What Do We Know, What Can We Believe? (1)

May 15, 2008 at 4:42 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , )


What Do We Know, What Can We Believe?

James Wall starts his book by pointing out that when he was young he was told: “Don’t believe anything you hear and only half of what you see.”


His friend, Tom Hayes at James’s funeral in 2004 said: ” It is only a short book but it covers a lot of ground. Typically of James, the English is pared to the bone.”


In this book the reader is taken on a philosophical, theological and scientific journey looking at what we know and what we can believe. 


The grist of what James writes broadly speaking goes along these lines: Philosophy seeks to understand the nature of reality,  an intellectual endeavour that is as dynamic as it is reflective. Belief is not knowledge and religions can and do change. “Of course, human beings have always adapted to changes.” “All depend totally on the earth.” ” Neither philosophy nor Christian Theology has kept pace with developments in the arts and sciences.”


Given all the evidence we have it is not possible to prove or disprove the existence of God but there are strong motivations for faith. We will never understand God and James quotes St Augustine: “If we have understood, then what we have understood is not God?”


The “godlike characteristics” of men and women lead us to know something of God. Love is the rational for everything in philosophy, theology and even science. The reason for reform and change in the Catholic Church and elsewhere.


I hope James would forgive me this sweeping generalization of his thoughts but I know that James in challenging traditional beliefs and practices was motivated by devotion and love for humanity.


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