The basics of human experience and divine revelation

Last week, starting from the need for truth to serve as the foundation for just government, I went on to elaborate the need for some form of divine revelation to manifest that truth and make it sure. This also calls for some sort of authority, communicating and teaching that truth. This shows that the first role of human reason is not independently figuring things out on its own but recognizing and accepting true teaching authority. This recognition must be based upon a correlation between what is taught and universal human experience. Not my private experience, but what has been always and everywhere.

Unfortunately, the modern path which has rejected any authority except the authority of independent reason has led us nearly to the point of destruction in which even the basics have been obscured.

So, let us review some basics.

The first chapter of the book of Genesis describes a world of sky, sea, and earth, sun, moon, and stars, plants, fish, birds, land animals, and man, which everyone can readily recognize as the world in which we live, even if a person does not believe that God created this world, or that it developed as a superficial reading of Genesis appears to suggest. Everyone lives on the same earth, beneath the same sky, illumined by the same sun and moon, breathing the same air. The flora and fauna vary from place to place, but every place man lives has its own flora and fauna. Even despite the enormous variation, a great many share the same experience of different kinds of flora and fauna. We can also agree with Genesis in recognizing that all of this is good. Technology and industry has removed a great many from that experience, but has not obliterated it altogether – at least not yet.

Next, we all talk. That is truly a remarkable fact. We talk about the world in which we live, about human life in the world, about things and events. Further, despite all the misunderstanding that goes on, despite all the lies and deception, despite a great deal of plain old stupidity, we sometimes succeed in understanding one another; real communication does take place. Even more, I would dare say some level of communication is possible between any two persons on the planet, taken at random (even without a common language) if those two truly desire such communication. That means that while it has often happened that some people have denied the humanity of others, we are capable of recognizing each other’s common humanity, and even more that we do actually have a common humanity.

There are other common human experiences: art and music, religion (which if it doesn’t refer to God or gods, at least consists of a common way of making sense or reality and life, embodied not only in shared ‘beliefs’, but shared practices and symbols), marriage (at least as some form of regulation of the sexual relations between men and women for sake of providing for the offspring), burial, and some sort of ‘government’ (even if nothing more than that of a tribal patriarch or council of elders) that oversees common life. There is also a common life-cycle (though it might be divided differently in different cultures) of birth, childhood, adolescence, adulthood, old age, followed by death.

Of course, eating and drinking are necessarily universal experiences, sexual copulation is normal, and everyone also experiences sickness, pain, and various forms of weakness.

We also have an experience of good and evil, by which I mean people doing good or bad things, some of which at least appear to be quite intentional.

People talk about all these things, sing about them, and portray them in art.

So any truth about God and human life, whether attained by reason or revealed by God must shed light on this whole gamut of human existence and be able to make sense of it.

Modern science does not do a very good job of making sense of anything; at best it takes these things for granted and shows us patterns in them that we might not have noticed otherwise. Sometimes these patterns can be turned to practical purposes for good or ill.

Words, however, have a remarkable capacity to reveal to us the reality and order of things. I used words to set forth the above summary of common human experience, including the experience of language, art, and music. Homer, the great poet of ancient Greece set it forth much more beautifully in his verbal description of the shield of Achilles. (cf. The Iliad, Bk XVIII)

So, if we are going to look for God’s revelation, we would most of all expect to find it given to us in words. More than anything else, we would expect God to speak to us in some way, shape, or form.

Lest we go too far afield from our purpose of understanding the role of government, if a government is to be anchored in truth, then it must appeal not to weak human reason, but to divine authority, manifested in some form of verbal revelation that accounts for the whole breadth of human experience.

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Fr. Joseph Levine graduated from Thomas Aquinas College and after a long journey was ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Baker, Oregon. He currently serves as pastor of St. Peter Catholic Church in The Dalles on the Columbia River.