College for me was a starting point – an intellectual and spiritual awakening to a life of asking questions, looking for answers, and seeking direction. It was through the portal of higher education – this “wardrobe” if you will – that I entered a world of adventure, whereby, I began to turn over every stone in the pursuit of something trustworthy and immutable; something true and absolute; something worthy of my commitment and my allegiance.Along the way I discovered that a classical liberal arts education is one that, in its purest form, pursues all questions with a paradoxical balance of confidence and humility.
Our confidence is in the truth. It is bigger than any one person, one group, or one government. It is an objective and attainable reality. It is permanent and enduring. It is not subject to the ebb and flow of personal opinion or political power. Truth is the only reliable foundation for liberty, justice, reconciliation, and restoration. Only truth breaks the bonds of oppression. Only truth can bring healing and wholeness to a broken culture and hurting world. Only truth gives us the freedom to bring all ideas to the public square with the confidence that in the end we will keep those ideas that are good and discard those that are bad. History has taught us time and again that without a measuring rod outside of those things being measured we will become subject to the rule of the gang or the tyranny of the individual. Recognizing this, scholars of the ages have confidently given their hearts and minds to the words, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free”.
Our humility must be in ourselves. We must remember that our Creator “laughs at the wisdom of man,” that “our wisdom is no better than His foolishness” and finally that “we sometimes tend to think we know all we need to know . . . but sometimes our humble hearts can help us more than our proud minds…”
C.S. Lewis called for intellectual humility as he scolded the self-confident young scholar (the one who was proud of his progressive ideas) in The Great Divorce by telling him that he was more of a puppet to his own desire for popularity than he was a proponent of independent thinking and superior ideas: “Our opinions were not honestly come by” said Lewis. “We simply found ourselves in contact with a certain current of ideas and plunged into it . . . You know we just started automatically writing the kind of essays that got good marks and saying the kind of things that won applause.” From his own personal experience Lewis knew that the avant-garde intellectual (and don’t forget that Lewis knew from whence he spoke) is, more often than not, prone to parrot the party line and, thus, go with the flow, rather than challenge the status quo of what is popular.
But Lewis didn’t stop here. He went further to speak of the weakness of misplaced intellectual pride. He challenged the young scholar’s tendency to place confidence in the wrong things (in self rather than truth): “[We allowed ourselves] to drift, unresisting, unpraying, accepting every half-conscious solicitation from our desires, we reached a point where we no longer believed.” For Lewis the “confidence of unbelief” was not a measure of moral courage or cerebral discipline but rather a sleepy acquiescence to the mesmerizing “solicitations” of what was trendy and in vogue.
Finally, in transparent self disclosure, Lewis moves from criticism to solution. He shows the way out. To awaken from the lazy dreams of self deception we must return to the honest questions of childhood and humbly look for answers: “Once you were a child. Once you knew what inquiry was for. There was a time when you asked questions because you wanted answers, and were glad when you had found them. Become that child again . . . Thirst was made for water; inquiry for truth.” In these words Lewis echoes the promises of the Sermon of the Mount: Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they will be filled.
I am a lifelong learner and so are you. My journey and your journey is ultimately one that is guided by the immutable, the permanent and the True, not by the transient constructs of popularity, politics or power. All truth is true even if no one believes it and all falsehood his false even if everyone believes it. Honesty demands that we boldly pursue ideas that are tested by time, defended by reason, validated by experience, and confirmed by revelation. We will only find truth when we place our confidence in it and not in ourselves.
George McDonald tells us in TheCurrate’s Awakening that if we want to learn of truth and refute the agnostic within (and isn’t there one in all of us?) that we must look to Logos and then simply follow the advice of Nike and Just do it. Then, as McDonald says, “In our attempt to obey the words recorded as His, we will see grandeur beyond the realm of any human invention.” By humbly becoming as a child and yet confidently giving ourselves to the power of Truth (what Lewis calls the Tao - that inalienable and undeniable understanding of right and wrong written on the heart of every person) we will indeed “see grandeur” and, thereby, move beyond the faddish speculations of man and that much closer to the eternal facts of Eternity.
“We know nothing of speculation. Come and see. I will bring you to the Eternal Fact, the Father of all other facthood”.
C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce
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