Sunday, February 3, 2013

Augustine on Intellectual Honesty

I love what Augustine has to say about the pursuit of knowledge:
"All or almost all of us men love to call or consider our suspicions knowledge, since we are influenced by the credible evidence of circumstances; yet some credible things are false, just as some incredible ones are true." Augustine, Letter 153, section 22, (Page 128 of From Irenaus to Grotius: A Sourcebook for Christian Political Thought, edited by O'Donovan and O'Donovan)
Part of being intellectually honest is recognizing our own tendency to believe what we think we should believe. Academia is full of pressure to believe only what passes the test of "reason," and the church can sometimes push in the opposite direction, viewing intellectual pursuits with suspicion.

Neither approach is healthy.

Life and truth cannot be reduced to reason, just as parenting cannot be reduced to a list of rules. On the other hand, the pursuit of knowledge need not be seen as a threat to faith. If "all truth is God's truth" then He must take delight in our knowing more of His creative work so that we can worship him more fully.

We must go forward with open hands and open minds -- willing to reconsider what we think we know, and expecting that the answers may well be surprising.

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