That’s what Bethel University philosopher Dan Yim is thinking about:
I think I’m beginning to understand Christian Fundamentalists a bit more, in that they tend to make both types of inference errors: (a) mistakenly believing that they have the right rules (as opposed to the hypothetical “right now” rules) and (b) not taking into account the probability that the conditions for observation evolve and in fact alter (and should alter) our allegiance to hypothetical “right now” rules (or propositions or creedal statements or…). They forget the motto Ecclesia semper reformanda est (“The church is to be always reforming.”).
Please allow me to head off a red herring at the pass. The bogeyman of “relativism” does not apply at all, precisely because the whole enterprise is premised on progress. In science (well, in scientific realism, to which I subscribe), the march towards better and more accurate representations of The Real is prosecuted hand-in-hand with – for lack of a better phrase – epistemic humility on the part of the scientists and philosophers of science I resonate with most. In the philosophy of science, we even invented a term to describe this orientation: verisimilitude.
In religion, I don’t see why it can’t be the same. (Actually, I see why, but it has nothing to do with rationality.) One specific analog for religious programs and religious ethics of the new observational possibilities and technologies in science should be the complex cluster of new social, political, and economic possibilities that exist for women, racial/ethnic minorities, and other types of under-represented or historically-repressed groups in the West and increasingly other global places. These new “encyclopedias of reference” allow for deeper insight into religiously important phenomena such as scripture, hermeneutics, nature/function of religious communities, etc., while simultaneously correcting a gross distortion – namely, the distortion that religious/doctrinal history floats somehow free of other social and historical realities such as the political economies that largely determined the modern consciousness, to name just one.