Aug 062010

Thanks! I enjoy these discussions. On the first point of St Thomas’ proof, CS Lewis says it this way: “That there is anything at all is proof of the original thing.” I like that.

The idea of the unmoved mover is from Aristotle, correct? Much, or at least a good portion of what St Thomas is saying (ideas of causation and the prime mover, etc) is taken from Aristotle rather directly, I believe.

I recall reading various proofs, including St Thomas. I did not read this very thoroughly but if I understand correctly, it is a proof based on Aristotle’s concept of causality which places causes in the future. I remember that this reading, at the time I read it, led me to a lot of reading on causality. Aristotle seems to speak of causes the way we speak of purposes – purpose and function can exist before the thing itself because these exist in the design of the thing itself. Causes, on the other hand only move in one direction, from past to future. The idea that there is an end to which all things move, and that this end is the cause of all movement quickly leads to precisely the kind of discussions that I was trying to avoid. It is in this line of thinking – trapped in philosophical knots – that I have spent way, way too much time. And for me, it did not ultimately lead to a better understanding of God. Reading the philosophy of language, yes. Reading of the attempts to formalize logic to remove the ambiguities of language, yes. Reading of the discoveries of the limitations of mathematical systems to avoid paradox, yes. Reading of the philosophy of mind, yes. Reading of the paradoxes of consciousness, yes. I pursued all of these avenues, following the other thinkers down all these trails in the attempt to find a solution to the knots. And I forgot all about God during this time.

Therefore, this is precisely the kind of discussion I was trying to avoid, and trying to rescue my brothers from. It gets further and further away from anything that resembles knowing God. Everything I just said in the previous paragraph about causation and Aristotle may be completely wrong, but I feel that to spend time on it is to spend time apart from knowing God.

Therefore, my efforts in my comments is to stress the simple fact that it is the heart, not the mind that ultimately bears witness to God’s love. I am not rejecting reason by any means, I am simply trying to make the point that reason alone is not enough to “know” God. We can spend a lot of time discussing causation to make sure we unknot all the mixed concepts, distinguishing between a cause and a purpose, etc. But at the end of the exercise we will not be closer to knowing God, simply because the mind alone can no more understand God than a child can “understand” parenthood. The nature of teenagers is they think they know everything because their philosophy of the meaning of “knowing” is limited to the domain of their mind. They do not yet know that there is knowledge that can only come from direct experience. Love, for example, cannot be known if it is not experienced. If you have never experienced love, thinking about love will not fill the gap left by that lack of experience. Because the self transcends mind and can have experiences, there is knowledge and understanding that transcends mind. This is why you can never program a robot to know or understand love.

Experience, in other words, transcends pure reason. This is an important point, for it is not the mind that has experiences, it is the self. We are not our minds. We are more than our thoughts and to the extent that we remain locked in our minds, we remain alienated from who we really, truly are. The oracle at Delphi says, “Know thyself.” To do this requires that we know more than just our minds. It is in this “more than just our minds” which I am trying to point to. It is in this movement, from mind to heart, where God is revealed to us.

The Naturalist, by thinking there is nothing outside of Reason’s grasp, thinks that the only tool needed to know God is reason alone. I am saying that reason alone is not enough and never will be. I am not rejecting reason, however. We use reason to explain what is revealed to us, but without this revelation, there is nothing to explain. In other words, to understand God, you have to get beyond mere thinking. God is revealed to us through experience, not logic puzzles. When we say we understand God, I think we mean we recognize this revelation. But this is, and always will be, a mystery, not a puzzle.

When we say that it is the heart, not the mind, that bears witness to God, we are saying that God is not a mere logic puzzle for pure reason to solve. When I speak of proofs, this is what I am speaking of. Instead of drawing the discussion further and further into causation and epistemology, I am trying to pull the discussion from the mind into the heart. You don’t have to reject the mind to get to God, but you do have to move past the mind and find the true self that rests in God, in the heart, the center and ground of your being.

As long as we remain stuck in our mind, ignoring our heart, we will remain hopelessly lost in our search for an understanding of God.

 Posted by at 11:05 pm

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