By Fr. ROY CIMAGALA, firstname.lastname@example.org
October 26, 2016
“We are now entering a new phase in world development where error can look good and attractive, practical and profitable, and can have to power to assume a universal appeal and influence…”
PASSING by a school one day, I had second thoughts when I saw its billboard ad that was supposed to express the school's mission-vision. It said something to the effect that the school would make the kids independent thinkers.
I, of course, understood what the slogan wanted to say. The kids would be taught how to think without undue influence by unwelcome elements, like biases, prejudices and social trends, fads and other not-so-healthy conditionings.
I imagine that the kids would be taught how to think analytically and critically in a constructive mode. They would be guided to arrive at convictions on their own and must be responsible for them. There can be many other positive corollaries that can be derived from such catchy slogan.
But the second thoughts that came to my mind were: how far should the students' independence in their thinking go? We need to be clear about what the kids should be independent from in their thinking.
We cannot take this issue for granted, for many people nowadays think that to be independent in their thinking, they have to be independent from God, from teachings of our faith, from certain authorities, and that's where we can have big problems.
We are now familiar with those people who brand themselves as freethinkers. These are those who claim that they think freely and independently, without any influence from any opinion and especially from any religious beliefs. Many of these so-called freethinkers are actually atheists and agnostics.
This is the problem that we have these days. That's because if there is no belief in God who is supposed to be the creator and the very foundation of reality, then what would be our reference of what is true and false, what is good and evil in our life here on earth? If it's not God, then it can only be our own selves or certain things in the world. In the end, we can just be subjective about things.
Sad to say, this is what we are seeing in many places these days. We have people who are trapped in their subjective mode of thinking, practically incapable of transcending their purely human estimation of things. They fall for that Cartesian principle – the 'cogito ergo sum,' or I think therefore I am – such that their subjective thinking is prior to the objective reality of things.
In other words, things are the way we consider them to me, rather than the way they are. Said another way, things depend on how we think of them. It's the things that have depend on our thinking, rather than our thinking to conform to how things are as they are.
This is the danger that can come when we have an unclear understanding of what it is to be an independent thinker or a freethinker. We have to be wary of this danger because nowadays there are powerful groups that are promoting ideologies and isms that while having certain valid points are in the end essentially subjective, not objective.
We are now entering a new phase in world development where error can look good and attractive, practical and profitable, and can have to power to assume a universal appeal and influence. It can have a global network to spread itself and dominate the world.
Some of these ideologies and isms, which are all human constructs almost devoid of any reference to God, to faith, to piety, etc., have already been proven wrong in recent history, like communism, some aspects of socialism, etc.
Others, like capitalism and democracy that are mainly detached from the Christian spirit, are more tricky and deceptive. They look good and acceptable, but they have elements that are dangerous too. They can be sweet poisons.
We need to reinforce our belief that only in our Christian faith, in Christ can we find everything that we need to know and to be as we ought. In the gospel of St. John, there is a passage that bears this claim out: “He knew all men and needed no one to bear witness of man, for he himself knew what was in man.” (2,25)
That, after all, goes without saying, since Christ as the Son of God is the perfect image of God, and since we have been made in God's image and likeness, then we are patterned after the Son of God. And since the Son of God became man to save us, we have to be with Christ to be saved, since he is “the way, the truth and the life” for us.