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Faith and Knowledge

“In order to become wise, we must first become fools. The most valuable knowledge of all is the knowledge of what we don’t know. The Fathers followed a path of apophatic theology (theology that cannot be spoken). It is a path towards knowing the Unknowable. However, we cannot know the Unknowable without first acknowledging that we do not know what we do not know. A simple place to begin is to recognize the passions that accompany our opinions. We not only imagine ourselves to know things, but we feel deeply and strongly about these imaginations. Often, such “opinionism” is a mask for shame. In a world where everyone is an expert, we experience shame at our own ignorance. We mask our ignorance with authority (such as the Scriptures or the Fathers). Just because you read it doesn’t mean you know it. Failing to understand this inevitably means that we have not yet learned how to read. The greatest benefit to be found in reading is not in finding answers; the benefit is in finding questions.” (Father Stephen Freeman)

“A materialistic person cannot understand a spiritual person. Anything that a spiritual person says is fantasy to a materialistic person, because heavenly logic is completely different from the logic of this world…School gives a person rational education, but no spirituality…People should be educated. Man should learn what he can. However, school only educates our minds; it does not teach us spirituality…All knowledge is in God, and when He wills it, according to His mercy, He will reveal these mysteries to the mind of an individual.” (Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica)

“We know that Psalm 46:10 [45:11 LXX] tells us, “Be still, and know that I am God.” The converse is implied: If I am not still, I run the danger of not knowing the real God. If I don’t know God, I don’t know myself, because I am made in God’s image and likeness. I need to know God to know who I am, to have an authentic identity. Much of the contemporary search for identity is a deeper, though often unconscious, seeking for Christ within our hearts.” (Albert S. Rossi)

“… we need to recognize the source of our anxiety, and consciously give up control, trust God more, and tolerate uncertainty, being at peace with not knowing all the details. Sometimes we try to control even the events in our life that we clearly can have no control over. Indeed, the more we try and control things we cannot control, then the more out-of-control we may feel. This is one of the fastest ways to lose the peace of God in our hearts. Many feel that, by worrying, they are somehow doing something about the problem, and as a result get a false sense of control. In the end, however, the worrying exhausts them and leaves them void of God’s peace.” (Fr. Joshua Makoul)"That’s faith. It means letting God do His will in my life, by accepting the responsibilities and people and places to which He has sent me, even though I can’t understand, “Why me?” So, “doing” God’s will doesn’t mean figuring it out. And faith in Him removes the anxieties of not knowing the “Why,” as well as the “What Next.” (Sr. Dr. Vassa Larin)

"Faith is knowledge that cannot be rationally demonstrated. If such knowledge cannot be rationally demonstrated, then faith is a supranatural relationship through which, in an unknowable and so indemonstrable manner, we are united with God in a union which is beyond intellection.” (Saint Maximos the Confessor)

“Intellection” refers to learning in the nous, the deep center of the heart. As the Lord strives to overcome the hardness of His disciples’ hearts, He aims at a relationship that transcends their attempts to perceive, understand, and remember. His goal is to unite them to Himself “beyond reasoning and intellection.” (Dynamis 1/13/2020)

"To attain a living faith in Christ as God, it is not enough to see Him remove a fever (Mark 1:30-31), forgive and heal a man (Mar 2:11-12), calm a storm (Mark 4:39), or feed a crowd (Mark. 8:19-20). It is impossible, for Christ tells us: “Assuredly . . . no sign shall be given to this generation” (Mark 8:12). We must meet Him in a new place that lies beyond the scope of reason, outside the confines of our darkened and hardened hearts. He takes hold of us and unites us to Him in “a supranatural relationship,” if we dare to accept Him. We reach out, but He unites. “How is it you do not understand” (Mark 8:21)? This union is God’s reasonable gift beyond reason.” (Dynamis 1/13/2020)

“Comprehension follows the spoken words more slowly than hearing, for it is the ear which hears, but the reason which understands, though it is God Who reveals the inner meaning to those who seek it…But God’s gift of understanding is the reward of faith for through faith the infirmity of sense is recompensed with the gift a revelation.” (Saint Hillary of Poitiers)

“The Gospel is a book of faith, freedom, and conscience. It is not a book of rules and laws. One must read the Gospel and understand it with a living spirit, through the depth of your own faith, your own freedom and conscience, not formalist rationalism. The Gospel contains a certain grace-filled and free Spirit, and it must be accepted with one's own spirit. Not with the flat, sober, common-minded reasoning brain, but with one's own free, conscientious, and spiritual vision, one's own ability to contemplate with the heart and to believe through spiritual vision…the Gospel exists to give man freedom in the Spirit, not a freedom without spirit—that would be a blind and passionate fatalism, nor a spirituality without freedom—that would be a formalistic righteousness of absence of personality.” (Ivan Ilyin)

"And some turn aside from the faith, who seek out everything by reasoning; for reasoning produces shipwreck, while faith is as a safe ship…Where there is not faith, there is not knowledge. Whenever anything is borne of our reasonings, it is not knowledge.” (St. John Chrysostom)

“All knowledge that God has given mankind is for its good; none has been given us for our destruction. It is only our free will, which is corrupt and which has lost its fear of God, that has turned the knowledge given to mankind for its own good into something evil, which is why we suffer so much in this world.” (Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica)

“This failure to understand has come about because we have departed from the simplicity of the original Christian knowledge. Under the pretext of education, we have reached such a darkness of ignorance, that the things the ancients understood so clearly, seem to us almost inconceivable.” (St. Seraphim of Sarov)

“Who can deny that universities and research centers are producing a dazzling array of inventions and ever finding new ways to describe and control the elements of God’s creation? It would seem at first glance that science and technology have indeed uncovered the path to wisdom. However, despite all the wonders pouring from the cornucopia of man’s organized pursuit of knowledge, our race has produced countless nightmares at the same time: ecological devastation, war, cruelty, violence, genocidal death, and degradation of human life. Where is Wisdom?” (Dynamis 8/20/2019)

“In terms of the New Testament, true knowledge is ultimately only had by communion (koinonia). The sort of rational, observational collection of facts that passes for knowledge in our world, would be nothing of the sort in theirs. When John’s gospel says, “This is life eternal, that they might know Thee, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent” (Jn 17:3), it is a reference to knowledge by participation, or communion. It is precisely because true knowledge is communion that knowledge of God is eternal life. That knowledge can only be had by true participation in His life.” (Father Stephen Freeman)

“St. Augustine speaks of a higher part of the mind reserved for the contemplation of God and a lower part of the mind that reasons.” (Martin Laird)

“This was a favorable opportunity for instruction which was ordered by the Savior [Matthew 16:6-12]. He said, “Beware the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.” He taught them what the five loaves and seven that had nourished five thousand and four thousand men in the desert signified. He showed that there is a spiritual understanding underlying these events, even if the import of the sign is clear.” (St. Jerome)

“God irradiates knowledge to all and at the same time He gives us faith as an eye through which we can perceive it. If we choose to grasp this knowledge firmly by means of faith, we can keep ourselves mindful of it by putting it into practice, and God then gives us greater ardor, knowledge and power. For our pursuit of natural knowledge kindles our ardor and this ardor increases our capacity to put the knowledge into practice.” (Saint Peter of Damascus)

“The present portion of Saint Matthew’s Gospel [Matthew 16:6-12] is the Lord Jesus’ reply to our prayer: “Teach me Thy statutes . . . make me to understand Thy statutes . . . enlighten me with Thy statutes.” Christ responds to this plea by addressing our lack of faith, mindfulness, and good spiritual practice. He corrects us by setting aside our obsession with material concerns and speaking to our deep, underlying problem: our lack of trust in Him (vs. 8). He recalls us to our right minds as members and partakers of Him (vss. 9-10). He provides Himself as the Truth we must embrace if the Holy Spirit is to illumine our hearts (vss. 11-12).” (Dynamis 7/28/2020)

“To those who are distrustful, who doubt and dispute and use only the faculty of reason and are not open to God, God does not show himself. God does not enter locked souls; He does not force an entrance.” (Elder Porphyrious)

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