Sunday, January 4, 2015

Reason Informed by Faith: Freedom and Knowledge -- A Summary and Analysis

I am currently reading Reason Informed by Faith by Fr. Richard Gula, S.S.  While reading the text, I will occasionally share some of my notes and observations.  All concepts are taken from Fr. Gula’s text, but I have added my interpretation, voice, and analysis throughout. Taking personal liberty, I have skipped documentation and in-text citations.  What follows are my notes and thoughts on a given text and nothing more. Enjoy!

Chapter 6: Freedom and Knowledge: A Summary and Analysis
Freedom is important to the moral choices we make, and according to Bernard Hӓring’s fundamental option, we choose to live out our lives in covenant with God through Christ.  Through this fundamental option (or basic choice), we seek constant conversion.  Hӓring’s fundamental stance, additionally, is rooted in the person we choose to be and lays out the direction of our lives in Christ. In determining internal direction and commitment, however, we should not only look at our particular actions, for it is the underlying levels or buried depths of our actions that reveal the basis of moral conversion in our lives.  Deep within our hearts we choose, commit, and self-determine living through a loving faith in Christ.  This basic choice either reinforces or reverses the fundamental direction in our faith life and the moral choices we make.  Freedom and knowledge are two crucial variables in making right moral choices.
Freedom of choice, or moral freedom, is responsibly choosing because we want to and not because of an external set of rules or authoritative obligation. The “wanting to” is emphasized because it manifests deep in our hearts and provides true direction to our moral actions. For example, the prophet Hosea says that “[God desires] steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings” (Hosea 6:6).  Cross reference this with the words of Jesus Christ in Matthew 12:7: “But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless.” Through grace, true love for God is deep within our hearts; it is not reflected through obligation and the law of “sacrifice.”
Knowledge is divided into two essential camps: conceptual knowledge, or knowing concepts and facts; and evaluative knowledge, or discovering through personal experience and intrinsic appreciation.
Conceptual knowledge is tied into the classically-minded moral theology in that is focuses on immutable facts and deductive knowledge. Observable facts and demonstrated logic are the focus of conceptual knowledge, and it can be easily learned by rote and passed on through generations.  
Evaluative knowledge, on the other hand, focuses on the quality or value of the thing or person, and it is normally acquired through personal discovery, encounter, or experience. Evaluative knowledge helps us avoid the pitfalls of blind faith to which conceptual knowledge can easily lead. Whereas conceptual knowledge dictates rules governing moral truth, evaluative knowledge leads the person to discover, experience, and internalize moral truth. Conceptual knowledge, moreover, can lead us to the legalities of “sacrifice” rather than the true conversion of the heart found in the evaluative discovery and experience of charitable faith in Christ. 
Are both conceptual and evaluative knowledge necessary to reach right moral choice? Yes. However, an effective synthesis should acknowledge the rules and facts while carefully weaving in the discovery and experience of the person and their socio-historical context. We cannot ignore the teachings of the Church, but the historicity and anthropology of personal experience guide the teachings to an evolving, living truth.