Selection from Fr. Thomas Joseph White, OP, The Light of Christ

(Washington, D.C.: CUA Press, 2017), 5-7.


Every person has to accept risk in truth's call to us. Even religious indifference is a kind of risk, perhaps the greatest of all, for if nothing is ventured, nothing is gained. The mind is reason's instrument, but the heart is its seat. Faith shares a commonality here with romance. In opening our hearts to the search for God, we set out in hope and trust, acknowledging all the while the serious possibility of failure. Here we naturally try to avoid the two extremes of excessive skepticism and facile credulity. Excessive skepticism can lead to despair, which is a hidden form of self-aggrandizement. Facile credulity can lead to ideology, which is a not so hidden form of idolatry. And no person, whether the most ardent atheist or the most convicted believer, should refuse to take seriously the arguments of opposing viewpoints. How indeed can we enter more deeply into the truth if we do not consider why and how our convictions may be false? . . . 


Questions of God, right worship, and righteous living cannot be answered with syllogisms alone. The modern myth of the noble savage conjured up the illusion that knowledge of the good is innate, spoiled by education rather than developed by it. But to be unformed by a moral tradition is to be feral, not 'natural.' Moreover, there is no 'natural' religious outlook that a talented autodidact can work out on his own in the same way as he can teach himself algebra. A deep knowledge of the truth, the good, and the beautiful involves the use of reason. But a great deal turns on the first principles, initial assumptions, and deep intuitions that ground reflection. As a result, we need teachers we can trust to help us discern which to affirm, which to cultivate.