Wednesday, April 14, 2010
So basically, man as a primitive hunter-gatherer has little to no ethical understanding beyond very basic survival laws, ie, hurting myself yeilds no benificial outcome for the betterment of myself. Then women enter the picture and man finds that keeping a woman around has more pleasurable oppurtunities than random "relations". And thus, the family structure is founded. Men gets pleasure, women get protection. Then man discovers more safety in packs instead of a lonely, nomadic lifestyle and turns his attention to building a civilization. As generataions pass, and laws are made to keep peace within the civilization, man teaches itself what it can and cannot do.
Freud relates a story about several sons who realize they are better off without being controlled by their father. So they band together and murder their father. But without authority to maintain civility, they are forced to create their own authority, aka, something to keep their "ego" in check. The "super-ego" (conscience) is then developed to serve that purpose. But unlike an outside authority figure who can only address and castigate one's actions, the super ego knows and claims authority over one's thoughts as well. (Freud draws a weak connection to Christ and sins of the mind).
What is interesting about his theory (at least the part I've mentioned here) is that everything is about love as expressed through the ego. He uses the term "love", but the inherent selfishness of his idea hardly warrents the use of this word (at least from our prospective). So the ego looks for pleasure and the super ego regulates the ego's desire and protects it from being self-destructive. However, a highly developed "conscience" according to Freud, can become an impediment to man's desire as it can become too overpowering. His examples are the saints, tauted as holy and righteous men and women, but quite the opposite. Their sacrificial lifestyles prevent happiness as derived from their ego and world, and are forced to hope for something spiritual (which to Freud is an absolute waste of time.)
So my question: Freud's ehtics seem to amount to a regulation of the natural pleasure in the world so as not to overstep one's boundries. Would this be closely aligned to what Jonas refers to as "The Nietzschean?"
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Friday, September 25, 2009
Let me take the latter first: I do agree that Marxism is based on the idea that the history of society should be read as a conflict between social classes and various production (labor, etc); in this way, it is materialistic. But that does not mean it is materialistic in the sense that it necessarily denies all spirituality. If Marx denied people have souls, that is tangential and not necessary to a materialistic view of history.
Let me give an example: Darwinism. Evolution is based solely on materialistic findings and foundations. Its conclusions do not take spirituality or human souls into consideration. However, this does not mean it is an argument against spirituality. At the time, people did think this was the case, though. Religious saw this scientific interpretation to biological history as problematic, since it didn’t offer us an interpretation of spirituality, nor did it seem to place God at the rightful head of the universe. Hopefully now most of us recognize that a materialist interpretation of something is not necessarily an argument against any or everything non-material.
As for the atheism “inherent” in Marxism: yes, if we’re discussing a type of Marxist interpretation that denies God, then it is anti-spirituality. However, it is my belief that Marx’s atheism was tangential to his material view of history, politics, and revolution. He may have desired the two to be interconnected, but that doesn’t mean they are.
Let me use Evolution again: Darwin, although initially spurred by a religious belief to reveal God’s Providence in nature, ended an atheist: he thought he disproved God and His Providence. But he wasn’t correct, just as Marx wasn’t, just as other people aren’t correct in trumpeting Darwin’s or Marx’s incorrect conclusions.
Thursday, September 10, 2009
A lone traveler enters the town, the first sign of life in a long, long time. This place once held meaning for him, but all meaning is lost because no one visits here anymore. He writes a quick note down on a table in the place which was the public sphere of his companions...but he wonders if any will ever know that he wrote it...?
Monday, April 13, 2009
In the common man argument I find no real strength. The idea of something being natural as a justification for a moral precept is silly given that the Church takes no further stance on other unnatural means, such as medicine. Openness to life lends itself to degenerate into a legalistic discussion of want qualifies as “open to life” to which I find the only reasonable standard being success rate of the method in preventing pregnancy. On that standard NFP is about as open to life as the pill and less so then other forms of contraception. Finally intent is problematic because it implies that the moral component is not intrinsic in the method. If NFP can be wrong given certain intentions why can’t others be right given the correct intentions?
The problem in my own approach to these arguments is that while they may be (and I think they are) correct they do not honestly approach the position espoused by the Encyclical. They are however honest derivations of the original logic and I still think that some of the arguments may still work. This is however the first time I am working through the issue starting with Humanae Vitae as the primary source. I propose to follow each of the common man precepts back to the encyclical itself in order to effectively elucidate the position therein.
Let us ignore naturalness for the time being and head straight into openness to life. I believe the openness to life argument for the justification of NFP is truly off base in regards to the encyclical’s own logic. It seems to have evolved from talk about the two necessary components to the “marriage act” the unitive aspect and the procreative aspect. The Churches view of sex maintains the essential nature of both of these components and to remove one would be to strip the very meaning and efficaciousness of the intended act of love/union. From this position very reasonably stems the prohibition on contraception in that it clearly destroys the procreative aspect of sex. This leads to my problem in general which is how then can NFP be justified.
Here lies the germ of the “openness to life” precept. The church considers the taking advantage of an infertile period in that the couple “rightly use a faculty provided them by nature” whereas in the case of contraception it is an intentional obstruction of the natural process. I believe that the notion of NFP being “open to life” evolved from the idea of it is in accordance with the natural functioning of the generative faculties whereas other method are not. I suppose that that argument could be made, however, I see no fruitful outcome in following that road. It must eventually require suitable means of qualification of “openness to life” that degrades into a comparative study of statistics of success rates among the various methods of contraception. I propose to drop the idea completely from the argument choosing, instead, to focus on the “naturalness” precept which in its pure form retains the “spirit” of the argument from openness to life.
The “naturalness” precept arises in part due to the same passage above. However, I think the common man arguments have made the mistake of misinterpreting the Churches’ talk of what is natural. Natural here does not refer to intentional use of devices or chemicals in anything more then a superficial way. “Natural” is being confused with “Natural Law” which is a gross error. The Church decries something as unnatural in that it offends the conception of natural law: more or less the essential components of us as humans to which the denial of would make us less then human. Condom use is not unnatural in the sense that medicine is unnatural. Medicine uses artificially created compounds to render specific changes within the body to encourage health. Condoms are said to deny one’s humanity as an embodied spirit.
There is not much to be said in disagreement on this point without a much larger critique of the Churches natural law ethic, which would disrupt far more then just the prohibition on contraception. There is one smaller contention or worry I would raise, which leads into a discussion of intent. If NFP practiced with the full intent to avoid a child (how one could do it without that intent I have no idea; by accident?) then how is it much different from any other method? It would seem that the church is ok with a denial of the procreative aspect of sex, which must be “inherent” in sex as long as there is a means to do so provided by naturally occurring biology.
The precept of intent is probably the most reminiscent of its originating idea in the encyclical. Correct intent must be present, what disqualifies other forms of contraception despite correct intent is that regardless of the intent it still offends natural law. “To intend directly something which of its very nature contradicts the moral order and which therefore be judged unworthy of man, even though the intention is to protect or promote the welfare of an individual,” i.e. one cannot do evil for the sake of a good. Furthermore it is intent, or rather lack of intent that justifies the use of hormonal birth control methods (the Pill) for the sake of medical reasons not related to wanting or not wanting to bear a child.
Here ends my current explication on the subject, most of this was wrote in order to clarify the intertwining components of Humanae Vitae in my mind. I still believe that there are issues to be made with the argument and justifications I just have yet to really work through them, I’m sure I write more then that happens. Nonetheless this was an interesting exercise in tracking down really prevalent ideas with our circles and tracing them back to the source (a source?) and seeing how they have evolved from the original—one final point as a sort of digression.
I have always used the Pill as my main go to example of mainstream birth control to contrast against NFP in an attempt to show why it would fit into all the same justifications for NFP (a condom has a really strong “wrong” feel about it by nature of its brute simplicity). I have recently learned that one of the three effects the Pill may have is that it makes the implantation of a fertilized egg difficult by causing a thinning of the endometrium along the uterus. As far as I can gather scientists are still in contention over whether this mechanism actually exists, but if it does then the Pill in some cases acts as an abortifacient. I feel constrained to reject any use of the pill until the matter is settled, I do not think it is morally responsible to play Russian roulette, even if the presence of a bullet is unclear; I am not taking that chance. I do think that people could make some level of argument on the subject and tend to place this one in the “primacy of conscience” corner. However, it places an interesting spin on the use of the Pill for medical reasons if the patient is also in a position to be having sex. Should it be allowed for therapeutic concerns in this unknown stage? Even if the matter is settled that it may cause miscarriage?
Saturday, February 21, 2009
When it comes to modern media --- I am thinking mainly of movies, TV Shows, and music --- where is the fine line between “I don’t promote all of that, but it’s fine to watch” and “I shouldn’t watch that”? I’m not naïve enough to think that we’ll come up with an exact line, but I thought it would be an interesting and worthwhile attempt to apply Christian principles to everyday life.
PS I realize the answer might depend on the person. However, are there no universals we can make about all Christians?
PPS I feel as if the “frog in the pot” analogy could affect simple answers that favor the side of liberality.
Sunday, February 8, 2009
I thought that since we all seems to be deep in discussion about paradigms of thought it would be an interesting idea to examine someone else’s method in light of the recent discussions. I also thought that why not start with a “founding father” of the Catholic Church, Augustine. It is very interesting to me how these paradigms of thought—each persons way of understanding and categorizing the world at its most basic level, deeply and profoundly affects the sort of thought that arises. Above is a quote from Augustine, and a difficult one at that, given the sheer amount of ways of interpretations it. I’d like to give my spin on it and hear from others their interpretations as well. OK let’s jump into it.
I thought the above quote offers a very interesting look at two of the options available to us when we go to try and judge which method of thinking is most effective or even correct. We’ve had a lot of talk about the nature of our access to truth, and the variable ways of trying to grasp hold of it. I have previously tried to point out my own worry about our possible connection to the Objective given the epistemic quagmire we all seem to be firmly situated in as humans. From that sort of a perspective Augustine’s words ring of truth, as it does sort of entail the necessity to just deal with our epistemic situation, rather then to dissolve it. This of course could be done by allowing belief to inform the understanding.
Now, I won’t be so quick to burden the quote down with my own reading of it, since much I want I kind of want it to say doesn’t have any amount of justification. Certainly it is not saying (at least I can’t imagine it could be) that belief comes without reason, and then the reason is supplied. We all need a reason to believe something, regardless of the nature of the reason. We don’t just believe something. And as a convert Augustine I would imagine would understand that better than most, since he actually needed to switch beliefs. I do think though that we is pointing to a difficult truth about belief, that it does inform the understanding. Especially something like religious belief, which speaks more to the being of a person then their way of thinking or even doing. The Atheist theologian understanding of Catholicism is very different from the True believer theologian. And that, I think, stems from the fact that religious belief does not, and cannot be confined solely to the understanding (knowledge) but demands a much more holistic understanding—the whole of a person participates in “understanding” the belief, not just the mind, etc. Augustine I think may be pointing to that sort of idea, that belief stems from a whole person understanding and insomuch as that is true must to some extent be believed in order to obtain that.
I think that idea sounds wonderful, but is certainly not without pitfalls. The first of which comes from the rationalist corner, which can, very reasonably, point out that if belief informs understanding what ground do we have for judgment of belief. Understanding from belief will be formed by the belief, and the question that I wonder is one this model won’t every belief, be confirmed by the understanding? How can a catholic belief inform an understanding that does not support it, for example. Then what standard are we left with to judge beliefs by? Now, I know everyone will jump up and explain that, that is only the case if we take the quote literally as an unassailable dogma, true. I’m sure Augustine, isn’t trying to say that understanding cannot inform belief as well, there is probably some sort of mix of the two, when dealing with minutia, and petty examples, etc, etc. Sure, but past all that, that is the problem with that end of the spectrum. I bring it up just because It will be important later.
Augustine was a disciple of Aristotle, as much as he was one of Christ. Logic, and reason were of no little importance for Augustine, and his understanding of their role went heavily into his method of thought. Now, Aristotle was one to beautifully craft a logical understanding of the world. This framework began from some observations which was its conception, but sent most of its time gestating in the womb of theory, growing larger and more robust, until it was born back into the world. The problem is that at this point, what began grounded in the world has grown and changed so dramatically in its long absence from it that it doesn’t really fit in anymore. Aristotle, rather than seeing a need to revaluate it, by nature of this mismatch, instead tried to force the world into the framework. In the end we have a beautifully coherent story of the world, that doesn’t really match the world it is trying to talk about. We have a story that we can say, yeah that would be wonderful, except it is really not like that…
To me, I think Augustine commits the same error in his thoughtful machinations. Augustine, as a believer gathers up all the revelation, and scripture he must believe, and creates a framework to respond to it, but ends up wrong, by nature of trying to force a fit that doesn’t exist. In the City of God, Augustine tells us a wonderful tale of the history of mankind, from Adam, to Fallen Adam, to the eventual New Adam in Christ. And in his explaining of these basic bits of the Christian faith, establishing the nature love, the effect of Pride, the salvation of Christ, we get a theory that explains them in this elegantly coherent manner, but doesn’t actually fit the world.
Augustine’s theories on sex illustrate this beautifully. Augustine’s view demands the very negative opinion of sex. Sex must be the “transmitter” of sin, because it must, by his model, necessarily be wrapped up in lust; sex is always a sin, albeit a necessary one for procreation. Interestingly enough from these theologies arise many more that are now veritable Catholic “duhs” such as the importance of the virginity of Mary, even beyond the birth of Christ. What we get is something that really doesn’t sound right but makes perfect logical sense (ok yeah I’m reading my intuitions back into it, but I think I can to a degree but don’t really have the time to justify it here). On a different note, even Purgatory, stems from a logical necessity of Augustine’s model, which allows for death before the ‘purification of the soul process’ is complete in this life, and therefore demands a means to getting into heaven. All of this stems from one theory on the nature of the types of love we have.
Ok what do this mean for our original quote above? I think it offers a deep and unintentional look into what I perceive as a major flaw in Augustine’s method; belief of his theory, and of the unassailability of the logic that created and defended it, built a very specific understanding. One that doesn’t really match up to what the initial goal was. It also illustrates how easy it can be to actually fall into the rationalist critique that seems so obvious, and petty.
Ok, my goal here is not to disprove or discredit Augustine, my critique only applies to the method used and not to the validity of the content gathered through that method, although I could but let’s just stick to the method rather than to the consequences at the moment. Nor is my critique even put me into a position of correctness or incorrectness on the matter. I am really only trying to say, gee that doesn’t look like the best method, the costs are fairly high. Why maintain a really intuitively wrong notion of sex (one that demands sin in order to practice virtue, ie procreation) when one should really have just reworked the original thesis. Just because the logic demands it? Now critique aside, I want to return to my original position that yeah, belief must, to some extent, inform understanding. I wonder, if the recognition of the epistemic consequences of that position must also be demanded of the person; moving us soundly into the realm of fun existential paradoxes, but that is not for this post.
Monday, January 26, 2009
We seek to live our lives authentically and truthfully. No sane person holds on to an obviously wrong opinion or belief. The search for truth demands this evaluation and disposal. Here lies the basic call, to live by truth and reject what is false, but how. If there be an objective truth, an unequivocal right and wrong; one that stands whole and complete even if the world around it collapse and only the cockroaches are let to bear witness, we sit in dire straits. None of us hold truth in it completeness; none of us may stand before the rest and claim that they bear no single falsehood. In that lies the unsettling thing, we are all wrong in some sense. What remains is to identify and purge that falsehood. Who am I to judge? By what right do I declare what is right and wrong? If this were even possible then how could I be ignorant of my own falsehoods? No, by myself there can be no progress. So then I must turn to a standard, a guide. Let it then be my Christian faith, in her lies a path to enumerating what is false, and the wisdom to purge it. So I have stepped back from myself, into a larger perspective in which to judge. But, what of another step back? Doesn’t the very path I choose to let judge me, stem from just that, my choice? I believe that this Faith is correct, I do not know it. Some would say that yes we do know! If so it is a different ‘know’ then required. I do not ‘know’ it to be true, like I know that chair to be there, or like 2x2 is 4, or even like I know my thoughts are troubled. I know through faith, through belief. Don’t I come to that belief in the same way the Hindu or Muslim came to theirs? Not in the practical sense of course, for each life is different, but in the sense that the same epistemic facilities bestowed my belief that gave the other theirs.
Objective truth is hard. Not because it is held fast through existence, but because I am not equipped with the tools to grasp it in pure clarity. I am always preaching of the solid ground from a raft afloat. Objective truth is black and white, but we can only ever with any certainty say that something is grey. Every time I go to declare that finally I have black. I must, if I am honest, recoil by the fact that my reasons can stand on the same grounds as my doubt! I don’t think relativism is appealing because it saves me the discomfort of saying someone else is wrong. It is not appealing because of anything I may say of others, but what it saves me from saying about myself. Objective truth demands a deep pride of me, which proclaims, “I AM RIGHT!” if I cannot proclaim that, then I must say that I am wrong, and dispose of the belief. What way but of arrogance lets me say that? When every belief I have is tainted by subjectivity how am I supposed to apprehend the objective, and so truthfully and without pride claim “I am right!” It is not enough to be convinced, to be persauded, but that is all we seem capable of. I do not want to be convinced, I want to be right.
Friday, January 23, 2009
Then one day I reread the sentence differently. [Of course, not knowing the original language and words in Hebrew is problematic here; arguing semantics via translation isn’t too scholarly. But I think that my point remains.] If I trust God, will He give me the object of my desire, or will He give me simply the desire? To make a silly example, if I desired a car, would God give me the car, or would He give me the desire to want a bike instead of a car?
I know this may sound like a silly discussion, but I think it has consequences for how we view ourselves as Christians and humans. When Basil and I were talking one bright day, we came up with a potential answer; but I’m interested in what other people think before I blab on about my own ideas.
Friday, January 16, 2009
Fun quote: Augustine’s disciple Fulgentius of Ruspe exhorted his readers to “firmly hold and by no means doubt that not only all pagans, but also all Jews, and all heretics and schismatics who are outside the Catholic Church, will go to the eternal fire that was prepared for the devil and his angels.”
Monday, January 12, 2009
If I had to give my idea a thesis statement, it would be this: Man can follow almost any religion and find salvation. Note: I am not saying that "Man through almost any religion can find salvation." I don't believe that. And for the sake of brevity, I will just say that I don't believe that because I don't think one finds salvation due to the inherent truths of most religions; that would be a hard position to justify. Rather, it may be by the nature of the person's search for truth in which they find salvation, and there are alot of people out there with a lot of different beliefs. And yes, they can all find happiness together somewhere upon the clouds in the afterlife, together; peace and love.
So the first thing I need to address is Truth. I believe in objective truth, that is, there is an absolute right and God is probably the only one who knows it. Man, as subjects, live as moral agents, therefore follow subjective truths. (I'll find better wording for that later). But to make it all clear, I will rely on my proven artistic talents. I've supplied you with a stunning, elaberate visual which will hopefully help as I move along.
1. Indicated by the finely detailed column in the middle (shame the shrunk size makes it only look like a slightly thicker black line...oh well), that is Objective Truth, the foundation of our moral existence.
2. All the other smaller lines represent man's attempt to capture this truth, some closer and some farther (which ones contain 'more' truth is not really the point)
3. There are some hell-in-a-handbasket religions out there where those who follow it never really come close to finding objective truth being that the religion is such an overwhelming hinderance, like the followers of Stephanie Meyer. Twilight is retarded and if you're reading this blog, I pity your soul.
4. For all you Shintoists reading this, my sincerist apologies. You can hang out with Steph, there's some room over there.
Now that we've efficiently and thoroughly defined objective and subjective truth, let's move on. The one thing I believe with my whole heart is that we must follow our our conscience first and formost above all else. The Catechism agrees with me so I don't feel too alone way out in left field. However, this freedom comes with the great responsibility of forming our conscience as best we can; maybe the greatest burden we as humans endure. Incidentally, this is why the Church believes that those who are not believers can be saved. How unfair would God be if he expected an isolated human to figure out the mysteries of the Church all by his lonesome, never even hearing of Christ.
Lastly, I would like to use my faith (Catholicism) as an example, but for the sake of argument, you can simply use your own (if your religion allows for that), and now I will come across really narrow-minded to prove a point. I believe that Roman Catholic Church is synonomous with objective truth, that is Christ, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Therefore, I as a subject, am in a position to discover much of the this Truth since I am on the truest path, giving me the best chance of doing what's right, and achieving salvation. However, even as a Catholic (assuming it really is objective truth), I am still prone to doing wrong, and consequenatially, my will could never perfectly be God's will. Therefore, me as a person, and just because I am human, have already slipped off the afore mentioned finely detailed column. Damn. But we as limited moral agents will never fully discover and understand everything, and even the holiest of people have done wrong, however miniscule it may be. So the main point here is that what matters most (though not exclusively) is how much we try to find truth. (PS: I'm sorry if I've way over-simplified the Church's process of salvation. My bad.)
Now given what I've written, I am following Catholicism because I believe it is Truth, but I will be judged not by necessarily what I believe in, but rather that fact that I believe it is Truth! This means that the faithful Hindu could be better off than I am (and I admit from personal experience this may be true...). Because in the end, if one seeks Truth with their whole heart, I believe God will certainly reward them no matter how much they got right. And for those who seek truth, in the end, one will strip themselves of any pride and will see and accept Truth itself in whatever Objective Form it really is. So if the real Truth turns out to be Buddha, than my search for Truth even in the Catholic faith will have prepared me and formed my subjective conscience enough to know the objective Truth when I see it when the veil is pulled back, i.e., when I'm dead.
By the way, I'm not taking credit for the this idea and think it's original lol. I just don't know who exactly has written something like this. I'm told Kierkegaard has written something similar....
Anyway, I'm sure you have an objection here or there, but I would like to pose the first. Given what I have said, and I admit it could be explained better, an objection can be made regarding sincerity of seeking truth. In other words, it seems plausible to say that if someone truly is seeking Truth (let's assume the Church is still #1 ...not that I'm biased or anything) and came across the Church and her teachings, how could they not see it at some point in their lifetime? It seems odd to say a genuine truth seeker could stand right in front of what he's looking for, turn away from it, but still find salvation and reconcile later. Hmm, good question. I have my opinion, but I'd rather here yours.
Friday, November 7, 2008
Robert George is a professor of ethics at Princeton University. The above is a link to an article by him.
Obama is the most pro-abortion president the US has ever had. What will be the ramifications, both here and around the world?
What can we actually do? It's frustrating; I feel helpless
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Hope keeps our eyes on the prize and helps us cope with problems we find ourselves in. and Faith gives Hope substance so that our hope is not a farse and not in vein. Furthermore, without Love we could never experience Faith, which makes it the greatest of these. So when I witness people going through hardtimes and seem so at peace, it ultimately is through Love, but immediately is such a deep understanding of Hope.
It is a funny thing that I think we can see that in these people of great Love, but it still seems so silly without also possessing the same spiritual understanding; it can be seen, but not always understood. So I ask you and myself: are we merely observers, or are we understanders. I hope we all become the later, if we're not already there!
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Now this is something i have thought about for a long time and have been trying to discern for a long time as well. How many times have we all heard from someone "well if its God will then go for it". Maybe you have not heard that phrase as much as I have growing up in a strong catholic family but for conversations sake you at least have heard it once becuase you just read it here. Early on in my younger years I never thought about it much and always assumed God's will would just be revealed to me when I was old enough that it could actually matter. Unfortantly as I believe most people realize is that finding God's will is not that easy. Now that I am honestly searching for the almighty's will in my life I find that I spend most of my time running into a stone wall headfirst, falling down only to get back up and do it again. I remember spending hours on hours in prayer or at least an attempt at prayer yelling at God saying "okay just tell me, tell me where to go and ill go. Fine God you want me to make it easier for you. I have two options. I can go to the right or I can go to the left." Nothing. Absolutly nothing. A few days later I was reading a book titled No Man is an island by a monk whose name I cant remember for the life of me and I read something along the lines of (and I power phrase) "God is not looking for men who do certian things or live a specific way but men who are a specific way." I thought about that for awhile and then I suddenly felt a peace. God was telling me that for now all I had to do was desire him and He would take care of the rest. About a chapter later in this monks book I read just what I was looking for. The monk was asking God the same question I had been asking Him for the last few months. He told God "I have two options which way do I go" and he heard God tell him "I am with you" but the monk asks again "but which way do I go" and again he only hears God say "I am with you". Thats when I realized that so many choices in our lives are really for us to make. The key is God will be with us in either way. He could careless if you are hole digger or a doctor. He only asks that you desire Him and give Him your heart.
Monday, April 28, 2008
This post reflects the thoughts and intellectual machinations of a rather lengthy chat me and Bic had on our ride home from Notre Dame. As tends to happen when one reexamines previous work new thoughts have occurred to me and so have been included. Our chat centered around the off mentioned, but perhaps rarely discussed, theoretical notion of support in the Christian life. So here is a systematic approach to support, and it’s role in Christian living.
Support, is a very familiar notion in our life, one that I think most of us grant it is necessary or at the very least helpful in living the Christian life. I think it is also a fairly complex notion that carries many different connotations for different people and places. We all can name types of support, examples of it, and it’s effects, but I think the reason behind it all is far more opaque, which is what we discovered and we got deeper and deeper into discussion. The trouble lies in really nailing down what support does, in terms of actual effect vs in terms of the results it garners. This is not to claim that we have no idea what support is, I’ve granted that we use it quite regularly, as a non-mechanic manages to operate a car with no knowledge of what the engine is doing. This examination is of the sort that looks at the workings of the engine.
We can enumerate two major categories of support, what I will call Substitutive Support and Facilitative Support. Substitutive Support is of the type we generally think of, the classic “how’s your prayer life” sort of support. This type centers around almost entirely the notion of being held accountable by others. It is the kind of support in which you let others into your life in a very intimate manner. You allow yourself to be held accountable by a support group, be it mens/womens group, household, etc. It is an allowing of others help where you fail in your own struggles towards being a better person. Since it is probably the most familar type let's deal with it first.
Now I called this type of support substitutive for a very apt reason; because this sort of support acts as a substitute for ones own self-knowledge (deep, I know). If we were to ask why we need to have others hold us accountable, what would be the answer. I think it is really an obvious one. We have others hold us accountable because we cannot do it ourselves. Isn’t being held accountable just having others hold a mirror up to us, reflecting our faults and shortcomings back at us. We do it because the mirror we hold up to ourselves is poor at reflecting. I think the reason for why one would be ill equipped to hold up their own mirror is apparent; it is due to a lack of self-knowledge. Substitutive support fills in for ones lack in self knowledge by surrounding ones self with people that can/are willing to hold up mirrors for you when you cannot.
Practically speaking this type tends to be of the sort found in a defined “support structure” such as weekly smalls groups. It is very systematic and therefore lends itself to formulaic application for a very wide range of people. That is to say that Substitutive support does not differ in practice much from one person to another. In one sense it is the practical advice we get (albeit caters to a very specific domain of spiritual matters) Such as “don’t go there then” or “don’t try and pray when tired.” It is the simple forumalaic nature of this type that allows for the robust support systems we are familiar with. However another consequence is that it doesn’t leave much left in an individual when the structure disappears.
Continueing the analogy of the mirror—if ones has others holding up your mirrors it stands to reason that when these people leave so do the mirrors. Now it is only a practical issue when the support system breaks down. Allow me a quick digression, I think it is this point, intuitively or subconsciously is understood by those in the structure and due to this tend to put a large emphasis keeping people ‘in’ and a afraid of a loss of faith in those who do leave. This may lead to that familiar sense of ‘distrust’ of the outside, and to a certain degree, the individual. Just a thought that occurred to me while writing, and I mean no value judgment on the observation, just that it may be.
Back to the case in point; I think there is something important to be said about the dependant nature of substitutive support. It helpful in many practical ways but this fact can mask the fact that personal growth may not be as advanced as one may think. Substitutive support does not lend itself towards personal growth in the sense that it does not give one much that is not dependant on others. Now while we, as social creatures, will always be in some sense dependant on others that is not to say that our own growth be inextricably tied to others. Ones’ faith should be their own and must exist on its own. In fact a good indication of a lack of personal conviction in faith is can be a quick loss of it outside a support structure.
This is a response to Yoda's 4/20 post. It's actually the second half of my comment on it, but it was just getting too long and involved. So here it is.
Shifting gears a bit: "reason is dependent on the soul in the realm of the Spirit." I am taking this to be a variant formulation of the question of faith and reason, in this case, as it pertains to the "realm of spirit." Presumably that realm is composed of those questions (and they're many derivations) which every attuned human soul asks: God, the soul and immortality--the traditional divisions of metaphysical inquiry. Therefore, the most fundamental theological questions are identical to those posed historically by secular metaphysics.
As people of faith we have unique insight into these questions. However, as with the gift of tongues, if we wish to attain to the heights of metaphysics we must start from humility, i.e., faith followed by reason. I'd like to propose working definitions of two distinct modes of knowing: apprehension by faith and apprehension by reason.
"Something grasped by reason is known through the unaided intellectual power of the human mind. Something known by faith is apprehended by a faculty which, by definition, goes beyond what reason can know. Generally speaking, the active and passive roles in these two dialectical paradigms are reversed. The object of faith, divine Revelation, does something to the believing subject. Rational thought, in contrast, is something done by the subject in order to attain a particular object. "
So faith is something done to us and therefore a gift. A gift we can and must prepare ourselves to receive, but whose reception is nonetheless a matter of divine providence.
The result of faith once given is "a certainty of things unseen." Once again intimacy and love are fundamental to this process. My intimacy and love for God not only prepare my soul for the gift of faith, they are what form in my mind the conviction of the contents of divine Revelation. The extent to which I love God is the extent to which I am capable of the certainty of faith. And As B16 says in his encyclical "Spe Salvi," this faith is not "merely transformative but preformative." It requires that we live differently; that we live in hope which stems from the convictions of faith.
Entonces, the emerging model is, as Yoda proposes, reason informed by faith. This does not curtail or inhibit reason but rather unfetters it. Faith reveals certain truths as known by divine Reason and therefore potentially knowable by human reason. It gives the intellect a new horizon to move toward, thereby widening the plain of philosophical metaphysics. These “natural points of contact” (God, immortality and the soul) justify the philosophical process. Christian theology therefore justifies philosophy as a human striving toward a Revealed end. Theology invests philosophy with this absolute potential that allows for the place of wonder within the philosophical quest; that same wonder which Socrates identifies as the starting point of all philosophy. It thus expands the life of the mind, identifying dimensions and possibilities beyond rational cognition.
The ideal is to build our intellectual project on the dual foundations of faith and reason. A truth held by both faith and reason is more likely to withstand the human inconsistencies involved in faith and the, at times, debilitating cynicism of reason. However, in the mean time we are left with the apparent incongruities and paradoxes of what the soul knows and what the mind can know. And here, I think, is where hope comes in. Do we dare allow ourselves to remain in uncertainty, stuck in that two-sizes-too-small eternity between paradoxes, in the hope that there is an answer that perhaps can only be understood by a continual striving and never arriving? That the inquiry itself and not the answer is the answer?
To quote my favorite saret and spiritual director, Fr. Zosima from the Brother's Karamazov: "We cannot know that God exists. But by living a life of active love we can become convinced of it."
Keep on truckin'
..and read Till We Have Faces by CS Lewis.
btw Yoda: it's "naught" not "not" in the third line of your post.
Monday, April 21, 2008
"But Hark! That hope which I speak of begins to show its fruit! Dare I say the questions I fall prone to ask may have no answer? Is it all for not that quarrel within me searching for truths with which I am not equipped to discover? Shall I then put my mind to rest, until the answer within my soul spills out without any question to provoke them? For isn’t it the man moved by the spirit which produces the letter, and not the reverse? To me, this sounds like genuine prayer. Much time has past since I have truly prayed that way; and not in vein! How can I account for such a convicting belief such as my God being with me? If I with such confidence can assert undoubtedly this, how wondrous should it be to equally know Love. What a sublime picture have I painted for myself.
I believe in what I have written. Meditating upon this for quite some time has my resolve been solidified. I have come now to purport an amazing challenge to myself and to other fellow sufferers of reason: great words stem from the soul, and very few words provoke that which is beyond its capacity to convict. Reason is dependant on the soul in the realm of the Spirit. I cannot account for this any other way. And it is with fleeting jealousy do I look at the simple minded who are less frequently tempted to use the language of reason to pierce the soul; for its words are incoherent to the soul and only can come from God. It strikes me plainly to see this. God speaks exclusively to the soul, and the soul provokes reason to account for it, but I find reason then to be quite inferior. One who can live by Love and not explain it is far better off than one who can write books on this phenomenon and scarcely even be touched by it.
This reminds me of praying in tongues. Could it be a completely surrendered reason to the soul which brings that language meant for the soul by God out in this incomprehensible manner? Such an odd occurrence to literally hear the spiritual realm! If so, it is then appropriately called a gift of the Holy Spirit. For I am inclined to think it really is the language of God to ones soul. It may be similar to one who comes across the patterns of 1s and 0s which are meant to be understand only within programs, but which may bring to mind how truly amazing it is to witness this foreign language not meant to be understand by a person but exerts its existence. I will dwell more on this issue. But ultimately, we have found a suitable answer in the most unexpected way!"
Thursday, April 10, 2008
Monday, April 7, 2008
Skeptics argue that because we cannot prove anything beyond all doubt, we cannot be certain of anything; we know nothing (or at least we know very little—the contents of our consciousness). However, most philosophers of epistemology believe that people can and do know many things (they are not lying or mistaken when they say “I know I have hands”) even though they cannot disprove the skeptical arguments. We are left with the idea that we can know things without proving them beyond all doubt. I wonder if we can get at what we actually do mean by knowledge, because of several implications I’ve been considering recently.
Man is communal; his nature is to relate to other persons. His nature is to have faith and trust in dealing with things he cannot prove (you never know for sure what another person is thinking, and you can either trust in their love and in your friendship and have a relationship that is good and fruitful and fulfilling, or you can distrust and slip into the skepticism of the rational logical maniac). Why then do we nonetheless have this hankering to prove everything, when nothing in our experience can be proven?
I believe that what we are seeing here is something akin to Augustine’s restless heart idea or CS Lewis’s ideas that having desires which cannot be fulfilled in this life points to fulfillment somewhere else.
It says in a song “then we shall know, even as we’re known, [that] You are Love Eternal.” I believe that it may be the case that in heaven, at the great Wedding Feast of the Lamb, when we come into full Communion, we shall somehow “know” with certainty beyond doubt—even as God who made us and is in us and maintains our existence knows us—that God is Love and He loves us, though perhaps it’ll be in a way that supersedes or comprehends our intellect. (in the Middle Ages, people talked about having sex as “knowing carnally”; in the context of JPII’s language of the body ideas, this not such an odd way of talking)
Thursday, April 3, 2008
Saturday, March 29, 2008
The benefits of this space should be many. It provides our thoughts larger exposure. First, for those writing, allowing them to get greater feedback from more than the same few people, hopefully leading to better refinement and validity of thoughts. Second it allows for those outside our peer group, better insight on the current thoughts, concerns and issues we deal with.
For me this is the most salient point. I that this may provide another step towards closing the gaps be they, generational, social, or mental. The more we lay on the table and make available the easier it will be to work together on common ground.
One more point before I get off my soap box, this should be a spot that helps in some small measure to facilitate self knowledge, which conveniently provides a perfect lead in to my first post.
The idea of self knowledge has been a very pertinent issue for me as of late, and led to much idle thought on the subject. Or more correctly the importance of self-knowledge on an authentic and virtuous life has been a point that has hit home over and over again. I think the importance of the words inscribed at Delphi cannot be understated; they are in fact the 'key' to good living. So to begin spewing my thoughts on it, we might as well start with self knowledge and its role in the Christian life.
The foundation of the Christian life, as Joe Harmon is want to constantly remind me, is love. All that we stand for and do as Christians must be judged under the lens of love, it must stem from it. God is love, and all creation exists because of that love. It is God's unconditional love for us that forgives us though we fall, and it is that love that brought Christ here to die for our sins. If we are to follow Christ, we must love. Hell God is love.
Take the two greatest commandments, as the bible tells us "Love the Lord your God with all our heart, soul, and mind" and "Love your neighbor as yourself." Let us break this down by taking the second first. The second commandment is both a call to love others and the method for doing so. We must love our neighbors, in the same way we love ourselves. So proper love of self, must precede, proper love of others. It is impossible to love others if one does not love one's self.
What is proper love of self? Now we go back to the first commandment, Love God. The call to love God is an absolute one. It demands all that we are: our entire self, body, soul, and mind. The absolute nature of the command seemingly does not leave room for the second. The second is wrapped up in the first; in order to love God we must love others, and in order to Love others we must love God—one giant supernatural catch 22. Though, I think it isn’t really all that complicated since only one thing is needed to facilitate loving, God or Man.
Self knowledge is the key here. I can’t love myself unless I know myself that should be pretty clear, But also I cannot love God unless I know myself. Pride is what stands between God and us; it inhibits love and chokes it out. It is because in the relationship between God and Man a lack of love is not from a lack on God’s part, but our own. Pride blocks our ability to love since we cannot see where we are in relation to God; we think more of ourselves and who we are. Humility, being the virtue opposed to pride, sits us in our place, and we may see where we are and God in relation to us. The difference between Pride and Humility is self knowledge; pride denies who we are while humility recognizes it. So it is self knowledge that also facilitates our loving of God. To grow in it allows for both persuasions of love (God and Man). It is key for our ability to love, the water in which that allows us to swim (to borrow a Jain metaphor).
So here are some brief thoughts on the matter feel free to add to my rough and tumble little essay here. Let discussion reign…