Thursday, May 21, 2009

Grace and Reason

In my previous post, I think I was unclear. I am not attempting to say that productive argument is impossible, but that it is difficult, and that the fallen state of human beings must be taken into account. I take it as a given that humans do not follow what their minds determine, as Aristotle knew, as Plato knew, as St. Paul and St. Augustine knew. No one ever becomes good simply by reading a book! If you are already good, the book might help you be better, but if you aren't, the book won't do anything for you. As Aristotle says, it is like going to the doctor, listening to the healthy advice, and then ignoring it.

I know this to be the case in my own life: I know what is good, and choose the opposite. Perhaps I am being presumptuous in assuming it is the case for others? So, arguments do me know good. In fact, I know them all.

What is needed is metanoia, a change of heart (literally a change of mind). We pray "Create a new heart in me, O God/ put a steadfast Spirit within me." (Psalm 51). Look at the example of the apostles, who constantly misunderstood Jesus, despite living with him for three years. Two betrayed him, and nine abandoned him. Even after the resurrection, they weren't able to understand. It wasn't until Pentecost and the reception of the Holy Spirit that they were able. The steadfast Spirit that we pray for is the Holy Spirit, who teaches us all things.

Let me do it in math:

argument + listener = 0
argument + listener + grace = infinity

Thus the question becomes not "how do we convince," but "how do we help the Spirit?" How do we present God to the world?

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