasoning. And, by all means, this approach toreality is indispensable and necessary. When it comes to life‘s deepest mysteries, moreultimate concerns and most significant value-realizations, however, we must go beyondthis dualistic approach and engage reality with a more nondual, contemplative stance.So, when we speak of a convergence in our conversation, we are not suggesting a novelset of concepts and categories. Neither should one look for a specific political agenda. Itis not a convergence of moral reasoning, such that emergent folk will all necessarilyshare the same positions on one moral reality or another. Even regarding cosmologicalmatters, we are not suggesting a convergence of views regarding such things asphilosophy of mind, theological anthropology, divine interactions and so on.A distinctly nonpropositional convergence of shared practice and shared experience, of adeepened sense of solidarity and heightened sense of compassion, will very muchcondition our approach to environmental & social justice, ecclesiology, worship andJesus. Notice how these are not primarily propositional realities but are, first andforemost, relational realities. We are not first preoccupied with getting answers right as ifwe were mostly dealing with ideas. This convergence is not about getting the correctrelationships between ideas, whether through a harmony of reasons or even intuitions.This is about realizing the right relationships between humankind and God,ourselves and one another, ourselves and nature and even our relationship to ourown self.This harmonic convergence, then, is like a symphony of many instruments, each with itsown sound and timbre, all playing together in the same key, in harmony and to therhythm of the same Drum. This is not to deny, however, that to the extent that we areconditioned, shaped and formed by a convergence of nonpropositional influences, that itwill not eventually transvalue our more propositional approaches, effecting theirconvergence also. It will. But that requires a great deal of patience.Beyond socialization, we are opening ourselves up to ongoing transformation and a deepdesiring of the Kingdom. We experience a deep desiring for environmental and socialjustice in solidarity with and compassion for humankind and our cosmos. Ever moreidentified with Jesus and His deep desiring of communion with the Father, we long forthe coming of the Cosmic Christ. Our ecclesiology is more ecumenical and egalitarian as
  19. 19. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011we go beyond institutional structures (and not necessarily without them) seekingauthentic community in manifold and multiform ways, wherever two or more can gatherin His Name. Our worship becomes the practice of the Presence of God as we seek anabiding relationship with Him – not Whom we possess, but – Who possesses us.In solidarity and sharing this same deep desiring, we may otherwise differ in HOW wesee justice playing out morally, practically and politically, in HOW we see the Kingdomunfolding eschatologically and metaphysically. And we can abide with these differencesbecause of our deep humility and deep love for one another, encouraging and forgivingone another, sharing a vision THAT in the Kingdom all may be well, all will be well, allshall be well and we will know that all manner of things shall be well.Our conversation, then, is less about positions and more about dispositions, about beingdisposed to a Deep Awareness, Deep Solidarity, Deep Compassion, Deep Humility, DeepWorship, Deep Justice, Deep Ecology and Deep Community. That these realities will playout in our lives we are confidently assured. How they will play out is something weexplore in humility and civility with all people of goodwill. Ours is foremost a sharedaxiology, interpretively and evaluatively, of what we deeply desire and deeply value.We share practices that shape, form, cultivate and celebrate these desires and values. Webelieve that, one day, this will lead also to a shared cosmology, descriptively andnormatively, consistent with the best science and best philosophy.―Your life is shaped by the end you live for. You are made in the image of what youdesire.‖ Thomas MertonTriadic Phenomenology – Relationships: Word, Community & Spirit Economic Trinity & Immanent Ontological Frame Intraobjective Identity as Word Science – the physicalScience vs Natural Theology vs Theology of NatureWe should aspire to be clear regarding this project or the other regarding whether or notone is doing science, philosophy or theology. And we mustn‘t forget religion! And if oneis talking about ALL of these spheres of human concern, in which sphere do they begintheir conversation? and, in which do they end up?Except for the classical ―proofs‖ by Aquinas and Anselm, and CS Peirce‘s ―NeglectedArgument for the Reality of God,‖ and the Modal Ontological Arguments as crafted byGodel and Hartshorne only to be lately and greatly improved by Christopher McHugh,we wouldnt consider much of what is going on, nowadays, to be natural theology or anatural philosophy of God. There is just not THAT much that one can say, in our view,
  20. 20. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011about God, using philosophy as a starting point, at least not when methodologicallyrestricting one‘s musings to the rubrics of formal argumentation. The same is true for anyother notions regarding ―ultimate‖ or ―primal‖ reality, using either philosophy or scienceas a starting point. All anyone thus establishes is a modicum of epistemological paritywith alternate worldviews, i.e. elaborate tautologies.Don‘t get us wrong. We are not at all dismissive of these enterprises, which demonstratethe reasonableness of faith (or, for those of you who consider this too strong, that it is notunreasonable or is, for what it‘s worth, as reasonable as other interpretive stances vis avis their Scottish verdicts). For some, they have been indispensable parts of our journeys.For most, though, we‘ve been told they don‘t matter very much. And we trust what theyreport. Still, some say that they‘ve enjoyed many fruitful dialogues with manynonbelievers who do seek such apologetics and have thereby grown in mutual respect andunderstanding and self-understanding.Worldviews, thankfully, are not mere formal arguments. They represent deeply andprofoundly experienced existential orientations and ultimate concerns. And, if they areauthentically re-ligious, they ―tie life‘s experiences back together‖ and heal us that wemay survive and grow us that we may thrive. If we are not experiencing both healing andgrowth, both broadly conceived, well, that‘s what the Prophets are for! They remind usthat we are to be about the actualization of value.The interface between science and theology is not terribly interesting, philosophically,unless our project is to disambiguate their definitions. If it remains interesting, even earlyin the 21st century, it is only because so many scientistic and fideistic apologists arearguing past each other, precisely because they‘ve neglected the work of philosophicaldisambiguation, which understandably can be difficult subject matter.Unlike philosophy (natural theology) and science, wherein we bracket, best we can, ourtheology, in a theology of nature we start with God and see His presence in all thingsand hear Her siren song from all places! From a different explanatory stance, we breakout in analogy and metaphor, poetry and song, allegory and parable, joke and koan, storyand dance, ritual and sacrament! And we speak of trail dust and stardust, quarks andsupernovae, maidens and sailors, the Cosmic Adventure (John Haught) and the DivineMatrix (Joseph Bracken), leaping whitetails and creeping lizards, bright indwellingpresence and luminous dark nights,hope and love and faith …The Implications of a Semiotic Theological Anthropology for the InteractionBetween Science and ReligionSome Traditional DistinctionsThe human mind has been described in many different ways over the years bypsychologists, philosophers, theologians and others. In psychology, it has been describedin both structural and functional terms, both by its parts and by their activities.
  21. 21. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011Psychology coursework typically combines sensation with perception, emotion withmotivation, learning with memory, personality with development. There are Jungianterms like sensing, intuiting, thinking, feeling, perceiving and judging and Freudian termslike ego, id and superego. Philosophers have drawn a distinction between the brain andthe mind. Most recognize distinctions like conscious, subconscious and unconscious.Neuroscientists describe a neuronal network that is distributed throughout the body.Theologians speak of memory, understanding and will. A host of other terms come tomind, like cognitive, affective, instinctual, inferential, noninferential, empirical, logical,practical and relational. One might also find the categories normative, descriptive,interpretive and evaluative helpful.In philosophy, there is a branch of study called epistemology, which is concerned withhow it is that we know what we know and just what it is that we might know, when wesay we know something. In theology, belief has been justified as evidential, when basedon evidence, rational, when based on reason, presuppositional, when based oninescapable suppositions, and existential, when based on ultimate concerns. Inpsychology, different developmental theorists have studied human growth. The bestknown are probably Piaget (cognitive), Erikson (personality), Kohlberg (moral) andFowler (faith). Lonergan, as a systematic theologian, described growth in terms ofintellectual, moral and religious conversions to which Gelpi has added affective andsocial conversions. Normatively, Lonergan gave us the famous transcendentalimperatives: Be attentive! Be intelligent! Be reasonable! Be responsible! Be in love!For every distinction listed above, there are further distinctions. We need not treat all ofthese nuances; however, just for example, let‘s further examine human inference. Peirce,the founder of American pragmatism, described three types of inference, all whichpresuppose the others, from the strongest form to the weakest, as deductive, inductive andabductive inference. Generally speaking, one might think of deductive inference inassociation with formal logical argumentation. Inductive inference is most oftenassociated with the scientific method. Abductive inference might best be thought of ashypothesizing. Abduction is, then, informal argumentation and its ―methods‖ are quiteoften what might otherwise be known as logical fallacies in formal argumentation. Thisdoes not mean that it should be readily dismissed for this is how we do most of ourcritical thinking, which is to say, fallibilistically. For example, so often, with only verylimited information, we necessarily find ourselves reasoning backwards (retro-ductively)from known predicates (or properties) of a reality to unknown subjects (of variousclasses, sets or subsets). We find ourselves venturing guesses as to what reality or type ofreality we may have encountered and employing analogies in our references to anddescriptions of such realities, when we otherwise cannot determine (epistemically) orspecify (ontologically) this reality versus another. Sometimes, we wonder if this or thatreality is novel, even? It is through such alternating conjecture and criticism, then, orwhat Popper called falsification, that much of human knowledge has advanced. This isnot to say that knowledge has not also advanced, on occasion, through various leaps andbounds, or what Kuhn called paradigm shifts.Another pivotal distinction is that between a theory of truth and a test of truth. For our
  22. 22. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011purposes, a conventional understanding of truth will suffice in place of any otherwiseelaborately nuanced theory. A test of truth is a process that helps us navigate toward thetruth while not otherwise constituting the truth in and of itself. A truth-conducive process,like deductive inference and formal argumentation, navigates us more or less directlytoward the truth. A truth-indicative process, like abductive inference, navigates usindirectly by, at least, raising the probability that we are approaching the truth. As theweakest form of inference, abduction needs to be bolstered by repeated testing, which isto say, inductively. Beyond these rather simple, straightforward rubrics for humanknowledge-advances, there are long histories and many competing schools in philosophyand theology and their interactions have not always been dialogical and irenic. At the riskof oversimplifying all things epistemological, we suggest that much of the confusion hasbeen rooted in dualistic thinking which has viewed reality rather facilely in either-or andall or nothing terms, too often viewing what are mere distinctions as full blowndichotomies, too often mistaking partial truths for the whole truth, and too oftenabsolutizing perspectives that are indeed relative to one‘s frame of reference. In theology,there is a word for such thinking, heresy. In philosophy, there is an adjectival suffix,-istic.Some Additional DistinctionsSociologically and linguistically, we would like to introduce some additionaldistinctions11 that are based on whether or not our concepts have been negotiated(accepted into general use, more or less) by the wider pluralistic community. Those thathave been thus negotiated have theoretic status. Those still-in-negotiation are heuristicdevices or conceptual placeholders. Dogmatic concepts are employed withincommunities of belief but have not been negotiated by the wider pluralistic community,more broadly conceived. Semiotic concepts are those presuppositional notions withoutwhich meaning and communication would not even be possible.Toward a Philosophical AnthropologyOur purpose, thus far, has been to introduce enough categories and distinctions to provideeach different member of what might be a rather diverse audience some handles withwhich to grasp our meaning and intent as it relates to our philosophical anthropology.Foundational to any theological proposal, one must have a philosophical anthropology, aperspective on humankind‘s psychological make-up that is grounded in good biologicalscience and sound evolutionary epistemology. The history of philosophy has beencharacterized by one overemphasis after another, which is to say one – istic perspectiveafter another, whether the empiricistic, rationalistic, positivistic, idealistic or pragmatistic.Its history might best be summed up as the struggle between the more static essentialisticand substantialistic approaches and the more dynamical nominalistic and process-likeapproaches, which are but the obverse sides of the same coin of an otherwiseepistemically and ontologically bankrupt dualistic realm, which transacts in aphilosophical currency that has no practical cash value for most of us who get along quite11 Sylvest & Yong 2010
  23. 23. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011well with good old common sense. The history of theology, which takes philosophy as itshandmaiden, necessarily fares no better as its approaches can alternately be similarlydescribed as evidentialistic, rationalistic, fideistic and pietistic. One might justifiablywonder if, down through the centuries, an epistemic fetish is all one could be expected tocome away with after a formal academic engagement of these disciplines.Perhaps that‘s what those in the modern scientistic cabal must think? No doubt, that‘swhat the radically deconstructive postmodernists must imagine with their nihilistic bent?Do the arationally gnostic mysterians have the only mindset that can transcend theseotherwise mutually unintelligible epistemic stances and totally incommensurableontological approaches?Because of their overly facile dyadic approaches, neither an essentialism nor anominalism, neither a substance nor a process approach, can account for the novelty weencounter in reality. Our known categories of givens include the primitives (like space,time, mass & energy), forces (like electromagnetism, gravity, strong & weak nuclear) andaxioms (like the laws of thermodynamics & quantum mechanics). While it may be tooearly on humankind‘s journey for us to epistemically determine with any ontologicalprecision the exact nature of such novelty in terms of our known theoretic givens, ourinability to robustly describe this novelty does not mean that we can not otherwisesuccessfully refer to it with good heuristic devices. To be clear, the novelties we aredealing with include those involved in the Big Bang and its earliest moments, the originof life and the dawn of human consciousness.The question that should be begging for our readers, now, is just what is the mostsuccessful way to refer to reality, phenomenologically, even if we cannot otherwiserobustly describe it, metaphysically? What concepts and categories can we mostprofitably employ and what rubrics for relating them would be most fruitful in theirapplication?What can we reasonably aspire to say about reality without saying more than we knowabout such realities as the origins of life or human consciousness or even the cosmos,itself?It is beyond the scope of this consideration to set forth the details of our ownphilosophical journeys through these questions to our present provisional closures, butwith a great deal of enthusiasm we can recommend the approach of the Americanpragmatist, Charles Sanders Peirce, as it has been employed and articulated by thebiological anthropologist, Terrence Deacon12, and the systematic theologian, DonaldGelpi, S.J.. While we will not unfold the arguments of these scholars in any detail, neitherwould we want our enthusiasm to be mistaken for an academic pretension to either a fullunderstanding of their work or a comprehensive grasp of its implications.Deacon, for his part, employs an emergentist heuristic, which has also been well12 Deacon‘s Symbolic Species
  24. 24. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011articulated by, and on several occasions even co-authored with, Ursula Goodenough, aprominent cell biologist and popular author at the interface of science and religion.Deacon and Goodenough are very circumspect in not telling what are otherwiseuntellable tales, as they comprehensively refer to many different natural phenomenawithout exhaustively describing them. In their popular writings, they take one on acosmic journey where properties, even reality‘s laws, are seen to emerge, firstthermodynamically, as mere shape interactions, then morphodynamically, as shapeinteractions playing out over time, and finally teleodynamically, as a consequence ofshape, time and information. These orders of emergence refer to progressively higherorders of regularities, which are causal configurations. For all science can tell,teleodynamics, or 3rd order emergence, as Deacon and Goodenough say, define the onsetof telos on this planet and, for all we now know, the universe. They go on to develop acorrespondence between the human virtues of compassion, fair-mindedness, care andreverence with the inherited pro-social capacities of empathy, strategic reciprocity,nurturance and hierarchy, suggesting various symbolic accessions and syntheses wherebyour otherwise innate groundings are complexified and transfigured into uniquely humancapacities. In our view, this is hypothetically consonant with Gelpi‘s Peircean-nuanceddefinitions of selves as autonomous functioning tendencies (think higher orderregularities and telos) and of human persons as selves capable of conversion (think ofGelpi‘s Lonerganian account of conversion).In any case, the human capacities for virtue can be realized both intuitively andimaginatively as well as rationally and inferentially. Because humans are finite and learnfallibilistically, each human value-realization attempt leads to an uncertain outcome,which is to recognize that it requires a wager or risk. As such, the augmentation ofhuman value-realizations must be successfully managed through various riskamplification and risk attenuation strategies, which is to further recognize that we mustbe able to cash out the practical value of our concepts and risk amplification-attenuationstrategies in what is our perennial pursuit of goodness, radically finite as we are. Thus itis that many fallacies of formal argumentation are employed in everyday common senseleading us fallibly but probabilistically toward value-realizations.For example, if it is true, we believe that it is also beautiful and useful, leading us tovarious attraction or avoidance strategies in our value-realization pursuits. While theconverse, if it is beautiful or useful, then it is also true, is not necessarily true, still, we doraise the probability of something being true in our recognition that it is either beautifulor useful because if something is neither beautiful nor useful then the possibility of itbeing true is nil. Thus it is in science that we employ Occam‘s Razor and othertruth-indicative criteria like simplicity, elegance, parsimony and symmetry. Thus it is intheology that orthopraxis grounds orthodoxy. Our existential orientations toward truth,beauty and goodness, which are innately grounded in our inherited pro-social capacities,get transfigured into the theological imperatives of faith, hope and love as a humanvalue-augmentation strategy requiring the amplification of the epistemic risks alreadyentailed in the normative sciences of logic, aesthetics and ethics. In our religiouscommunities, truth is thus articulated in creed, beauty celebrated in cult or ritual, andgoodness preserved in code. Such is the nature of the Kierkegaardian leap and of the
  25. 25. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011Pascalian wager.Questions That Beg – Toward a Theological AnthropologyOur emergentist account, appropriately modest in its description of thermodynamics,morphodynamics and teleodynamics, leaves profound existential questions begging,questions which leave all in wonder and awe, many in reverential silence, and many moremusing imaginatively about what we would refer to as the proto-dynamics that gave riseto and the eschato-dynamics that might ensue from this emergent reality we haveencountered. Some employ a root metaphor, like being or experience, to elaborate aspeculative metaphysic. Others dwell in analogical imaginations, inchoately relating toultimate reality through robust metaphors and sweeping metanarratives. While our ownPeircean-informed sensibilities do not ambition a metaphysic (and we feel there is noattempt better than Gelpi‘s own triadic construct of experience), they are suggestive of apneumatologically informed theology of nature, precisely derived from an analogy thatone might draw between the Peircean telos, as minimalistically conceived in Deacon‘steleodynamics, and the work of the Spirit, as broadly conceived in all of humankind‘sgreat traditions and most native religions, also.Our proposal is that what humankind relates to as an ineluctably unobtrusive but utterlyefficacious tacit dimension comprised of a matrix of dynamical formal causal relationswould, from an hierarchical perspective, correspond to a divine telic dimension, muchlike the interpenetrating causative fields of John Haught‘s process approach and aestheticteleology, much like Joseph Bracken‘s Divine Matrix. We would point out that thisconception is not an attempt to facilely blend otherwise incommensurate approaches, forexample the Whiteheadian process versus Gelpi‘s Peircean account, and we do recognizeand endorse the efficacies of the triadic over the classically dyadic (even di-polar)accounts. Rather, from a phenomenological perspective, we are invoking vaguelyreferential analogs as heuristic devices or conceptual placeholders, recognizing thatmetaphors and analogies are not, in and of themselves, system-bound. In other words, ourrobustly pneumatological imaginations are relating our triadic and social humanexperiences of phenomenal reality, with all of its many different patterns and regularities,to what we consider putative divine supremacies. We are not otherwise attempting, in theleast, to account for manifold and multiform continuities and discontinuities betweendifferent orders of reality. We do believe that any who ambition a metaphysic must bothaccount for divine alterity as well as differentiate the moral status of the human fromother selves and creatures. All of this is to suggest that, because of the pervasive ubiquityin the use of the concept of Spirit down through the ages and still across the face of theEarth, arguably it meets the criterion of enjoying theoretic status contrasted with thedogmatic status of so many other theological concepts. In this regard, we might affirmwith Radical Orthodoxy that, over against any notion that there exists a secular societywrit large, as abstracted and reified by a militant but not truly regnant nihilism, our planetis inhabited, rather, by a pneumatologically-informed but broadly pluralistic community.With the Reformed epistemologists, we might affirm that being-in-love in the Spirit is anecessary and sufficient epistemic risk amplification for any who‘d aspire to mostrobustly (superabundantly) augment human value-realizations beyond those inherited as
  26. 26. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011pro-social biases and transfigured (abundantly, to be sure) into our authentically humanmoral virtues.The Relations of Science and ReligionWhat are the implications of this theological anthropology for the interaction betweenscience and religion, viewing reality pansemioentheistically, employing the epistemiccategories of the normative, descriptive, interpretive and evaluative and characterizingour concepts as semiotic, theoretic, heuristic and dogmatic?To the extent that we map science as a descriptive enterprise and religion as aninterpretive enterprise and affirm them as autonomous methodologies but stillintegrally-related in every human value-realization, there can be no talk of conflict, asreigns in the scientism of the Enlightenment fundamentalists and the literalism of thevarious religious fundamentalists. Our axiological perspectivalism with its explicitintegralism speaks of a model of interaction that coincides with Ian Barbour‘sIntegration, John Polkinghorne‘s Assimilation, John Haught‘s Confirmation and TedPeter‘s Hypothetical Consonance (and Ethical Overlap).In some sense, the very basis of a semiotic approach is grounded in the need forinformational interpretation, a need that derives from the radical finitude of creatures, aneed that plays out in our fallibilistic methodologies and heavy reliance on the weakerforms of inference, both abduction and induction, such as in the back-door philosophy ofPopperian falsification and the informal argumentation that predominates, even mostlycomprises, our common sense. The implication is, then, that absent this finitude andgiven a virtual omniscience, descriptively, and omnipotence, evaluatively, the normativesciences would consist of only aesthetics and ethics, logic would be obviated and thedescriptive and interpretive would be a distinction without a difference, which mightdescribe, in fact, an idealized eschatological epistemology whereby humankind as acommunity of inquiry has attained to the truth. At any rate, to be sure, that is manifestlynot the case, presently.One practical upshot of this situation is that there need be no Two-Language Theory asdiscussed by Peters or Two-Language System as described by Peacocke, at least from ouridealized theoretical perspective; however, from a practical perspective, science andreligion will seemingly traffic in two languages because, if for no other reason, the latteris dominated by dogmatic and heuristic conceptions, the former by semiotic and theoreticconceptions. These need not be conceived as two languages, from a strictly linguisticperspective, but might better be conceived as two vocabularies that are slowly merging.There is another reason for religion‘s expanded vocabulary, though, but that derives fromthe fact that it has additional concerns (e.g. interpersonal) that are of no special interest toa purely scientific quest or merely descriptive enterprise. It is in that vein that one mightinvoke what Barbour and Polkinghorne have called Independence and Haught hasdescribed as Contrast. Willem Drees has developed a schema that more explicitly
  27. 27. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011recognizes that religion has additional elements than the merely cognitive-propositionalas much of religion‘s content rests on both religious experience and tradition.At this point, one might recognize that the various categories that have been employedfor the interaction between science and religion are not all mutually exclusive. Thecategories we employ in our axiological perspectivalism are methodologically-autonomous but epistemically related and this noetic reality is affirmed whenever ascientist normatively invokes Occam ‘s razor, parsimony, symmetry, elegance or otheraesthetic criteria to adjudicate between competing hypotheses. Thus it is that, wheneverany methodologically autonomous realms do not fully overlap, but only partially overlap,and are placed in what Haught calls Contact, we would urge what Barbour andPolkinghorne suggest as Dialogue.AnticipationsFrom the standpoint of interreligious dialogue, this hermeneutical circle of the normative,descriptive, interpretive and evaluative might be interpreted in terms of orthopathy,orthodoxy, orthopraxis, orthocommunio, each as an aspect of a religious interpretationwhich presupposes the other aspects. From a practical perspective, these distinctions arecritical because they imply, for example, that the orthopathic aspects of our spiritual―technologies‖ – by which we refer to the various spiritual disciplines, practices,asceticisms and devotions, for example – are not (necessarily) inextricably bound to anygiven doctrinal insights. Thus we would expect continued fruitful interreligiousengagements such as have already been realized between Christianity and Zen, forexample, and would encourage further orthopathic dialogue and exchange. Mosttheologians already recognize this dynamic, prudentially speaking, in their willingness toabstract orthopraxes – or moral and practical aspects – out of their doctrinal contexts inother traditions. Also, metaphorical and analogical language (ananoetic knowledge) is notsystem-bound, so our depth encounters of reality can be enriched by our interreligiousananoetic interchanges, which can provide common ground to explore together ourtheologies of nature, especially from a pneumatological perspective. We believe thisapproach can help prepare an ever more fertile ground for interreligious dialogue as ourorthopathic, orthopraxic and ananoetic exchanges prepare the way to a much sought afterunity even as we continue our search to discursively identify the commonalities in ourotherwise diverse and pluralistic belief systems.We can discuss the philosophic focus of human concern in terms of the normativesciences. These sciences, in their mediation of our interpretive and descriptive foci will,in the final analysis, always come up short in rationally demonstrating and empiricallyproving our competing worldviews and metaphysics. We do want to ensure, normatively,that any of our competing systems at least minimalistically gift us with sufficientmodeling power of reality such that we can establish an epistemic parity with othersystems. Once we have established a modicum of equiplausibility or equiprobability, wemight then invoke a type of equiplausibility principle to guide us in our existentialchoices. And such a principle can (should) adhere to normative guidelines for informal
  28. 28. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011reasoning based on our abductive and retroductive inferential modes, which arepresupposed in our triadic inferential dynamism along with induction and deduction.Here we reason from predicates and properties back to subjects and essences (nonstrictidentities) in order to gain a probabilistic edge over otherwise arbitrary decision-makingand prudential judgment. Thus we invoke parsimony, simplicity, elegance, beauty,symmetry, utility, goodness and other aesthetical and ethical and logical existentialorientations, advancing notions like Pascals Wager, for example, and taking courage toleap with Kierkegaard. And it is here that we would propose that these philosophic normstransist into theological virtue, which we propose might be understood in terms of theamplification of risks toward the augmentation of value. As we gather from HaughtsCosmic Adventure and aesthetic teleology, the more fragile the more beautiful. And, aswe know from nonequilibrium thermodynamics, the greater the number of bifurcationsand permutations in a structures composition, the more fragile ---because it runs a greaterrisk of disintegration--- hence, the more beautiful. So, the leap, the wager, from aphilosophic epistemic virtue to a theological virtue, from logic and aesthetics and ethicsto faith and hope and love, is an amplification of risk (kenosis as risk of disintegration)toward the augmentation of value, an increase in truth, beauty and goodness, mediated bycreed, cult and code in community, both a philosophical community of inquiry and atheological community of lovers.We are not, in any manner, suggesting that we believe that this is what many, or evenmost, people are doing consciously. This is how we conceive the underlyingdynamism for common sense as practiced by humanity, whether consciously or not,competently or not.Our affinity for Peirce comes from our appreciation of his pragmatic logic and theory ofmeaning and affirmation of metaphysics as a valid but fallible enterprise. Beyond that,we otherwise sympathize with the analytical approaches and the advocates of commonsense and any other approaches that incorporate some type of fallibilism or criticalrealism. And beyond that, we really are not looking for additional epistemological ormethodological rigor other than that practiced by conventional science and that enjoyedin colloquial usage (including the "leap" of faith) and subject to linguistic analysis.It is our simple thesis that most people are competent in their interactions with realitybecause we have evolved that way. That is a tautology, to be sure. But it is a taut one,empirically. Peirce is exactly right in his use of the analogy of a cable with many strandsor filaments to explain human knowledge. The reason most people are competent is thatthey have enough strands. We are also fallible, because no one has them all.Epistemology searches for an eschatological ideal that would account for every strandand epistemologists argue about the attributes of differently-stranded cables. Good forthem. But these arguments, in my view, reach a point of diminishing returns where, forall practical purposes, the differences in their positions become so nuanced as not to berelevant to me vis a vis my value-realization pursuits.Ontologists, for their part, argue about how high they have rope-climbed these cables and
  29. 29. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011what vista they have taken in, cosmologically, or how low they have descended into thedeepest structures of matter to discern realitys microstructures. Their arguments, too,reach a point of diminishing returns vis a vis my value-realizations.Although there is no theoretical constraint on how high or low humankind can travel,hoisting itself on its epistemic cables, for all practical purposes, our radical finitude limitsour horizons vis a vis humanitys ultimate concerns. And this, then, places us in deepsympathy with Wittgenstein, Pascal, James, Kierkegaard et al with my qualifying provisobeing that faith takes us beyond but not without reason, which is to recognize that we doneed different strands to construct our cables and that some cables are indeed better thanothers. Which strands are necessary and how many of them are sufficient isProblematical. What would make for the ideal cable is highly problematical. We think itis fair, then, to talk in terms of adequacy, abundance and superabundance (or degrees ofparticipation, if you will) when it comes to epistemic cables vis a vis value-realizations.We might think, for example, of Lonergans transcendental imperatives: Be attentive,empirically. Be intelligent, semantically, such as in our naming exercises, criticallyexamining our referents, concepts and terms as they variously describe or refer torealities. Be reasonable, logically, whether in formal or informal argumentation,especially employing common sense. Be responsible, prudentially, in our practical andmoral deliberations and judgments and in our analyses of actionable norms, guided byequiplausibility principles. Be in love, affectively, relationally interacting with realityguided, orthopathically, by authentic aesthetic sensibilities and a grammar of trust, properassent, dutiful fidelity, a felt sense of solidarity expressed in compassion and bybeing-in-love (storge, philia, eros and agape).Now, one of our central contentions is that a philosophical anthropology that does notrecognize and affirm a human exceptionalism is not empirically demonstrable andtherefore not philosophically defensible. Further we contend that such a philosophicalanthropology does not necessarily derive from a Peircean-informed perspective, neitherfrom a religious nor a secular outlook. For example, we largely resonate with UrsulaGoodenough and Terry Deacon, who have set forth what we interpret as a naturalisticaccount of human exceptionalism. However one defines the epistemic filaments thatcomprise the human cable of knowledge per the Peircean metaphor, epistemology is thestudy of which of the filaments are necessary and how many of them are sufficient.Beyond the necessary and sufficient, epistemologists also want to know what mix mightbe epistemically optimal.Presumably, because of our finitude, we are all operating suboptimally, some merelysatisficing, minimalistically, others variously enjoying epistemic abundance andsuperabundance. One doesnt have to be a self-aware, consciously-competentepistemologist to realize human values because human common sense evolved as fastand frugal heuristics that probabilistically guide us toward knowledge, sometimesunawares. People with the requisite common sense are enjoying epistemic efficacies fromthese probabilistic heuristics. The normative and evaluative mediation of humanknowledge-advances and value-realizations are grounded in these probabilistic heuristicsand can be rendered, in fact, in terms of informal argumentation based on retroductive
  30. 30. Johnboy Sylvest manuscript © 2011abductions that reason (backwards) from predicates to subjects, or, we might say, fromvarious properties to various modal realities. (If it is elegant, it is true. If it is useful, it istrue.) That is why Occams Razor works, sometimes. Thats how and why parsimony,symmetry, elegance, simplicity and utility work, sometimes.The epistemic efficacies, or gnosiological significance, of the logical and aesthetical andethical sciences, or of truth and beauty and goodness, derive from the fast and frugalheuristics of an ecological rationality gifted by natural selection. When these heuristicsare modeled like informal arguments, their fallibile and probabilistic nature is plain tosee. Because we are fallible, our value-realizations involve risk-ventures. Risk venturesinvolve risk-management. The amplification of risks, within reasonable norms,augments human value-realizations. Like all other epistemic risk-taking,risk-amplification toward the end of value-augmentation is normed probabilistically andcan be guided by equiplausibility (or even equiprobability) principles, which mightsuggest, for example, that one is acting within ones epistemic rights, only when onesrisk-ventures are life-giving and relationship-enhancing.The concepts and terms employed in our various belief systems can be categorized assemiotic (if nonnegotiable, cross-culturally), theoretic (if negotiated), heuristic (ifstill-in-negotiation) and dogmatic (if non-negotiated). Ones belief system, even whenarticulated with dogmatic and heuristic concepts and terms (in addition to the requisitesemiotic and theoretic ones), enjoys epistemic parity with competing perspectives aslong as one is acting within ones epistemic rights as guided by the actionable normsderived from acceptable equiplausibility principles, which have been established in a,more or less, pluralistic community. Ones beliefs enjoy epistemic warrant in acommunity of value-realizers when one establishes epistemic parity with competingsystems, acts within ones epistemic rights and articulates those beliefs using onlysemiotic and theoretic concepts and terms. A communitys acceptance of actionablenorms and establishment of semiotic and theoretic terms and concepts is, itself, atruth-indicative, probabilitistic (hence, still fallible) guide to optimal value-realization.The creeds, cults and codes of religious communities thus represent existentialrisk-ventures, Pascalian wagers and Kierkegaardian leaps, that go beyond (but certainlymust not go without) the philosophic risk-taking of the normative sciences of the widerpluralistic community in a risk-amplification ordered toward optimal augmentation ofhuman value-realizations of truth, beauty, goodness and unity. Which communities enjoyepistemic parity with competing interpretive systems and meet the criteria of actingwithin their epistemic rights? Which do not? Those are sociologic transactions, thecurrency of which is the pragmatic cashing out of values, not as a theory of truth(truth-conducively, as they say) per se but as a darned good test of truth(truth-indicatively).We consider ourselves minimalist realists, fallibilists. We draw our inspiration fromPeirces pragmatism (or pragmaticism). Theologically, then, the only thing we need in ourepistemic suite to do the God-encounter is our common sense and a receptive heart. Theexistentialists and reformed epistemologists think all we need is that receptive heart. The