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Posts Tagged ‘Reality’

Is It Just Semantics? by Jack Reagan

In 08 Musings by Jack Reagan on 2015/02/13 at 12:00 AM

In the field of language, Latin is classified as a dead language while English is classified as a living language. A dead language is one which is no longer spoken by any recognized group, and, therefore, its grammar and vocabulary will not change. (Latin has been dropped from most schools because “dead” was interpreted as “useless” which it is anything but.)

Since language is arbitrary to begin with, and is designed by those who use it, a living language changes all the time by adding new words, new meanings for old words, words dropped, etc. Words can pick up positive or negative meanings. For example, “pretty” used to mean “sneaky”.  Think of all the new words added to English in the past 30 years.

If you eliminate the English words with Latin or Greek roots, you are left with a very monosyllabic tribal language based on the uneducated Germanic tribes of Anglos and Saxons who settled in England.  Thus, English may be widespread in the world because of American power and wealth (as Latin once was for the same reasons), but it is not a very sophisticated language. For example, the Greek language, much older than English, has about 7-8 words that mean “love” depending on the object of the love. If a Greek uses a form of “agape,” we know he is referring to religious love. If he uses “eros,” we know he means physical love.  If he uses “philos,” he is thinking of friendship.

In English, we use only one word, “love” to cover everything.  Thus we love God; God loves us; we love our spouse, our child, our parents and the country. But we also “love” our team, pizza, ice cream, that movie, a TV program, and we’d love to visit Europe. We even love the dog.

Thus the word love covers so much that it really doesn’t mean much or at least not what it’s supposed to mean.  We have extended the meaning of love to encompass the ideas of like, prefer, hope, desire  etc.

The ability to love is one of those gifts of God that comes with our rational nature.

No other creature can love…not even the dog.  It is like language, law, conversation, fine arts, etc…a peculiarly human gift in that only humans can engage in it.

Love must be rational.  This is why we tend to look askance at infatuation whose root is “silly”.  Love can only apply to rational beings. You simply cannot love ice cream or any other food.  I suggest that these egregious uses of the word “love” may be part of the reason that love doesn’t mean what it used to mean; we have made it a vague and amorphous word.

We need to find a synonym that conveys the idea of love accurately.  We are always hearing that God loves us. Is it a quasi romantic, cutesy, mushy love that cannot even be really imagined, let alone grasped by the mind?  It is because of this false idea of divine love that the error of universal salvation has arisen. “God loves us so much, He would never send anyone to hell.” “God is good that He could never send anyone to hell.”

I suggest we think of love in  terms of “commitment”. Whenever we hear “love”, we think “commitment.” John 3:5 might be more meaningful if we said, “God was so committed to the world that he gave His only-begotten Son…”   “Commitment” suggests a much stronger reality.

All human love should involve commitment to another person. If there is no commitment, the “love” may be based merely on physical attraction (“He’s a hunk.”) or selfish utility  (marrying the boss’s daughter). The highest love involves a dedication/commitment to the spiritual and/or temporal well-being of another person.

There is another aspect of real love that contemporary society has rejected. The best love relationship has a divine component. If you do not have a commitment to God and the things of God, whatever love you offer will be diminished because God is the source of love. A true love song can be used as a prayer, too. Think of “Be My Love”. Then try making a prayer out of modern “love” songs!

When we think of love, think of commitment to someone. That is a strong word…and a bit scary, too. It does give us a sense of what is expected in a love relationship whether it is with God or another person. When we want to have a model of commitment, we need look no further than the Bible and Christ. God didn’t just say he was committed to man, he proved it on at least three major occasions.

The first was Christmas when a divine Being allowed himself to take on human form.

The second was at the Crucifixion when Christ committed Himself to rescue mankind potentially from hell.

The third is a commitment that we don’t usually think of in that way…the Resurrection. This was a commitment to the peace of mind of the faithful who, because of the Resurrection, need never doubt that the Gospels are true history and, therefore, reliable in all that they teach.

As Catholics, rejoice and be glad that our God has shown His commitment to us.

Have we reciprocated that commitment?

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“Wholeness of Vision” on Abortion by Thomas J. Ashcraft

In 07 Observations on 2013/08/01 at 12:00 AM

It will take more than windbag senators and coy judicial nominees to determine what the settled law on abortion should be.  A just answer will only be found by listening to people who have passed through this life and learned how to deal wisely with pregnancy when it arrives as unwelcome news.

Sheldon Vanauken (1914-1996) taught history and literature for years at Lynchburg College in Virginia.  He is best known for his book “A Severe Mercy,” first published in 1977 and still in print.

It tells the story of Vanauken’s love for his wife Jean Davis, known as Davy, their experience together at Oxford University where they became friends of C.S. Lewis, their conversion to Christianity, and Davy’s early death from a mysterious liver ailment in 1955.  A lyrical and deeply touching book, it is impossible to read with dry eyes.

Although full of details about the couple and their life together, “A Severe Mercy” omitted a major event from Davy’s youth.  Vanauken related it in a 1990 article entitled “Discovery:  Finding that Long-Lost Someone,” published by the New Oxford Review where he served as a contributing editor (www.newoxfordreview.org).

Two years after the death of her minister father when she was 14 years old, Davy, as Vanauken tells it, “running a bit wild . . . found herself pregnant.  There was nothing to do but tell her mother, who, along with her older sister, stood by her.  All this, of course, is an old, old tale among womankind.”

Davy had the baby, whom she called “Marion” and always remembered as blue-eyed and beautiful, and gave her up for adoption.  Davy was then “sent to a good prep school for girls.”  During her marriage to Vanauken, “Davy continued to remember her daughter with love, her daughter growing up — somewhere.”

After Davy’s death and the publication of “A Severe Mercy,” Vanauken wondered about “little lost Marion” and how much she would learn about her mother by reading the book.  He began to search for her but encountered the usual hurdles in the adoption world.

In 1988, however, the adoption agency finally consented to tell “Marion” (her adoptive parents had given her a different name) of Vanauken and his book about Davy.  While Vanauken was trying to decide how to contact Marion, Marion dialed him up on the phone “wild with excitement.”

“Found at last,” Marion later wrote.  “Incredible, choking joy!  Thanksgiving.  Yet sadness also — sadness that I could not touch her, hold her, and be held.”

On “A Severe Mercy,” Marion wrote to Vanauken: “At once thrilling and scary!  My heart pounding.  Almost breathless with discovery, unable to sleep till I’d read every word.  Excited beyond belief, sobbing, my pillow wet with tears.  Seeing my mother as a young woman loving the things I loved — beauty, dogs, sails in the wind, music.  I had been starving for this — and now the book.  I loved her love for you and your sharing and the incredibly wise things you did to protect your love.  And the piercing beauty of Christ coming into your lives.”

After high school Marion had become a nurse.  She later met and married a physician.  They had three children and lived in the San Francisco area.  One daughter had Davy’s smile.    Having experienced the loss of his wife and discovering much later his wife’s grown daughter and her own family, Vanauken acquired a unique understanding of what is meant by those asserting the “right to choose.”

“To see abortion right-side-up I must see,” he wrote, “not only the frightened 14-year-old Davy with a likely candidate for abortion in her belly but also the warmly alive Marion and her family.  This has been shown to me.  Having seen, how could I now say: ‘What a pity she couldn’t have an abortion in those benighted days!’

“To kill Marion now would be unthinkable, but it was Marion — no one else — when Davy was 14 and scared.  I can sympathetically feel for Davy then, but I know Marion and her children, too.  Surely both must be known or imagined for wholeness of vision.”

Vanauken concluded:  “John Donne, hearing the tolling of the passing bell, recognized that the bell tolled for him, for the death of any man diminished him.  Davy had only the poignant memory of the little lost Marion, yet she would have been diminished if abortion had deprived her of that memory. . . .   It seems to me that just this one abortion would have left a hole in Creation.”

And what of 33 years of Roe v. Wade?

__________________________________

Tom Ashcraft is a Charlotte lawyer.  

Published, The Charlotte Observer [www.charlotteobserver.com], 1-21-06

Faith Means Believing in the Love of God Which Redeems Us from Slavery

In 06 Scripture & Theology on 2013/02/28 at 11:11 AM

The faith, its meaning and significance in the modern world, were the main themes of Benedict XVI’s catechesis during his weekly general audience held this morning in St. Peter’s Square. “In our time”, the Pope said, “we need a renewed education in the faith. Certainly this must include a knowledge of its truths and of the events of salvation, but above all it must arise from an authentic encounter with God in Jesus Christ”.

“Today, along with many signs of goodness, a spiritual desert is spreading around us. … Even the ideas of progress and well-being are revealing their shadows and, despite the great discoveries of science and progress of technology, mankind today does not seem to have become freer. … Many forms of exploitation, violence and injustice persist. … Moreover, there are growing numbers of people who seem disorientated and who, in their search to go beyond a purely horizontal vision of reality, are ready to believe everything and the opposite of everything. In this context, certain fundamental questions arise: … What meaning does life have? Do men and women, we and coming generations, have a future? What awaits us beyond the threshold of death?”

From these questions, the Pope explained, it is clear that “scientific knowledge, though important for the life of man, is not of itself enough. We need not only material bread, we need love, meaning and hope. We need a sure foundation … which gives our lives true significance even in moments of crisis and darkness, even in daily difficulties. This is what the faith gives us. It means entrusting ourselves confidently to the ‘You? that is God, the which gives me certainty: a certainty different but no less solid than that which comes from exact calculations and science. The faith is not a mere intellectual assent on man’s part to the specific truths about God, it is an act by which I freely entrust myself to God Who is a Father and Who loves me, … Who gives me hope and inspires my trust.

“Of course”, the Pope added, “such adherence to God is not without content. Through it we are aware that God showed Himself to us in Christ. … With the mystery of the death and resurrection of Christ, God descended to the depths of our human condition in order to draw it to Himself, to raise it to His heights. Faith means believing in this love of God, which does not diminish in the face of the corruption of man, in the face of evil and death; on the contrary, it is capable of transforming all forms of slavery, giving them the possibility of salvation”.

“This possibility of salvation through faith is a gift which God gives to all mankind. I believe we should meditate more often – during our daily lives often marked by problems and dramatic situations – on the fact that Christian belief means abandoning oneself trustingly to the profound meaning which upholds me and the world, the meaning which we cannot give to ourselves but only receive as a gift, and which is the foundation upon which we can live without fear. We must be capable of announcing this liberating and reassuring certainty of the faith with words, and showing it with our Christian lives”.

“Underpinning our journey of faith is Baptism, the Sacrament which gives us the Holy Spirit, makes us children of God in Christ, and marks our entry into the community of faith, into the Church. A person does not believe alone, without God’s grace, nor do we believe by ourselves, but together with our brothers and sisters. From Baptism on all believers are called to re-live this confession of the faith and to make it their own, together with their brethren”.

The Holy Father concluded: “The faith is a gift of God but it is also a profoundly free and human act. … It does not run counter to our freedom or our reason. … Believing means entrusting oneself in all freedom and joy to God’s providential plan for history, as did the Patriarch Abraham, as did Mary of Nazareth”.

In his greetings at the end of his audience, the Pope recalled how “last Monday we celebrated the memory of Blessed John Paul II, who remains alive among us”. In this context, he invited young people “to learn to face life with his ardour and enthusiasm”, and the sick “to carry the cross of suffering joyfully, as he himself taught us”.

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What is Truth? By J. Reagan

In 08 Musings by Jack Reagan on 2012/09/07 at 9:11 AM

St. Thomas Aquinas was one of the most brilliant philosopher-theologians in the history of the Catholic Church. His definition of truth, which is still valid today, is that truth is the conformity/agreement of the mind to reality. This means that objective truth lies outside of us, outside the human mind. The human mind discovers/learns/ finds truth; it does not invent it.

What arises in our own minds is opinion which may or may conform well to reality. It is the role of the human mind to seek objective truth. That is how God designed the mind. Some times it takes eons to discover a truth or set of truths. Ex. The laws of aerodynamics have existed probably since the beginning of time, but they were discovered only in the last century.

We live in a world in which too many believe that truth is manufactured by the human mind, that man does not discover truth, but determines it. This attitude is far more prevalent is matters of the spiritual and the intellectual spheres like religion, morality, ethics, education, government, etc. In these areas opinion, often the loudest, becomes “truth”.

But truth comes from God and when man dares to usurp that authority, the consequences can be disastrous. Frederick Hegel, a nineteenth century philosopher, when told that his theories did not fit the facts, said,  in effect, that was just too bad for the facts. He was one of the founders of Communism. As a result of this invented “truth,” millions of people were enslaved and worse for almost a century.

The theory of evolution is much in a news today. Honest scientists will admit that evolution is far from a proven theory. About 90-95% of contemporary scientists admit they are materialists and act as thought evolution were a fact.  If it’s not matter, it doesn’t matter.”

Materialism is a philosophy; it is not science, but scientists prefer pretending evolution is a fact because, as Thomas Huxley, an associate of Darwin, said that he liked the idea of evolution because if man were merely a high-grade monkey, he is not responsible for his actions, and, therefore,  he could continue to what do we call sin. In fact,  evolution has long since  passed from the realm of science and has become a quasi religion among many scientists. That’s why there is a kind of frenzy about protecting the theory of evolution against the inroads of logic or fact.

The ACLU is so vehemently anti-Christian that is quite willing to distort and manipulate facts to make the U.S. Constitution say whatever the organization wants it to say. The result has been constantly invented “truth” aimed at the Christian community.

If we do not live in the real world, must then live in a world of whim, fantasy, opinion, subjectivism, etc. Only by living in the real world can we even hope to live a fully human life.

In a world that denies objective truth in matters transcendental and spiritual, and tells us that opinion is a good substitute for truth, we have the words of Christ (Jn 14:5) that He and He alone is the embodiment of truth, that He is the only source of truth.  If we ignore that, we do so at great peril not only to out temporal life, but to our eternal life.

Remember this: an idea  is not true because we say it is or because we believe it is, or because the majority favors it is, an idea is true only if it conforms to objective reality.

Freedom, a Paradox By J. Reagan

In 08 Musings by Jack Reagan on 2012/08/24 at 9:00 AM

We humans are the only creatures that do not have to act in a predetermined way; we can radically alter the circumstances of our lives if we so wish. A tree will grow in the same spot year after year and follow its prearranged cycles. A dog will never live like a fish and a cat will never fly. Humans have found ways to both live under water and fly.

People have a moral dimension that other creatures do not have. We can produce a Mother Teresa and a Hitler, great saints and great sinners, and every level in between. The reason is that humans have the power of choice, of free will; we can decide to do or not to do something.

The Greeks of the ancient world, who helped lay of the foundation of our own civilization, were the thinkers of their time. They thought about almost every aspect of human existence. They delved into mathematics, physics, medicine, music, and literature. Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Galen, Hippocrates, are among the more notable of them. They even had an atomic theory.

Their philosophers pondered the question of free will and its significance. They came to the conclusion that there is a paradox (apparent contradiction) in the matter of free will. They said that there are two kinds of freedom of the will, a “freedom from” and a “freedom to”. The former is negative and the latter is positive. “Freedom from” is the idea that no one should tell us what we can and cannot do, that we are free agents answerable only to ourselves.

The paradox here is that when we set out to be totally free of inhibitions, laws, rules etc, we eventually become, not free, but enslaved to our desires. They very things we thought would show our freedom bind us in a grip of negative habits and vice, and which, under our own power, would be proportionately difficult to overcome. Thus unlimited freedom turns into slavery.

“Freedom to” has its own paradox. In order to be free to accomplish anything of value or anything worthwhile, we must be willing to restrict, limit and restrain our free will. The reason you can read this essay is that I have limited myself to using certain words, in a certain order and arrangement. I could have used many of the other thousands of English words, but the result would be a different message or none at all…jibberish. I happen to enjoy choirs, but only because the choir members agree to follow a certain pattern of notes with no deviations. Imagine what would happen if the choir members decided that “no one was going to tell them what to sing”, and they all sang different hymns at the same time.

Man is the only creature that can conceive of and try to attain goals. No goal is reached in a haphazard way. Plans must be made, and part of those plans are restricted choices we must make to be successful. If one wishes to become a doctor, he/she must, long before, set out on a prescribed  course of study, and restrict himself or herself to whatever aids in the pursuit of the goal.

We live in a “Sez who?” society. Authority at every level, divine, parental, civil, educational, ecclesiastical , is being questioned and/or ignored if anyone so desires; each one becomes his or her own lawmaker. We forget that legitimate authority comes from God, and, therefore, obliges us to obey lawful rules. Too many people in authority have brought disrespect and disregard on themselves. Nevertheless, when we look around us, we see all too often the fruits of the “Sez who? Society”: dangerous addictions, high crime rate, low church attendance, rampant illicit sex, abortion, deficient education, evolution as fact, greed at every level (called “inflation”),  scientism (the belief that only science has all the answers), etc.

The Greeks had it right, BUT, because they did not have the benefit of Revelation, their idea of freedom is valid, but incomplete because they had only human reason to work with. It was not until the coming of Christ that we learned the true meaning of freedom. “The truth shall make you free.”

Because the Greek philosophers’ ideas of freedom were limited,  they relied on human reason alone, and, while they did develop some sound ideas, they were, nevertheless, incomplete and insufficient. They based everything on the idea of restraints and lack of restraints which is valid only to a certain extent. After all, it was a pagan world they lived in. We have the guidance of divine Revelation. It tells us that the real origin and basis for freedom is truth. “The truth shall make you free.”

Christ Himself referred to Himself as “the Truth.” The Gospels tell us that part of the mission of Christ on earth was to tell us how to find complete and necessary truth because it is only in truth that we find real freedom. Ever notice that false gods always seem to reduce freedom? The followers of Islam certainly have diminished freedom.

It does not require much observation to realize that we live in a world filled with errors and lies in all areas of life: ecclesiastical, political, moral, economic, social, scientific, educational, etc. Note also that the more error and falsehood involved, the more freedom is diminished. Ex. Darwinism has become a religion in the scientific world. Any opponent speaks out risks danger of grave consequences to his position and status. The same attitude is developing in the matter of global warming. The elites have decided that it exists, and anyone who questions it is subject to ridicule, ostracism, etc. In both Darwinism and global warming, contrary facts are not given a hearing. This means a loss of freedom to make our own judgments in such matters.

It is truth that makes us free. It is Christ who gives us true freedom. We can better understand this by using the terms the Greek philosophers used, “freedom from” and “freedom to”.  In Christ, we have a “freedom from”

ANXIETY: Christ Himself told us we need not be anxious about anything because God is in control of the world and whatever happens in it. With Him as our guide, we are assured that whatever comes to pass, good or bad, it will be to our advantage eventually.

ERROR:    Using the inspired Word of God and the  Catholic Church as a beacon of truth and  standard of behavior, we can judge and evaluate the myriad false ideas being tossed around today.

DOUBT:  The suicide bomber can only hope that his actions will bring him to heaven.(They won’t.) The Christian who believes in Christ and His promises KNOWS what his destiny is.

FEAR OF DEATH: The modern world seems to have a mania for staying alive as long as possible. Of course, the reason is that too many think that the grave is the end of the story. The Christian knows that death for him/her leads to the second and better part of life as  his/her soul goes to meet with Christ while the body remains temporarily on earth.

In short, believing the truth of Christ rescues us from the baneful effects of our sinful human nature, and gives us freedom that the non-saved can’t even imagine.

There is a positive side the God’s freedom, the “freedom to.”

Human freedom is tenuous, and fickle, and can be dangerous when misused; too much freedom often leads to disaster.

God’s freedom is infinite, constant, and eternal.

We are free to be all that God has designed us to be, free to be what no human power can give, free to reach our full potential which is eternal union with God.

The Greeks said that true freedom lies in restraint. So too is it in the Christian life. We call this restraint obedience to God’s will. That is the source of man’s true freedom because it will lead to eternal glory in which human freedom becomes perfect, and a more mentally peaceful existence on earth. That is God’s plan for us.

There will be no “freedom from” in Heaven because there will be no  doubts, fears, anxieties, or errors, etc. The least free person is the habitual sinner. Listen to his last lament.

“The past has deceived me; the present torments me; and the future terrifies me.”

The true Christian, free in Christ, will never need to utter these words.

Let’s Get Real: Part I by Jack Reagan

In 08 Musings by Jack Reagan on 2011/11/18 at 10:02 PM

We have come to the point where most thinking people (as opposed to those who merely react to events with little or no understanding of their significance) have concluded that the U.S. and  Europe are in a period of grave, and perhaps, irreversible, societal decline. Some attribute that decline to banishment of God from public life and the inevitable loss of a divine ethos. Others cite defective leadership at all levels of government and education. Still others cite the division of the population into groups and blocs . . . whites, blacks, Hispanics, gays, etc. We are members of a group before we are Americans. There are other suggested causes, too, and all are valid to some degree. I suggest, however, that these are effects of another problem, as well as causes of decline. There is one underlying or root cause of these secondary causes, and that root cause is the failure to deal with reality.

Too many ignore reality, redefine it to suit themselves or decide what it should be and act accordingly. They pretend the unrealistic is real. The idea of reality has been so abused intellectually that many have come to believe that realty is what they say it is. When you fail to deal with reality, it is almost impossible to have positive results.

Reality is the state, condition or situation objectively viewed regardless of what anyone thinks of it. Reality is what is, what exists objectively.

Reality may be physical, such as objects perceived by the five senses.

It may be intellectual or mental such as thoughts, memories, images in the mind. These are real, but not subject to sense perception. If you think of a person, that person does not become real.  Rather, the idea of him is real. This why Our Lord could warn us that thoughts can be the cause of sin. Intellectual products are probably the greatest source of unreality. Communism had not the least grasp on reality. Same-sex marriage is not a matter of equality, nor of objective reality (of which it has none), but rather a matter of perceived reality.

Modern man has rejected the Ultimate Reality which is God. The Bible tells us that God has defined Himself as “I am who am.” This means that God defines Himself as a being whose very essence is to exist, to be. His essence is not mercy, justice or goodness, but existence. No other created being has that property because each began and each will end. This is not an easy concept for humans to grasp because we dwell in time while God dwells in eternity.

Reality is also truth. What is true is real and vice versa. Thus, when we reject God, we reject the ultimate standard of truth. Without a divine standard, the new standard of truth becomes fellow humans; and we know how reliable humans are and how we often sacrifice truth on the altar of stupidity.

The effects of this rejection of reality (to ignore it, avoid it or pretend it is something else) is the endangerment of making sound judgments. Bad judgments will lead to bad effects that may last until that judgment is changed (if it can be) or even a lifetime. For example, the lazy student will experience failure until he decides to raise his grades; the drunk driver who kills someone may suffer for the rest of his life for his bad judgment.

Another effect of refusing or failing to see what is is that we lose the ability to think coherently. There is an increasing effort to impose assisted suicide in the U.S. The reasons offered are usually economic while ignoring the impact, the consequences, of that effort. For example, if we can legally kill the unborn and the sick, who comes next on the list? The impaired? The homeless? We like to tout “benefits,” but we forget or ignore the unforeseen consequences. We begin to think emotionally, rather than rationally.” We focus on “how something feels” not “whether it’s realistic.”  We’ve chosen to live in a perceived and subjective “reality,” not an objective and truthful reality.

Continued

Let’s Get Real: Part II by Jack Reagan

In 08 Musings by Jack Reagan on 2011/11/18 at 10:00 PM

We are in decline because of decades of refusing to deal with reality. The United States was not founded to make citizens equal, but free. Today, we have reversed that premise; we try to make everyone equal and the result is a gross erosion of liberty. If a man has ten times as much money as I do, acquired legitimately, I have no problem with that. He had more talent. Today,we call him evil and say that he owes others some of his money because they lacked what it took to acquire it. This is why we have a progressive income tax (an idea right out of Karl Marx). One atheist and an irrational judge can override the religious sentiments of hundreds or thousands of people.

The three main sources of the cult of the unrealistic are:

1. Civil governments at all levels. (Remember the “bridge to nowhere?”)  Crazy, unworkable schemes abound.

2. Public education at all levels. We took God out of the schools and replaced Him with police officers.

3. The media which is so biased (with few exceptions) that they are often ludicrous when, without any facts, they attribute events to the “right”, to Christians, to racism, etc. Apology for errors is just about unheard of.

So abounding are the errors, stupidities, false ideas, distortions and lies that rather than deal with it all, the dreamers have come up with another absurd idea: that we must not be judgmental. Nothing is right or wrong, good or bad, useful or useless, necessary or unnecessary, true or false, moral or immoral. According to these people, one should not complain that during WWII, we built 1000 ships a year and the Bureau of Ships had 1000 employees. Today, we build 17 ships, and the Bureau of Ships has 25,000 employees. If you complain, the retort will be that you are trying to put people out of work.

A good example of modern insistence on unreality concerns evolution. It used to be the “theory of evolution.” “The theory” has been dropped, and evolution is now presented as proven fact even though it has not only not been proven, but there are serious scientists who have mounted rational challenges against it. Why the persistence? Because if I am the cousin of a monkey, then like my cousin, I am an animal with no moral responsibility; I can live on instinct and whim.

The first humans to try to ignore reality were Adam and Eve. They thought that disobedience would lead to divinization of themselves. (Note that Satan always offers “pie in the sky” which, when obtained, is just mush.) They soon found out that God does not think much of those who ignore reality.

Another Bible person who was a realist was Noah. His grasp of the real was to obey God while everyone else snickered and sneered. We know how that turned out.

If we’re in decline, is there any hope? Probably not, barring divine intervention, which I would not count on. The world is a cesspool of sin; what would be God’s incentive to save us? Besides, history tells us that no declining society has ever saved itself.

Pessimistic? Of course!  But, the individual does not have to decline along with society if he has a sincere, consistent and productive relationship with God. That is the only hope for any person.

God is real. If you want to be a realist, realize that His is the only way, the truth and the life.

Real Truth

In 06 Scripture & Theology on 2011/04/23 at 3:48 PM

St. Thomas Aquinas defined truth as the conformity of the mind to reality.  Today, the world’s plight can be directly connected to the failure to recognize truth.  We grow in knowledge of practical truth, but we become blind towards truth itself.  Thus, we lose sight of who we are and who we are meant to be.  Man becomes true to himself as he grows closer to Him who is the Truth, the Way and the Life.

Freedom, a Paradox

In 08 Musings by Jack Reagan on 2011/04/09 at 3:12 PM

We humans are the only creatures that do not have to act in a predetermined way; we can radically alter the circumstances of our lives if we so wish. A tree will grow in the same spot year after year and follow its prearranged cycles. A dog will never live like a fish and a cat will never fly. Humans have found ways to both live under water and fly.

People have a moral dimension that other creatures do not have. We can produce a Mother Teresa and a Hitler, great saints and great sinners, and every level in between. The reason is that humans have the power of choice, of free will; we can decide to do or not to do something.

The Greeks of the ancient world, who helped lay of the foundation of our own civilization, were the thinkers of their time. They thought about almost every aspect of human existence. They delved into mathematics, physics, medicine, music, and literature. Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Galen, Hippocrates, are among the more notable of them. They even had an atomic theory.

Their philosophers pondered the question of free will and its significance. They came to the conclusion that there is a paradox (apparent contradiction) in the matter of free will. They said that there are two kinds of freedom of the will, a “freedom from” and a “freedom to”. The former is negative and the latter is positive. “Freedom from” is the idea that no one should tell us what we can and cannot do, that we are free agents answerable only to ourselves.

The paradox here is that when we set out to be totally free of inhibitions, laws, rules etc, we eventually become, not free, but enslaved to our desires. They very things we thought would show our freedom bind us in a grip of negative habits and vice, and which, under our own power, would be proportionately difficult to overcome. Thus unlimited freedom turns into slavery.

“Freedom to” has its own paradox. In order to be free to accomplish anything of value or anything worthwhile, we must be willing to restrict, limit and restrain our free will. The reason you can read this essay is that I have limited myself to using certain words, in a certain order and arrangement. I could have used many of the other thousands of English words, but the result would be a different message or none at all…jibberish. I happen to enjoy choirs, but only because the choir members agree to follow a certain pattern of notes with no deviations. Imagine what would happen if the choir members decided that “no one was going to tell them what to sing”, and they all sang different hymns at the same time.

Man is the only creature that can conceive of and try to attain goals. No goal is reached in a haphazard way. Plans must be made, and part of those plans are restricted choices we must make to be successful. If one wishes to become a doctor, he/she must, long before, set out on a prescribed  course of study, and restrict himself or herself to whatever aids in the pursuit of the goal.

We live in a “Sez who?” society. Authority at every level, divine, parental, civil, educational, ecclesiastical , is being questioned and/or ignored if anyone so desires; each one becomes his or her own lawmaker. We forget that legitimate authority comes from God, and, therefore, obliges us to obey lawful rules. Too many people in authority have brought disrespect and disregard on themselves. Nevertheless, when we look around us, we see all too often the fruits of the “Sez who? Society”: dangerous addictions, high crime rate, low church attendance, rampant illicit sex, abortion, deficient education, evolution as fact, greed at every level (called “inflation”),  scientism (the belief that only science has all the answers), etc.

The Greeks had it right, BUT, because they did not have the benefit of Revelation, their idea of freedom is valid, but incomplete because they had only human reason to work with. It was not until the coming of Christ that we learned the true meaning of freedom. “The truth shall make you free.”

Because the Greek philosophers’ ideas of freedom were limited,  they relied on human reason alone, and, while they did develop some sound ideas, they were, nevertheless, incomplete and insufficient. They based everything on the idea of restraints and lack of restraints which is valid only to a certain extent. After all, it was a pagan world they lived in. We have the guidance of divine Revelation. It tells us that the real origin and basis for freedom is truth. “The truth shall make you free.”

Christ Himself referred to Himself as “the Truth.” The Gospels tell us that part of the mission of Christ on earth was to tell us how to find complete and necessary truth because it is only in truth that we find real freedom. Ever notice that false gods always seem to reduce freedom? The followers of Islam certainly have diminished freedom.

It does not require much observation to realize that we live in a world filled with errors and lies in all areas of life: ecclesiastical, political, moral, economic, social, scientific, educational, etc. Note also that the more error and falsehood involved, the more freedom is diminished. Ex. Darwinism has become a religion in the scientific world. Any opponent speaks out risks danger of grave consequences to his position and status. The same attitude is developing in the matter of global warming. The elites have decided that it exists, and anyone who questions it is subject to ridicule, ostracism, etc. In both Darwinism and global warming, contrary facts are not given a hearing. This means a loss of freedom to make our own judgments in such matters.

It is truth that makes us free. It is Christ who gives us true freedom. We can better understand this by using the terms the Greek philosophers used, “freedom from” and “freedom to”.  In Christ, we have a “freedom from”

ANXIETY: Christ Himself told us we need not be anxious about anything because God is in control of the world and whatever happens in it. With Him as our guide, we are assured that whatever comes to pass, good or bad, it will be to our advantage eventually.

ERROR:    Using the inspired Word of God and the  Catholic Church as a beacon of truth and  standard of behavior, we can judge and evaluate the myriad false ideas being tossed around today.

DOUBT:  The suicide bomber can only hope that his actions will bring him to heaven.(They won’t.) The Christian who believes in Christ and His promises KNOWS what his destiny is.

FEAR OF DEATH: The modern world seems to have a mania for staying alive as long as possible. Of course, the reason is that too many think that the grave is the end of the story. The Christian knows that death for him/her leads to the second and better part of life as  his/her soul goes to meet with Christ while the body remains temporarily on earth.

In short, believing the truth of Christ rescues us from the baneful effects of our sinful human nature, and gives us freedom that the non-saved can’t even imagine.

There is a positive side the God’s freedom, the “freedom to.”

Human freedom is tenuous, and fickle, and can be dangerous when misused; too much freedom often leads to disaster.

God’s freedom is infinite, constant, and eternal.

We are free to be all that God has designed us to be, free to be what no human power can give, free to reach our full potential which is eternal union with God.

The Greeks said that true freedom lies in restraint. So too is it in the Christian life. We call this restraint obedience to God’s will. That is the source of man’s true freedom because it will lead to eternal glory in which human freedom becomes perfect, and a more mentally peaceful existence on earth. That is God’s plan for us.

There will be no “freedom from” in Heaven because there will be no  doubts, fears, anxieties, or errors, etc. The least free person is the habitual sinner. Listen to his last lament.

“The past has deceived me; the present torments me; and the future terrifies me.”

The true Christian, free in Christ, will never need to utter these words.

What Is Truth?

In 08 Musings by Jack Reagan on 2011/04/06 at 9:00 PM

St. Thomas Aquinas was one of the most brilliant philosopher-theologians in the history of the Catholic Church. His definition of truth, which is still valid today, is that truth is the conformity/agreement of the mind to reality. This means that objective truth lies outside of us, outside the human mind. The human mind discovers/learns/ finds truth; it does not invent it.

What arises in our own minds is opinion which may or may conform well to reality. It is the role of the human mind to seek objective truth. That is how God designed the mind. Some times it takes eons to discover a truth or set of truths. Ex. The laws of aerodynamics have existed probably since the beginning of time, but they were discovered only in the last century.

We live in a world in which too many believe that truth is manufactured by the human mind, that man does not discover truth, but determines it. This attitude is far more prevalent is matters of the spiritual and the intellectual spheres like religion, morality, ethics, education, government, etc. In these areas opinion, often the loudest, becomes “truth”.

But truth comes from God and when man dares to usurp that authority, the consequences can be disastrous. Frederick Hegel, a nineteenth century philosopher, when told that his theories did not fit the facts, said,  in effect, that was just too bad for the facts. He was one of the founders of Communism. As a result of this invented “truth,” millions of people were enslaved and worse for almost a century.

The theory of evolution is much in a news today. Honest scientists will admit that evolution is far from a proven theory. About 90-95% of contemporary scientists admit they are materialists and act as thought evolution were a fact.  If it’s not matter, it doesn’t matter.”

Materialism is a philosophy; it is not science, but scientists prefer pretending evolution is a fact because, as Thomas Huxley, an associate of Darwin, said that he liked the idea of evolution because if man were merely a high-grade monkey, he is not responsible for his actions, and, therefore,  he could continue to what do we call sin. In fact,  evolution has long since  passed from the realm of science and has become a quasi religion among many scientists. That’s why there is a kind of frenzy about protecting the theory of evolution against the inroads of logic or fact.

The ACLU is so vehemently anti-Christian that is quite willing to distort and manipulate facts to make the U.S. Constitution say whatever the organization wants it to say. The result has been constantly invented “truth” aimed at the Christian community.

If we do not live in the real world, must then live in a world of whim, fantasy, opinion, subjectivism, etc. Only by living in the real world can we even hope to live a fully human life.

In a world that denies objective truth in matters transcendental and spiritual, and tells us that opinion is a good substitute for truth, we have the words of Christ (Jn 14:5) that He and He alone is the embodiment of truth, that He is the only source of truth.  If we ignore that, we do so at great peril not only to out temporal life, but to our eternal life.

Remember this: an idea  is not true because we say it is or because we believe it is, or because the majority favors it is, an idea is true only if it conforms to objective reality.