Journey to Christendom - Chapter 10
The Dance of Reason -“In Principio Erat Verbum”
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Joyously through the woods on The dance of freedom We came to a bridge where I Froze in my tracks “What? This on the path of the Dogmatic Creed?” I could not accept “The path of the Dogmatic Creed Cannot contain this!” “No, it cannot be…I became lost Looking for this very bridge” The bridge had a sign on the front “The Bridge of Reason” On the other side was another sign But it could only be read from There My new saintly sister and my new Family Ran joyously over the thing with no Hesitation They were lighter and simpler than Me, though I could not cross like them For if Reason has a bridge here On the Dogmatic Creed It had to be a mighty weak And shadowy bridge My saintly new sister beckoned From the bridge “You must have Reason to find Our destination – come!” She waved me on “This path,” I stammered “Cannot Hold true Reason!” “In the beginning was, well Nothing” “I have enjoyed the journey, but I Am afraid it is a mere dream!” “Tell? Your reason came from nothing?” Her eyes widened but danced and smiled “Then your rational reason is born of Irrational nothing!” “Rationality swims out of a pool of Irrationality!” she burst out laughing “No wonder you were lost, Dear brother” she gazed “I must take you to the Logos The Verbum” “Hurry along!” Her gaze penetrated my soul Something that gave me joy But I had come to fear I had trouble answering her “No! True Reason cannot come From Unreason!” she giggled “You’re mad!” She laughed again and waved Me on “Only Creative Reason can create Reason – come on!” she was anxious “We shall meet love, yes” “But in meeting love we shall also Meet the Logos! Reason Himself!” Hesitating no longer I ran to meet her on the Bridge It was much stronger than I Had anticipated To my saintly sister’s Annoyance I stayed for a while To soak in the joy of the View, that of real Reason From the bridge on the Narrow path Of the Dogmatic Creed The path of the Apostolic Fathers Giving in I ran to the other side and Continued the journey But wait! I turned to read the Sign forbidden me before The sign read: “In Principio erat Verbum” “In the beginning was the Word” Once more my saintly sister Had brought light and wisdom To my eyes In the beginning was Verbum The Word of Reason As we danced on from our (or Should I say my) Harrowing ordeal My saintly sister yelled back to Me “Reason is Love And Love is the Reason!” She danced and laughed What next?
Given all that I have told you thus far, you might ask yourself how any reasonable person could accept these beliefs? By that, I mean to accept them intellectually and with that unseen, though very noble attribute worshiped by secularists called reason? I still required of myself then, and still do so today, that all this Catholic business be intellectually sound. Despite the depth of my conversion experience, I still had that classic struggle that continues to rage through time and space with faith and reason.
Furthermore, I am using the word “accept” carefully. That these events were happening to me and were very real and objective; yes, that data was in place. It was not so much trying to believe something from a purely A Priori or theoretical mental reasoning standpoint. I experienced life-changing events that could not be attributed to personal psychological, or emotional changes. It is one thing to believe something A Priori and another to believe it A Posteriori, or from observable facts. This Faith in the Catholic Church had taken hold of me, rattled my life around, and given me a swift kick on my bottom side. I don’t know if that could be an alternative definition of A Posteriori knowledge, but I experienced it as that. My bottom side was still smarting, but I was delighted that it was so, for this boot in the bottom had awakened me. There I stood, so to speak, having had a life-changing experience in the faith, which I could not deny without ignoring what I considered to be empirical evidence. Yet, at the same time, I needed to feel that I could be a whole person, intellect and all. It always troubled me to think that faith was in one world and reason in another and that one had to choose between the two. No, I wanted to be a complete person. Could this Catholic faith do that for me? I loved the Holy Mother of God and my new saintly friends, along with our God himself, too much at this point to back away. I could not leave this happy troupe of dancers leading me to freedom. This whole conversion and making new friends in the communion of saints were earth-shattering events! Could the Church, having broken me, be up to putting me back together again, intellect and all?
I perceive that the Holy Mother of God tapped my intellect into place and taught me reason. She knows more about reason than every atheistic intellectual and secularist skeptic who has walked the earth. She was untainted by original sin through a singular grace of God in preparation for being the Mother of God, and her mind was, and certainly now is, clear and filled with untarnished wisdom. No matter how intelligent we are, the rest of us are filled with baggage best described as garbage, the garbage of sin that destroys our reason.
What I will not do here, however, is argue a convincing case for faith and reason. This is an area where one can find just about as many writings as one wishes. The world is filled with scholarly books, papers, and articles arguing for and against a rational belief in God. We have the writings of those great saints such as Thomas Aquinas or Augustine, along with a host of modern-day writers, not least of which would be the great John Paul II and Benedict XVI, demonstrating that there is no conflict between Faith and Reason and that, in fact, it is entirely unreasonable to not believe in God. Well, not so fast, you might say, for a universe of writings oppose that notion and claim to prove that belief in God is entirely irrational. I have nothing to add to that body of work here. Making my particular case for a rational faith in God will not add one iota to the substance of the debate. I leave that to more able and scholarly minds. The best I can do is point people to this book or that book and say, “I believe what that book says!”
But I will talk about my personal experience in grappling with the issue here. This is most important because many people are where I am and have been in this sense; few of us can add to the substance of the above argument. Most of us read books and regurgitate these views during dinner parties. How many of us genuinely add new intellectual insight to Aquinas or Rousseau? I will argue my case because I read what Aquinas said, and I trust his judgment. You might argue differently by quoting one of your favorite skeptics. We don’t get too far unless one is better read than the other, and the first looks like the winner. So, let’s say that we can all read books, and the winner should not be declared because one person reads more of the books than others. But it is vital to tell you about my experiences that really pushed me to think about connecting Faith and Reason and that eventually pushed aside for me, once and for all, relativism and atheism.
The first event was at a dinner party. It was around 1991 while attending graduate school at Yale University. I was used to being around sophisticated thinkers there, and one of the genuinely sophisticated thoughts we had was that really sophisticated people, like us, would never sink so low as to declare a dogmatic religious truth or to make a crass comment about someone’s religion being right and another’s wrong. Those were the thinking patterns of the non-elite classes, who really could not help but think in such simpleton, dogmatic ways. We thought it a pity that they did not have the intellect to think at a higher level. Lower classes had undying, dogmatic faith because they were simple-minded. But we, the powerful intellectual elite, were above that kind of peasantry. We were on a higher plane; we were skeptics! I cannot tell you that we used those exact words, but if you have ever been to an elite school, you are aware that this polite condescension toward the “masses” is frequently, though not always, familiar in conversations.
We had our usual riveting conversation that evening, and I remember that we were also being very charmingly progressive and relativistic. We graciously acknowledged that everyone’s faith and religion were of equal value, that all beliefs were noble, and so on. I will remind you here that I was already Catholic and had never doubted the dogmatic truths of Catholicism, nor did I that night. The torrential river of Dogma has been running deeply through my veins since the Great Event. And that was the problem because I sat around being a gracious intellectual myself, and I realized that what I honestly did not believe was what we were saying at that dinner party. But I kept saying those graciously relativistic things; I did not wish to be an outcast from the intellectual elite I admired.
This was one of “those” moments that Our Lady put before me, one that buzzes around your memory and becomes a real pestilence until you finally deal with it. I sat quietly for a moment, thinking about just one thing; if Jesus Christ died on the Cross for the sins of the world and rose from the dead in three days, then that changes the world as a whole and not just part of it. Its effects are felt by not only those raised in the traditions of Western civilization or those who “feel affirmed” in this belief; it changes matters for everybody. If that were true, and I believed it to be so, then the most unreasonable and intellectually silly thing to say is that all beliefs are the same and equally noble. There is no in-between here. It suddenly became intellectually unimaginable to me that I could say that Christianity “works in my life,” but that if you have another religion that seems to “work in your life,” that is equally valid. I am faced with the objective reality of the physical death and resurrection of Christ!
How silly to say; I thought at that very moment that Christ was crucified, died, and buried and that he rose from the dead on the third day, but only if that works for you. If you are offended by that, the “logic” goes, then Jesus did not do that for you, nor should you pay any attention to it; you should pick whatever noble belief system makes you feel good. We were all talking nonsense, the intellectual elite! I knew one thing for sure that night, Christianity and religious or moral relativism don’t pair up nicely from a philosophical standpoint. If Christ died for one of us, He died for all of us. If you are a Christian, you should believe and know in your heart that all people should be Christians. In later years, I would understand how Chesterton could defend the Crusades and how Christendom could rationalize expanding and defending itself by force of arms if necessary. If you are Christian, you either believe Christianity is for everyone, or I am not sure how you justify what it is you do believe about Christianity.
My first intellectual issue, religious relativism, could have been more intelligently thought through. It was a “no-brainer,” as we used to say in academic circles. It was more of an emotional issue, jolting my brain back into reality and out of the sentimental universal relativism that clouded our aristocratically formed thinking. If you are a Christian, there is no intellectual challenge to how Christianity stands with other religions; Christianity is THE religion and the revelation of God. To be a religious relativist and a Christian is, to me, a fundamental contradiction.
Jesus said that he did not come to bring peace but the sword. Those words sting at most Eastern, “non-judgmental” thinkers, but he did say that while he preached universal love. I began to see that that sword was, for Love’s sake, certainly cutting through this muddled mess. This is why he commissioned the apostles to evangelize the world, because it is the Faith for the world! He did not tell the apostles to go to all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, but only if the people there feel affirmed by it and are not offended. Nor did he say to tell them that it does not matter what you believe, so just forget about the brutal crucifixion and the shocking event of the resurrection; they are only for those who feel affirmed in them. I do believe that this intellectual contradiction inherent in the modern mind's relativism has led many liberal theologians to allegorize Jesus away in the scriptures. You must airbrush away the real Jesus of the resurrection to be delightfully progressive at dinner parties. Worse yet, you must eliminate him if you wish to build political power outside God's law.
I wonder if you see where this journey over the Bridge of Reason is going and how I came to get across it, for though my mind was quickly cleared of religious relativism, I did not see the even bigger picture then. I did not see it for quite a long time, for years, as a matter of fact. But over time, I gradually noticed a pattern, or method, develop, and I could sense that I was being guided by the hand of the Mother of God. In other words, there was a method behind the madness. Let me explain to you how this method led me over that bridge.
You will note from my story and be reminded that I began as a so-called intellectual or man of reason and was summarily knocked on my posterior by the living faith of the Church. This was that kick in the A Posteriori knowledge that was given to me as a grace, and I came to see in a few seconds that this Church was the authoritative teacher for Jesus Christ on earth, it was Christ’s body on earth. Of this I had no doubt.
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