November 11, 2007

Faith involves the whole man...

From A Newman Treasury, edited by Charles Frederick Harrold...

...In other words we actually know more than we can express in conscious logical statements. We are constantly entertaining convictions with absolute certainty on grounds which we could never reduce to explicit argument. This is because a great deal of our reasoning is what Newman calls "implicit" or what we should call subconscious. If the mind is "unequal to its own powers of apprehension," then conscious logic cannot always adequately test the accuracy of its apprehensions.

Thus Newman must disagree with Locke, whom he quotes in the Grammar of Assent, that no one should "entertain any proposition with greater assurance than the proofs it is built on will warrant." Life is too short for a philosophy or religion of inferences; it is also too concrete, too rich, too unbounded. We cannot always wait for proofs. In fact, says Newman, we do not wait, but proceed in our daily lives upon a vast number of implicit reasonings on probabilities, and only now and then follow the dictates of a syllogism. We are therefore living by faith far more than we realize. And when we face the problem of religious faith, the same facts of human nature spring into view, except that the virtue of a "right state of heart," and the moral imperatives of the conscience have a far greater rational import than than is commonly supposed.

In religious faith , the simple and the unlettered have the advantage over the mere intellectual, if the latter does not qualify his explicit reasonings with the right moral disposition and with the realization that faith involves the whole man and is never a matter of logic alone. Clearness of statement or even of thought is often not essential at all for the recognition of a great truth. Thus the ignorant but inspired man may arrive at truths which only a logician could analyze or debate; similarly, says Newman, "consider the preternatural sagacity with which a great general knows what his friends and enemies are about, and what will be the final result, and where, of their combined movements."...

 

Posted by John Weidner at November 11, 2007 6:42 AM
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