Sunday, July 26, 2009

Truth Found In Love Or Faith Supported By Reason?

Bill Lyndsey has some thought provoking observations concerning Benedict's latest encyclical on his Bilgrimage blog. He asserts that Benedict is attempting to reconnect the idea that truth must be centered in love in order to be truth. Bill also maintains that the disconnect between love and truth was a central theme of the last two papacies because these papacies were an attempt to shore up clericalism at the expense of the Church's much greater tradition.

The following is a comment from one of Bill's readers. Brian has some very astute observations about how this whole disconnect effected him personally. It struck a chord with me because I too in my more conservative days thought the exact same way Brian did---Get the basic formula down and then act on it. Any real understanding of love was entirely secondary.

People who have hitched their wagon to "the Truth" are, unwittingly, weakening the Church's message and mission. They compare some dogma or papal utterance to, say, the immutability of 2 + 2 = 4.

IMHO, the "Truth" they talk about is, in fact, more of a reflection of human thought and language than of God and his love. The mind must freeze phenomena into concepts in order to understand the world, although the world keeps flowing by - flowing towards God, if you will. They barter and trade with frozen Truths with which they build a house with no foundation, i.e. Love.

I don't want to belittle the importance of being able to construct and use a theological language. I just want to point out that many people mistake that language and its formulations for their religion, their object of worship.

When I was still in a conservative mindset, I, looking back now, put more emphasis on (what I thought were) accurate statements of data and less emphasis on loving action. Certainly, I was very much concerned with my own actions regarding myself (my thoughts, words, my body) but outward loving action to others, to the poor, always seemed like something you can do after you get all that data straight and adhere yourself to it firmly. To do otherwise would seem misguided - like the way I abruptly judged agnostics who did good works.

I feel that's why the Pope, and people like the late Fr. Neuhaus, are/were always repeating the 'complimentary nature of faith and reason.' Fr. Neuhaus, especially, always sounded frustrated with how anyone could think otherwise. "So the earth was discovered to go around the Sun, no big deal. So human beings and other lifeforms evolve over time, no big deal, our truths remains unaffected." etc etc. Of course they have to take this attitude towards scientific revolutions as a defense mechanism - otherwise, such revolutions, taken seriously, might threaten their adamantine Truths - especially the ones that deal with Nature itself, i.e. statements of 'Natural Law'. (Scientific facts like the one in quantum physics which states the nature of the universe is relational, and evolving towards an ever more complex and organized state. It is not static nor ultimately definable in Newtonian terms.)

When the Church finally allowed a historical-critical look at the Scriptures, we were blessed with an age of great theologians. What was never allowed was this: if we can review the Scriptures scientifically and find a better understanding of them, should we not also take a new look at those dogmas/practices which have rested upon the old/inferior understanding of Scripture?

That's why the contemporary Church is anti-intellectual, because it must be in order to maintain the current power model. It can only maintain its feudal caste system by being a giant mountain of inconsistency. More and more, it will become obsessed with what will look increasingly like an alternate natural science. In short: the recent emphasis on Truth is just another arrow from the quiver of defending power. So is the recent push for 'remembering our Catholic identity', which gives rise to homilies about how we're 'not like Protestants'.


Brian has a very important point in his last paragraph. In order to maintain the illusion of immutable unchanging truth, Catholicism is already engaged in creating an alternate natural science. It's an alternate science which selectively chooses amongst numerous scientific studies in order to find the few which seem to support it's view of humanity. "Catholic" scientific and medical experts are as adept at practicing self fulfilling science as some pastors are when cherry picking the scriptures. Neither group seems capable of stepping outside their preconceived world view to let the over all body of data speak to them.

I think Bill has a point about what Benedict was trying to accomplish with Caritas en Veritate. Pope Benedict does seem to be trying to put a little love back in the dogmatic truth pile. What really needs to happen is to pull a little truth from the whole love pile. When love is the foundation for truth, the need for a 'Catholic identity' becomes irrelevant. Similarities become more important than differences and society and individuals become healthier. The process of becoming a more healthy person through active love, takes precedence over the products of dogmatic church teaching. This necessitates a process of removing the personal internal impediments to practicing love, rather than internalizing an external set of doctrine. The trouble is, it's much harder to do this process because one has to let go of ego defense mechanisms rather than find everything under the sun to support one's ego defense mechanisms.

In this sense it's more about Faith supported by trust, than Faith supported by reason.

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