Evangelization, given the Church is a new mode of consciousness

A: This desire to prove the tenets of the Christian Church is offensive.

B: Why?

A: Because “to prove X” means “to treat X as unknown or uncertain, and then try to conclude to its truth by whatever you have left to work with”. But if we treat the Christian Church as unknown or uncertain, all this leaves us with are those things outside the Church – with what Christ called the world; and we can no more conclude to the Church from the world than we can illuminate a room with shadows.

B: But it’s not right to say that only the world is outside of the Church – if we take the Church as the sphere of grace there is also nature outside of it.

A: And by “nature” you mean whatever is outside the Church that somehow points to it?

B: I guess this is what I have to mean.

A: But this overlooks the fact that the Church consists in those who come to see things in the light of Christ: this light is simply a new consciousness that empowers us to see new truths and gives us the power to live holy lives.  One can only reason within a given mode of consciousness and by the light of that consciousness – you can’t reason your way into a new consciousness. It would be like a sober person trying to reason his way into what drunkenness is like.

B: But on this account, couldn’t a Christian give a defense of his beliefs by showing the inadequacy or imperfection of natural consciousness?

A: But what would that even look like?

B: Return to your idea of the sober and intoxicated consciousness. We can certainly make sense of someone talking another into acquiring the  consciousness of the intoxicated? Timothy Leary did something like this; so did the rest of drug-promoting culture.

A: That might be a helpful comparison. Drug culture had an intellectual component, to be sure, and even a set of arguments, but this was only a part of a much larger “evangelization” of drug consciousness. Clearly popular art, personal interactions, and meeting the emotional needs of prospective drug users was just as much of a factor in spreading drug use. How far would Timothy Leary have gotten without psychedelic music, lava lamps, pop celebrities, and countless “in club” associations of teenagers and college kids gathering together to do dope?

B: Right – and these would have to be viewed as just as essential to the “argument” that one would make for the Church. Likewise, learning about the faith is a multi-disciplinary endeavor – it’s not just study, but things like, say, chanting the psalms, building fitting buildings, engaging in the right rituals, etc. To try to deepen everything by study overlooks the fact that the Church involves not just reasoning but a new consciousness within which reasoning is possible.

A: But this new consciousness is also prior to the reasoning that is done within it.

B: Right. In that sense you’re right that there is no reasoning to the faith; and that, at best, reasoning is only a component in a multi-disciplinary awakening to a new consciousness.

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5 Comments

  1. Elliot Milco said,

    April 23, 2013 at 1:37 pm

    A friend and I are arguing about this post. Do you mean to say that sanctifying grace is a kind of consciousness? Could you elaborate more on what exactly “consciousness” means in this post?

    • April 23, 2013 at 4:18 pm

      The new consciousness is the interior life of the believer as illumined by the light of faith. See “Analysis of faith from a subjective viewpoint” here for a good summary. See also the first article in the Summa, or the response to obj, 2 here.

      The post is not satire, but it was intentionally written as a dialogue so as to feel out a position. I have sympathies with and questions about both A and B.

      I suppose that part about Timothy Leary could read like satire, huh? It’s an ugly metaphor, but I think it works.

      • Elliot Milco said,

        April 23, 2013 at 5:45 pm

        I guess I’m wondering how “consciousness” is distinct from particular acts of the intellectual or sensible faculties, or from the habits of those faculties. Why call this underlying change in our ability to know and will a change in “consciousness”? Is it a change in consciousness primarily or only accidentally?

      • April 23, 2013 at 8:33 pm

        The light of faith opens a new domain of experience, it introduces new criteria for judgment that suffuse the whole of life, and (together with the action of the Holy Spirit) it confers the psychodynamic power to live according to the new life that is revealed. This is at least a new consciousness – it might be better to call it a new life.

        I don’t know that I can divide off “consciousness” from the other things you mention, or divide it into a primary or accidental change. The change, it seems to me, is better visualized than analyzed. The world is suffused with a new light and the interior bondage of the will falls away. Tolstoy describes this sort of awakening all the time; Augustine frames his Confessions around the moment when this light breaks in; and the Gospels are filled with accounts of different ways in which people come to see this sort of new life in Christ.

  2. Elliot Milco said,

    April 23, 2013 at 2:33 pm

    A further question: is this meant to be a satire?


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