Secular and sacred knowledge
#1
Hello

I'm interested in peoples' views on the question of secular vs. sacred knowledge, and how much attention we should pay to each.

Is it important to be a "cultured" person in a general sense, or should we "think of the things that are above, not the things that are below" (Colossians 3:2)? (I am aware there is also the "whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right" passage from Phillipians).

I sometimes think that, in our current world, a certain amount of ignorance of worldly matters might be a compelling witness.

Thanks in advance for any ideas.
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#2
Maybe someone who's more read in philosophy can provide a better answer, but I tend to think it depends on your vocation. If you're a married lay person, part of your life will be attending social functions, working, and raising children who will do those same things (short of some religious life vocations). One doesn't want to be someone who cannot hold a conversation with anyone or cannot perform the basic functions of being a worker, spouse, parent, maintaining a house, etc. In that sense, there needs to be some form of continuous acquisition of secular knowledge. 

If what you mean as being secular knowledge is more along the lines of secular politics, philosophy, sciences, etc. Then I think the conversation changes. What's the purpose of gaining this knowledge if it's unrelated to your life's vocation and if you are going to neglect the spiritual in the process? At the same time when it comes to politics, should we not be informed of what's going on in our world? We as Catholics should not be standing in the sidelines and allowing evil men to dominate the world. In terms of philosophy, shouldn't we have knowledge in order to combat our enemies attacks against our faith? Shouldn't we understand the sciences in order to understand the creation that God has laid before us? I think it's impossible to ignore the secular if we live in this world. However, there is also the point where many people become obsessed with acquiring secular knowledge. This is where balance comes into play.

If I were a priest I'd certainly focus more of my attention on spiritual, of course. At the same time, a priest does live in the world and needs to be armed with knowledge about what's going on in that world. He cannot be ignorant to it. Someone who is a monk or nun may not have as much contact with the outside world (depending) and in that case they'd have much less use for secular knowledge.

I think one can certainly strike a good balance somewhere depending on their vocation. However, in the end regardless of where your knowledge stands, knowledge of everything does not replace having a good prayer life, being charitable, avoiding sin, and most of all loving God.
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#3
It's hard to say because so many people write their own script in instances such as these.  In a way I'm going through this right now at my parish (which should be it's own separate post I think).

IMHO if you always keep God first then the balance is clear.  The $64,000 question for me is how am I to find a "balance" as long as there are people still dying for the Faith.  What does "balance" even mean in a world that still contains those circumstances.  If we adhere to the idea that we are all called to be saints, then we must keep God first and let that inform our other choices. Always remember the desired final destination.
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#4
Ignorance isn't a virtue, and it's dangerous. It's silly to be purposefully ignorant of what's going on; one can't defend oneself and one's family if one doesn't know what's happening. I don't see how it could at all, in any way, be "good witness"; the opposite would be the case: "Look at those stupid, ignorant Christians.."
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#5
(07-19-2017, 07:16 PM)VoxClamantis Wrote: Ignorance isn't a virtue, and it's dangerous. It's silly to be purposefully ignorant of what's going on; one can't defend oneself and one's family if one doesn't know what's happening. I don't see how it could at all, in any way, be "good witness"; the opposite would be the case: "Look at those stupid, ignorant Christians.."

^ this.

"My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge." - Hosea 4:6
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#6
To some extent, it is important to be aware of what is happening in the world. And in some cases it is important to discuss secular issues.

However, one has to be careful not to overemphasize secular interest in one's life. In our spare time, we should spend much more time praying or doing spiritual reading than discussing politics or reading news.

Because of our fallen nature, we enjoy watching YouTube videos much more than praying the Rosary. But only in in very rare cases it is the better thing to do.
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#7
I didn't put it very well when I said that ignorance was a good thing. That's too strong. But sometimes...for instance, when I don't know a particular celebrity that people are gosipping about, I feel that's something to be proud of!

When I read something like this about the Curé d'Ars I am quite impressed and moved: "He had made a law unto himself never to show any dislike, and to hide all natural repugnances. He mortified the most legitimate curiosity: thus he never expressed so much as a wish to see the railway which passed by Ars at a distance of a few kilometers, and which daily brought him so many visitors. During the whole of his priestly life he never indulged in any light reading, not even that of a newspaper. The Annals of the Propagation of the Faith are the only periodical that he ever perused."
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#8
He was a Cure, so fine. But with his approach to things, he'd have made a really bad scientist. Or mother or father (the sort that raises kids). Or statesman. Or...
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#9
I suppose it also depends on your definition of secular knowledge. If by that you mean the latest gossip about some celebrity or the story line of that hot new show on television, of course we should avoid it. In those cases, ignorance is truly bliss.

If, however, you mean knowledge of philosophy, economics, politics, science, history, etc., I have to wonder how we, as laymen, could even begin to bring the world to Christ through His Church if we are ignorant of these fields. I'm not saying, of course, that every member of the laity has to be an expert in everything. However, I do think that if we're serious about converting the world, we need to have at least basic knowledge of them and, preferably some expertise in at least one.
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#10
That's a good reply, Jovan66102.

Here's a case in point; modern literature, or even literature in general. Do you think Catholics should have a knowledge of literature, and of the arts? Or are there different standards for each person? Should we, for instance, have read the classic novels of the twentieth century?

Sometimes when I read literature I find myself thinking: "Why am I reading this? It can only ever be a faint refraction of the truth. Catholicism is the truth."

I'm not talking about pure recreation, for which we need no motivation.
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