Falling From Error
Chapter 1: Error, Deadly Sin, and Christ
Please begin with the introduction of Fr. Chris’ book by clicking here.
Note from the Author:
This chapter may be a bit difficult to navigate, given all the philosophical terms applied to the subject matter. The subsequent chapters will be simpler, but also help slowly digest and refer back to some of the concepts here.
It’s Time to Fall
It is the goal of this chapter to use the analogy of falling from a three-story tower to depict a departure from error. This act of falling is ultimately an act of humility, whereby we come closer to reality. To remain in this tower is to be in a distanced or remote relationship with reality. Falling involves us letting go of our fantasies about ourselves, and passively falling toward the earth. Actively, we must consent to jump, but the ride toward reality is a passive one. In other words, there is a passive and active dimension. We are actively seeking the truth, but nonetheless students of that truth. We receive truth while at the same time seeking it.
If we flutter about, as we fall, we are like a feather, somewhat unzealously falling toward reality. But if we dive, we simply cooperate with the gravity of truth that pulls us towards reality. The case may be that this is a humiliating process. I would suggest that there are a few possible reactions to humiliation: (1) growth in humility and (2) inordinate shame and defensiveness. When we find ourselves humiliated by our errors, our intellect perceives juxtaposition between a truth revealed and error upheld. If we decide to become defensive, and remain in denial about our own errors we are guilty of not allowing the truth to humble ourselves. Such humiliation invites us to be humbled. And while humility certainly involves placing ourselves below any lofty sense of self, humility also demands a seeking of greatness. St. Thomas Aquinas draws our attention to what seems to be a type of paradox:
“Humility restrains the appetite from aiming at great things against right reason: while magnanimity urges the mind to great things in accord with right reason. Hence it is clear that magnanimity is not opposed to humility: indeed they concur in this, that each is according to right reason.”
When we seek greatness, without becoming unhinged from reality, we experience both humility and magnanimity. Thus, the least amongst us imitate the greatness of the Christ, and all the saints. But this is chiefly an interior act, and not something that occurs purely as an external show. The interior life principally addresses our reaction and response to error and truth. How we react to error ought to be done in a manner that involves graciousness. Are we too embarrassed to admit of our fault? Do we define our identity around an error we are attached to? Grace enables us to fall from error in manner that is zealous about being insinuated more deeply in reality. We want to plummet to the depths of the earth, like a seed, to be drilled into the ground.
When a leader, apologizes to his congregation for an error, he doesn’t typically inform them of anything new – they often already know he has erred. But what he demonstrates with a genuine apology or acknowledgement of error is that he has enough courage to dive into reality: to be humbled. But to be humbled means something is done unto us, and we allow it to be done. It means that we allow ourselves to fall. Will you take the dive with me?
Where do I start?