Monthly Archives: October 2017

Christian Re-enchantment IV: Unrealistic Fictions

In private Jesus taught his disciples that homosexual acts are sins or in private Jesus never taught his disciples that homosexual acts are sins. If we are talking about the normal everyday reality which can be studied by natural science we would say that one or the other of the alternatives is true even if we cannot find out what Jesus taught on the subject. However, if we interpret the Gospel narratives as narratives of an enchanted reality, we should say that neither is true. What is not said in a narrative of an enchanted reality is simply not in the enchanted reality being presented in the narrative. Suppose that there were a True/False test on the Gospels which had as an item:

In private Jesus taught his disciples that homosexual acts are sins _______.

Students could rightly complain that they need a third choice besides T or F. They would want to be able to use a value, perhaps U, to indicate unspecified.”

When one thinks about stories, there is nothing surprising about the Law of Excluded Middle not holding for fictions. (The Law of Excluded Middle holds that there is no middle ground between being True or False.) Stories or fictions cannot present a reality in a complete way It would be an extremely boring story if the author even tried to describe in all possible detail a reality he was imagining. This indeterminacy about billions of details does not detract from the story. It does though lead us to conclude that what is told in the story exists only in our thoughts and imaginations. For is it not a fundamental human belief that in reality a thing either is something or is not that something? Nonetheless, many fictions can be labeled “realistic.”

In my posts on Christian Re-Enchantment, I am advocating a stance that all narratives of an enchanted reality have the logical structure of unrealistic fictions. However, there is a small subset of narratives of an enchanted reality which portray how reality is apart from our imaginations. These are narratives of a Christian enchanted reality. Logically or structurally these narratives are unrealistic fictions. But certain orthodox Christian narratives are not fictions!

What is it for a fiction to be “realistic?” In human reason or culture there are representations of some vast system of objects and processes like those we can see, taste, touch, smell, hear and feel. These representations aim to be representations of the whole of reality – all that there is. This system is spread out in space and time. We sense only a tiny bit of this system. In individual people no two people may have exactly the same details in their representations. What we are not there to sense, though, is believed to be like what we do sense. We believe that what we represent existed before we were born and will continue after we die. For billions of people such representations of reality have been and are representations of an enchanted reality. There are miracles, ghosts, gods and goddess, and so on mingled in with the ordinary everyday objects and processes. I label the whole reality representations when it may contain enchanted realities over and above human thoughts and feelings “pre-scientific representations.”

Since at least the period of the Enlightenment there has been an effort by cultural elites to educate people to purge their whole reality representations of all enchanted realities. This purging is a necessary preparation for a scientific understanding of the whole of reality. This purged system is what humans study in natural science. Call our representations of the whole of reality which contain nothing beyond what in principle can be explained by natural science naturalistic representations. What we represent with naturalistic representations is what we call nature.The goal of natural science is to enhance the naturalistic representation with a sophisticated representation of how the natural processes operate so that humans can predict and control what occurs in nature as well as to satisfy curiosity about the order observed in what we represent and then to delight in representing this order. At their best, scientific representations are expressed in the abstract language of mathematics.

A realistic fiction tells us only of objects, processes and events which could be in nature.

An unrealistic fiction tells us of objects, processes and events which could not be in nature along with those which could be in nature.

Being realistic does not save the realities portrayed in realistic fictions from the incompleteness indicated by failure of the law of excluded middle.

But the gaps in an enchanted reality are even greater than those natural details the author never mentioned. Enchanted realities need not obey the laws of natural science. Or better: a narrative of an enchanted reality can describe what is in conflict with natural science. This possible conflict with natural science goes even deeper than presenting events which conflict with known laws of science. In unrealistic fictions there is no law of causality. Events can be presented in fiction which have no cause. The lack of a cause could be because the author did not specify that there was one or that the author specified that there was none. The author, or authors, are in charge of what is in the reality they are presenting. At their very worst, unrealistic fictions are as disorganized as our dreams in sleep. These reminders about fictions tempt us to conclude that if all narratives of enchanted realities have the structure of fictions, then no narratives of enchanted realities tells us the truth about what is real. Nothing as incomplete and unlawful as the fragmentary and sometimes chaotic presentations of unrealistic fiction could be real apart from human imagination. That is what I am advocating, though. The Gospel narrative of Jesus’s life and deeds is structurally an unrealistic fiction. But it is not a fiction.

My book on sexual morality requires no narrative about enchanted realities other than the everyday one about our thoughts and feeling. But the traditional sexual morality I justify on purely secular grounds receives more motivation if placed in a Judeo-Christian framework.

My book Confronting Sexual Nihilism: Traditional Sexual Morality as an Antidote to Nihilism was released by Tate Publishing on March 11, 2014. See Book Web Page for information about the book. The publisher’s listed price is $26.99. Printed copies can be purchased here by credit card for $3.99, plus $3.71 for shipping and handling.

To purchase the printed book by check, send check of $3.99 plus $3.71 for shipping and handling per copy. Send to:
Charles F. Kielkopf
45 W. Kenworth Rd.