Oct 8, 2015

Rejecting the False Dichotomy of Rational Legal Knowledge v. Faithful Jurisprudence

God Separates the Light from the Dark
The merely negative secularism of the Enlightenment of the eighteenth century arises with a sophistic dichotomy: reason or faith -- either man's inner reason is the measure of all things, or man irrationally relies on something outside of man. The dichotomy is sophistic because reason is not the negation of faith.  By means of this dichotomy, Christian lawyers are told that we must either deny our faith for "pure" reasoning, joining in a public discourse constrained by the lowest and most faithless common denominator, or rely on faith and thereby enshroud ourselves and separate from "purely" rational public discourse.

Let's examine the Enlightenment's proposed dichotomy, the proposition it offers: We all agree properly formed dichotomies are valid: "either understanding comes from A or not-A." Then, the Enlightenment proceeds: "Either understanding comes from man's own reason or by reliance on faith in something from outside of man."

The argument hinges on the notion that reason is interior, natural and complete in man. But if the negation of reason is not faith, then the form of the dichotomy is sophistic. It is true by form that "all humans are either females or not-females" because "all anything is either A or not-A." But it is not true by form that "any given color is either white or black" because not-white is not the same as black. The proper form is "any given color is either white or not-white." The Enlightenment does not say that understanding comes either from reason or not reason. Understanding obviously involves elements other than reason like perception, memory and direction of the mind to the right objects of concern. The sophism is in the Enlightenment's understated assumption that faith is the negation of reason.

The Enlightenment secularists would have us believe that reason is what we already have; faith and all else is merely not-reason. This is necessary to support the form of the understanding-from-reason-or-faith dichotomy. Until this day, we are told by our public schools and public intellectuals that we must elect between methods of rational autonomy or oppressive faith-based heteronomy, i.e. either we posit the autonomous rational self against all as a sufficient measure of all things or depend on some heteronomous irrational "faith" standard as their measure. The Enlightenment inveighs against anything but autonomy as a self-destructive displacement of self for something alien and hostile to us. To be ourselves, the Enlightenment says, reason requires that we refuse to rely on anything outside.

Our experience of physical light, however, is enough to show the problem with such a dark view. Physical light is added to man but not alien to man. We find ourselves already made ready to receive and rely on light. We know ourselves to be prepared for illumination from outside, needing what is outside our eyes for our eyes to have function at all. The eye does not project light from some inner source; it is designed to receive it. When we receive light from outside, that is when we see. Light does not contaminate us with something alien to us, though light is not present naturally within our nature. We do not find our true selves displaced by external illumination despite the fact that it is from outside ourselves. Rather, we are cursed if we lack light to complete ourselves, to activate our capacity to see light. If we curse light as an external addition to ourselves, if we assert ourselves against reliance on light, we do not improve ourselves but leave ourselves basically incomplete and completely blind. We need to rely on light in order to take full advantage of our natural capacities. This is the natural lesson that air, sound, food, water, other people and everything else that completes our inner capacities teaches us. Human nature is not made for isolation but relies on things outside of it for completion.

The negative secularism of the Enlightenment paradigm presents reasoning as an antithesis of faith, rather than acknowledging the distinction between an open-eyes rational discourse relying on God and His Light and a closed-eyes rational discourse that rejects that Light and God as part of its methodology. If man is made ready for God in the way that the eye is made ready for light, as Christians maintain, the Enlightenment makes the error of one who presents seeing for ourselves as the antithesis of relying on light. "Do not rely on the sun's light, but close your eyes and stand in the darkest cavern until you see for yourself!" Against such so-called Enlightenment, really an Endarkenment, Christians rightly rely on light in seeing, and we rightly rely on God in reasoning. We rely on God not as someone alien to us, but as the Light that we were always made ready to receive.

The real true dichotomy is between ways of understanding and seeing that rely on what man has in himself, which is only darkness, and those ways of understanding and seeing that are open to light and God. The real Enlightenment through Jesus teaches us that we must either rely on the Light or rely on what is not Light, just as our eyes teach us that we can either see with light or be blind without light. Real rational knowledge, like real seeing, learns to depend on what God has given: true Enlightenment. Real rational legal knowledge requires dependence on God's light. Real rational legal knowledge requires a faithful, trusting jurisprudence.

A positive secularism, i.e. one that leads men to God justly by properly distinguishing state and church, does not require us to deny God. In fact, we see the distinction between state and church because God illuminates the distinction. It is God who separates the elements of creation. It is God who differentiates the tabernacle and priest from the potentate and throne. It is God who separated Light from Dark and God Light that we seek to gather in understanding. Everything else is darkness.

1 comment:

  1. "I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else." - C.S. Lewis