Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov

Study Notes: On the Role of the Rational Mind in Theology

Posted in D.Min. Study Notes by Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov on 1 June 2015

Does the rational mind play a major role in our experience of God or in how well we can know God? Should we primarily rely on the academic study of theology in order to get closer to God? I love images, so consider this: it takes an active brain and a mind in order for me to experience the presence of a puppy. If I have no brain or if my mind is defective I may have problems or even be completely unable to experience the presence of a puppy. On the other hand, I do not have to know or understand how the puppy works in order to experience his presence. I do not have to have a Ph.D. in biology, or to dissect my puppy in order to experience him. Mephistopheles went even further and proposed that when it comes to a living being, to dissect is to lose every hope of understanding how the “thing” works, because once dissected, it is no longer a living being you are studying. In other words, what I think is important is to know where to stop. You can enjoy the love, and the licks, and the joyful bark, and the mess on your carpet–all with the necessary use of your brain with all of its faculties–but only for as long as you do not decide to dissect. In much the same way we can have the experience of the Trinity without figuring out or even trying to figure out all of the mechanics of how the Trinity works. We can also be under the protection of the Theotokos without trying to write a treatise on Her ever-virginity. This is not to denigrate the rational mind but to recognize its limits. We know very well that our physical body has its limits; we may push them at times, but we do not question them. It is the same with the mind–it has its natural limits. Everything has its proper place in our experience of God.

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