Projecting our beliefs onto the world

English people tend to think of themselves a robust realists: we just observe the facts and describe them, we just read the text as it is.

But, as soon as we read a newspaper report of an event we know something about, we are aware of the difference between the journalist’s point of view and our own: and as soon as we engage (for instance) in personal councselling we become aware that one person can, in all apparent innocence, superimpose or ‘project’, on to his picture of another person, phenomena which are purely inside his own head.

To rever to the example of journalism, what we often see (for instance in television documentaries, or pseudo-documentaries) appears to the reader or viewer as straightforward fact; but what is actually going on is very likely:

  • the reporter’s idea of what OUGHT to be occurring, projected on to an apparently ‘real’ world
  • this idea appearing as ‘his point of view on reality’
  • this point of view APPEARING AS reality itself

And so…

  • When you agree with the point of view, you tend to watch as a realist – (this is how things actually are)
  • when you disagree, you quickly become a phenomenalist at the author/event stage [this was defined earlier] – (it was just her point of view)
  • or even a subjectivist (she simply made it all up).

-N.T. Wright, The New Testament and the People of God

OK. Cool. Why is this bought up?

All this may seem a little remote form the world of the New Testament. But in fact it strikes us in the face as soon as we pick up a modern book on the gospels.

The German scholar G. Strecker has recently published a book on the Sermon on the Mount. On the back cover we are told, with an air of triumph, that the Sermon on the ount does not represent what Jesus said, but rather contains Matthew’s own theology. That I submit, is not primarily an exegetical or even a historical judgment: it is a PHILOSOPHICAL one. Strecker is inviting us to move from the risky ground of making claims about Jesus himself to the apparently safer, more secure ground of saying that this is the stae of Matthews own mind.

Heh. Watch out for this!