Monday, August 3, 2009

The Limits of Rationality

So God has really been helping me to understand something lately.

It all started with my car accident. When I was riding to the hospital in the ambulance I was very happy and grateful to God that I was not hurt. I knew that God had protected me and my friends and I truly felt thrilled to be alive.

After a few hours, however, my mind started to whir. I tried to put the jigsaw puzzle together and make deductions about the meaning of this event in my life.

Did God make it happen?

Probably not.

Did God allow it?

Of course, He must allow everything bad that happens because He is all powerful.

If He allowed it, why?

Why does He allow bad things?

What am I supposed to learn from this?

Catholics are supposed to learn from suffering.

Am I learning?

All of you probably can recognize this train of thought in yourselves. Humans are made for deducing, figuring things out and when we do not get an answer with the limits of our rationality we run in circles around the same thoughts over and over again until we are exhausted and frustrated.

Finally, the other day Brother Matthew, a Dominican who spoke at our parish on the Eucharist said something that made things click for me.

"God is not a rational being," he said.

I was shocked.

My first reaction was utter disbelief. Of course God is rational I thought. He is the smartest being on Earth, who could be more rational?

Then Brother Matthew explained.

God is not rational because He is Knowledge. He does not have to acquire knowledge. He does not have to analyze, deduce or learn. He already knows. There is nothing He needs to know beyond what He is.

What an AMAZING concept.

Then things began to fall into place for me. For some time now, I have been understanding and believing things about this world that I cannot quite wrap my mind around. The limits of my rationality prevent me from clearly communicating what I believe to others and when they look for purely logical explanations, I am at a loss. And yet, I am more sure of the things I believe now than I ever was when I was only dependent on what my mind could fully understand.

Here is an example - in high school and college I was an avid animal rights activist. I became vegetarian when I was 14 and vegan when I was 18. If there is one issue that I have thought more about, I am not sure what it is. I was constantly making deductions and analyzing my beliefs about humans and animals and the proper way we should interact with them.

1. Humans are sentient, they can feel.

2. We cannot say that humans are more valuable than animals by virtue of their intelligence because there are many humans who are not intelligent who are still valuable (i.e. babies)

3. If humans and animals are the same in the fact that they can feel pain, what gives humans the right to eat animals?

4. Humans do not need animal protein to survive, therefore it is unnecessary to eat meat

5. If humans do not need animals to survive and eating meat is unnecessary and it causes animals pain, then it should be avoided.

I never went to the extreme of saying that animals and humans were the same, but this was based on a gut feeling as well. I have a very intelligent friend who could completely silence me now with the argument that species is a figment of our imagination and there is nothing that truly separates us from the animal kingdom.

Yet reaching the limits of my own logic and rationality left me feeling like there was something missing.

Then God began to work in my soul. He helped me to see that I was more attached to what I was capable of understanding than allowing Him to work in my heart to understand the things that were beyond the limits of my own mind. He showed me that I was attached to my vegetarianism, more than I was to the Truth.

I eat meat sometimes now and honestly it does not make me feel guilty. I am not sure why, it defies my rationality.

I thank the animal for the life it is giving me when I eat it and I do not take it for granted. I hope I never do.

I still do not know the Truth when it comes to animals. I do know that animals are abused in our society and undervalued. I know that we think we are better than animals but we are only better than them if we follow God's law and raise ourselves to become more in the image of God. And in the case that we don't live as God asks us to, we can look to animals as much more noble creatures than we are. Animals are completely in tune with God's will for them. They do not have the capacity to disobey. What a beautiful gift from God they are in our lives!

But does this mean we should not eat them?

I am not sure anymore.

But I do know that God knows and He is gently leading me there.

I challenge you dear friends and family to look at where the limits of your rationality challenge you.

Does the Church's teachings on family, sexuality, or the priesthood confront the limits of your rationality? Is it difficult to understand where these teachings come from?

Don't depend on your mind to solve all of the issues in the world and in our Church. Open it up the God. If you are willing to let go of your own will and attachments, He will reveal to you what your mind cannot comprehend.


  1. Theresa - I have always had such an aversion to the saying "By the grace of God....." and fill in whatever you want there. I do not believe that God hands out graces here and there when something good happens in our lives and that God causes things to happen when bad things happen in our lives. I read such a good book called "The Shack" My favorite quote from the book is when Papa is talking to Mack about Grace:

    Mack, just because I work incredible good out of unspeakable tragedies doesn't mean I orchestrate the tragedies. Don't ever assume that my using something means I caused it or that I need it to accomplish my purposes. That will only lead you to false notions about me. Grace doesn't depend on suffering to exist, but where there is suffering you will find grace in many facets and colors.

    I love this concept. I have seen such wonderful miracles come out of terrible circumstances in my life.

    You are an inspiration to me, Sweetie - to know that you are continually looking at your life and re-evaluating everything makes me look inside and do the same. Much love - Aunt ME

  2. I have heard that book is good. Yes, I definitely realized that God does not want our suffering ever, but He always brings beauty out of it and leads us to become more like Him through our suffering. What a beautiful God we have!