Sunday, May 25, 2014

Education as search for truth

“The Lord God then took the man and settled him in the Garden of Eden, to cultivate and care for it.” (Gen. 2; 15).  The second story of Creation found in the book of Genesis ends with these words, telling clearly God’s purpose in creating Man.  The first chapters in Genesis tell of the Fall of Man, and his expulsion from the garden.  However, in His goodness God did not destroy Man, but made for him a place to live, essentially, a new “Eden”, although in a fallen state.  Even though Man was no longer in the paradise of the garden, he was still charged with the cultivation and care of the world.  This charge, of course, is much more complex than cultivating a field or caring for the eco – system, although this is included in Man’s task.  If this then is Man’s role on earth, then how can we go about doing it? In order to fully understand Man’s role on earth and how to fulfill it, we must inevitably spend much time in the search of the Truths our Creator has given us about Himself and the world we are to care for.

The purpose of Man is to know, love, and serve God.  However, if Man is to know anything, he must first become educated in the field he is contemplating; either by observation or by learning from one who already knows much about it.  Because God is infinitely beyond our comprehension, we can only learn about Him through His revelations.Thus, in order to cultivate and care for the earth, we must first become “educated” in God.

Now, God in His great goodness has revealed Himself to us not only in His inspired written word; He has left His print everywhere, from the earth to the sky.  However, He has revealed Himself most especially and clearly in the very elusive thing we call “Truth”.  Truth does not change with the setting and the rising of the sun.  It either is, or it is not.  A well-worn example is the truth of 2+2=4.  No matter where a person may travel, even out to the ends of space, two plus two will still equal four.  This is an example of the truth man seeks – the unchanging truth that is true simply because it is.  We call this search “Education”.

The capability of this search is unique to Man; it is his trademark. It was for this reason that he was endowed by God with the gift of reasoning: to sift through the things of this world and perceive them as either truth or falsity.  But this gift of reason if not well guarded and kept healthy and whole, like any other gift, can become twisted and disordered.  Falsities can be accepted as truths, and the Truth be rejected as falsity.  Man, by his negligence in the training of his wonderful mind can fall short of his charge of cultivation, and by rejecting his purpose can lower himself from the Divine Dignity granted by that charge.  Thus, that which we call education is not merely the search of that truth which is God, but also the preservation of our human dignity; for after all, it is this capability of reasoning that distinguishes us from monkeys.This, then, should be a Catholic’s perspective of education: the search of the truth from God who essentially is truth, for it is through Him that all truth is, and by which Man’s first step in fulfilling his purpose is completed.

The task of cultivating the earth is no simple or short task; it is a lifelong struggle by which we gain the eternal happiness in Heaven we were predestined for.  However, if we are to properly fulfill our purpose in this life, we must gain a thorough knowledge of that which we are charged with caring; this inevitably leads us to our creator.  In this sense, it is fitting to say that the purpose of this life is education, because the purpose of education is eternal life.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Geometry Incorporated into Discussions

This is an essay which I wrote some time ago on the geometric approach to discussion.  It lacks a concluding paragraph, but for the purposes of this blog I think it aptly presents its idea.

"In today’s world, it is becoming increasingly necessary for Catholics to be able to defend and explain their Faith; it is becoming harder and harder to hold an efficient approach in this, as the general moral standards of society decline rapidly from generation to generation.  All too often, a non – Catholic leaves from a discussion of Catholicism not enlightened as to what the Church teaches, but even more confused.  The cause of this is generally due to an erroneous pre – conceived notion on the part of the non – Catholic as to what the beliefs of Catholics really are.  As a consequence, it becomes harder for a Catholic to give a brief, simple, yet effective answer to a non – Catholic’s question.  A prerequisite to answering such questions is, naturally, a clear understanding of the truths of the Catholic Faith; yet even the most scholarly and well – versed Catholic will stammer at a simple question without a proper approach.  This approach is what I have come to refer to as the “Geometric approach to Catholicism”.

Almost every person in high school has taken some form of geometry.  Perhaps the most widely known process in geometric reasoning is known as “proofs”, in which an already proven or accepted fact is given, whereby the mathematician is to prove a different fact to be true.  The mathematician, in order to arrive at the desired conclusion, makes use of other facts which naturally follow from each preceding one.  Although this process can, at times, result in a very long train of facts before it reaches the desired conclusion, it is a fool – proof method of proving a point.  The key to it is the fact chain: every fact “proved” by the preceding one is true simply because the previous one is; it necessarily follows from it.  This is the “geometric approach”: the building a proof of something upon consecutive proofs.

This “geometric approach” to proofs is not only easily transferrable to Catholic Apologetics, but is in fact the basis upon which it must rest; no discussion or explanation is possible between two people who hold no common ground.  For example, an explanation of the honor paid to Mary is impossible to a person who denies Christ’s Divinity, for it is precisely this that gives her honor.  Thus, before any sort of explanation or discussion can take place, common ground must be sought; a “given” must be found.  The levels of common ground are very varied; therefore, a well – versed Catholic must be prepared to begin with a “given” of “I am alive, and I live in a world in which there are certain constant laws of science”, and be able to prove the infallibility of the pope.  Although this hypothetical “proof” would probably be a rare occurrence, it is nevertheless beneficial to be prepared to prove it.

Now, as the last example illustrated, the “geometric approach” can be a very long discussion, even escalating into subject matter for a lecture.  However, the leisure time needed for this discussion is nearly non – existent; almost all questions posed to an ordinary Catholic are in common places where a quick answer is critical, such as the workplace.  The “geometric approach” is nevertheless not excluded from these explanations; indeed, as we have already seen, it is the necessary basis upon which rests all discussion.  A “given” must first be established upon which to build.  For most ordinary questions about the Faith, a common belief in the infallibility of the Bible is usually enough.  To illustrate this, I put before the reader a hypothetical “proof” on why Mary is honored as Queen of Heaven:

 “Given: Scripture is the Word of God.

Prove: Mary is Queen of Heaven.

1)      Scripture is the Word of God – Given.

2)      Jesus was born of Mary – Scripture is very clear on this point.

3)      Mary was a Jew – Again, Scripture tells us this.

4)      Jesus was a Jew – Scripture tells us this, and it stands to reason that being born of a Jewish mother, He would be raised in that religion.

5)      Jesus is God – Scripture tells us that Jesus Himself made this claim, and that He proved it by miracles, ultimately by His Resurrection.

6)      Jesus is King of Heaven – Scripture tells us that Jesus claimed Kingship of a Kingdom which was not of this world; we call this Kingdom Heaven.

7)      Mary is the Mother of the King of Heaven – Proved in point number 2.

8)      Mary is the Queen of Heaven – It is a historical fact, which is referenced in Scripture, that a Jewish king would have many wives.  Therefore, it was customary that the king’s mother would be his queen, in order to eliminate the potential problem of many queens.  Scripture backs this tradition by references in Jeremiah, 13;18: “ Say to the king and to the queen mother, ‘Come down from your throne; from your heads fall your magnificent crowns.’”, and in First Kings 2;12-21, in Solomon’s court.

From this example, beginning with a common belief in Scripture, we can easily explain our honor of Mary.

The last illustration of a hypothetical proof demonstrates yet another aspect in this geometric system of proof: the use of Historical fact.  Historical facts are very useful (and, as we have seen, sometimes necessary) in explaining one or another doctrine of the Church.  The origin of its usefulness is disclosed in its very name: historical fact, because it is just that, a fact.  In themselves, historical facts need no proof or explanation; they just are, and whether someone wishes to believe in it or not does not change them.  Their proof does not lie with the apologist; by the time an apologist calls on them they have already been proven.  The fact that Jewish kings traditionally had as their queens their mothers needs no proof; it can easily be substantiated.  Facts of history are extremely powerful tools of the apologist."

Now, I acknowledge that Historical facts can be disputed and there is a lot of gray area in our history, but I think that this is a topic for another essay. 

Saturday, May 10, 2014

"Another opinion blogger...?"

There does not seem to be any sort of shortage of blogs in the internet world, nor does there seem to be a lack of people who share their opinions about anything and everything; on the contrary, it seems a peculiar mark of human nature that everyone thinks their own opinion outranks the importance and relevance of everyone else's, and many of these "opinionaters" choose to proclaim their beliefs to the world by creating a blog of their own.  It would appear as if I am no exception: I am a man who has his own opinions, thinks (though perhaps foolishly) that they may at least be partly true, and have begun my own blog to proclaim those opinions to the world.

What then is the purpose of creating yet another blog among the thousands of others?  And why do I think that I am in any way qualified to voice my own opinions on anything?

To answer the second question first: I have no certificate of social knowledge, nor do I have qualifying experiences in the political field.  However, (though there does seem to be what would almost appear to be a certificate-mania,) I have a little bit of common sense, which has never before needed a certificate of authenticity to be applied to everyday life.  This common sense is my only claim to any sort of qualification, for this blog is not intended to present an authoritative opinion on anything. 

The purpose of this blog is twofold: indeed to present new (and maybe some old) opinions on many topics, but also to act as a voice.  Today there seems to be a great emphasis on freedom of speech, so long as it offends no one and remains fully tolerant of everyone else's opinions.  I intend to be tolerant of all opinions (after all, everyone is entitled to their own opinions,) but do not think that any and all opinions merit experimentation in practical life, nor do I believe tolerance means complete lack of voicing a differing opinion.  I am not afraid to hear people tell me I am wrong (I am entitled to my opinion, too!) and think that if my opinion contradicts that of someone else, it bears hearing as much as theirs.  I hope to join the voices of those who speak, who exercise their freedom of speech WITHOUT fear of tramping on someone's feet.  With this purpose in mind, I propose to blog at least, if no more, than once a week, expressing views on any of the varied and sundry things which present themselves to us in our lives, from religion and politics to the proper ways of performing everyday activities.

Am I just another random opinion blogger?  Well, I guess maybe I am.  But who knows?  Perhaps by this blog someone's opinions, either mine or someone else's, might be changed for the better.