The Epistemological Weight of Warm Fuzzies

I was reading an On the Square post from a Mormon to Catholic convert and was struck by the way he described his enounter with grace:

Early in the evening of May 28, 2010, I am attending Mass in the majestic Basilica di Sant’Apollinare next to the Pontificia Università della Santa Croce in Rome. From Utah I have come as a scholar to deliver a paper at an international conference on the work of the great Catholic philosopher Dietrich von Hildebrand, and I have come as a tourist to see the Eternal City for the first time. Mass is being celebrated in the basilica for those attending the conference.

I am not Catholic—in fact, I was raised a Mormon, though I have had serious doubts about the Latter-day Saint faith for decades. Yet my journey of the heart—which ultimately ended in the Catholic Church—came long after I had intellectually departed—so I cannot receive Holy Communion. But when Archbishop Raymond Burke places his hand on my head in a blessing, the extraordinary presence of Jesus Christ moves my soul to tears. I now know, in my head and in my heart, that I have come to Rome as a pilgrim. I have finally heard his voice, and I will not turn away.

This part of his conversion journey sounded deeply Mormon-tinged. I’ve heard the pitch for Mormonism boiled down to “Read the Book of Mormon, and then ask God if it’s true. You’ll find the answer!” and it sounds like this essayist asked God (consciously or not) about Catholicism and got an answer that satisfied him.

I still don’t find this kind of evidence very convincing. A lot of different religions have had converts who were ‘convicted’ a similar way, so either it’s easy to be mistaken about this sort of thing (uh-oh) or God is extremely ecumenical.  I’ve got reasons to be skeptical, but I also know I’m a little badly calibrated on how to use emotions as evidence, so I wanted to thrash this out with someone else.

I pinged Michael, the Mormon friend of the blog who handled questions about Romney’s Mormon priesthood to get his thoughts. So I’ll be running a guest post by him and then a couple of rambly (on my part, not his!) follow up questions about conversion and evangelization.

About Leah Libresco

Leah Anthony Libresco graduated from Yale in 2011. She works as a statistician for a school in Washington D.C. by day, and by night writes for Patheos about theology, philosophy, and math at www.patheos.com/blogs/unequallyyoked. She was received into the Catholic Church in November 2012."

  • http://www.ephesians4-15.blogspot.ca Randy

    I think you need to avoid the two extremes. One is to base your whole spirituality on these experiences. The other is to ignore them completely. They happen to a lot of people. Encounters with dead people. Indescribably feelings deep in your soul. Little healings of aches and pains. They are interesting data. They do indicate something supernatural exists. Either that or there are a lot of really lousy observers.

    Trying to manufacture public revelation from private revelation is something the Catholic church has been very careful with. These kinds of things are for the person they happen to and anyone who is encouraged by their story. It is not binding on the conscience of all believers the way truths revealed publicly are. Often they can be the push to stop wavering between belief and unbelief and make a choice for God. The people involved are often embarrassed they were motivated by such a thing. Even strong believers can be very uncomfortable with it. Materialism effects us all.

  • Cous

    Am looking forward to reading this – I’ve recently been trying to hammer out, shuttling between prayer and a couple theology books, how exactly it looks when one “does faith/conversion right”: first, trusting in the divine person of Christ (how does one trust a person with whom one has never interacted directly? Is it enough to say “I trust the Church, and therefore I trust her Founder absolutely?), and then, once that is accomplished, the moving of the intellect by the will to assent to what the intellect cannot verify (e.g. the doctrine of the Trinity; that all things, even suffering, work for the good; that the Catholic Church teaches with the authority of Christ). The second part seems a fait accompli once you get past step 1, it’s that first step of conversion where it seems hardest to know what evidence is sufficient for the intellect to make such an act of total trust, and how you can distinguish the heart/will’s recognition of “the true, the good, and the beautiful” (valid input) from mere “warm fuzzies” (invalid input).

    …and then how, at a certain point, waiting around for more and more evidence and saying “I can’t choose yet!” itself becomes a choice for rejection. I often go back to the poem by Sheldon Vanauken about his own conversion:

    Did Jesus live? And did he really say
    The burning words that banish mortal fear?
    And are they true? Just this is central, here
    The Church must stand or fall. It’s Christ we weigh.

    All else is off the point: the Flood, the Day
    Of Eden, or the Virgin Birth – Have done!
    The Question is, did God send us the Son
    Incarnate crying Love! Love is the Way!

    Between the probable and proved there yawns
    A gap. Afraid to jump, we stand absurd,
    Then see behind us sink the ground and, worse,
    Our very standpoint crumbling. Desperate dawns
    Our only hope: to leap into the Word
    That opens up the shuttered universe

    • Argus

      Unlike us, the apostles and early Christians were NOT believers. That is the difference between us all.
      They were witnesses. From simple folk cowering in fear when their leader died – to emboldened public speakers – they must have seen something so life-changing that they couldn’t stop talking about it even unto death.
      One might say, other religions have martyrs too. But again the difference is that, their martyrs die for what they BELIEVED is true. While the first Christians died for what they have SEEN.
      Now, did Jesus rise from the dead and stayed with them for the next 40 days and all the rest of that stuff?
      I can only say yes, and with confidence believe. The apostles’ and early Christians’ lives and deaths are my proofs.

  • JohnH

    It would appear that the second point in the scholars conversion is actually the primary point and that, as his brother said, he was convinced of the Catholic-Greek philosophy since college.

    It is highly amusing to me that he would use Job as his singular scriptural reference with God having a body, he must have skipped over Job 42:5 and Job 19:26. It would only be mildly interesting to debate doctrine from the Bible with him, he like Aquinas and Augustine places a higher value on what philosophers have said then on what the scriptures say and likely is not that familiar with scripture.

    Considering that he is quoting D&C 8:2 ” 2 Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart.” then it is very safe to say that his conversion is deeply mormon-tinged.

    • http://creativefidelity.wordpress.com Dan F.

      … which when you think about it for another moment is not particularly surprising. Just as a Jew converting would likely have a ‘jewish-tinged’ conversion or a geeky atheist might have a math/objective morality – tinged conversion or a Protestant might have a protestant-tinged conversion.

      All that tells us is that God meets people where they are. Also, that conversion is not primarily intellectual (even if much of the means are) but spiritual.

  • http://www.ottavabattuta.blogspot.com Heather Kulaga

    I was a young mom sitting at the dining table with a mathematics puzzle in front of me.
    Long since abandoned by my child, who had given up on the paper, I stayed and filled squares in with numbers – each array was supposed to add up to 19, and I was determined to get it right.
    I added and added, erased and erased, until finally I sat back and just started randomly moving numbers around. I stopped adding, and just sort of intuitively put numbers here and there, so that it generally looked right. Somewhere during that process of relaxing and letting my right brain lead, I had a feeling of euphoria and freedom that I find hard to describe.
    In just seconds, all the numbers were in place and I knew that they all added up to 19. (And they did)
    Oh the joy that flooded my soul ;-) I was really overwhelmed with a strange feeling of gratefulness, joy, well-being, strong emotion.
    So what was that about?
    I could say that it was God leading me to the right answers, or that somehow Truth descended on me and moved my fingers to place every number in its right spot. I could say that I was un-interested in studying the problem any longer, or checking my answers, because I “knew” it was correct. It sure felt supernatural, as I have always been particularly slow at math in general.
    But I would never say that, because simple addition is so easy to prove. We tend to say that “God showed me” or “I felt God”, only in situations that we can’t explain or prove, unfortunately.
    My “feeling” at the moment of mathematical dawning, was exactly the same as other moments in my life where I have felt some sort of connection with God. And yet I would never say, “God showed me the answer to the problem.”
    The simple explanation for my feeling – and for the feeling that many people experience at conversion – is an inner sense that what was a mystery to them one moment, has suddenly become clear in their hearts – without any proof or any calculator to verify it.
    The problem comes when people misunderstand the emotion as the proof, when in fact, the emotion is just a very personal response to a moment of understanding. Some feel it, some don’t. It is neither a good thing nor a bad thing.
    It is, like my mathematical “moment”, simply an emotional reflection of what we have suddenly come to understand through any number of means.

    • JohnH

      Strong emotions are not at all indicators of the Holy Spirit, neither is euphoria. I have had experiences such as you describe (studying graduate level math provides plenty of opportunities) and I have felt the Spirit, the two are not at all the same.

      • http://www.ottavabattuta.blogspot.com Heather Kulaga

        I completely agree — strong emotions are not at all indicators of the Holy Spirit, and strong emotions should never be considered proof of a spiritual experience. That’s what I was saying. Strong emotions can be a by-product of a spiritual experience (just like it can be a by-product of many other experiences that are sort of beyond our capacity to explain, including my very simple but profound intuitive grasp of the solution to a very basic mathematical puzzle) but too often the emotional experience is identified as an indicator of the Holy Spirit. It’s not an indication, it’s – for some people – an accompaniment.
        On a different note — the “feeling” of the Holy Spirit, compared to the “feeling” of euphoria in any other circumstance, can be described as “the same” or “not at all the same”, depending on the person. How something feels is completely subjective, so on that point I’d have to respectfully disagree. Maybe it’s the same feeling for me, but completely different for you – there’s really no way to measure or qualify “feeling”. One of my best friends describes her conversion experience as completely without feeling whatsoever. Hers is no less valid than someone overwhelmed with strong emotion.

    • http://www.jrganymede.com Adam G.

      While the modern Mormon church tends to talk about the Spirit in terms of feelings, burning bosoms, and so on, Joseph Smith described the experience of the Spirit as ‘strokes of pure intelligence.’ Contra John H., that sort of experience you described has occurred to me in a religious context, though perhaps not often enough.

  • Rachel

    I tend to say that feelings are fickle and variable and not to be trusted. Burnings in Bosums (sp?)don’t move me. There are no shortages of exhortations in the Philokalia about the need to control and properly channel the Passions, by which they mean any emotion or impulse, positive or negative. Admittedly, doing that is a challenge! The Passions need to be tempered by cold, hard relaties, in my opinion.

    • JohnH

      What a good thing it is that the Holy Spirit is not a passion then.

      Luke 24:32, Acts 2:37, Pslams 39:3, Shepard of Hermas 2:24, Justin Martyr Dialogue with Trypho Chapter 8: “But straightway a flame was kindled in my soul”

      • Rachel

        Non sequitur.
        That’s not what the Philokalia is talking about when it discusses the passions.

        • JohnH

          The Holy Spirit is a being; unless you are claiming that passions are beings then what I said was right.

          • Rachel

            Nevertheless, the Holy Spirit being a Being is as irrelevant to the point I was trying to make as it is factually accurate and therefore right. that is why I said “non sequitur”, and all the citations in the world won’t change that.

          • JohnH

            I take it you didn’t look up any of the citations. They are unrelated to that point and show that burning in bosoms really should move a person.

  • TheresaL

    When I read this story last week, I didn’t come away with the impression that the emotional reaction he had to the blessing in Rome was the evidence he needed to convert. Instead, I thought he already had his reasons and evidence, but needed the emotion brought on by the experience to push him into going through with it.

    I agree with you that a feeling of conviction is not trustworthy enough as a basis for choosing a religion. But, if you have already thought out your reasons, an appropriate emotional response is not a bad thing.

  • Niemand

    or God is extremely ecumenical.

    Is there any reason why this shouldn’t be true, theologically speaking? I’m an atheist, so maybe my views on this don’t count for much, but I find the idea of a god or gods or goddesses that allow people to come to him/her/them in their own time and way a lot less disturbing than a god that demands worship in just the right way…without ever giving clear evidence to let people know what the right way is…and then punishes those who get it wrong. Why not a deity who welcomes Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Pagans, etc equally?

    • http://creativefidelity.wordpress.com Dan F.

      Ted’s answer below is a good one. I think a more substantial answer (assuming you don’t want to slog through long Catholic documents – i could be wrong) is that Worship, properly understood, is really only done one way – through sacrifice. Thus the Catholic belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist is a participation in Christ’s original sacrifice on the Cross and a participation in the ongoing Supper of the Lamb in Heaven.

      For the Muslim, Buddhist, Pagan, etc. who earnestly seeks after the Truth and follows their conscience there is hope for salvation (invincible ignorance) but ultimately they will be doing worship in the same way we are now.

      Also, don’t take this as a harsh criticism, but your question about ‘punishes those who get it wrong’ has more to do with a protestant/fundamentalist view of God and Salvation than a Catholic one so it’s not particularly germane to this discussion.

      • Ted Seeber

        Just wanted to point out that my post below was not a reply to Niemand- we were both contemplating the same phrase is all- and Dan F.’s answer is much more pastorally correct for where Niemand is than my reply to Leah.

    • http://delphipsmith.livejournal.com Delphi Psmith

      +1 to that. “I don’t object to the concept of a deity, but I am baffled by the notion of one who takes attendance.”

  • Ted Seeber

    The fact that God is ecumenical with such experiences, is actually a part of Church Teaching. For the most modern form of this bit, I suggest reading the Vatican II documents Lumen Gentium and Nostra Aetate. I especially like quoting the line from Nostra Aetate:

    The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions. She regards with sincere reverence those ways of conduct and of life, those precepts and teachings which, though differing in many aspects from the ones she holds and sets forth, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men.

    This basically is one of the big reasons I’m still Catholic- the Church doesn’t reject Truth even when it didn’t come from her basic assumptions, she re-examines her basic assumptions to fit the Truth.

    And thus doctrine develops (albeit a bit slower than science).

    Referential links:
    http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_decl_19651028_nostra-aetate_en.html
    http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19641121_lumen-gentium_en.html

    • Watson Ladd

      I’m not sure this works as nicely as you make it seem. When it comes to Judaism the Church respects everything that can be fitted into a belief that the Messiah has indeed come. But that amounts to writing out a lot of the holidays and the practices or secularising the rationals for them. (Not that we don’t anyway, and this gets complicated quickly.) So how can you treat Judaism with sincere reverence, while honestly believing that it isn’t needed anymore? What about Reconstruction and Reform? If we abandon the belief the Messiah will come and bodily resurrect people, does that lessen the value the Catholic church sees even if the practices are the same?

  • Steve

    “so either it’s easy to be mistaken about this sort of thing (uh-oh)…”

    yes… yes it is easy to be mistake about this sort of thing.

  • butterfly5906

    Leah, can I ask a somewhat personal question? The moment you realized you believed that morality is a person and not just an abstract concept- what did it feel like? Exciting and happy? Peaceful and calm? Completely normal like any other decision? Something else altogether?
    I’m in a odd position of wanting to believe something I don’t believe now, and I find that I literally cannot picture myself changing my mind and suddenly believing in God. What was that moment like for you?

    • leahlibresco

      It felt like the way I feel when I know how to do a problem in a CS homework assignment. I don’t have all the code or even the pseudocode written (and I may need to futz around a lot when I write it), but I know I know the — I’m not sure of the right word — maybe the shape of the logic? It’s a pretty exhilarating feeling. But the character of the feeling was a little different; I felt all that, but with warmth layered on over it. [NB - this is the day you all find out why I write sucky fiction].

      I said to Ben, the guy I was talking to that I thought this was weak evidence for the proposition, since it was more likely to be observed in the world where I had just had a correct eureka and was now more able to feel God’s love, but that I might observe it in the world where I had made an honest mistake and gotten carried away.

      • RED

        Hah. I feel exactly the same way when I know how to do my CS assignment problems. I’ve tried to describe it to other people, but it never sounds right and they usually get the wrong impression. But now at least I know I’m not the only one.

        • leahlibresco

          My blog: a forum for productive fights about religion and “omg, me too!” for geeks. Mission accomplished.

          (Now go read Arcadia if you haven’t already).

          • RED

            Awesome–I just ordered it from the library. I’ve already found many of your other recommendations amazing, specifically “Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality” and Godel, Escher, Bach. As a computer science/music student and a huge fan of Harry Potter, I can’t believe I’d never heard of either before…

          • leahlibresco

            Oh yay! Today has been a productive day.

          • Ted Seeber

            GEB was the most worthwhile thing I ever read in mathematics, computer science, history, and theology. Someday I really need to find my copy and start reading it to my special needs 9 year old just to see what his supposedly damaged brain does with it.

      • Steve

        What made you connect a vague epiphany to the specific belief structure of the catholic church? What makes you think it’s more likely that your ‘eureka’-moment was an ability to feel Gods love rather than being carried away?

        • leahlibresco

          I had already thought that Catholicism was the most likely religion granted Deism and things I believed were true about morality. And the ‘vague epiphany’ was granting deism.

          Again, I didn’t think feeling the emotion was strong enough evidence to move the needle much at all (it would move it very slightly pro-God, but not enough that the move was salient). I had just concluded that I lived in the God!Universe rather than the noGod!Universe, so that conclusion colored how I interpreted the feeling.

      • Ted Seeber

        The Zen Buddhist word for this is satori- sudden enlightenment.

        Oh, and I’ve been a professional software engineer since 1995- I get satori about software as well as theology all the time.

    • http://decentfilms.com SDG

      butterfly5906:

      I’m not Leah, and I’ve never been an atheist (though I’ve been closer to unbelief than I cared to be), but I’ve had a conversion experience (from Protestantism to Catholicism), and there was probably a point in my journey where I was where you are (wanting to believe something I didn’t), though I can also recall very much not wanting to believe it and hoping it wasn’t true.

      Even within my faith I’ve had the experience of doctrines which I once accepted abstractly becoming real and vital and necessary. In some cases I could say this was preceded by a period of wanting the doctrines to be more important to me (e.g., the Eucharist); in other cases it happened when I wasn’t expecting it (e.g., the Trinity).

      In my conversion, reasons and arguments dominated. Still, there were also moments that I would describe as a light coming on. Looking back, I would describe those moments as operations of the Holy Spirit, but I don’t think I was conscious of it in that way at the time. I don’t know that I would describe it as a matter of feelings as much as an expansion of worldview, like recognizing how the pieces of a puzzle come together. Once you see it, it’s there. Unlike the Mormon apologetic, I don’t look to that experience as the basis for any particular step in my conversion, but I do see it as a sign of God’s work.

      Don’t look now, but I would suggest to you that your wish to believe in something you don’t may already be the Holy Spirit at work in you. Obviously I don’t mean that all such wishes have spiritual causes, but I do believe God works through our natural dispositions to call us all, in different ways, to himself.

      • http://decentfilms.com SDG

        P.S. Reading Leah’s response above, it certainly seems to me that her “the way I feel when I know how to do a problem in a CS homework assignment” and my “a light coming on…an expansion of worldview, like recognizing how the pieces of a puzzle come together” are attempts to describe the same sort of experience.

        • http://www.jrganymede.com Adam G.

          This sounds a lot to me like what Joseph Smith meant when he talked about spiritual experience in terms of ‘strokes of pure intelligence.’ At least, when I had my first such moment (while doing geometric proofs in high school, if memory serves) I almost immediately had my second (ahah! this is what Joseph meant).

      • http://not-atamelion.blogspot.com Michael H.

        I think Mormons get pegged erroneously with being overly “emotional” about conversion because we try to foster spiritual conviction inasmuch as we preach and teach. However, if you talk to Mormon converts, I’d bet that the majority of them would say that something “made sense” in their minds at a certain point in the way that Leah and others have here expressed it, with divine confirmation thereof. It’s not really any more emotional than other faiths, just that we explicitly lay out that spirit-given emotion is often the basis for a conviction of Truth.

        • http://decentfilms.com SDG

          That’s interesting, Michael. I have to say it seems to me the Mormons I’ve talked to about this (not a huge number, but not a negligible number either) have offered the “burning in my bosom” apologetic as the rationale for their faith in a way that seemed to me to fit the stereotype — but I certainly recognize that not all Mormons are the same, and I’ve met at least one or two who didn’t fit other Mormon stereotypes.

          • http://not-atamelion.blogspot.com Michael H.

            I cannot speak for the people to whom you spoke, but I’d see it as dubious that the “burning in the bosom” would be divorced from some element of study and thought. For instance, in the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord admonishes the reader to “study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.” In this sense, the “study it out” and the subsequent “making sense,” I think, are often subsumed into and occluded by the “burning in the bosom,” which acts as a shorthand for both. Of course, this is not always true, but I believe that some of the characterization of Mormon conviction might come from this difference in language usage.

        • Ted Seeber

          If anything, the Mormon poetical description leaves me a bit cold. A burning in my bosom is not enough for me. Satori for me is more like Douglas Adam’s description of the effects of a Pan Atomic Gargle Blaster: Getting hit in the head by a slice of lemon wrapped around a large brick.

          • http://not-atamelion.blogspot.com Michael H.

            I feel similarly. Due to the frequency with which the “burning in the bosom” language was used around me, for a long time I doubted whether I had really had many spiritual experiences; that description didn’t match up very well with what I had experienced.

          • Irenist

            Different spiritual experiences can strike different notes and still be profound. When I visited the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, I was surprised (not being given much to Marian devotions or piety in my personal practice, and not really going into it that impressed with a 16th century miracle that just happens to look like a 16th century painting) to feel the presence of a serenity like nothing I’ve encountered before or since. To use admittedly rather gendered tropes, just as the experience of communion with Christ in the Eucharist can sometimes feel to me like an awe-inspiring vast desert vista, the experience of being near the tilma felt like standing on the shores of a tranquil lake in a Chinese landscape painting. Two silences sounding very different.

  • MLN

    God has so many different ways to draw a person in it’s not surprising some of them don’t appeal to some of us at all. Argument, nature, beauty, syrupy prayers, miracles, silence–all these and more have been known to be convincing. And why not? The Spirit is not going to be confined by our limited understanding or preferences.

  • ARM

    My reading of his words was that his “head” was already convinced (in fact, most of the piece was about the two intellectual problems he came to see in Mormon theology) and the subjective experience he describes brought his “heart” in line with his head. Most converts I know describe a similar process. I don’t see any dangerous emotionalism in that.

  • Matt G

    Full disclosure- I’ve met Richard Sherlock, and my employer has sponsored his writings and lectures.

    One of things I enjoy about Catholicism is that it’s not about feelings in the same way Evangelical denominations often are. It’s not necessarily a sign of your lack of holiness that you aren’t constantly in ecstasy, and the beauty of the sacraments is that grace is made concrete. There’s not the pressure to wonder about the silence of God as often happens in Calvinism. When it came out that Mother Theresa often did not feel the presence of God, understanding Catholics saw no fundamental issue, and mostly just thought this showed her faith to be all the stronger.

    That said, you’d be sorely missing a core part of the Faith if you reduce all feelings and experience to “warm fuzzies,” and I believe that you’d be making a theological error to think that the truth of the Faith rests on some conception of reason seperable from emotions and experiences. Don’t we use reason to sort out what we think when people tell us about religious experiences? If someone said that Jesus visited them in the middle of the night and told him to kill everyone over 6 feet tall, I would be highly skeptical. If a friend tells me that God spoke to him and told him to marry his Catholic girlfriend after he had spent hours in Eucharistic Adoration, I’m much more inclined to believe him, and I think my faculty of reason is largely responsible for differentiating those two cases.

    It is totally within God’s power and commensurate with his nature to give people religious experiences, feelings, intuitions, etc that move them to the faith, and when he does people ought to obey them. It would be totally wrong (and, I submit, unreasonable) for Saul on the Road to Damascus to have said “wow, I must have had waaaay to much to drink last night” and gone on living a life of unbelief. That these experiences can’t be made into universal apologetic axioms that convince all atheists (“if you just go to Mass and look at the Eucharist you WILL convert! QED!”) doesn’t mean they are contrary to reason. Reason interacts with our experiences or it is not really reason- logic is just rules, experience and authority provide the premises. The Logos (from which we get the word logic, of course) comes in the form of arguments as well as the form of Christ and his sacraments.

    That said, it’s true that the story of the saints and tales of religious experience like Sherlock are inspirational and apologetic attempts to convert anyone. That said, they are often much more powerful in doing so than straight apologetics. I know many more converts who came through experience or beauty or literature than I do who came through dialogues and apologetics, even when the latter may have opened the door initially.

  • Joseph H. M. Ortiz

    The famous Teilhard de Chardin, in his Lettres à Léontine Zanta, wrote: “One thing reassures me, it is that the growing light within me is accompanied by love and by self-renunciation in the Greater than me. This could not possibly mislead.”
    I’m citing Teilhard’s statement here as but one of what I’m sure are a great many instances where a brilliantly insightful person (famous or not) has had some deep, powerful, and, I submit, infallibly true intellective INTUITION (intuition being, almost by definition, an infallibly true direct knowing); but then has unwittingly CONCEPTUALIZED that true intuition — inaccurately — in a demonstrably false way.
    My double point here is: given that someone has a deep and powerful insight, it doesn’t follow that what he sincerely claims is an accurate expression of his insight is so in fact; and given that someone’s view of something is demonstrably false, it doesn’t follow that the person has not seen something true. Put practically: Let’s all distinguish carefully between an intuition and its conceptualization.

    • http://www.jrganymede.com Adam G.

      Oh, wholeheartedly agree. Mormons would say the same thing, except about the Holy Ghost, not intuition.

    • Joseph H. M. Ortiz

      Footnote: I’m not here attacking (nor endorsing) Teilhardism. I’m only suggesting that it “ain’t necessarily so” that an exaltation (even intellectual) such as Teilhard experienced “could not possibly mislead”.

  • http://www.jrganymede.com Adam G.

    I lean towards ‘God is ecumenical’ in some sense because the alternative is simply to dismiss huge swaths of human experience. Also, the commonalities are there, but I think we tend to over-estimate them. To a surprising degree, religious experience is sui generis.

  • Courtney

    I do think that “God is ecumenical” in the sense that He meets everyone where they are at. I grew up Catholic, then fell away in my teens, and started going to an Evangelical church when I got sick of and depressed with living my life without God. I always say that He spoke to me through the radio because it was an advertisement for the church I went to that started me back on this journey. He met me where I was at, because I couldn’t see past the tradition in the Catholic church to see God. But then once I started getting the relationship part with God at the Evangelical church, I met my husband (at the church), who was full of this evidence for why the Catholic (and Orthodox) Church contains the fullness of the Truth of God. God is totally present at that Evangelical church, but He used it to get me to go back to the Catholic Church (and I brought my husband with me, so God helped me help him become Catholic, AND God helped him help me become Catholic).

    If you seek, you shall find. It just might not be the form that others expect. It doesn’t mean that Truth doesn’t exist, but that some of us just take a little longer (or need to take a different route) to get there.

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