Tom Gilson

Wake up! Wake up to this! Wake up to that! Can anyone realistically wake up to everything? No. To try would be to exhaust yourself right back to sleep. What then shall we do with all that’s going on in the world? As I’ve written in this month’s BreakPoint column, that’s the Crisis of the Caring Conscience.

While I’m mentioning articles, I’d like to direct your attention to an interesting one from a blogger who says he doesn’t know much at all. I put this forth for discussion here. Does his view contradict the idea of thinking Christianity? Does it complement it? Does it correct it?

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7 thoughts on “Wake Up! Wake Up!

  1. I think Chris’s post (he’s a he, btw, just a heads up) highlights a very important point, and that’s not contra your blog at all. The mind is very important, in so much as faith is only as useful as what concepts that faith aims at.

    It’s something I’ve tried explaining to an atheist friend before. In his demands for certain kinds of evidence for God, evidence that would overwhelm the senses and leave no room for doubt, but somehow magically not impinge on free will, he’s asking for a purely intellectual belief in God. All I could say, apart from any complex theological projections about the purposes of God for creation, is a truth from my experience:

    A purely intellectual belief in God, no matter how well reasoned, will kill you slowly and painfully.

    Unless one experiences the touch of grace and comprehends the loving call of vocation towards Kingdom come, all the complex reasoning in the world will leave you baffled by the Gospel. The Cross will loom in the background of your mind as a shibboleth to be avoided at all costs.

    I read the books, I said the words, and I really did agree with everything I was saying: I just didn’t realize I was completely repelled by the Grace I was paying lip service to, because I was still convinced I could be something that I wasn’t. There was no room for hope, because I didn’t want to need it.

    To be totally convinced of the existence of God without knowing and trusting His character as someone who actually does love you… Well I don’t really know what the difference is between that and Hell. I think, given enough time, a person in that state will experience moral frustration to the point of rage or apathy, and I don’t know which is worse.

  2. Thanks for linking to my post, Tom. And for starting this discussion.

    Like GM, I don’t think my view contradicts thinking Christianity (I’m a deep thinker by nature, and, as much as that causes me problems sometimes, I thank God for that); I just think that the most important kind of knowledge is relational knowledge of God himself. If that is our primary pursuit, intellectual knowledge can add richness and depth to our faith, and be of benefit to us and others. But if *all* we are pursuing is intellectual knowledge, it will lead us down the wrong track.

    “A purely intellectual belief in God, no matter how well reasoned, will kill you slowly and painfully.”

    Agree totally, GM.

  3. Aristotle’s First [Primary] Unmoved Mover is God (not god) intellectually discover-able. The Catholic Church holds as Magisterial Dogma (largely per Romans 1:19-21) that the by the light of human reason alone it is sufficient to know with certainty of the “existence” of God. This in no way impinges upon faith, which is–informally stated–personal trust and based upon revealed (Biblical) knowledge, i.e., knowledge utterly inaccessible to human reason (e.g., the mystery of the Incarnation, the Trinitarian nature of the Godhead, etc.)

    That God “Is” and partly what He “Is” is fine… but then there’s the crucial WHO He “Is.” His response to Moses (“… I AM WHO AM has sent you…”) is roughly paraphrased “… EXISTENCE ITSELF has sent you…”.

    In fact, an intellectual accession to the certitude of the “existence” of God can be helpful to opening the door to faith proper. Note one can have true faith without an intellectually-arrived-at accession to the “existence” of God–for most people this is the case.

    So, I disagree with GM’s slightly absolutist language: it should be qualified somehow because the word “will” unqualified is too strong–it is, in fact and at its base, anti-intellectual… and hence against the nature of what it is to be human: a RATIONAL animal.

    Neither Aristotle’s First Unmoved Mover nor Aquinas’ Five Ways provide knowledge of the God of Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and David. What they do (among other more important things) is philosophically relegate atheism to the foul anti-human dustbin to which it properly belongs. I note with some chuckling that atheists’ attempts to undermine the argumentio ex motu–even if they could (they can’t and won’t because it is by nature a metaphysical argument… so then they try to undermine metaphysics… what a joke!)–won’t do anything to hurt, undermine, weaken, or dispense with faith.

    To the extent that a person might hover on a purely intellectual accession to the “existence” of God (I find this impossible for an intellectually honest person), I agree with GM’s statement… but only to that extent.

  4. Philosophically, I would gladly rephrase my statement to “A purely intellectual belief in God *can* kill you.”

    I believe with a lot of certainty that eventually, in the life of the believer, intellect and experience come crashing into one another. Existential terror is a very powerful thing. Paul warns against being persuaded merely by “clever” arguments, because being clever sometimes just has no place in the crush of a fallen world.

    I believe God is a rational conclusion, and how could it be otherwise? “Be still and KNOW that I am God.” might be my favorite statement in the world.

    But it is entirely possible to reason about a God sincerely that I also keep at arms length. Is that intellectually dishonest? Of course! But such is the heart of man. Romans 2 reminds us that we believe because of the kindness God assigned us. “Being still” while knowing is an act of will combined with the knowing, and sometimes it takes more than the knowing to do it.

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