Religious Studies


Research Article

TRUTH AND MEANING IN GEORGE LINDBECK'S THE NATURE OF DOCTRINE


JAY WESLEY RICHARDS a1
a1 Princeton Theological Seminary, Princeton, New Jersey 0852-0803

Abstract

In this essay I analyse and criticize George Lindbeck's treatment of truth and meaning in his book The Nature of Doctrine. After an explication of his general project in this work, I turn specifically to his discussion of truth and of its interaction with his understanding of meaning. Although he is primarily concerned with these issues as they relate to religious doctrines and language, he insists that the distinctions he makes are not religiously derived. Rather, he borrows and adapts widely from philosophy, anthropology and social theory, bringing the insights adopted to bear on the issues of religion generally, and the development and change of religious doctrines in particular.

I argue that his treatment of truth and meaning is very problematic on several counts: on truth, his theory fails as an adequate theoretical description of our pretheoretic intuition of truth, and it is finally parasitic on this intuition. On meaning, his reduction of meaning (and sometimes truth) to use or usefulness leads him to an incorrect categorization of doctrines as (essentially) performative utterances and second-order, non-assertive discourse, rather than as propositional attitude statements. I contend that they most properly fit in the latter category. Finally, I suggest the inadequacy of his treatment of truth and meaning redounds to the failure of his theory of religion and doctrine as a whole.