Today's Wisdom

Those who do not pass from the experience of the cross to the truth of the resurrection condemn themselves to despair! For we cannot encounter God without first crucifying our narrow notions of a god who reflects only our own understanding of omnipotence and power
Pope Francis

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Development of Knowledge - An Introduction

Everything in creation is in development. The early human civilizations contributed to development in mathematics, cosmology and philosophy. We continue to be surprised by new findings every day. This is attested by discoveries in cosmology of the Big Bang Theory, the universe still accelerating; in the development of life partly through the mechanism of evolution confirmed by fossils and genetic DNA molecules of creatures; and in the development of the mind in the appearance of humans. Each human also grows from childhood to adulthood and beyond.  

In Christianity for example, we read in the first letter of Paul to the Corinthians “When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things” (1 Cor 13, 11). The development of the Church was brought to light by Jesus Christ himself when he said that the kingdom of God "is like a grain of mustard seed which a man took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches." (Matt 13, 31-32). The Church grows not only in size but also in understanding because she reflects on the truth she received from God and is guided by His Spirit to interpret it and proclaim it as she more fully perceives it in time. She elaborates the truth as she perceives it, not remove from it. The truth does not change for God is the Truth but the Church’s perception of the truth develops as the Church, like Mary mother of Christ, pondered in her heart the meaning of the message of God (Luke 2, 19). In the 19th century, the recently beatified John Henry Newman proposed an essay on the development of Christian doctrine in which he defended Catholic teaching from attacks by some non-Catholic Christians who saw certain elements in Catholic teaching as corruptions or innovations. He relied on an extensive study of early Church Fathers in tracing the development of doctrine which he argued was in some way implicitly present in the Divine Revelation in Scripture and Tradition. He argued that various Catholic doctrines not accepted by some Orthodox and Protestants (such as Purgatory) had a developmental history analogous to doctrines that were accepted by all Christians (such as the Trinity). Such developments were the natural results of reason working on the original revealed truth to draw out understandings that were not obvious at first.

In the same vein, new perception of the truth does not change the substance of the truth but provides more insights into it. In physics, Albert Einstein built on Newtonian classic physics with his insights about the relationship between mass and energy. In modern physics quantum theory elegantly provides evidence for the entanglement of subatomic particles at a huge distance from each other. But the new insights of Einstein, Bohr, Schrodinger, or Edward Witten do not fundamentally contradict the earlier findings of Isaac Newton. They give us more insight into the essence of matter and energy. The same could be said of technology. Everyday new tools in information systems help humans communicate better in a global village. With the difficulty of face-to-face social networking, interactions are increasingly made in virtual space via digital social networking. For some years now large computer companies have been developing robots and automated systems that are aimed at assisting in manufacturing systems and possibly replacing human resources. This development by itself is not without its dangers and threats to human society. For three decades now, globalization, enabled by the Internet, has been a predominant force in the trade between nations. As a phenomenon, large businesses benefited to the near exclusion of small business.

The above developments and others in many disciplines will be discussed. There exist, however, many obstacles due to conflicts at every level of human interaction. This is the other direction: that of moral failure into sin. Sin is not only a personal failure to love God and his creatures. It is also a failure of civilizations in the way many leaders maliciously direct their fellow humans into slavery, for slavery can be embedded in selfishness, money taken on credit, instant gratification in which the other is only an object of pleasure and many other evils. Yet, however long the human drama continues the final judgment is that of the good creator who, according to Christian tradition called himself Love. All rational thought is only an attempt of the human mind to understand the unfathomable God and, if honest, it should help the persons in the response and return (i.e. the ascension) of relational humanity to God the lover and the beloved who as one God is an eternal relatedness of the Father and Son in the Holy Spirit.

Today's Quote

"Behold I make all things new." (Revelation 21:5)


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