Reason cannot justify its own existence. The philisophical impass of existence itself ever convicts the soul. Therefore God, the “unmoved mover” of the great philosophers, cannot simply be thought thinking itself, as they sometimes concluded.
For although there may be mind without thought, there cannot be thought without mind; and a mind which conceives of persons must know and experience personhood as much or more so than those conceived of. Yet also, if we are all merely thoughts in a greater mind, as some have concluded, then we ourselves may all be decieved in supposing that our thoughts are truly thoughts at all; and then our own “thoughts” about that very matter are also in vain, and, as likely as not, another layer of deception: and why then do we so speculate, and that willfully? We should then rightly abondon the whole discourse, and immediately attempt to discover what lies beyond this veil of tears through self-inflicted death!
Yet does it not burn deeply within our souls, that the reason by which we reason must have definite origin and definite purpose? And does not death also loom as a certain judgement over the soul, for good or for ill?
Therefore, we shall not speculate upon things which in themselves necessitate the meaninglessness of themselves; for this is madness, and we know that there is a good, and a true, as it has been imprinted upon us within and without, though our eyes have been cut off from its more explicit light. And that light without is what we ought to seek from within, seeing that our own light within has already proven itself quite inadequate to be sought from without.
Now, if the good and the true of that greater mind aforementioned shall be truly known, it must be more than a force of unseen nature: it must be the nature and character of a being who can be known not only as a mind but more importantly as a person; for a mind without personhood cannot create persons, only thoughts. Yet man is a person; and if we are speaking of the ultimate God at all, then we are speaking of man’s creator, who must therefore be a person – or else we speak of no god concerning man at all, but only of what is neither relevant nor existent (except in thought), and so deceive ourselves before we have scarcely begun to consider the matter.
For if man is a personal being – and we step into madness to deny such – then the good and true which is meant for him must have a like example to him in order to be truly known by him. If the good and true is only a force of unseen nature, then man, who is a personal being, can neither discover nor relate to it; and such is either not good and not true, or is at least not meant for him, since, being impersonal, it does not concern his person. Therefore, the good and true that is meant for him is the good and true found in a being relating to him personally. The great absurdity of the ages is that man, a manifestly triune being, scrambles to prove that a greater triune being cannot have created him. For, any good and true that is relevant to man, and especially the ultimate and transcendent, depends not merely upon the existence of that good and true as God, but upon that God being a person whose nature and character defines that very good and true, for which the created man longs, knowingly or unknowingly.
Therefore, as Christians, unless the person of Jesus Christ is our assumed presupposition in all argumentation, then all our philosophizing is in vain, try as Aquinas might to convince himself otherwise. His predecessors knew better.
“For I do not understand in order that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe – that unless I believe I shall not understand.”
– Anselm of Canterbury
The Person of Christ cannot be arrived at by outside wisdom: as all wisdom proceeds from Him. He cannot be reasoned to by outside knowledge: as all knowledge is hidden in Him from the wise. He cannot be found through the courses of the human mind: as true right-mindedness subsists only in Him through relationship.
How then shall anyone be saved through our apologetic?
They shall not; nor have they ever been.
For it is not our apologetic through which any are saved; but through the power of the God who knows men. The faith of Christ is the gift of God, and the apologetic is only the confirmation of the mind of the heart already being enlightened. Apologetics may at times be an instrument of the Spirit for the unbeliever, but they are a far more useful instrument for the believer.
Divine faith is not the fruit of true reason: true reason is the fruit of divine faith. Reason may discover by omission the chasm at its center, which is faith; but even so, it cannot fill that chasm with said faith – which is the work of God’s Spirit. The faith of Jesus Christ has root in the source of all things, God the Father, the transcendent, yet personal, uncreated God who subsits in Himself, who is “that than which none is greater,” regardless of our own failing conceptions or incomplete knowledge of Him.
Those who claim that they have arrived at, reasoned to, or found Jesus Christ by means of excellent philosophy fall into two categories: firstly, those who have not truly found Him, but only a concept of Him befitting their minds; or secondly, those who have truly been found by His faith, yet are still too proud to give Him the glory in their intellect.
These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.
[Or, “interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.”]
1 Corinthians 2:13 (NKJV)
The above words of the apostle leave us no intermediary stepping-stone between the carnal mind and the spiritual mind that can be relied upon; no bridge between reason and revelation that can be crossed; no means of God-pleasing enlightenment except that which the Holy Spirit Himself works upon the soul. A man is either carnal or spiritual; he will either understand spiritual things or he will not; and the knowledge of God will either be conceptual, unto his puffing up, or experiential, unto his building up.
True wisdom is either hidden from a man or revealed to him; and a man of philosophy is either hopelessly enthralled by the unknown god or hopefully enraptured by the revealed God.
Christ is the only true philosopher’s Stone, if there ever was one – whom the builders of such conceptions have themselves rejected from the beginning. The torch of Prometheus is lit with the fire of hell, and its wisdom glows with the sickly dying light of the fallen one.
The beyond of the merely reasoning mind is the void of the Word of God. But the man enlightened by the faith of Jesus Christ no longer has need of such an elusive beyond to be concieved of in his mind; for he is now present in the revelation of the Word, who is very near to him, even in his mouth and in his heart.
Our known reality is not the manifestation of abstract concepts from the beyond of true reality: rather, true reality has been manifestly revealed in our known reality in the Man Christ Jesus, of whom the most excellent philosophical concepts are only derivative, and speak only faintly. Reality is right before us; and He who defines it must open our eyes to begin to see Him as He is.
Experience is the shadow of reality, and concepts are the shadow of experience. Therefore, mere concepts of God are only a shadow of a shadow; and have no use without the experience of what is real in God.
We do not reason to God to open men’s hearts, we reason from God, who opens men’s hearts.
“Now, since we do not live with our soul stripped bare, but, on the contrary, have it clothed over, as it were, with the veil of the flesh, our soul has the mind as a sort of eye which sees and has the faculty of knowing and which is capable of receiving knowledge and having understanding of things which are.
It does not, however, have knowledge and understanding (by) itself, but has need of one to teach it; so, let us approach that Teacher in whom there is no falsehood and who is the truth. Christ is the subsistent wisdom and truth and in Him are all the treasures of hidden knowledge.”
– John of Damascus
“After reading the doctrines of Plato, Socrates or Aristotle, we feel the specific difference between their words and Christ’s is the difference between an inquiry and a revelation.”
– Joseph Parker