More Epistemological Sin

Merold Westphal is a Christian in the Reformed tradition who likes to make use of atheist philosophers to help develop what he dubs the hermeneutics of suspicion (the suspicion that we have darker motives for our truth claims) and the hermeneutics of finitude (our humanness always prevents us from seeing everything). As much as I had hoped to claim a place as an originator of talking about sin as an epistemological category, he has long beaten me to the punch:

[An] opening to a theological appropriation of the hermeneutics of suspicion derives from its parallel with the hermeneutics of finitude. Just as finitude is a theological theme in relation to the doctrine of Creation, suspicion is a theological theme in relation to the doctrine of the Fall. In the theologian’s language, it traces the noetic effects of human sinfulness. Nietzsche didn’t intend his doctrine of the will to power to be a secular, phenomenological account of original sin or his practice of suspicion to be an extension of the Pauline, Augustinian, and Lutheran employment of sin as an epistemological category; but he can be fruitfully read in that way. When he is, it begins to look as if suspicion is not simply on optional tool for the theologian but an indispensable one for any theologian who takes sin seriously.

We might note the following irony involved in the case of the theologian who does not take sin seriously. This usually happens out of the desire to take modern secular thought seriously, to avoid keeping theology in an ecclesiastical ghetto; but in the aftermath of secular suspicion… any theologian who does not take sin seriously loses touch thereby with some of the most powerful secular thinkers of the modern (and postmodern) world.

Merold Westphal, Overcoming Onto-theology: Toward a Postmodern Christian Faith, 299-300.

One response to “More Epistemological Sin”

  1. Well at least you’re in good company … what is that bit about great minds thinking alike? ;-)

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