June 14, 2009

Kreeft on creeds...

I like this excerpt, What's the Point of Creeds? from Fundamentals of the Faith, by Peter Kreeft. (Found at the excellent Ignatius Press blog.)

...God providentially arranged for the great creeds of the Church to be formulated in ages that cared passionately about objective truth. By modern standards, they ignored the subjective, psychological dimension of faith.

But we moderns fall into the opposite and far worse extreme: we are so interested in the subject that we often forget or even scorn the object. Psychology has become our new religion, as Paul Vitz and Kirk Kilpatrick have both so brilliantly shown.

Yet it's the object, not the subjective act, of faith that makes the creeds sacred. They are sacred because Truth is sacred, not because believing is sacred. Creeds do not say merely what we believe, but what is. Creeds wake us from our dreams and prejudices into objective reality. Creeds do not confine us in little cages, as the modern world thinks; creeds free us into the outdoors, into the real world where the winds of heaven whip around our heads. ...
...Two extremes must be avoided: intellectualism and anti-intellectualism, worshipping the words and scorning the words. If the ancient mind tended to the former extreme, the modern mind certainly tends to the latter. Both errors are deadly.

Intellectualism misses the core of faith, both objectively and subjectively. Objectively, the core of faith is God, who is a Person, not a concept. Subjectively, the core of faith is the will, not the intellect. Though informed by the intellect, it is the will that freely chooses to believe.

Faith is not the relation between an intellect and an idea, but the relation between an I and a Thou. That is why faith makes the difference between heaven and hell. God does not send you to hell for flunking his theology exam but for willingly divorcing from him.

Anti-intellectualism also misses the core of faith, both objectively and subjectively. Objectively, because its faith has no object. It calls faith an experience ("the faith experience") — a term never used by our Lord, Scripture, the creeds, or the popes. Modern people are constantly saying, "Have faith!" But faith in what or whom? They often mean "have faith in faith. " But faith in faith in what?

Anti-intellectualism is a modern reaction against the modern narrowing of reason to scientific reason. When the ancients and medievals called man a "rational animal", they did not mean a computerized camera mounted in an ape. They meant by "reason" understanding, wisdom, insight, and conscience as well as logical calculation.

Modern thinkers often forget this dimension of man and think only of reasoning (as in calculating) and feeling. And because they see that faith is not a matter of reasoning, they conclude that it must be a matter of feeling. Thus "I believe" comes to mean "I feel" and creeds simply have no place. Faith becomes a "leap" in the dark instead of a leap in the light.

Many of the Church's greatest saints have been doctors of the Church, theologians, philosophers, intellectuals: Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas, Bonaventure. Anti-intellectuals like Tatian and Tertullian and Luther (who called reason "the devil's whore") often die excommunicated, as heretics....
Posted by John Weidner at June 14, 2009 7:18 PM
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