Thursday, August 03, 2006

Learning from uncreated and incarnate truth

Paradox of man, light of God

Blaise Pascal

What sort of monster then is man! What a novelty? What a portent? What a chaos? What a mass of contradictions! What a prodigy! Judge of all things. A ridiculous earthworm who is the repository of truth. A sink of uncertainty and error, the glory and the scum of the earth. Who shall unravel such a tangle? It is certainly beyond the powers of dogmatism and skepticism and all human philosophy. Man transcends man.

Let us therefore grant to the skeptics what they’ve so often proclaimed – that truth is not within our reach, nor is it our prey, that it does not dwell on earth, that it’s the familiar of heaven, that it lodges in the bosom of God and that it can only be known insofar as it pleases Him to reveal it.

Let us learn about our true nature from uncreated and incarnate truth. Nature confounds the skeptics and reason confounds the dogmatists. What then will become of you, oh mortals, who seek to discover your true condition through your natural reason! You cannot avoid one of these sects or live with any of them. Know then, proud man, what a paradox you are to yourself. Humble yourself, impotent reason. Be silent, dull-witted nature and learn from your master your true condition, which you do not know.

Listen to God.

Pascal, Pensees, 131.


Anonymous said...

Everyone interprets things differently, but here is what I am drawing from this writing (and with the aid of your previous advice which was well said). One cannot look to himself for truth. The only real truth is found in God. Maybe one needs to know himself to get there. But ultimately pure turning of oneself over to Him is the only real truth and light (which takes a conscious choice). Therefore, no one will ever know what their truth holds, but perhaps that is where faith and trust are born.

Loy Mershimer said...

Excellent thoughts, Anonymous!

I believe that to speak such is a sign that wisdom is being born in you. Scripture says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Wisdom begins in the moment we lay down our guns, so to speak, and confess our own lack in the presence of God.

True knowledge begins the moment we admit the limits of even our best knowledge, and bow before God to such degree that we begin to do the will of God. Then, paradoxically, does true knowledge grow, and true self emerge. As one great thinker has put it, “Knowledge of [true] self is impossible outside of knowledge of God.”

Jesus put it so simply, as He was prone to do – simple, yet so profound, so difficult to follow out! He said, “If any man willeth to do His will, he shall know of the teaching, whether it is of God…”

It is simple, because even a child can grasp that concept. It is hard, because few adults will dare its reaches. Knowledge depends upon shaping the human will to do the will of the Father. On this truth, George MacDonald said: “Obedience is the soul of knowledge.”

Obedience is the soul of knowledge.

There is a lifetime of wisdom in those words. And an eternity of benefit.

Per the reading above, Pascal hit upon this paradox of divine knowing, showing that doing the will of God came before intellectual knowledge of God [and by extension, true self]. For a human to know his true state, and realize the ultimate blindness of seeking true self in reason, this human could begin the path of divine knowledge in obedience. But the natural state of humanity is with blinders attached! Pascal likened humanity to a person walking over a cliff while holding blinders in front of the eyes to keep from seeing the real fall. And so Pascal tore the blinders off, in his words…

Note that Pascal did not reject reason. He just recognized its futility when it was separated from relation to God. Reason gains its proper place when it is baptized in Christ’s light. And for that Light it first must bow…and then bow every morning of every new day.

Truly it is said, “Obedience is the soul of knowledge!” “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all without reproach…” "For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was..."

Here is a faithful word, a word of hope from George MacDonald:

"You can at once begin to be a disciple of the Living One – by obeying Him in the first thing you can think of in which you are not obeying Him.

"We must learn to obey Him in everything, and so must begin somewhere. Let it be at once, and in the very next thing that lies at the door of our conscience!"

A word of hope and destiny! A word of knowledge and truth, yes – in the paradox of bowing, obedience, is God discovered and the true self known. Divine revelation will transcend human limitation, and reason will find more than it ever dreamed…

Perhaps a book you would find worthwhile: Os Guinness, Long Journey Home.

I recommend it highly. God bless your journey!

In Christ,