If theologians disagree, how can we know our interpretation is right?
I'm going to post some more of the message I sent to my friend. He said:
I think part of my skepticism on objective morality comes from seeing all the different variations and disagreement that people have on what constitutes it, and observing no real methodology for verifying whose claims are right and whose are wrong; it seems all people can do is just insist more strongly that their morality is the correct one.I'm going to save the bulk of my response for the next blog entry. I separated this out because it's sort of a different subject. It was part of my response, though.
What I wrote here is about how I handled a problem that I've heard a lot of Christians complain about. I thought somebody might find it useful.
I will admit, though, that broad disagreement sometimes does cause me to throw up my hands and say, "Nobody really knows." That's usually my first impression on subjects I haven't studied that much myself. I'm not saying you haven't studied morality that much, because I'm sure you have. I'm just talking about myself.
I remember when I first started getting interested in Christianity and theology. I looked at all the different denominations, and all the different interpretations of the Bible, and I thought it was hopeless for me to read the Bible and arrive at the truth--what it really means. I prayed that God would reveal the truth to me, but I didn't have any faith that God would answer that prayer because I figured most theologians had probably prayed the same thing, and yet they all disagreed with each other. Why should I be any different? The truth is, I experienced quite a bit of anxiety about it.
But the more I studied the Bible, the more I began to develope opinions that I thought were justified. I felt more strongly about some things than about other things, and there are still some things I have no opinion on. Since a lot of my views are based on what seem to me to be sound arguments, and those who disagree with me base their views on what seem to me to be bad arguments, I no longer have anxiety over the mere fact that a lot of people disagree. I readily admit that I could be wrong about some things, and I'm quite certain that I'm wrong on at least a few things, but I don't feel any anxiety about it just because there are what seem to me to be good reasons to think what I do.
I feel the same way about morality. While disagreements do sometimes cause me to be skeptical that anybody can really know the right thing to do in a situation, there are at least a few of what I think are clear case examples of moral wrong or moral right, and the mere fact that some people have disagreed with me doesn't shake my confidence in the least.