Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Faith and Reason: St. Justin Martyr

I offer that St. Justin Martyr found Christianity to be the “true philosophy,” not because Christian concepts completed philosophic concepts but because the faith experience of becoming “another Christ” transformed the believer himself into the Being and light that reason is and has always been seeking. That is, instead of the being grasped in the senses being the prius of philosophic amazement, the being of the self in the experience of faith that is self-transcendence, is what dazzles the mind in the pursuit of the absolute.

Faith is not a series of ideas. It is act of the self responding to and receiving the Self of the revealing Christ within. It is the “intellegere” of the real as “reading the real” ab intus “from within” the self.

This is what I take to be the meaning of Justin’s discovery of Christianity as the faith-experience of being and the real. Hence, without this faith experience, reason cannot be fully reason since reason is not fully exposed to the real when exposed only to sense perception. The beginning of the exodus from the self that is Christian faith certainly involves sense experience, but it is only when that experience has become acceptance and response of the “I” to the revealing God in this man Jesus Christ that being becomes writ large as “I,” and now becomes a true consideration of being as being.

Ratzinger has called this consideration “theological epistemology” and develops it in his “Third Thesis” of “Behold the Pierced One.” There he explains that, since like is known by like, only one can know the Person of Christ when one begins to pray since the Person of Christ as pure relation to the Father is prayer. Prayer as the first act of faith becomes the key to doing a true ontology of being.

Benedict XVI’s Remarks on St. Justin in 2007:

Justin, and with him other apologists, adopted the clear stance taken by the Christian faith for the God of the philosophers against the false gods of the pagan religion.

It was the choice of the truth of being against the myth of custom. Several decades after Justin, Tertullian defined the same option of Christians with a lapidary sentence that still applies: "Dominus poster Christus veritatem se, non consuetudinem, cognominavit — Christ has said that he is truth not fashion" (De Virgin. Vel. 1, 1).

It should be noted in this regard that the term consuetudo, used here by Tertullian in reference to the pagan religion, can be translated into modern languages with the expressions: "cultural fashion", "current fads".

In a time like ours, marked by relativism in the discussion on values and on religion — as well as in interreligious dialogue — this is a lesson that should not be forgotten.

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