Friday, January 18, 2008

Tonality and Absolute Truth

World On The Web's WorlMagBlog has a thought-provoking post from time to time. Yesterday they sparked a debate about absolute truth and the disparity between Christians and non-Christians in the humanities. Someone mentioned the "major triad" as something for Christians to overthrow in order to prove their worth. He apparently didn't know that the major triad was discovered by a devout Christian: Johannes Sebastian Bach. Here was my contribution to the debate:

Speaking as one educated in music and physics the harmonic series (from which we get the major triad) is foundational. Atonality for the sake of atonality was novel when first tried, but pointless. Even the most complex chord structures and progressions are not atonal and ultimately rely on the harmonic series.

Likewise, as one also educated in philosophy and theology, we must be clear about what we mean when we make blanket statements about absolute and relative Truth. Absolute truth is substantial, foundational and decidedly univalent. The application of such truth in our temporal world is existential and bivalent. Different levels of education merely present the opportunity for different capacities for self-deception. Assent to absolute Truth is not contingent on education. Rather, it is contingent on focus. Study of the humanities is decidedly focused on humans, thus the term. It is fruitful for Christians to study the humanities, but with the understanding that our ultimate focus is not on human endeavors, accomplishment and expression, but on the foundational and absolute Truth for which we believe we have a better revelation. To challenge this belief with any relativistic argument is incomprehensible for if all truth is relative, then one cannot challenge the truth of another for there is no common set of presuppositions from which to make a coherent argument. Therefore, such a challenge betrays a belief in a contrary absolute truth that is otherwise indefensible or it would be purported as a viable argument. Rather, relativistic arguments tend to obfuscate, not clarify. Only when one purports access to absolute Truth can one genuinely plea for the assent of others.

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