EG 232: Ideas Serve; Reason Doesn’t Rule

Vasnetsov_Maria_MagdalenePope Francis put ideas in their place:

232. Ideas – conceptual elaborations – are at the service of communication, understanding, and praxis.

The problem of applying reason alone:

Ideas disconnected from realities give rise to ineffectual forms of idealism and nominalism, capable at most of classifying and defining, but certainly not calling to action. What calls us to action are realities illuminated by reason.

Reason illuminates the universe. But it doesn’t rule it.

Formal nominalism has to give way to harmonious objectivity. Otherwise, the truth is manipulated, cosmetics take the place of real care for our bodies.[Cf. Plato, Gorgias, 465] We have politicians – and even religious leaders – who wonder why people do not understand and follow them, since their proposals are so clear and logical. Perhaps it is because they are stuck in the realm of pure ideas and end up reducing politics or faith to rhetoric. Others have left simplicity behind and have imported a rationality foreign to most people.

It’s a good question even for pastors, lay ministers, choir directors, and even families. Maybe especially families. Is the reason being used by a leader connected to the true life situation of the people? It might be that a use of reason–let’s call it natural law–is indeed foreign to some people. That doesn’t make the approach invalid. But it does demand that the practitioner utilize a language (if not an example of living) that communicates the reality. Communication and leadership directed at the whole person, not just the mind, will be far more fruitful.

Evangelii Gaudium is available online. The table of contents is helpful and hyperlinked.

About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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