Checking in With St. Thomas on Intellectual Pride
Some barriers are harder than others to overcome than others. It seems to me that one of the most difficult barriers to overcome is being brilliant. What is being brilliant a barrier to, you ask? Faith. Supernatural faith. The rejection of a concrete divine revelation loses to a rejection of right reason. I am going to say something radical here, President Obama and those in his cabinet do not likely have divine faith. Frankly, I think it would be naive to believe he is a Christian. He is to put it bluntly a modernist. Recently, he referred to the gospel not in any way as necessary for our salvation, rather as the "social gospel." Get that he doesn't believe that the mission of Christ was to transform sinners and open the door to salvation. Rather, he likely believes that Jesus was a "nice" guy, who wanted us to ladle soup and hand out blankets to the poor and the homeless. You know create the world God failed to, a utopia, heaven on earth. Noble endeavors to be sure, however, they certainly will not secure anyone's salvation and it isn't God's fault that sin is in the world. Properly translated, he believes the gospel is good philosophy. In other words, President Obama does not believe in Sacred Doctrine revealed by God, he sees the gospel as another good philosophy for living. No greater, I suppose in his mind than Descartes or Hume (which I feel certain he reads). The problem with this view is that he speaks authoritatively on Christianity, recently even directing the US Bishops to disregard Church teaching and the Pope and listen to the more "enlightened minds (like his I suppose)" on the issue of contraception. Thankfully, they chuckled and the fight began.The fight hasn't ended, rather, he is now attempting to subject the Church to his natural theology. President Obama does not believe in a divinely revealed truth which is objective and requires the assent of faith, his view subjects an entire nation to his own knowledge. His own moral beliefs and principles will soon be yours, by law. Why? Because he simply doesn't believe in objective truth and divine revelation. That my friends is pride, pure arrogance.St. Paul On Knowledge"we know that "all of us possess knowledge." Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. Anyone who claims to know something does not yet have the necessary knowledge; but anyone who loves God is known by him (1 Cor 8: 1-3)."Paul is stating quite clearly that all have some some knowledge. Knowledge about different things. Some of us know how to frame a house, some of us know theology (some don't), some know how to change oil, some know how to do trigonometry, you get the point. This was a Corinthian motto and it could be said that it is the motto of the modern world. Stick to what you know! Of course no one ever applies it to theology or philosophy. Most people today seem to think that they are great theologians or philosophers. President Obama is apparently no different. Why? The problem is that they don't really know what they believe. This is the great irony of it all. What makes them great theologians, is the fact that they don't know anything about theology. In other words, because they believe it is all subjective, they do not believe there is any objective content that can be known. Making the content the work of their natural reason. St. Paul warns people of Corinth that Christian knowledge is not merely factual or intellectual. Rather, it is rooted in humility. Submission to God who is knowledge in Himself. It is rooted in the relational bond of love between God and men. In other words there is a greater wisdom than the the natural reason of man. St. Thomas on Sacred Doctrine"Seek not the things that are to high for thee (Sir. 3:22)." This passage from scripture taken out of context would seem to sum up modern thought. Yes maybe there is a God out there somewhere in the sky, but we cannot know anything about him, and the best we can do is take what is good from the "philosophers" of the world. At this point, in time, we have a President and his staff who fancy themselves just that, the "great minds"of our time. The text goes on, "for many things are shown to thee above the understanding of man (Sir 3:23)." But even our natural knowledge comes from somewhere. We look at the reality of things, of the world, of creation, and the universe, and through our examination of it, we come to realize that our wee little minds are neither the center or origin of created things. This we can do naturally and I would hope without much trouble. This realization begs the question, who is responsible for all of this? We come to the realization that there is a knowledge that surpasses our own. We can do that if we simply embrace right reason. In doing so, we realize that we are not outside of creation, rather, we are a part of creation. Designed, engineered if you like by another mind. Not another human mind, rather, a mind that far surpasses that of human thought. We come to the realization through the use of natural theology or our reason, that God exists, he is one, and he is true. Aristotle did, St. Thomas built upon it.If God exists then there is a divine mind. A divine mind that is knowledge in Himself. The reality is that all natural knowledge has a purpose and springs from the divine mind. It is free and therefore, it can be corrupted by nonsense. If God created us for the sole purpose of love and returning to Him in heaven, than it stands to reason that God who is knowledge, would want the creatures whom he created out of love to not only find the path but remain on it. In other words, yes we can know that God exists by the use of our reason alone, what we cannot know is who he is unless he reveals Himself to us. This is the point where the intellectuals seem to struggle. They jump ship. Why? Maybe it is because they like proofs and formulas. Maybe, it is because they simply don't know? Maybe, it is because they realize that if they give their assent to this reality, they are no longer wearing the pants. They must submit their entire lives to the truth. Because if God exists and his desire is our salvation, there may be some caveats attached to this journey. He might throw out a few commands along the way. There may be expectations. There may be mercy, but there is also justice. But first we must ask, if God exists, and his express purpose is our salvation, how could we know who to direct our thoughts actions and lives to, if he did not reveal the path to us? What might happen if he didn't reveal it or if it were rejected on a wide scale? I surmise, it would look a bit like Christianity in the "civilized (I use the term loosely)"world. Most have either forgotten or rejected all that God has revealed and that includes the reason which leads them to the certainty of God's existence in the first place. St. Thomas said that man must be taught by divine revelation "because the truth about God such as reason could discover, would only be known by a few, and that after a long time, and with the admixture of many errors. Whereas man's whole salvation, which is in God, depends upon the knowledge of this truth (Summa Theologicae)." Where are we today? The suppression and outright denial of higher knowledge of divine revelation has caused great division and disbelief. Almost no one is aware of God's truth. Divine revelation today is often referred to today as merely my opinion. Truth has been rendered impotent. It is true today that most of our culture holds some error in regards to God's revelation. Chesterton once said, "There is something to be said for every error; but, whatever may be said for it, the most important thing to be said about it is that it is erroneous" (The Illustrated London News,' 25 April 1931).The truth is this that divine revelation is the answer to the call of the human heart. It is God's response to our cry for perfect love. Perfect love casts out sin and heals wounded hearts. It draws the human mind into a deep abiding knowledge and wisdom of what is truly good and to be preferred. It means that there are moral laws which cannot be broken. It informs our reason and raises it to glorious new heights. What we are combating is evil. It is Satan. It is radical intellectual pride seeking to lord itself over its subjects. Devoid of revelation you get something like Marxism. You get government telling the Church and the faithful what to believe. You get an indefinite detention bill, Mandatory healthcare laws, HHS mandates, the patriot act, public school, the Fed, and the EPA. You get an overreaching, relativistic, dishonest, charity killing, culture devoid of moral principles, truth, and authentic love. That doesn't sound like a utopia to me.Pray for conversions. But pray for bold radical prophets to rise up in at a time in which persecution seems inevitable, to teach and evangelize a culture in need of the divine life.