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5/11/2017 3:47 am  #1


How do you balance the intellectual and spiritual dimensions of faith?

When I read serious philosophy and theology I feel like my faith becomes dry, cold, calculable, impersonal. When I emphasize the spiritual side (e.g. prayer, scripture, mysticism) I fear that my faith could become emotionally-contrived, psychologically illusory. I would love to know how to blend these two dimensions. They seem to operate separately most of the time. 

 

5/11/2017 6:07 am  #2


Re: How do you balance the intellectual and spiritual dimensions of faith?

 St Catherine of Siena is someone I started reading last year, and her writings consistently reflect a deep and intelligent faith lived out in prayer and good works, with a side-order of mysticism that is nevertheless clearly rooted in the more "ordinary" Christian life. It can be hard even to distinguish the two dimensions in her thought. One of my Dominican friends recommended the Irish Dominican "Light of Truth" podcast recently, and it sounds like they blend the intellectual and spiritual quite well (as do Dominicans generally, at least those I've met - the charism of a preacher demands that you can speak to the heart without neglecting the mind).

As far as more practical advice goes, I would recommend some form of Lectio Divina as a way of praying with Scripture in a way that doesn't devolve into mere emotional response or rational critique. A priest friend suggests considering two questions - "what does this passage tell me about God?" and "what does it tell me about my own life?". I'd also (and most importantly) recommend good old-fashioned works of mercy as indispensable to a relationship with God - in words attributed to St John Chrysostom, "If you cannot find Christ in the beggar at the Church door, you will not find him in the Chalice."

 

5/11/2017 5:35 pm  #3


Re: How do you balance the intellectual and spiritual dimensions of faith?

Great suggestions. I've started listening to the podcast already.

     Thread Starter
 

5/11/2017 10:55 pm  #4


Re: How do you balance the intellectual and spiritual dimensions of faith?

Is it all kinds of philosophy that is causes you to feel this way? I'm not a Christian, but I find that philosophy and theology, as long as they are varieties open to the sacred (Platonic, Aristotelian, Christians, Islamic, Dharmic, etc.), actually have a positive influence on my spirituality. Obviously, not all are equal in this regard. There are some philosophers who balance the spiritual and intellectual particularly well. The Fathers, especially the Alexandrine and Cappadocian Fathers, spring to mind as obvious Christian examples. In the Roman Catholic tradition, the Victorines and the School of Chartres, amongst others, stand out.

 

5/12/2017 12:50 am  #5


Re: How do you balance the intellectual and spiritual dimensions of faith?

Jeremy Taylor wrote:

Is it all kinds of philosophy that is causes you to feel this way? I'm not a Christian, but I find that philosophy and theology, as long as they are varieties open to the sacred (Platonic, Aristotelian, Christians, Islamic, Dharmic, etc.), actually has a positive influence on my spirituality. Obviously, not all are equal in this regard. There are some philosophers who balance the spiritual and intellectual particularly well. The Fathers, especially the Alexandrine and Cappadocian Fathers, spring to mind as obvious Christian examples. In the Roman Catholic tradition, the Victorines and the School of Chartres, amongst others, stand out.

Mostly it is philosophy that has theological implications. For instance, Aquinas' Five Ways, when studied intently, can have a negative side effect on my spirituality. I feel as if I'm objectifying something that ought to be viewed in a more sacred manner--as if I'm reducing faith to a matter of propositions and formal reasoning, like someone who reduces the beauty of a painting to splotches of oils and dyes. I can't help but think, however, that this is an error on my part, that I'm just falsely viewing philosophy and spirituality as competitors.

     Thread Starter
 

5/12/2017 3:19 am  #6


Re: How do you balance the intellectual and spiritual dimensions of faith?

Remember, the terms and arguments of philosophy are discursive representatioms of things (hopefully). They aren't those things themselves in all their richness.I would say philosophy can help us to better grasp those non-discursively, spirituality even. I do think Platonist approaches express this better, often, than Aristotelian ones (see for example Suhrawardi and his Illuminationist school as a great illustration).

 

5/12/2017 12:59 pm  #7


Re: How do you balance the intellectual and spiritual dimensions of faith?

Philosophy does create doubt at first. It scrutinizes all our presuppositions, and most of what we hold dear. It's hard to imagine it not creating doubt (and, so, hard to imagine it not having a negative effect on spirituality).

I've heard that starting with the philosophy of the Schools helps. The idea, I suppose, is that whereas many classes now present philosophy as a series of problems, the scholastics presented it as a body of knowledge.

 

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