Sunday, January 3, 2010

Some St. Basil's Day Thoughts

A couple of days late, but this was sparked by the Feast of St. Basil (January 1).

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Not infrequently, you hear Christians being told not to trust human reason, but to trust God’s Word instead. Of course this always means, “Do not question my interpretation of the Holy Bible (even if it contains all sorts of internal contradictions).”

That’s nonsense! Yes, it is intended to be, but I say it is nonsense in an unintended way, as well. It’s nonsense because that is not at all what St. Paul is talking about in such places as, most notably, the First and Second chapters of First Corinthians.

St. Paul is simply saying that the Christian religion does not have its source in myth or in philosophy, nor in any other invention of man’s brain. Instead, it is a revealed religion. We have learned it straight from God, Who imparts it firsthand to the Church and to each Christian’s heart. (By “heart” is not meant “center of emotions,” but “core of our being.”) As St. Peter writes:

16 For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty. 17 For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." 18 And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain. (2 Peter 1:16-18)

(These verses refer to the Transfiguration of Christ, the story of which is recounted in Matthew 17:5, Mark 9:7, and Luke 9:35)

St. John adds:

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life – life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us – that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these things we write to you that your joy may be full. (I John 1:1-4)

It is in this sense that we do not rely upon human reason: Christianity’s source is not there. Instead, the Christian faith shines forth from Jesus Christ, the Light Who came into the world. He, by word and deed, taught us Truth; and He, still very much alive and present in our midst, continues to teach His followers today. As St. Paul wrote, in that very same, much-abused chapter to the Corinthians, “But we have the mind of Christ.” (I Corinthians 2:16)

The Mind of Christ! of Christ, Who is the very embodiment of the Logos, and the Logos is the indefinable fountainhead of wisdom, of logic, of coherence, of language and thinking, of reason, of knowledge. There can be nothing Christian about renouncing any of these things. The trick isn’t to give up using them, which in practice means defer to the way somebody else uses them. No, the trick is to use these endowments from God spiritually. What does “spiritually” mean? It doesn’t mean “concerning religious topics or themes”. It means thinking in and with the Holy Spirit; it means thinking with that Mind of Christ, instead of thinking in a secular manner.

Secular thinking is faithless and hence, sterile as regards all the most important aspects of existence. The truth is, faithlessness constitutes an intellectual defect. Yes, a major if not the major intellectual defect; and faith, far from being opposed to reason, is its rescue, its enlightenment, its pinnacle, its crown, its fullest flowering. That’s why we have men like St. Basil the Great, of towering intellect and monumental faith, both exercised to the utmost: because these go best together.

So please, think all you like. (Just be sure to spend more time praying than thinking.) Question every interpretation of Scripture, even Orthodox interpretations. Do not be afraid to question everything. “For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7) Think in the Spirit, think through the lens of love. Question until you finally see how it all makes sense – or not. If it is Truth, it will make sense, because Truth is Christ, the Logos of God, the Light of the World. “God is not the author of confusion.” (1 Corinthians 14:33)

“Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.” (Romans 14: 5)


Michelle M. said...

Thank you for your prayers!