Monday, July 11, 2005

The River of Belief

Links! There is some beautiful music to be found here, "in the Mp3 format." The Maverick Philosopher alerted me to this large collection of philosophic writings. The collection includes the Chesterton essay I found this quote in:
The advantage of an elementary philosophic habit is that it permits a man, for instance, to understand a statement like this, "Whether there can or can not be exceptions to a process depends on the nature of that process." The disadvantage of not having it is that a man will turn impatiently even from so simple a truism; and call it metaphysical gibberish. He will then go off and say: "One can't have such things in the twentieth century"; which really is gibberish. Yet the former statement could surely be explained to him in sufficiently simple terms. If a man sees a river run downhill day after day and year after year, he is justified in reckoning, we might say in betting, that it will do so till he dies. But he is not justified in saying that it cannot run uphill, until he really knows why it runs downhill. To say it does so by gravitation answers the physical but not the philosophical question. It only repeats that there is a repetition; it does not touch the deeper question of whether that repetition could be altered by anything outside it. And that depends on whether there is anything outside it. For instance, suppose that a man had only seen the river in a dream. He might have seen it in a hundred dreams, always repeating itself and always running downhill. But that would not prevent the hundredth dream being different and the river climbing the mountain; because the dream is a dream, and there is something outside it. Mere repetition does not prove reality or inevitability. We must know the nature of the thing and the cause of the repetition. If the nature of the thing is a Creation, and the cause of the thing a Creator, in other words if the repetition itself is only the repetition of something willed by a person, then it is not impossible for the same person to will a different thing. If a man is a fool for believing in a Creator, then he is a fool for believing in a miracle; but not otherwise. Otherwise, he is simply a philosopher who is consistent in his philosophy.

The Internet Monk keeps his distance from Rome but has a terrific sense of ecumenism.
Like an elderly randparent, the [Catholic] church believed a lot I could never believe. But I was attracted to its maturity and beauty. It's confidence in God rather than in human urgency and zealotry. Even among those who were living lives of amazing sacrifice, there was a quiet, settled center that I found wonderful. Merton experienced it in his conversion, and I could sense it whenever I came near to Catholic spirituality and tradition. "Tradition" is an important item in my enlightenment and acceptance of Catholicism. I knew that Catholic bashers never tired of pointing out that we believed only what the Bible taught, and paid no attention to tradition. "God said it. I believe it. That settles it." Right. "Tradition" was one of those words preachers spit out with disgust, right alongside "religion." But I was far enough down the road now to realize that my Baptist experience had all kinds of traditions that we reverenced as untouchable, yet we did want to admit the truth. We waved our Bibles around and then stayed safely within the traditions we'd received from our culture, our denomination and our churches. (Listing those traditions is another essay, or a comment thread, but if you haven't figured out that Protestants of every kind are steeped in their own traditions, you need to wake up.) ... The small streams of evangelicalism are sometimes so polluted that the river- with all its accumulated pollutants- still seems far more appealing. I have decided to wish the Roman Catholic Church well. I have decided to accept the kindnesses shown to me and to enjoy the status given me in the new Catholic Catechism- separated brother. As much as I can, I won't be separated. I am part of the church Catholic, and I pray that the new Pope will be a shepherd and teacher of all Christians. I believe one can be wrong about much doctrine, yet still trust Christ, know Christ, show Christ and belong to Christ. Chesterton. St. Francis. Augustine. Merton. John Paul II. Many of my Catholic friends. I expect to see them all in the Kingdom, and in the meantime, I count them as my friends here on the pilgrim way.

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