Thursday, February 26, 2009

True Simplicity for the Christian

My spiritual reading is currently from Dietrich Von Hildebrand's Transformation in Christ. Much like Fr. Thomas Dubay's Fire Within, Transformation is a spiritual two-by-four for the complacent Catholic. What both books do is clarify just what it means to entrust yourself to God's will. It's a message that we sometimes think we understand, until someone like Dubay or Von Hildebrand holds up the truth to daylight.

Last night, I woke up at 2:30 AM and had some trouble getting back to sleep. So I took my copy of Transformation out to the couch. The chapter I'm reading now is titled "True Simplicity." VH does an excellent job of identifying false simplicity in various forms, from an affected childlike innocence in the mature adult to simplicity of the primitive (by which he means the individual who is so involved with subsistence to have no time for self reflection). True simplicity, to VH, requires a depth of insight into the true nature of things.

Another example of false simplicity is that posed by many of the evangelical Atheists: the simplicity of reductionism. He describes this simplicity in a number of ways. First, it's the tendency to view "the entire cosmos after the pattern of its lowest sphere. Without considering the specific logos of the object they are faced with, they apply the categories of mechanism to the province of organic life and even to the realm of spiritual personality and culture" (79). He goes on to note that these individuals attempt to drag everything down to the sphere at which they themselves feel comfortable and are very pleased with the facility and shallow simplicity.

On the other side of the spectrum are those who believe themselves more willing to deal with abstractions but who don't adequately enough in that abstraction and "denature" it. As VH notes, "They believe they see through all things and know everything; nnor is there anything for which they would not promptly supply an obvious explanation" (79). VH sees this tendency toward simplification as more problematic than other barriers to true simplicity:

This simplicity of platitude, which would strip the cosmos of all depth and all metaphysical stratification, is perhaps even more radically opposed to true Christian simplicity than is the disease of complexity. For he who denies the dimensions of being, its depth and width, and pretends to flatten out the entire universe, is even farther remote from truth than he who ignores the supreme value of inward unity. (79-80)
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