Science & Wisdom

Started by ·, January 08, 2023, 05:15:46 AM

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Science is knowledge. The desire for knowledge is a desire we all have, and it must be moderated. Inordinate desire for knowledge is a sin, but the ordered desire for knowledge is a virtue. There are many distinctions of the many sciences, but the the most important distinction is:

  • Knowledge acquired through our senses and reason are the philosophical or natural sciences. These include natural theology, natural ethics, philosophy, metaphysics, mathematics, chemistry, and all others. (ST I Q 1 A 1)
  • Knowledge acquired through God's revelation is the Sacred Science. (Ibid., A 2) This is a singular science. (Ibid., A 3)

It would be a grave mistake to deny or conflate these sources of knowledge. Our senses and reason are not enough to know God. Divine revelation does not reveal what we can learn on our own with our senses and reason.

The Sacred Science is the noblest science. (ST I Q 1 A 5) God is subject of it. (Ibid., A 7) The Sacred Science reveals to us what we cannot possibly ever have found on our own. (Ibid., Q 32 A 1) The Sacred Science makes use of metaphors to enable us, who acquire knowledge through sensible means, to grasp what is fundamentally beyond the limits of our natural abilities individually. (ST I Q 1 A 9) Furthermore, because of the sublimity of the knowledge revealed, scripture may have multiple meanings in a way a natural science does not. (Ibid., A 10) The Sacred Science is not to be treated lightly or with carelessness.

The Sacred Science is wisdom. (Ibid., A 6) As we are taught: the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. (Psalm 110:10) In fact, given the facts already covered, those who reject knowledge of God as God has revealed and willed are fools, no matter what knowledge they otherwise have:  What can be more foolish then denying Wisdom? The fool said in his heart: There is no God. (Psalm 52:1)

Wisdom is a Gift of the Holy Spirit. It enables us to consider the highest cause and be able to judge rightly in all things. This is not the wisdom of the world, that is only wise for particular temporal ends and ultimately foolish for the final end. In knowing and understanding the cause and final end of everything, we can judge rightly. (ST II-II Q 45 A 1)

This Gift can be opposed. Folly opposes the gift of Wisdom. It means "Stupidity" or "Foolishness". (ST II-II Q 46 A 1) Folly is a sin. (Ibid., A 2) It is a dullness of sense in judging. It is a privation of Wisdom, that is, the lack of Wisdom where it should be. It is a dullness where there should be acuity in spiritual matters. Lacking the sense of judgement on its own without moral fault is fatuity and it is not a sin.

Ignorance is a sin according to the culpability of the ignorant. (ST I-II Q 75 A 2). Ignorance refers to knowledge one should have, and it is a privation of knowledge. Mere lack of knowledge on any subject is nescience and it is not a sin. 

The dangers of Curiosity, Folly, and Ignorance are not to be underestimated. What starts as a curious inquiry into subjects or from sources that are not good, may lead to a complete fall. Folly is a daughter of Lust (ST II-II Q 46 A 3). Ignorance may be the cause of a other sins. (ST I-II Q 76 A 1) Individual sinful acts may be venial, but to make little account of venial sins would be a very great mistake, not only because venial sin is always an offence against God; but also because it does no little harm to the soul. (Catechism of Pius X, The Main Kinds of Sins, Q 13) Scandal and the accumulated damage frequent commission of these sins may be far more harmful than any individual act of them.

The value of Studiousness and the Gift of Wisdom from the Holy Spirit are not to be underestimated. To study the Sacred Science rightly is a virtue, whether one learns the Creed and Commandments from the speech of one's superiors, or whether one reads a good Catechism, or whether one studies the best theological sources the Church has to offer, according to one's ability and needs. Indeed, acquiring knowledge for a good purpose, directed towards one's state and duties in life, and serving one's last end is virtuous.

We should not be ignorant. We should not be foolish. We should not be curious and seek after knowledge that is excessive, useless, or even evil. We should not put worldly knowledge above what is better. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written: I will catch the wise in their own craftiness." (1 Corinthians 3:19)

  • Knowing what God has revealed and using that knowledge to live a good life in accordance with God's will is Wisdom. One need not know words and arguments to be Wise. Wisdom is a gift by which the mind is lifted up from earthly and transitory things, enabling us to contemplate things eternal, that is to say, God Himself, the eternal truth, and to relish and love Him, in which consists all our good. (Catechism of Pius X, The Gifts of the Holy Spirit, Q 3)
  • Seeking to learn more of this subject to have a better understanding of it and to correct any errors one may have is Studiousness. Study wisdom, my son, and make my heart joyful, that thou mayst give an answer to him that reproacheth. (Proverbs 27:11)
  • Responding to this with nagging questions, irrelevant commentary, and disrespect for the topic is Folly. A fool worketh mischief as it were for sport: but wisdom is prudence to a man. (Proverbs 10:23)
  • Responding to this using the precise theological (scientific) words that were carefully defined in the text according to common or idiosyncratic definitions is Ignorance. Now concerning spiritual things, my brethren, I would not have you ignorant. (1 Corinthians 12:1)
  • Responding to this without any care for the final end of this knowledge, to know, love, and serve God, and treating it as a plaything for arguments or trying to study what is too advanced without care for the simpler teachings of Moral Theology would be Curiosity. Seek not the things that are too high for thee, and search not into things above thy ability: but the things that God hath commanded thee, think on them always, and in many of his works be not curious. (Ecclesiasticus 3:22)

For more and better works on Wisdom, Scripture is full of Wisdom and has several books explicitly devoted to it. Saint Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort's work, The Love of Eternal Wisdom is a a masterful work on this topic and should instill the need for love of Wisdom greater than knowing the definitions and distinctions which were the focus here.

O ye sons of men, how long will you be dull of heart? why do you love vanity, and seek after lying? (Psalms 4:3)

My mouth shall shew forth thy justice; thy salvation all the day long. Because I have not known learning, I will enter into the powers of the Lord: O Lord, I will be mindful of thy justice alone. (Psalm 70:15-16)

O the depth of the riches of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God! How incomprehensible are his judgments, and how unsearchable his ways! (Romans 11:33)