Introducing: a paraphrase of Augustine
St. Augustine once said something about how he not only writes what he knows, but that he writes so that he may know.
That is certainly true for writing, but it seems equally true for conversation.
In pursuit of clarity, perhaps I approach concepts and methods far too methodically.
For example, I like to think of conversation as an art. There is a right way to do it and a wrong way to do it. There are different purposes for it as well. Are you talking small, because you are interested in the small things in someone’s life? Or are you talking big, because you are studying God? Do you even care?
Sometimes my categorization makes me tired. But then I remember that my bed is warm and there and I don’t have to think all day.
I admit that I enjoy studying things that ought to be casual.
But I make myself tired for a very good reason; I want to. And if someone does not want to study the art of conversation with me, fine.
I. There is Rest For Us
Life is an intense activity. It is constant strain and it never seems to stop. And this would be absolutely unbearable, if I did not believe in these four reliefs:
1. The Holy Spirit
The first is a far greater relief. I could trick myself into thinking that I deserve – and even want – to rest for extended periods of time. But the truth is, I am neither called to that, nor do I desire it. I want to make myself so tired, that I drink coffee, run to death, fall asleep, and need the Holy Spirit. I have no desire to be empty, unless I am being filled.
If I am thinking correctly, truth always has paradox at its crux. And the paradox I find myself stumbling into here, is that I love living. And I am going to use life up so much, that I will love dying.
I remarked to a friend recently that, if I were to die right now, I would die unhappily. There is too much that I get to do. And because there is too much left, I believe that I will not die soon. God will not kill me until He has used me.
II. Truth Lies Between Two Foreheads
If you are talking to someone with the goal of exploring the same area, you will both say things you did not know were in you. As soon as you speak it, it is outside of you, looking back into your eyes, and uncertain of where it came from.
Conversation is the art of searching for truth with someone else. And if you do not like this definition, you can go talk to someone about it.
I like this definition, because it emphasizes that you do not invent truth. Truth is something found or given, never made.
This is also why someone who wishes to study truth ought to never to do it alone.
III. Studying Alone is Always a Bad Idea
Someone who studies truth alone begins with a question, like in any study.
Where are my keys?
What is the goal for my life?
Yet, the difficulty of asking yourself a question is that you supply the answer. Asking a question means you do not know and if you do not know, you ought to ask someone who does. And that is never you.
The self is a fine starting point, as long as the authority of the self is based on a more solid foundation.
Yet, when the self is not only the starting point, but the second point – the one being asked – then the conclusions of self-driven philosophers is absurdity to the self and an incomplete view of truth.
It is one that only takes into account either the level of human perception or the level of Divine perception. I believe that these are the only two levels of truth.
A philosopher who does not know the name of that Divinity – who is the Triune God – can say nothing. He can only see.
Compare Socrates to Wittgenstein.
IV. Wittgenstein, truth is said too
I bring up Wittgenstein, because I have recently been studying him. His philosophy is self-driven and insular.
And what is his conclusion?
We might be able to see truth, but we cannot say it.
This is certainly absurdity to the self-driven intellect. A self-driven intellect is one where the self is both the starting point and second point.
If the self is the starting point and second point, then there is the basic assumption that the self is the only being required to find truth.
Wittgenstein’s conclusion, however, assumes that truth lies outside of the self-driven intellect.
He could be accused of inconsistency, but he is actually consistent within his incomplete view. He is right to be mystical about truth, because the curtain has not been lifted from his eyes.
In Christ, Wittgenstein’s mysticism is answered. In Christ, truth is found by us asking a question and then Christ answering.
Christ is the only perfectly logical language that we can speak, because He is perfect but also flesh.
This is the Christ-driven intellect, as opposed to the self-driven intellect.
Even though many Christians might be uncomfortable with having the self as the starting point for this intellect, it is true regardless.
V. A Walk Begins With Your Step, but You Will Not be Coming Back Home
On the level of human perception, the self is always the beginning. The self is the one which asks the question.
Does God exist?
Is salvation necessary?
On the level of Divine perception, however, the Holy Spirit is always the beginning of truth. He is the one that possesses us to ask a question in the first place.
Both the Holy Spirit and the self, then, are the starting point for a Christ-driven intellect.
Yet, we are only currently concerned with the level of human perception.
Wittgenstein starts in the right place, the self, even though he does not recognize who is ultimately beginning the search for truth.
The Holy Spirit works in all men – whether believers or unbelievers – in the search for truth.
He possesses all of Creation for a desire to know God. We are all haunted, whether He has revealed Himself to us or not.
Why else would men who live in a sensory reality be so strongly interested in what they cannot perceive?
It is the Holy Spirit who possesses them, even Socrates and Wittgenstein.
And it is the Holy Spirit that leads them to any truth, big or small.
The unbeliever is simply a vessel in bondage used to find truth for those who can actually use it.
The believer knows who is the root of His desire. And this is the only way to be free – to know who is your Father and make His desires your own.
The truth that Wittgenstein finds – for man cannot make truth out of nothing – is that he could only see truth, but not say it.
“What is truth?”
Behold, the Man!
Do you know His name?
In Wittgenstein’s self-driven intellect, he did not have Christ.
If he had Christ, he would be able to both see His image and speak the only divine Word that we have.
Christ is the answer to Wittgenstein’s mysticism.
And so, while his conclusion of mysticism is untrue for the believer, it is true for the unbeliever.
It is false that no one can both see and say.
It is true that the unbeliever can see, but cannot say.
VI. Socrates, do you have any answers?
The best that an unbeliever can get, besides a self-driven intellect, is an others-driven intellect.
This was Socrates.
Socrates did not ask himself questions, he asked others. And so he, at least, recognized that truth exists outside of the self.
The Christian has all three intellects.
He has the self-driven intellect, because he begins with the self according to human perception.
He has the others-driven intellect, because he sees and speaks the Truth to others.
He has the Christ-driven intellect, because he begins with the Holy Spirit according to Divine perception.
VII. Redeemed Conversation
The primary method for a Christian to find truth is through conversation with another Christian. Do we not reflect the image of Christ? And will the Holy Spirit not be guiding us?
This is far more humble than either Socrates or Wittgenstein, for the purpose of a creature is to be humble and, thereby, satisfied and delighted in truth and existence.