07 September 2009

Intrinscially unknowable facts?

"So far as I know there are no secular facts that do not challenge the intelligence and ask to be understood, and no forces, natural or moral, which are not better understood than unknown or misunderstood. And I am not convinced that it is otherwise with the facts of the religious life. We are told, of course, that there are facts which in their nature are unintelligible; not merely unknown up to the present time, but intrinsically unknowable, and religious facts hold high rank amongst these unintelligibles. But I doubt whether there can be anything unintelligible except that which is irrational, and I doubt if anything real is irrational except as misunderstood."

[. . .]

"So far from doubting the value of the plain and honest and earnest pursuit of truth in matters of religious faith, I believe that, like the pursuit of moral good, it never utterly fails. The process of enquiry, the very attempt to know, like the process of doing or trying to do what is right, is itself achievement, altogether apart from what comes afterwards. I know nothing better than to be engaged and immersed in the process of trying to know spiritual truths and of acting upon them. Mankind, when it comes of age, will be engaged in this spiritual business even when it is handling the so-called secular concerns of life. And it will handle these all the more securely. Religion will be the permanent background of life—as the love of his wife and bairns is for a good man. The very meaning and purpose of our “circumstances,” as we call the claims of the things and persons that stand around and press upon us, may be to induce and to sustain this double process of knowing the true and doing the right. It is the method—the only natural and successful method—by which men make themselves: and I understand that the final business of man is this of making himself. We must learn yet to estimate men by the fortune they take with them, not by the fortune they leave behind; that is, if religion is true, and if morality and its laws are not fictions of man's vanity."

Henry Jones, "A Faith That Enquires," The Gifford Lectures, 1919–1921

No comments:

Post a Comment