A Brief Critique of Religious Empiricism, Logical Positivism, Materialistic Monism and the Anti-Supernaturalism of “N. T. Wright”

Undertaken with the Aid of the Theologia Germanica and Sir A. J. Ayer’s Language, Truth and Logic.

Or: Countering the Attempt to Entrap the Human Mind in a Verbal Matrix

This paper owes its origin to a three-day “home exam” I sat for in November 2018, as part of the master’s program in theology I have now completed. The assignment I chose was phrased as follows: “Present Luther’s understanding of theology and discuss whether [or not] it is a meaningful approach to the discussion of theology as an academic discipline.” Below is my response – slightly modified and expanded.

This recording (on YouTube) of a BBC TV-show, «A. J. Ayer on Logical Positivism and Its Legacy (1976)», where Bryan Magee interviews Sir Ayer, will give you a fairly good overview of what the radical and subversive construct known as Logical Positivism was actually about.

Excerpt from my essay:

Where to begin, with such vast fields of study at hand? An interesting place to start might be the quite startling and “unorthodox” question which began to take shape in my mind in the wake of my reading of Oswald Bayer’s work, Theology the Lutheran Way (2007), which is on the curriculum for the subject this is an exam in. This question could be formulated as follows: “Does Luther’s theology constitute a religious ‘proto-empiricism’”?

Excerpt from my essay:

The outcome of this construction of a revolutionary linguistic criterion, by which all human utterances are to be judged, would have been tremendously upsetting to anyone with even the faintest sympathy for the societal status quo. For all propositions which do not conform to one of the above mentioned two classes may now, according to Ayer, be rejected as “metaphysical” and “nonsensical” (Ayer, 1971, p. 24).

As Ayer readily admits, he is out to “overthrow” “transcendent metaphysics” (p. 14), and as early as on page 32, he claims to have demolished (p. 32) millennia of metaphysics altogether by way of his linguistic argument.

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