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Learning versus Knowing

“The human capacity for reason is to be distinguished from the application of deductive reasoning as a theological method. Human reasoning is part of the created order, which can never apprehend the uncreated nature of God, for He is radically dissimilar and is not part of the created order…Man has two centers of knowing: the nous, which is the appropriate organ for receiving the revelation of God that is later put into words through the reason, and the reason which knows the sensible world around us…nous refers not to the rational operation of the mind but to that part of the soul that allows the human person to know God, “the purest part of the soul, the eye of the soul.” (Dr. Eugenia Scarvelis Constantinou)


“Information does not constitute knowledge. At most, it constitutes the limits of our management. True knowledge, particularly as spoken of in the Scriptures and the Tradition of the Church, is an act of communion. Communion is an act of love. The nous, as the organ given to us to perceive God, is an organ of love. When Christ says, “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God,” He is speaking of the purified nous, a heart made whole through love. For many, even most, the nous is a reality that is largely unknown. Our pursuit of information has largely drowned even our awareness of the nous, or to pay attention and value to its voice within our experience... Only love knows anything.” (Father Stephen Freeman)


“…the intellect, or nous that is enlightened and can articulate theological truths, but not through deductive reasoning and scholarly study. Rather it is through prayer and one’s relationship with God that the intellect achieves true enlightenment. Holiness of mind is not contrary to the application of reason, which itself is God-given. Reason is part of the image of God within us; it is that which distinguishes the human person from animals…the human person [is] “reason-endowed” because God gave us the capacity to reason. Reason can “help put words on the spiritual experience of proximity with the divine. In that sense, ‘reason’ and ‘holiness’ of mind are not opposite realities when reason is the ability to put words on the spiritual experience.” (Dr. Eugenia Scarvelis Constantinou)


“To be constantly learning sounds like a good thing. The Greek term for learning refers to the “observation” that increases knowledge of the world…Of course, such learning is often useful and enriching. But the term “always” refers to the constant investigation that this method of learning demands. It aims to expand the boundaries of personal and human knowledge continually. But that motive prevents the commitment, devotion, and dedication to the Lord necessary for spiritual understanding. Imagine a scholar who spends a lifetime studying the resurrection of Jesus Christ and never attends a Pascha service. She might know more about the facts, information, and different ways of viewing the resurrection than all the other worshippers combined. She is committed to learning even more. Yet, by her never-ending study will never come to the truth of the Risen Christ.” (Fr. Basil)


“I signed up for my second degree and began to study the Enlightenment and how we came to value reason as more “true” than experience or revelation…to purify our reasoning, we emphasize not logic, but the giving of alms; only this will clarify our judgment about goodness and render us illumined.” (Sarah Clarkson, Timothy G. Patitsas)


“To be constantly learning sounds like a good thing. The Greek term for learning refers to the  “observation” that increases knowledge of the world... Of course, such learning is often useful and enriching. But the term “always” refers to the constant investigation that this method of learning demands. It aims to expand the boundaries of personal and human knowledge continually. But that motive prevents the commitment, devotion, and dedication to the Lord necessary for spiritual understanding.” (Fr. Basil)


“Imagine a scholar who spends a lifetime studying the resurrection of Jesus Christ and never attends a Pascha service. She might know more about the facts, information, and different ways of viewing the resurrection than all the other worshippers combined. She is committed to learning even more. Yet, by her never-ending study will never come to the truth of the Risen Christ…They know so much, yet they comprehend so little, because their knowledge remains in their heads and rarely reaches their hearts.” (Fr. Basil, Fr. Vladimir Berzonsky)


“Far too often today children are taught, both in school and at home, to equate truth with fact. If we can’t understand something and dissect it with our conscious minds, then it isn’t true. In our anxiety to limit ourselves to that which we can comprehend definitively, we are losing all that is above, beyond, below, through, past, over that small area encompassed by our conscious minds.” (Madeleine L'Engle)


“Secular scholarship provides the means for expressing experience but without the assistance of grace cannot communicate really redemptive knowledge...Countless numbers of professional theologians are awarded top diplomas yet in actual fact remain profoundly ignorant in the sphere of the Spirit. This is because they do not live according to Christ’s commandments, and so are deprived of the light of the knowledge of God….How do we comprehend and know. It is something other than a scientific fact or intellectual awareness. It is a revelation, a divine gift that illumines and transforms our intellect [nous]; and a reciprocal encounter, a personal bond with the personal God, who reveals Himself to us through communion with Him.” (Archimandrite Sophrony Sakharov, Orthodox Study Bible, Ephesians 3:18-19)


“Scientific knowledge serves our everyday needs, it facilitates horizontal communication and helps with the development of our civilization. Divine knowledge opens up to us the transcendental horizon, cultivates vertical communication, gives meaning to life and inspires our works and culture….contemporary scientific research has its origins in the monasteries of the West where monks who combined divine and human knowledge investigated the secrets and laws of nature with religious interest.” (George Mantzarides)


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