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Monday, 16 September 2013

Third Part-Heart and Head Knowledge Debate-Protestant and Post-Modern Anti-Intellectualism

Giotto Allegory of Charity
Now, this is a horribly short review on heart and head knowledge, but I want to shake the bushes a bit and get some people thinking on this false dichotomy.  When the Protestant Revolt occurred, the great damage done to Christianity fell into three categories of heresy. These are sola fide, sola scriptura and solo Christo.

Now, these are well-known to you all as faith alone, without good works; Scripture alone, without Tradition; and Christ alone, without the Catholic priesthood, the sacraments, The Blessed Virgin or the Pope.

All of these elements of Protestant heresies, in the various manners is which these are manifested, created an over-emphasis on the working of the Holy Spirit on the heart alone-and here, the word heart is ambiguous. When Protestants refer to the heart, are they referring to the passions, or Charity, that is love? This ambiguity has led directly to the post-modern denial of the objective, traditional modes of knowing something.

Gone are the Aristotelian guidelines on how humans obtain knowledge, both practical and spiritual. This breakdown provides moderns with an easy denial of reality, a denial of any personal responsibility to get to know something, someone or God. Most post-moderns, and that would include many Catholics, deny reality, both physical and spiritual

If all knowledge is merely based on shared experiences of language, or on relativistic, subjective interpretations of reality, then head knowledge becomes a transitory, ephemeral mode of thinking and speaking. The Deconstructionists, in my view, are a direct result of the Protestant insistence on sola everything.

Here is Derrida:

On the one hand, we must traverse a phase of overturning. To do justice to this necessity is to recognize that in a classical philosophical opposition we are not dealing with the peaceful coexistence of a vis-a-vis, but rather with a violent hierarchy. One of the two terms governs the other (axiologically, logically, etc.), or has the upper hand. To deconstruct the opposition, first of all, is to overturn the hierarchy at a given moment. To overlook this phase of overturning is to forget the conflictual and subordinating structure of opposition.

Derrida's phrase, il n'y a pas de hors-texte, there is nothing outside the text, seems a direct result of the relationship of the Protestant reader of the Scriptures who denies 2,000 years of Tradition, that is, outside context, comment, critique, understanding. 

I take great interest in questions of language and rhetoric, and I think they deserve enormous consideration; but there is a point where the authority of final jurisdiction is neither rhetorical nor linguistic, nor even discursive. The notion of trace or of text is introduced to mark the limits of the linguistic turn. This is one more reason why I prefer to speak of 'mark' rather than of language. In the first place the mark is not anthropological; it is prelinguistic; it is the possibility of language, and it is every where there is a relation to another thing or relation to an other. For such relations, the mark has no need of language.

As with his definitions of difference and deferral, the idea of non-presence, or the showing of the problems of doctrinal statements or philosophical ideas in writing which have to be destroyed to come to real understanding of the meaning of a text, or even speech, Derrida puts off real meaning. He does not want to be nihilistic, but, on the other hand, he wants to undo the constructs of historical modes of coming to meaning.

This anti-intellectualism underlying Derrida, who is looking for meaning in the absent of old paradigms of thinking, believing and writing is the same impetus behind Protestantism-a negation of tradition and Tradition, a negation of word and Word. One's understanding can only really be in the present. 

So, too, is the search for heart knowledge, which, as separated from the intellect, or head knowledge, leads either to complete subjectivity, or complete meaninglessness. Heart knowledge cannot be sustained as a platform for living-the limits of one's experience without reflection and the use of reason soon ends in ennui. 

Relativism in religion mirrors the modern man's desire to throw off the fetters of the past systems of thinking and rely merely on the meaning of the present spoken word. As authors fail to communicate though the text for Derrida, so too, the text of Tradition fails the Protestant seeking only immediate knowledge for the heart-whatever that is. If one cannot find meaning in the text immediately, there is no other meaning. 

This type of approach has nothing to do with the striping of the imagination as taught by Ignatius Loyola or John of the Cross, as the difference there is that is meaning resides beyond the purification of the soul and the senses and that reality, that meaning, is God.

Sadly, for so many Protestants, as well as Catholics, the meaning of life is really not God, but their own selves, and in that sense, they cannot find identity or meaning outside the context of seeking knowledge-either in the form of studying Revelation, which is what Tradition is, and interpreting Scripture, as well as the infused knowledge which comes both from reflection and grace.

To deny the intellectual search for meaning outside of any context is to have a desire to do exactly the opposite of Derrida, and that is to find meaning in the written word in order to understand one's self. Of course, the only real way to do this is by using rationality within the Tradition of the Church and the Scriptures as organized and explained by the Church.

People will say, but, oh, the sacraments are not intellectual. These are efficacious despite one's understanding. 

That does not mean that there is not an intellectual understanding, but merely that there is mystery as well. And, of course, the Post-Modernist denies the value or even reality of history, denigrating the meaning of history in much the same way as the Protestant denies Tradition. 

Both groups see human constructs merely, as power structures, instead of the workings of the Incarnate God. 

Most Catholics who reflect on the denial of the spiritual and the emphasis on the self, believe the movement started with Descartes. I think is started with Luther.