Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Paradigm Shift in Adventism

There is nothing more uncomfortable then to actually change. To change requires the acknowledgment that what you once thought or did was incorrect in some way. Christian's love to use it in reference to repentance, but they don't ever seem to want to think that it may be something they have to do in their own beliefs and doctrines. Adventist most certainly have a particular paradigm.

The originator of the term paradigm shift wrote of paradigms as:
...paradigms, including many that are far more specialized than those named illustratively above, is what mainly prepares the student for membership in the particular scientific community with which he will later practice.” (Page 11 from the 3rd Edition)

 While Kuhn writes in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions about science his philosophy equates well with many other areas of study including Theology. Each denomination builds up their leaders in their paradigm and thus they all work from within that paradigm. As Kuhn concludes the above paragraph by saying:
Because he there joins men who learned the bases of their field from the same concrete models, his subsequent practice will seldom evoke overt disagreement over fundamentals. Men whose research is based on shared paradigms are committed to the same rules and standards for scientific practice. That commitment and the apparent consensus it produces are prerequisites for normal science, i. e., for the genesis and continuation of a particular research tradition.
Most of us are quite aware of how the traditionalists work in religion. They are not out of step with any other area of study. We all begin with a particular set of principles and we try to fit them with reality.

The blog History and Theology summarizes Kuhn this way:
...In short, Kuhn offers an analysis of how a scientific community accepts, discards and embraces new theories. He argues that a scientific community accepts a theory, which he calls a paradigm, over others, because one paradigm is more successful than the others in solving a few problems that a group believes to be important. However, to this point, he quickly adds that no paradigm is perfect. In fact, it is the imperfections of these paradigms (he actually calls them anomalies) that can lead to paradigm shifts.[2] However, it is important to keep in mind that these changes do not come quickly or easily,[3] but when they occur, Kuhn views them as shifts in worldview.[4] He even more provocatively, at times, calls these changes, conversions. He writes, “The transfer of allegiance from paradigm to paradigm is a conversion experience…”[5] The applicability of Khun’s work is enormous for many different fields of study.”

The above blog then lists some important points for consideration the last being this:
  1. All people should look for anomalies in their worldviews and be honest about them.
The anomalies of a paradigm are always the problem and they are also the spur that moves to new views, to the actual paradigm shifts. If you ignore them and teach others to ignore them then the old paradigm works just fine but of course you are not being honest with yourself if you ignore the anomalies. When it comes to creation vs. evolution we often see the anomalies ignored by the paradigm of the creationists and even when the idea of evolution with God's involvement is used the creationist simply ignores the theistic part of the newer view. Thus they ignore the mountains of scientific data and even ignore those who try and reconcile the science with the mystical.

Paradigm shifts are rarely quick and easy transformations. But for those growing up with more open views toward knowledge and less concrete certitude the paradigm shift is already taking place. For example many Christians have no problem accepting the ideas of evolution with their Christianity while others stuck in the previous paradigm cannot fathom how this can be done. You can't explain it to them because it is outside their particular worldview. But that worldview is theirs, it is what their paradigm has set forth and they don't want to change their worldview even if others have changed.

As Kuhn writes on page 67: “Furthermore, in all these cases except that of Newton the awareness of anomaly had lasted so long and penetrated so deep that one can appropriately describe the fields affected by it as in a state of growing crisis. Because it demands large-scale paradigm destruction and major shifts in the problems and techniques of normal science, the emergence of new theories is generally preceded by a period of pronounced professional insecurity. As one might expect that insecurity is generated by the persistent failure of the puzzles of normal science to come out as they should. Failure of existing rules is the prelude to a search for new ones.”

The Adventist church is in this painful process right now. The question is can the church look at the anomalies and be honest with itself or ignore them and maintain a concrete but functionally problematic paradigm. In fact this paradigm shift is far from just about young earth creationism, it is about the nature of atonement, the value of our eschatology and the authority of some of our traditional ancestors as well as the meaning and purpose of inspiration. Thus the problems have mounted and the tendency to ignore has lasted a long time. So if Kuhn is correct and he certainly seems to have a good grasp of the issues, then the Adventist church is due for a paradigm shift. But as Kuhn says the next paradigm will likely have its own problems. Unfortunately there is no giant leap to all the answers. But that seems to be the way that progress works, slow steps forward in understanding with new understanding bringing forth new anomalies.

No comments: