Father John W. O'Neill, P.P., S.T.B.

The mind that is full of faith is the judge of all philosophies.
It would seem that, throughout the ages, the seekers of truth and life's meaning have had, for the most part, a 'do it yourself' approach. Outside the Jewish then the Christian religious phenomenon, philosophers had no choice: they had to do it themselves, because they did not have any help from God at their disposal, except the natural power he gave to the human mind. Some of them did very well with this power, coming to a realization that there was one God, and even discovering some of his attributes as Creator and Preserver of creation: his goodness, omnipotence, omnipresence. So it is a definite 'well done' to the great Greeks. Please God Plato, Aristotle and their like got to heaven eventually. If so, they must have rejoiced, after Redemption, to discover how right they were.

One would have thought later philosophers would have continued to build on the firm Athenian foundation. Some did, of course, and we have the towering Augustine and Thomas and their like;  but we always had those who set the prouder thinkers back on their eternal merry-go-round, spinning through the ages on the hub of their 'do it yourself' fetish, ignoring Revelation, the glorious entry of God into the dramatic search.
Enter he did, but he spoilt it for the prouder thinkers, for he showed them the ending to the 'story,' and, indeed, how all the players in the drama could arrive at and join in the eternal happy  'ending.' “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.”

Enter the Villain, the ancient con-artist who once more did his work very well, leading away those of proud mind who were not satisfied with having to follow anyone, no matter who they claimed to be or in fact, were.  So we have the long line of those who attribute to man what belongs to God alone: the authority to create true religion.  Gnostics, Arians, Pelagians, Albigenses, and (even speaking as a devoted ecumenist) the sad divisions of Protestantism, and the schisms of Orthodoxy. The cry goes up – if all say they have truth, and they contradict each other, then there is no truth at all!

The divisions in Christianity, in time, brought disillusionment to the simpler minds, and then came the apathetic generations;  but restless minds still struggled for answers to the ever-gnawing problem: what are we doing in this world? Some stopped thinking altogether and finally came up with the absurdities of Marxism and the unsupported 'theory’ of evolution (which has no right to be called a theory, for a theory can be established only on observed and repeated evidence!) Marx and Darwin make very willing bed-fellows.

Before this we had the Idealists, Empiricists and their many branches, then the enthusiastic Existentialists. While these each had something to offer, none had the fullness of truth or the power to satisfy man completely.

So to our own time. Even among the clergy and teachers one cannot be confident that everyone agrees about the tenets of the Catholic Faith. Agonizing disagreements and tensions are common. Why? Because that element which is common to all philosophers, attachment to one's own way of thinking and to one's own conclusions, has made a true appreciation of the Catholic Faith impossible, for then a vital conviction is missing: the conviction that what is real is independent of our thinking. The discovery and enjoyment of Truth requires that we accept that, by its very nature, it has to be objective.

Everywhere we see the evidence that so many think that they will have no fulfilment unless their own opinions are accepted and unless they get their own way. Such a mind and will cannot be open to what is utterly fundamental to the True Faith – Divine Revelation, which is what it is, whatever human minds think about it, and whatever human wills want.

We live in a 'make up your own Jesus' church now. Ask around what Catholics believe on just about anything in the Creed; ask what they believe about the Mass; ask what they believe about the Laws governing  human life and the means by which it is created.

Jerusalem had its Gehenna. The Catholic Church is surrounded by the rubbish dumps of tired old human philosophies and the heresies they made. Thank God for the objectivity of those old Greeks and the saintly geniuses who 'baptized' them, showing us how to wed human thinking and God's Revelation; and what a thrilling and fulfilling union it is. Sound, objective philosophy puts wings on the human mind, which then can rove among the Eternal Certainties instead of panting after evaporating oases in the deserts of mere human ideas. The will is then free to choose the Good with all its satisfying experiences. But no, most humans still think they can fulfil themselves by themselves, and so become truly inhuman,  unable to use their minds for the purpose for which they were created, for the human mind is designed for faith and reason for faith's servant.

Saint Paul of the mighty mind has something to say on the subject: he tells us Christ sent him “ preach the Good news, and not to preach that in terms of philosophy in which the crucifixion of Christ cannot be expressed....As Scripture says:  I shall destroy the wisdom of the wise and bring to nothing the learning of the learned. Where are the philosophers now?.....For God's foolishness is wiser than human wisdom...”(1 Cor, 1)
Who is free, the one who has found the Gold or he who searches still? It is the discovery that gives the joy, not the enervating search. “The truth will set you free” and “you will be filled with a joy that cannot be described.”
                                                                                           (Posted to the website on Sunday 17, 2006).

                                               Return to the Home Page