Friday, January 25, 2008

The Problem of Certainty

I've been stewing on the notion of certainty, both in science and in religion. The stew bubbled to a boil this morning, and I wrote a post ... but I decided to post it my personal blog.

I did this for two reasons: first, because I have some folks who weigh in over there sometimes who might make the discussion spicier, and second, because I didn't want it to come off as a frontal assault on the friends and good people posting here. I wouldn't be here if I didn't like and respect what you are doing on these pages. I just get a little worked up sometimes ...

All that said, I'd love it if some of you would weigh in. You can find it here. Keep up the good work!


Joshua 24:15 said...

JThorpe, again I appreciate your candor. It would be really interesting to discuss the topic of science and faith with you in person some time. I am a scientist by training and therefore I do understand the need for proof and data. I'm not sure there is anything I can offer to really help you, except a few observations. Please remember that we share a few traits: recent converts; NOT professional theologians; natural doubters. I'll just stream my thoughts, given in charity to hopefully help...

I still think you're clearly struggling with the Church and its authority, and in some measure with Christianity generally. I don't think you lack a DESIRE to believe but rather are allowing a certain pride to get in the way. It's a neat trick of Satan to get you to never really commit yourself to Christ or His way, until it's too late. You are asking questions but providing "pre-caveats" (nice new word, huh?) that reject some of the answers that are simply going to be given by those who already believe. I don't know if we have the same understanding of "hard hearted," but in my case I know that this was a huge hurdle for accepting Christ in my life. I don't pray as much as I should, but I believe that it's essential and it is effective in gaining graces. As for the Church, I must admit to relying on friends who seem to be pretty logical thinkers; apologetics sources; and (gasp!) my own heart.

At the end of the day, it'll come down to faith and you'll have to decide what to believe in.

Finally, below are a few resources that I find are really enlightening to me. You might already be familiar with all of this but just in case...

Looking forward to further discussions, JThorpe. I'm glad you're part of this blog.

1. C.S. Lewis' "Mere Christianity" (I listened to the audiobook, since I'm such a slow and pathetic reader...)
2. C.S. Lewis' "The Great Divorce" (see above, man I'm a horrible reader!)
3. Catholic Answers Live radio (I listen to this via internet-- if you're into podcasting then you'll be able to do this-- if you're not then let me know I can set you up with an old ipod to subscribe...)
4. (home to Catholic Answers, with a ton of material)

J. Thorp said...

Joshua 24:15 -- this is all good stuff, and I'd love to have that conversation about faith and science. I really do appreciate the guidance you all offer -- but therein lies my problem!

I do believe, and continue to work on deepening my faith. I love my Church, and although I could certainly pray more, I feel like I spend a lot of time on that part of my life, and I feel really good about my relationship with God. I don't believe Satan's got me in his clutches. Yeah, I've been (and continue to be) prideful and hard-hearted about some things -- but I continue to pray for understanding and ask God's grace and forgiveness, through reconciliation and every day. I'm coming to terms with the Church's authority; it's the apparent infallibility I struggle with. (You might recall that both in the reconciliation discussion and the Eucharist discussion, I sided with humility and mercy over judgment for that very reason.)

It's extremely frustrating when my "philosophical" questions turn into discussions of my own conversion. I want to discuss this stuff, but what I get is advice by those who, as you said, "already believe." I feel like, because I came to this in an atypical way and late in life, I'm more easily dismissed -- "oh, you're just not to the point we are yet."

Hence my latest tirade, "what makes you so sure?" I'm not asking these questions because I *don't* believe -- I'm trying to challenge folks because I can't see their thought processes, and it makes me nervous to blindly follow the blind. Nobody will take me up on it.

I'd like to discuss the following at some point -- with anyone!

1) What's the relationship between the Church's divine origin/mandate and the Church's flawed human representatives on earth? How do we, the Church, help to ensure that nothing gets lost in translation?

2) What is the role of conscience and discernment in one's individual prayer life? What is the role of one's own intellect and reason? And if one's conscience and the Church disagree, how does a person discern which voice is God's?

3) With Christ as our example, should we ever feel worthy of God's grace? And yet, with Christ as our savior, should we ever feel so unworthy as to not step forward to accept it?

I've tried to get into these conversations, but to no avail. Perhaps my next post will be a simple question, and my fellow bloggers can talk amongst themselves ... : )

P.S. A gentle correction: no "e" on Thorp -- my name is Jim Thorp, no "e" and no athletic ability ...

Germanicus said...

I left a very long comment last night and it is not here. Hmmm
Well, here are four more things which will make no sense when read out of context with the rest of my post [which was the best post I have ever written ;-)
1. What I meant to say is that a clever person can set the assumptions such that they can rationally demonstrate almost anything [even that one can not rationally demonstrate anything]
2. There is no such thing as a purely objective dispassionate philosophical discussion or position. That is why your queries are always taken in the direction of formation
3. There is a lot more to the faith than the theological constructs which try to explain it. There is all the stuff that we are unable to come up with adequate constructs to discuss. So, don’t get too caught up in “thinking” when your task is “being”.
4. Do not be so dismissive of the discipline of prayer and contemplation in the development of the intellect. Today (28jan) is the memorial of St Thomas Aquinas a man known for both his intellect and his contemplation. Remember that prayer brings grace and that grace betters that which is already there. So, if one has a tendency to intellect or contemplative thought, prayer will increase that characteristic. But, one must take the discipline of prayer seriously to benefit. Related to this is that formation is of the whole being. Remember Paul speaking to the Corinthians and telling then that he speaks one kind of wisdom to the immature [worldly] and another to mature [spiritual]. Think about what that might mean.

As to your questions I would love to discuss them with you. They are actually very common questions that many others [myself included have asked and are still asking]. Though I would not presume to give you the answer, it does not sound like you are looking for someone to spoon feed you answers as much as you desire discourse. Discourse I can offer. I think there is great benefit in working through ones thinking with another. It promotes a deliberative, less rash, more circumspect, generous and thoughtful; approach to life all qualities which encourage the development of virtue.

J. Thorp said...

Thanks for the comment, Germanicus. You're right in your assessment of me not wanting to be spoon-fed -- the more I've explored the boundaries and teachings of the church, the more roomy and comfortable it's become.

I get the "thinking versus being" idea -- but in my case, thinking has always helped be to be ...

Bummer. I'd've liked to have seen your best ...