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Education and True Knowledge

Fr. Vasile Catalin Tudora

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What our children are missing in school today.

Another school year started this week. Future scientists, engineers, doctors begin their journey today, a journey through rationality and logic in the hope of pushing further away today’s science barriers. During the following school years these children will be taught mathematics, physics, chemistry and other subjects that will reveal to them, step by step, “how things work” in the world. Their education will be enveloped in the overall idea that everything can be explained through science and the things that do not have an explanation today will receive one tomorrow. They will learn that man is a random event in the evolution process, that there is no proven life after death, and God was a cultural necessity in the trying times of history.

I have no quarrel with science and progress myself, as I’ve spent most of my years studying and I use technology extensively on a daily basis, I am only wondering if the arrogant attitude that science has developed, and that it is being transmitted to our children, is in fact healthy from a Christian point of view.

The secular knowledge that our children are acquiring in school is giving them a certain point of view on the world that I am not sure is the right one. Using it they will certainly understand the world a little better, but is this going to be enough for them? Is the secular education really going to open their eyes or is will actually make them see what the society wants them to see, while leaving aside everything else?

As Christians we cannot believe that religion is a cultural phenomenon that can be taught in school or even a philosophy of life, or just another meta-narration trying to explain the unexplainable, but we believe that the reality of God is the only reality there is. The world is not what the scientist and the philosophers think it is in their overworked brains; the reality of being is beyond interpretation because the truth lies with God that IS the Truth. From this perspective the existence of God doesn’t have to be mathematically proven; the Scripture should not undergo a literary and historical analysis and morality should not be dictated by logic and historical experience. This is just human hubris at its best.

Blessed Augustine said something in the 4th century and the echoes of his words profoundly resound until today in the West: “Reason leads to faith, and faith leads to reason. I believe but I am rational”. On this basis even faith matters are pushed through the rationality’s strainer, leaving aside any mystery, any unknown, anything beyond man’s power of comprehension and logical deduction.

The Orthodox teachings, as expressed numerous times by the Holy Fathers, undergo a different route by recognizing two levels of knowledge: a divine or revealed level (higher) and a secular (lower) level. This dichotomy speaks to the insurmountable difference between the Uncreated and the created, between God and His creation, the world.

The secular knowledge is solely based on logic and empirical experience and reaches only as far as the discoveries of the day go. Human knowledge is born in the created order and it ends in the same place without any possibility of transcending the matter into the spiritual realm. Originating in a fallen world, a world that has lost any transparence to the true existence, the vision of science and philosophy is limited and warped; everything passing through its glass being distorted and tainted as well.

Despite this reality we continue to live with the illusion that, using the tools springing from our limited human knowledge, we can logically penetrate anything, even the intimacy of God. Without realizing it however, using our “non-calibrated” tools we are actually constructing a distorted vision of God that is far from His true existence.

Man seems to have forgotten the answer that Moses received when asking God who He is. “And Moses said to God, Behold, when I come to the sons of Israel, and shall say to them, The God of your fathers has sent me to you, and they shall say to me, What is His name? What shall I say to them? And God said to Moses, I AM THAT I AM.“ (Exo 3:13-14). God is not Who we think He is but He is WHO HE IS! In trying to logically understand God through reason man is in fact constructing himself an idol, a fake god that is what man wants him to be not what He really is in His essence.

Trying to logically understand God at a mental level is not enough because there is a great distinction between the intellect of man (the logos or mind) and his spirit (nous). According to the Holy Fathers the nous is the eye of the soul, the only part of man’s being capable of understanding God and His rationality. The heart however, through sin has been separated from the mind and now the mind, missing the true vision of God, is making up what it fails to see, like a blind man that never saw a sunset tries to imagine it.

Achieving the knowledge of God is a two way process that involves man’s commitment and God’s grace. Man has to actively engage in the permanent struggle against his passions that we call askesis, trying to reach a state of purification. God at his turn pours His grace over us, revealing Himself only to a heart liberated from sin and from counterfeit imagination. God is present only in a heart that is not trying to construct an artificial God through reason, but awaits for God to come and abide in it. The presence of God is enough in itself to answer all the questions and put to rest all the fears our minds have constructed. This cannot be understood through logic, or described in theory, it has to be experienced

Education should not only enlighten the minds of our children but it should not fail to touch their hearts. In fact we want their minds to be united again with their hearts so that the wisdom they will acquire will serve one purpose only: give glory to God for all things.

This is the kind of knowledge that our children are missing in schools today. They cannot learn of God in the classrooms because in the name of political correctness every shadow of God is incessantly and obsessively removed from their education. There was a time when prayers were read at the beginning of the New School year and the kids were sprinkled with Holy Water; today they get motivating speeches.

The truth of our Faith is not taught in schools, but it can still be passed from generation to generation, not through books, but through example, not through the ears but through the heart. Don’t forget therefore to offer your children, beside the usual school supplies, a prayer and a blessing so that their school days will be filled with grace, peace and love.

Fr. Vasile Catalin Tudora pastors St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church in Euless, Texas, and edits the Gladsome Light Dialogues blog

Posted: 26-Sep-2009

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