Saturday, July 13, 2013

Truth Appropriated

Some of the most valuable lessons I have learned as a Christian I have learned as a matter of process.  To be sure I was handed truths, the truths handed down from saint to saint about the nature of my faith, but those have made their way deeper into my heart and mind because of the journey.  I have struggled with and against people and ideas within and outside Christendom, and I believe my faith to be stronger as a result.  I have (hopefully, to be sure) gone from conviction and affirmation to genuine knowledge.

In his unashamed work, Conscience and Its Enemies, the wonderful thinker, Robert P. George, makes the case that truth is the kind of thing that must be worked for  - it must be attained.  In contrast to the prevailing idea that truth is a matter of personal passions or political and cultural power, truth is beyond all of that and cannot simply be something we look within to find.  There is value in argument and the struggle for true beliefs that simply does not come if we are driven by our passions or conventional wisdom.

He says, "Although some have depicted freedom and truth as antithetical, in reality they are mutually supportive and, indeed, dependent on each other" (pg. 39).  We are not free if we are unshackled from some notion of truth that we all must or can attain; we are not free if truth is a free-for-all.  On the contrary, freedom (in any robust sense of freedom for the human soul) requires an objective truth.  If truth is outside our ability to cajole or manufacture, then we must strive, learn, and grow.  His point about the oppression of relativism is made in the ubiquitous examples of the suppression of speech and the honest seeking after truth by those who are self-appointed guardians of political correctness, campus speech codes, or conventional wisdom.

But the point I find valuable is the one that resonates with my experience - you will be better off if you attain your knowledge, not just feel it.  "The stronger and deeper reason [for allowing error] is that freedom is the condition of our fuller appropriation of the truth.  I use the term appropriation because knowledge and truth have their value for human beings precisely as fulfillment of capacities for understanding and judgment....Knowledge that elevates and enriches - knowledge that liberates the human spirit - cannot be merely notional. It must be appropriated" (pg. 40).

He is right.  This is the only understanding of truth that develops the virtues in the human soul, and gets us out from under the tyranny to self.  The Christian faith has always seen it this way.  We know God, and we know Him truly.  But we strive to know him and his creation more and more because with each step we draw nearer to the One who created us, and we become more like the creatures we were made to be.

No comments: