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Author Topic: Faith and Reason in the Orthodox Church  (Read 9328 times) Average Rating: 0
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Matthew777
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« on: January 08, 2005, 07:12:12 PM »

Due to the grudual evolution of this thread, I have changed the topic to the relationship between faith and reason in the Orthodox Church.

I just have a few questions:

What is the Orthodox definition of faith?

When faith and reason are in seeming conflict, does faith always trump reason?

Do we believe in the Christian faith because it is a properly basic belief, such as the belief that the sun sets in the evening and rises in the morning, or do we use rational arguments to justify our faith?

Is the Orthodox Church more evidentialistic or more fedeistic in its thinking?

Do we believe based on infallible proofs or is our faith itself the evidence of things unseen?

I hope this discussion will go well, I've been struggling with this a lot lately.

May peace be upon thee and with thy spirit.

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« Reply #1 on: January 08, 2005, 07:51:48 PM »

If He is such a monster as what you've described, I have nothing to lose by believing the lie that He loves me. Whether I hated Him or whether I loved Him, I would still be damned to eternal suffering.

If, however, He's as good as His Word (pun fully intended), I have everything to lose by not believing Him. He's gone to extravagant lengths to have me believe that He loves me, and I have no way to prove otherwise. So I go with the best (and probable) odds.

Call it Pascal's Wager with a twist.

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« Reply #2 on: January 08, 2005, 09:06:55 PM »


Call it Pascal's Wager with a twist.


Pascal's Wager is one solution I have thought of to solve this dilemma I have raised.
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« Reply #3 on: January 09, 2005, 05:27:24 PM »

Dear Pedro,

If you hadn't beat me to it, I would've replied with the same answer you gave.  Nice! 
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« Reply #4 on: January 11, 2005, 12:48:34 AM »

The danger for Orthodox Christians today is the free media. Their is so many things out there that causes side-track thinking. I do not imply that it is anyones intention to be side-track minded.

WE have to be careful to avoid reading strange books and magazines and listening to strange preachers.

Curiousity killed the cat some one said.

If we spend good amounts of time in prayer, fasting, meditation and reading the teachings of our Church fathers we have a good chance of avoiding such questions.

Most important we must try to keep our lives ORTHODOX. The people we spend time with the most are usually the ones that will have the greatest affect on our thinking. A girl friend or a close buddy may be the root cause for causing doubt and improper thoughts that lead to vivid imaginations and playful discourses which lack spiritual strength.

We have to struggle in this life if we are going to follow Christ. Being Orthodox in the Lord is even harder. Orthodoxy is a difficult path to stay on.

Let us enjoy the privileges of open communication and fellowship but use it to strengthen each other to be more and have more in communion with the Saints; since the Saints praise God without ceasing day and night saying "Holy, Holy, Holy Christ all mighty thou art the prince of peace, the way and the life .... for Thou art God".

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« Reply #5 on: January 11, 2005, 02:52:49 AM »

The people we spend time with the most are usually the ones that will have the greatest affect on our thinking.

Jesus dined with prostitutes and tax collectors.
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« Reply #6 on: January 11, 2005, 04:35:17 AM »



Jesus dined with prostitutes and tax collectors.

True; and His goal was to have a positive impact on them; they certainly had no negative influence on Him.  I am new to Orthodoxy, and before finding the Church, I had an entire lifetime of "bad input".  Now I have the incredible opportunity to spend time learning Truth, and spending time with people that teach me and encourage me in my journey.  We need to be strong enough to be a help to others, but if association with unbelievers causes us spiritual harm, then it is time to pull back.  Certainly taking the message of Truth to others is our responsibility, but only when we are spiritually strong enough, and prepared. Jesus spent His life preparing for his earthly ministry, by study, prayer, and fasting.  After St. Paul's encounter on the road to Damascus, he studied extensively, and submitted to Church authority before beginning his evangelism.
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« Reply #7 on: January 11, 2005, 09:03:26 AM »

Matthew,

Your idea is one that probably a lot of people have had, and all of us have probably had likeminded thoughts at some point... but one should remember that how we know Christ and how we know that God loves us utterly beyond our comprehension is not through rational arguments or logical deduction but through the revelation of the Holy Spirit. And we don't "feel" that 100% of the time so Satan likes to plague us with thoughts either about God's non-existence or His evil nature when we don't "feel" that, but the minute that God actually reveals Himself to us we know, of course, that God *is* Love, and that we were silly to surrender to the coldness of the devil in the first place.

But where logic is concerned, I don't think a cruel God is logical.

In any case, God bless you...

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« Reply #8 on: January 11, 2005, 10:10:34 AM »

Quote
But where logic is concerned, I don't think a cruel God is logical.

Very nicely put, Marjorie. Smiley
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« Reply #9 on: January 11, 2005, 05:26:40 PM »

Matthew,

but one should remember that how we know Christ and how we know that God loves us utterly beyond our comprehension is not through rational arguments or logical deduction but through the revelation of the Holy Spirit.

But could that be God be fooling us?
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« Reply #10 on: January 11, 2005, 06:47:57 PM »

Maybe.

<refers to his post above>
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« Reply #11 on: January 11, 2005, 06:55:04 PM »

Well, Matthew, I can only say two things.

1. I don't know if you grew up pentecostal. If you did, I can understand your doubt.
2. Stop reading Schopenhauer. He's silly.
3. Pray and ask God. Who else are you going to trust, Satan?
4. If you've read it, don't forget what Tostoy describes in "A Confession." He says, "I can't figure this stuff out with reason so I'm going to kill myself." Then he says, "Gee, look at all these suffering peasants they're happy even though their lives really seem to stink. Must be God being good to them." Then he goes to church and says, "I can't figure out all this heebee jeebee they're talking about with reason. They must be wrong after all."

Well, that was more than two, but you get my point.

You can make up all kinds of silly questions that don't have answers. You can end up hating God, denying God's existence, or a combination of both.

I can tell you this, when I held my daughter's lifeless body in my arms, I stopped doubting. I stopped being afraid of God and I started to have faith. You can play with these silly notions that are planted in you by the Evil One and you will never be satisfied.  

Fast for a while. Pray even longer. "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil."
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« Reply #12 on: January 11, 2005, 07:00:50 PM »

Maybe.

<refers to his post above>

I appreciated your response. I just want people to question things sometimes. As Descartes said, we will never know anything without first doubting everything.
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« Reply #13 on: January 11, 2005, 07:11:44 PM »

One more quick thing,

If it were a cruel joke, God could be having a lot more "fun" with us. Why comfort me in my time of sorrow? To make me happy before a fall into some sort of nothingness? Is it cruel to let is live our lives in hope or to heal us when we're sick?

The only cruelty I've ever seen is when people start listening to that little voice in their head saying, "Come on, you've figured it out and everybody else is a sucker." These folks then go out to serve themselves and ignore what it will do to others. Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die. Don't worry about the sick, the poor, the homeless, etc. They say, "Hey, let's get rid of these people. They're in the way of our fun."

If you listen to that voice the only sucker will be you.

God wouldn't have to be cruel, he'd have to be a very consistent schizo. Go to church and pray. Go and do the things Christ commanded us to do. Experience the True God. Then answer your own question.

Okay, that wasn't one thing and it wasn't quick. Oh well.
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« Reply #14 on: January 11, 2005, 07:12:09 PM »

Yes.  Descartes was wrong about a lot of things.
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« Reply #15 on: January 11, 2005, 07:21:02 PM »

Yes. Descartes was wrong about a lot of things.

One will not know without having evidence and one will not find evidence without first questioning.
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« Reply #16 on: January 11, 2005, 07:23:36 PM »



God wouldn't have to be cruel, he'd have to be a very consistent schizo. Go to church and pray. Go and do the things Christ commanded us to do. Experience the True God. Then answer your own question.



I have faith in Christ and I worship Him in the Divine Liturgy with all my heart and voice. (which causes some to complain that i sing to loudly and others to compliment my singing).
The reason why I believe that God is a loving God is that I experience Him.
And even if He were somehow cruel, I should still love and worship Him for creating me.
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« Reply #17 on: January 12, 2005, 06:44:36 AM »



One will not know without having evidence and one will not find evidence without first questioning.

Doesn't your own signature answer that question?

Marjorie
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« Reply #18 on: January 12, 2005, 10:02:39 PM »

What I am trying to get at is that the Christian faith is more than just adherence to the historicity of the Gospels.
Historicity alone does not prove that Jesus' suffering forgives our sins or that His resurrection saves us from death; that is ultimately a matter of faith and perhaps should remain a matter of faith.

If Christianity were nothing more than adherence to logical evidence then it would be no different from believing that 2+2=4.

In a way, we are all fideists and that is how I feel it is meant to be. (Fideism: Reliance on faith alone rather than scientific reasoning or philosophy in questions of religion.)

John 20:29 - Jesus said to him, "Thomas,[d] because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."
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« Reply #19 on: January 12, 2005, 10:27:53 PM »

Well, I don't think anyone argued anything there. Faith is a matter of revelation and self-giving, not a logical deduction.

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« Reply #20 on: January 12, 2005, 10:33:52 PM »

Faith is a matter of revelation and self-giving, not a logical deduction.


That's true. And I think that the fact that we believe this is one of the things that make us different from Roman Catholicism.
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« Reply #21 on: January 12, 2005, 10:54:53 PM »

Yes, although in actual dogma the distinction might not be great, practically speaking Roman Catholicism has much more of a 'rational, logical' approach than one of Mystery.

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« Reply #22 on: January 12, 2005, 11:27:02 PM »

Yes, although in actual dogma the distinction might not be great, practically speaking Roman Catholicism has much more of a 'rational, logical' approach than one of Mystery.

Marjorie

Exactly. Just take the doctrine of transubstantiation, for example. It is so wrapped up in heady Greek philosophy that it is hard for many too accept so they reject the Eucharist entirely; while it would be much better to call it a mystery and leave it at that. Know what I mean?
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« Reply #23 on: January 12, 2005, 11:55:36 PM »

Faith is a matter of revelation and self-giving, not a logical deduction.

To quote Tertullian, "I believe because it is absurd".

John 20:29 - Jesus said to him, "Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."



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« Reply #24 on: January 13, 2005, 12:48:30 AM »

Maybe humanity is just a big joke on Jesus.
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« Reply #25 on: January 13, 2005, 02:05:01 AM »

hahah!
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« Reply #26 on: January 13, 2005, 04:43:35 PM »

For the sake of debate, let us please consider the following points:

1. Christian theology teaches that men are saved by faith.

2. But, if the ultimate assertions of Christianity can be proven, either empirically or logically, faith becomes irrelevant.

3. Therefore, if Christian theology is true, no proof of its theological assertions is possible.

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« Reply #27 on: January 13, 2005, 05:51:29 PM »

To quote Tertullian, "I believe because it is absurd".

That's one of my favorite quotes; I posted about it http://www.livejournal.com/users/daphneisgood/59306.html <--- here a little before last year's Pascha.

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« Reply #28 on: January 13, 2005, 06:19:53 PM »



That's one of my favorite quotes; I posted about it http://www.livejournal.com/users/daphneisgood/59306.html <--- here a little before last year's Pascha.

Marjorie

excellent
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« Reply #29 on: January 14, 2005, 03:11:04 AM »

Given that faith cannot be proven by reason and neither is it meant to be; it would be the most reasonable decision for a Christian to admit to himself that its truth must be accepted by faith, than to "fool" himself that it must be "proven" by reason.

I know this all sounds absurd and if true, this makes religion itself "absurd" to be believed.

However, we must take the "leap of faith" because only in this "absurdity" can man find eternal security.

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« Reply #30 on: January 14, 2005, 03:42:29 AM »



That's one of my favorite quotes; I posted about it http://www.livejournal.com/users/daphneisgood/59306.html <--- here a little before last year's Pascha.

Marjorie

This is actually the full quote:

"The Son of God was crucified;
I am not ashamed of it.
And the Son of God died;
it is by all means to be believed,
because it is absurd.
And He was buried,
and He rose again;
the fact is certain,
because it is impossible.
But how will all this be true in Him,
if He was not Himself true--
if He really had not in Himself
that which might be crucified,
might die, might be buried,
and might rise again?"
Tertullian (145-220 A.D.)

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« Reply #31 on: January 14, 2005, 04:29:05 AM »

Quote
1. Christian theology teaches that men are saved by faith.

I thought that we are saved by grace...?

 Huh
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« Reply #32 on: January 14, 2005, 04:45:25 AM »



I thought that we are saved by grace...?

 Huh

We are saved by grace through faith.
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« Reply #33 on: January 14, 2005, 04:54:40 AM »

Quote
We are saved by grace through faith.

K, I thought so.  Smiley  I was just trying to see what you meant when you listed fiaht, instead of grace.

Now, saved by grace through faith, alone.... or?  Wink
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« Reply #34 on: January 14, 2005, 05:05:14 AM »


Now, saved by grace through faith, alone.... or? Wink

Faith without works is dead.

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« Reply #35 on: January 14, 2005, 05:07:54 AM »

Bingo!  :thumbsup: 
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« Reply #36 on: January 14, 2005, 05:18:54 AM »

The point of the argument is that we believe based on faith, not reason.
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« Reply #37 on: January 20, 2005, 01:47:13 AM »

Matthew my brother.

You should see your Priest on why you have these thoughts. Orthodox Christians are true believers . We do not dought anything. And WE NEVER question God.

Be careful and take heed to sound teachings which is the bases of our Orthodox belief.

I agree with Cizinec. You must fast and pray long and hard.

Are you aware that you can not take communion with having strange thoughts?
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« Reply #38 on: January 20, 2005, 01:56:32 AM »

Strange thoughts? Are we not to ask philosophical and theoligical questions?

In Philosophy of Religion class, we learn both sides to various theoligical questions and have to be able to understand and argue for either side.
Today we had a debate in class over Sigmund Freud's theory that the belief in God is based on a subconscious desire for a perfect father due to the imperfection of our own earthly fathers and I was assigned to argue on Freud's side. I did so with a better understanding of the subject matter than probably anyone else in the class.
I do not agree with Freud but I am at least willing to understand and even argue for his side for the pursuit of a greater knowledge of his and my own.
Should I not take communion for having taken this class?
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« Reply #39 on: January 20, 2005, 02:15:36 AM »

Quote
You should see your Priest on why you have these thoughts. Orthodox Christians are true believers . We do not dought anything. And WE NEVER question God.

To be fair, doubt is a part of the journey to true faith. I do not believe there is anything wrong with feeling doubt, but the action to take as a result of doubt would be to pray about it and ask God to illuminate to you* why or how something is the way it is, and to do this in His own time, not yours, and of course to be obedient to the Church on the matter regardless of the doubt, knowing that God's Church teaches what is best for us (even if we can't see it), since God always wants what is best for us.

Edit: Please note, the "you" is a general "you," not aimed at any specific poster...these are just my universal conclusions on faith and doubt, based on my personal experience with the two.
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« Reply #40 on: January 20, 2005, 02:20:33 AM »

By acknowledging that it requires faith to believe the theology of Christianity, I have more faith; not less.
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« Reply #41 on: January 24, 2005, 05:24:05 PM »

Please compare/contrast Tertullian's idea of faith to Kierkegaard's fideism:

Fideism
Fideism is the view that faith and reason can have nothing to do with one another. On this view, faith involves a degree of certainty and personal commitment that precludes rational justification. We cannot, and should not, seek evidence for religious belief.

S++ren Kierkegaard thought that faith is characterised by absolute certainty and passionate personal commitment. He thought, because of this, that faith could never be supported by reason. He gave three arguments to show that this is the case: the approximation argument, the postponement argument, and the passion argument.

The Approximation Argument
Kierkegaard’s approximation argument appeals to the idea that arguments never prove things with absolute certainty. No matter what argument is advanced, it is always possible that the evidence has been misinterpreted, or that an error of reasoning has been committed. Faith, though, requires absolute certainty. As absolute certainty cannot be attained by rational argument, faith cannot be attained by rational argument. Faith, therefore, must always go beyond the evidence; it cannot be supported by reason.

The Postponement Argument
The postponement argument is similar to the approximation argument. It begins with the thought that all science is provisional. In science, there is always the possibility that new data will overthrow old conclusions. If we want to base certainty on a scientific-style investigation, then, then we will have to wait forever until all the data is in. We don't have forever, though; our lives are finite, death is inevitable. If we are to attain certainty, therefore, then we must choose it; certainty cannot be acquired from science.

The Passion Argument
Kierkegaard’s passion argument emphasises the personal commitment involved in faith. Faith involves risk; the more the better. If we had conclusive evidence for God’s existence, then belief in God would be unremarkable and uninteresting. It is only if our evidence is imperfect, if it involves risk, that it becomes valuable. Faith that goes against all of the available evidence is the riskiest faith of all, and so the most valuable. Because the better the evidence for God's existence, the less valuable faith is, certainty, as Kierkegaard put it, "lurks at the door of faith and threatens to devour it".
http://philosophyofreligion.info/fideism.html

Thank you.  I'm trying to gain a better understanding of fideism for my Philosophy of Religion class.

May peace be upon thee and with thy spirit.
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« Reply #42 on: January 25, 2005, 12:37:50 AM »

Due to the grudual evolution of this thread, I have changed the topic to the relationship between faith and reason in the Orthodox Church.

I just have a few questions:

What is the Orthodox definition of faith?

When faith and reason are in seeming conflict, does faith always trump reason?

Do we believe in the Christian faith because it is a properly basic belief, such as the belief that the sun sets in the evening and rises in the morning, or do we use rational arguments to justify our faith?

Is the Orthodox Church more evidentialistic or more fideistic in its thinking?

Do we believe based on infallible proofs or is our faith itself the evidence of things unseen?

I hope this discussion will go well, I've been struggling with this a lot lately.

May peace be upon thee and with thy spirit.
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« Reply #43 on: January 25, 2005, 01:01:38 AM »

I would suggest that the whole faith vs. reason dichotomy is itself a wrong approach. This is not a "faith is not in confict with reason" answer--far from it, I don't think we need to ask such questions in the first place. Just by asking the question we have gone astray, because the question is based on flawed premises. Orthodox epistemology is not based on a juggling of faith or reason, but rather based upon experience (ascesis!), and the cleansing of the nous. It is ascesis, our "efforts of faith, and labour of love" (1 Thes. 1:3), which is an "effort of faith with power" (2 Thes. 1:11), that makes us "partakers of the divine nature" (2 Pet. 1:4) and allows us to "work out our salvation with fear and trembling" (Phil. 2:12). It is in this context that the words of St. James must be understood: "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given to him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering." (James 1:5-6) The following is an excerpt from the essay The Theory of Knowledge of St. Isaac the Syrian, by Saint Justin Popovich, and might be of some help to you. It is from the book The Orthodox Faith and Life in Christ, which I would highly recommend to you not only for this essay, but also for (among other fine works) his essay Humanistic and Theanthropic Education, which delves into these issues from a slightly different perspective.


____________
It is by the ascesis of faith that the treatment and cure of a soul which is sick with the passions is begun. Once faith begins to live in a man, the passions begin to be uprooted from his soul. But "until the soul becomes intoxicated with faith in God, until it comes to feel faith's power," it can neither be healed of the passions nor overcome the material world. There is both a negative side to the ascesis of faith, freedom from sinful matter, and a positive side, oneness with God.

The soul, which was dispersed by the senses among the things of this world, is brought back to itself by the ascesis of faith, by fasting from material things and by devoting itself to a constant remembrance of God. This is the foundation of all good things. Freedom from enslavement to sinful matter is essential for advancement in the spiritual life. The beginning of this new way of life is found in the concentration of one's thoughts on God, in incessant pondering on the words of God, and in a life of poverty.

Through faith the mind, which was previously dispersed among the passions, is concentrated, freed from sensuality, and endowed with peace and humility of thought. When it lives by the senses in a sensual world, the mind is sick. With the help of faith, however, the mind is delivered from the prison of this world, where it has been stifled by sin, and enters into the new age, where it breathes in a wondrous new air. "The sleep of the mind" is as dangerous as death, and it is therefore essential to rouse the mind by faith to the performance of spiritual works, by which man will overcome himself and drive out the passions. "Drive out self, and the enemy will be driven from your side."

In the ascesis of faith, man is asked to act according to a paradox that denies understanding: "Be dead in your life, and you will live after death". By faith the mind is healed and acquires wisdom. The soul becomes wise when it stops "consorting shamelessly with promiscuous thoughts." "Love of the body is a sign of unbelief." Faith frees the intellect from the categories of the senses and sobers it by means of fasting, by pondering on God, and by vigils.

Intemperance and a full stomach cloud the mind, distract it, and disperse it among fantasies and passions. The knowledge of God cannot be found in a body that loves pleasure. It is from the seed of fasting that the blade of a healthy understanding grows--and it is from satiety that debauchery comes, and impurity from excess.

The thoughts and desires of the flesh are like a restless flame in a man, and the way to healing is to plunge the inellect into the ocean of the mysteries of Holy Scripture. Unless it is freed from earthly possessions, the soul cannot be freed from disturbing thoughts, nor feel peace of mind without dying to the senses. The passions darken the thoughts and blind the mind. Troubled, chaotic thoughts arise from an abuse of the stomach.

Shame and the fear of God steady the tumult of the mind; the lack of this shame and this fear disturb the balance of the understanding, making it fickle and unstable. The mind is only on a firm foundation if it keeps the Lord's commadnments and is ready to endure suffering and affliction. It is enslaved by the things of life, it is darkened. Collecting himself through faith, a man awakens his intellect towards God, and by prayerful silence cleanses his mind and overcomes the passions. The soul is restored to health by silence. It is therefore necessary to train oneself to silence--and this is a labor that brings sweetness to the heart. It is through silence that a man reaches peace from unwarranted thoughts.

Faith brings peace to the intellect and, in bringing it, uproots rebellious thoughts. Sin is the soruce of restlessness and strife in the thoughts and is also the source of man's struggle against heaven and with other men. "Be at peace with yourself, and you will bring peace to heaven and to earth." Until faith appears, the intellect is dispersed among the things of this world; it is by faith that this fragmentation of the intellect is overcome. The wandering of the thoughts is provoked by the demon of harlotry, as is the wandering of the eyes by the spirit of uncleanness.

By faith the intellect is confirmed in pondering God. The way of salvation is that of the constant rememberance of God. The intellect seperated from remembrance of God is like a fish out of water. The freedom of a true man consists in his freedom from the passions, in his resurrection with Christ, and in a joyous soul.

The passions can only be overcome by the practice of the virtues, and every passion must be fought to the death. Faith is the first and chief weapon in the struggle with the passions, for faith is the light of the mind that drives away the darkness of the passions and the strength of the intellect that banishes sickness from the soul. Faith bears within itself not only its own principle and substance, but the principle and substance of all the other virtues--developing as they do one from the other and encircling one another like the annual rings of a tree. If faith can be said to have a language, that language is prayer.


Source -- St. Justin Popovich (Trans. Asterios Gerostergios), Orthodox Faith and Life in Christ, (Institute For Byzantine And Modern Greek Studies, 1997), pp. 123-127
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« Reply #44 on: January 25, 2005, 01:06:17 AM »

Isn't human reason tainted by sin and therefore flawed?
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