Friday, 14 January 2011

The neccessity of revelation as a basis for (unavoidable) faith

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Excerpted from Nihilism by Eugene Rose (later Father Seraphim Rose)

http://www.columbia.edu/cu/augustine/arch/nihilism.html

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"We have discussed, in an earlier chapter, the universality of faith, seeing it as underlying all human activity and knowledge; and we have seen that faith, if it is not to fall prey to subjective delusions, must be rooted in truth.

"It is therefore a legitimate, and indeed unavoidable question whether the first principles of the scientific faith--for example, the coherence and uniformity of nature, the transsubjectivity of human knowledge, the adequacy of reason to draw conclusions from observation--are founded in absolute truth; if they are not, they can be no more than unverifiable probabilities.

"The "pragmatic" position taken by many scientists and humanists who cannot be troubled to think about ultimate things--the position that these principles are no more than experimental hypotheses which collective experience finds reliable--is surely unsatisfactory; it may offer a psychological explanation of the faith these principles inspire, but since it does not establish the foundation of that faith in truth, it leaves the whole scientific edifice on shifting sands and provides no sure defense against the irrational winds that periodically attack it.

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"In actual fact, however,--whether it be from simple naivete or from a deeper insight which they cannot justify by argument-most scientists and humanists undoubtedly believe that their faith has something to do with the truth of things. Whether this belief is justified or not is, of course, another question; it is a metaphysical question, and one thing that is certain is that it is not justified by the rather primitive metaphysics of most scientists.

"Every man, as we have seen, lives by faith; likewise every man--something less obvious but no less certain--is a metaphysician. The claim to any knowledge whatever--and no living man can refrain from this claim--implies a theory and standard of knowledge, and a notion of what is ultimately knowable and true. This ultimate truth, whether it be conceived as the Christian God or simply as the ultimate coherence of things, is a metaphysical first principle, an absolute truth.

"But with the acknowledgement, logically unavoidable, of such a principle, the theory of the "relativity of truth" collapses, it itself being revealed as a self-contradictory absolute.

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"The proclamation of the "relativity of truth" is, thus, what might be called a "negative metaphysics"--but a metaphysics all the same. (...)

"The "pragmatist" and the "agnostic" may be quite sincere and well-meaning; but they only deceive themselves--and others--if they continue to use the word "truth" to describe what they are seeking. Their existence, in fact, is testimony to the fact that the search for truth which has so long animated European man has come to an end.

"Four centuries and more of modern thought have been, from one point of view, an experiment in the possibilities of knowledge open to man, assuming that there is no Revealed Truth.

"The conclusion (...) of this experiment is an absolute negation: if there is no Revealed Truth, there is no truth at all; the search for truth outside of Revelation has come to a dead end.

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"The scientist admits this by restricting himself to the narrowest of specialties, content if he sees a certain coherence in a limited aggregate of facts, without troubling himself over the existence of any truth, large or small; the multitudes demonstrate it by looking to the scientist, not for truth, but for the technological applications of a knowledge which has no more than a practical value, and by looking to other, irrational sources for the ultimate values men once expected to find in truth. (...)

"Logic, thus, can take us this far: denial or doubt of absolute truth leads (if one is consistent and honest) to the abyss of solipsism and irrationalism; the only position that involves no logical contradictions is the affirmation of an absolute truth which underlies and secures all lesser truths; and this absolute truth can be attained by no relative, human means.

"At this point logic fails us, and we must enter an entirely different universe of discourse if we are to proceed. It is one thing to state that there is no logical barrier to the affirmation of absolute truth; it is quite another actually to affirm it. Such an affirmation can be based upon only one source; the question of truth must come in the end to the question of Revelation.

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"The critical mind hesitates at this point. Must we seek from without what we cannot attain by our own unaided power? It is a blow to pride--most of all to that pride which passes today for scientific "humility" that "sits down before fact as a little child" and yet refuses to acknowledge any arbiter of fact save the proud human reason. It is, however, a particular revelation--Divine Revelation, the Christian Revelation--that so repels the rationalist; other revelations he does not gainsay.

"Indeed, the man who does not accept, fully and consciously, a coherent doctrine of truth such as the Christian Revelation provides, is forced--if he has any pretensions to knowledge whatever--to seek such a doctrine elsewhere; this has been the path of modern philosophy, which has ended in obscurity and confusion because it would never squarely face the fact that it cannot supply for itself what can only be given from without.

"The blindness and confusion of modern philosophers with regard to first principles and the dimension of the absolute have been the direct consequence of their own primary assumption, the non-existence of Revelation; for this assumption in effect blinded men to the light of the sun and rendered obscure everything that had once been clear in its light. To one who gropes in this darkness there is but one path, if he will not be healed of his blindness; and that is to seek some light amidst the darkness here below.

"Many run to the flickering candle of "common sense" and conventional life and accept--because one must get along somehow--the current opinions of the social and intellectual circles to which they belong. But many others, finding this light too dim, flock to the magic lanterns that project beguiling, multicolored views that are, if nothing else, distracting, they become devotees of this or the other political or religious or artistic current that the "spirit of the age" has thrown into fashion.

"In fact no one lives but by the light of some revelation, be it a true or a false one, whether it serve to enlighten or obscure. He who will not live by the Christian Revelation must live by a false revelation; and all false revelations lead to the Abyss."

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Comment:

This passage contains the key to this end-stage of modernity in which we now dwell: Four centuries and more of modern thought have been an experiment in the possibilities of knowledge open to man, assuming that there is no Revealed Truth. The conclusion of this experiment is an absolute negation: if there is no Revealed Truth, there is no truth at all; the search for truth outside of Revelation has come to a dead end.