Immanuel Kant articulated an dualistic metaphysic, or view of ‘reality’, that disallowed the possibility for humanity to actually and really “get at” reality as it is in itself. Basically (and this is way oversimplified and ‘nut-shelled’) he believed, along with many others in this tradition, that humanity is so heavy laden with their own subjectivity that the way we read ‘reality’ is only an imposition of certain ‘latent’ categories (within our psyche) brought to bear upon ‘universal reality’. In other words, we are so weighed down by our predispositions and presuppositions that we can only read things the way ‘we want to’. In this scenario, then, there is no possibility for us to have an immediate knowledge of reality — all reality is mediated through our own ‘subjective’ readings (of course this is the kind of epistemic ‘foundation’ which ‘liberal theology’ has been built upon, even today). Torrance applies this kind of Kantian thinking to how it affects man’s approach to scripture and the doing of theology:
(a) By cutting out any possibility of immediate apprehension of rational or intelligible elements in any field of investigation, dualism limits the theological component in biblical knowledge to what is logically derived from observations or appearances. Behind this, of course, there lies the Kantian idea that we cannot know things in themselves or in their internal relations, but only in their external relations as they appear to us, so that things can be incorporated as “objects” into our knowledge only as we bring extrinsic theoretical factors to bear upon them from the structures of consciousness. This means, for example, that it is impossible for us ever to know anything of Jesus Christ as he is in himself, for we are restricted to Jesus as he appeared to his contemporaries—-and indeed to the impression he made upon them as it is mediated through the structures of their consciousness, by which they made him an “object” of their faith and knowledge. It will thus be the task of the biblical scholar, through some form of “the historico-critical method,” to bring to view and to clarify as far as he can the impression Jesus made as he actually appeared to his contemporaries, stripped of any theological interpretation put upon him in the course of the developing tradition—-for by definition such theological elements cannot have intrinsic rootage in Jesus himself. This means that only after the biblical scholar has established by some set of criteria what are acceptable as observational data, shorn clean of any theoretical components, may the theologian go to work on them to deduce from them valid theological ideas or doctrines. This of course yields a rather nominalist notion of theology similar to the nominalist and conventionalist conception of scientific theory or natural law held by the positivists, e.g., Ernst Mach. (T. F. Torrance,” The Ground and Grammar of Theology,” 28-29)
If you have ever wondered what drives “Liberal Theology,” what drives the “Jesus Seminar,” what drives Discovery and History channel’s specials on the bible and Jesus; then what Torrance describes above should provide your answer. Essentially, and in layman’s terms, what “Kantian dualism” does is what Genesis 3 did so long ago; it collapses the way we view reality from God’s vantage point to our own. The result being that humanity, individually and collectively, are the epicenters of reality; we create reality through our own perceptions, indeed, we create God in our own image. This all makes sense if we accept the premises of Kant’s dualism, and satan’s original lie; we will be like God apparently.
There is one more important note here, what Torrance is saying also cuts across and actually gets at the ‘foundations’ of Fundamentalist Christianity. Without trying to summarize its history, Fundamentalist’s sought to counter the claims of “Liberal Theology” upon the same assumptions that “Liberal Theology” operated from (Kant’s assumptions). The fall out has been to approach scripture and theology through dualistic rationalist assumptions, so that in the end, “we” have built our house upon the sands of “Liberal Theology” and not the rock of Christ’s life. That is why ‘Fundamentalist-Evangelicalism’ has been reducing to its logical conclusion for years, that is, back to its origination; back to “Liberal Theology” that is all about the self and not about the Christ (I could give plenty of anecdotal examples of what I am saying here, but maybe at a later time).
Moral of the Story: You can’t start with yourself, and hope to end up with Christ as He is in Himself; instead we must start with Christ as He discloses Himself to us, and then end up with knowing ourselves through Him.