As is sometimes the case in otherwise bad flicks, there’s one very memorable character In the rather wretched movie ‘Sahara’ – Matthew McConaughey’s/Dirk Pitt’s sidekick Al Giordino. Al acts as the Voice of Reason and reacts more or less as a sane person would in an otherwise insane movie, which makes him pretty funny. Not enough to overcome the dreariness and implausibility of the plot (hint: finding a Civil War ironclad in the middle of the Sahara is *not* the most implausible thing, not even close – go figure). Heck, even adding Penelope Cruz to the landscape couldn’t save this movie.
After the umpteenth unlikely escape/incoherent coincidence, Our Heroes find themselves wandering in the Sahara. Al speaks for all of us in the audience:
Al Giordino: Hey, you know how it is when you see someone that you haven’t seen since high school, and they got some dead-end job, and they’re married to some woman that hates them, they got, like, three kids who think he’s a joke? Wasn’t there some point where he stood back and said, “Bob, don’t take that job! Bob, don’t marry that harpy!” You know?
Dirk Pitt: Your point?
Al Giordino: Well, we’re in the desert, looking for the source of a river pollutant, using as our map a cave drawing of a Civil War gunship, which is also in the desert. So I was just wondering when we’re gonna have to sit down and re-evaluate our decision-making paradigm?
Dirk Pitt: [coming up on the fortress seen in the cave painting] I don’t know – it seems to be working so far.
You know where this is going, right? Dirk has somehow found completely implausible success through unreason – it doesn’t have to make sense, because it works like magic. Heck it IS magic. Al, our Sancho Panza, has noticed this, and asks if it wouldn’t be wiser not to rely on magic, but to instead apply a little common sense. How about a decision-making paradigm that doesn’t rely on timely bits of irrational magic to work?
Yet, because this is a movie, Al is shot down by – yet another timely bit of irrational magic.
Remind you of anything?
Here’s yet another reason I’m Catholic: I don’t have to wait around for timely bits of irrational magic to make sense of my beliefs. My decision making paradigm goes something like this:
- The Truth is One. Logic and reason, and history and science all point toward the same truth as Scripture.
- Wisdom and holiness are inescapably accompanied by beauty, goodness and truth, which are conjoined triplets. If you are missing one, there will be problems with the others;
- Reason is good. Logical thinking honestly applied points to the truth;
- Yet even the wisest and holiest people are prone to error, and I’m not remotely the wisest or holiest guy around, Therefore, I will not rely solely on my own judgement – I know from bitter experience how wrong I can be;
- Instead I will look to see where holiness and wisdom reside, and go there, and follow;
- The signs I will look for are beauty, goodness and truth. Reason will never be contradicted by beauty, goodness and truth, but will be reinforced by them.
I, along with millions of Catholic intellectuals over the centuries, find comfort and peace in God through the Church which is His Body. There are mysteries, to be sure, but, as in any good story, the mysteries are introduced up front, not used ad hoc to annihilate logical problems. In other words, the story is meant to help us appreciate and understand the mysteries, in however limited a way we can understand them; the mysteries are not introduced willy-nilly to salvage the story.
I don’t have to shout down Al when he points out that my decision making paradigm is doomed and is getting us into trouble, I don’t go into the desert hoping they’ll be an ironclad a thousand miles from navigable waters, trusting that it will all turn out OK because some miracle like someone having scratched instructions on a cave wall in a cave that I’ll just happen to wander into will take place just when I need it.
Miracles abound, to be sure, but not primarily to resolve or rather destroy logic and history. Scripture, written in the Church for the Church, preserved, honored and studied by the Church for 2,000 years, is asserted to, if properly understood, destroy the Church. The logical problems with this are resolved by a series of presumed miracles, or, rather, magic tricks: the Great Apostasy, an event that is presumed to have occurred at no particular date, for which – magically – there is no evidence apart from that which – magically – appears once the event is conclusively assumed to have occurred (the Church is asserted to be both diabolically good at destroying evidence – and incompetent at destroying evidence. It’s magic!). Then, a ‘real church’, one that made no converts nor left any other evidence of its existence, is presumed to have existed underground, because the Spirit that guided it is all in favor of hiding one’s lamp under a bushel basket. Meanwhile, the apostate Catholic Church is sending missionaries all around the known world in accordance with Christ’s Great Commission (today is the feast of some 16th century Korean martyrs, who received the faith from Japanese missionaries, who received the faith from awesomely brave European missionaries, for example) evidently did so only to diabolically throw people off. What’s amazing is that these people were willing to die horrible deaths instead of renouncing, not Christ, but rather their horrible ruse. Now, that’s dedication.
And so on. Renee Lin is doing the heavy lifting on these topics over on Forget the Roads, so go over there if interested. My point is that the method we chose for deciding what to believe – our decision making paradigm – makes a huge difference in what we assent to as truth. If we make it a bedrock test that Truth is One – that history, logic and science honestly understood all tend toward the same Truth as is revealed in Scripture – then we don’t wait around for magical explanations, like believing that Scripture is both luminously transparent and yet was fatally misunderstood for 15 centuries until some German monk figured it all out.