Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Non-Cognitive Knowing

In the class I recently finished, we were talking about discipleship and teaching new Christians, specifically cross-culture, to be more like Christ. A large part of class time was spent discussing the issue of what exactly is taking place during this time of discipleship. If we are to teach people to know God better, then it is important to understand how we know. Early on in the class it became apparent that the professor valued experience over propositional truth. The euphemism “cognitive dump” began to be a buzz word for the way “westerners” (another bad word) do discipleship.

As we went on it became clear that what she was getting at, is that the experience is the truth, and propositions about the experience were social constructions to try to explain the truth, but they were not the truths themselves. She also went on to explain that she experiences propositions, and the truth is in the event, not in the propositions. As explained in the earlier post on social constructivism these propositions that we think do not correspond to reality.

Now if some of you are aware of the teachings of neo-orthodox theologians such as Barth, Brunner, and Schleiermacher, a light will go on at this point. This is very similar to what they taught about the scriptures. They taught that the truth of scriptures is not in the propositions themselves but in the experience you have with God as you read them.

As the class went on it became clear that cognitive knowing is insufficient, and as the post-modern argument goes, propositions are not God and we are to trust God himself and not the propositions.

As I have time, my goal will be to deal with this issue of knowing and cognition, but for today I want to leave you with a couple of questions/thoughts, and then a scripture. If the cognitive way of knowing is insufficient, then what other way of knowing would there be? Even experiences are experienced cognitively. A non-cognitive experience would be no experience at all because you wouldn’t even know you are having it, and if you don’t know you are having an experience then you are simply not having one.

As for the charge that trusting in propositions is not trusting in God, I will leave you with this verse.

Psalm 119:114:

You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word.

God Bless,



At Tuesday, August 01, 2006 3:04:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amen. Doug
It takes the Scriptures to know how to know God.
Thanks for the article. Look forward to those to come.

At Wednesday, August 02, 2006 2:09:00 AM, Anonymous bobby grow said...

Hey Doug,

Speech act theory provides a structuralist approach to interpreting the scriptures that places an emphasis upon the "experiences" that the locuter imbibes while interfacing with the text--which sounds a bit like your prof. Although she sounds more like an "irrationalist", and over the top PoMo advocate. Of course her position self-refutes since she must assume what she tries to deny in order to engage in a communicative act. In other words she must communicate via propositions in order to deny that she believes in "propostional truth" finding substance in the correspondence theory of truth. Christian PoMo advocates, at least many I've come across, are naive to the fact that all PoMo is the logical conclusion of modernist epistemology--and that in fact with all their talk of throwing off the shackles of modernity--they in fact assume a "rationalist" epistemology in order to argue that they really don't believe in a cognitivist approach to reality--that's too bad, and circular.

I'll look forward to further posts from you on this!

In Christ,

At Wednesday, August 02, 2006 9:53:00 AM, Blogger Doug E. said...


You nailed it! In fact during our discussion she tried to refute one of my arguments using speech act theory.

As far as PoMo being modernists, that is one thing I love to point out. They are modernists in full bloom.

God bless,


At Tuesday, August 15, 2006 12:30:00 PM, Blogger Benjamin Bush Jr. said...

Another great verse which goes along with the one from Psalms is from John, "If you abide in my word and my word abides in you.....you shall know the truth and the truth will make you free."
What an experience!


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