Reason and Hope

Reason and Hope

In looking for something else the other day, I came across an original and insightful article by Nicholas C. Lund-Molfese,“Biotechnology and Human Dignity: Reflections on the Thought of Germain Grisez.” The Abstract states, “Reasoned argumentation has an important part to play in helping persons make morally upright choices, however it is not, and can never be thought of by Christians, as an adequate substitute for Christian hope. Modern technology provides choices for avoiding suffering and death that can be immoral. Without Christian hope it is unrealistic to expect persons to choose well in such difficult cases.” The article is only about 10 pages and well worth reading in its entirety, although its 2002 context takes us back to (tragically) more innocent and hopeful days.

Lund-Molfese uses our abuse of biomedical technology as a context to consider why people make unreasonable choices. He starts with the insight of “new natural law” theorist Germain Grisez that “‘persons who accept Jesus’ offer of salvation and who, therefore, possess Christian hope can find it practical to choose uprightly despite their fallen human condition. When upright choices lead to suffering, even that suffering can be accepted joyfully…..’ On the other hand, to persons without an understanding of hope, choices that involve suffering will seem unrealistic and impractical no matter how clearly those truths are articulated or how firmly they are taught.”

Thus, Lund-Molfese – and this is why I’m posting this – reminds us that

[When proponents] of the natural law tradition have fallen into a way of speaking that suggests that if we only find an iron-clad argument or the right rhetoric and way of expressing ourselves, the logic of our arguments will carry all before them. Like the stereotypical American tourist in Paris who thinks that if he just speaks English loud enough he will be understood, we may be forgetting that there is a real and substantive disconnect in our conversation with those who know nothing of the hope that is in us. We may be speaking the same language, but the discussion is taking place between two different worlds.

It is not my intention to denigrate reason or reasoned argumentation. It has its place and is necessary. Also, my primary concern is not with abstract beliefs or positions but with the moral choices of moral actors. Reasoned argumentation has an important part to play in helping persons make morally upright choices, however it is not, and can never be thought of by Christians, as an adequate substitute for Christian hope.

[Image, “Ave Crux Spes Unica” (Hail O Cross, Our Only Hope) by Fr. Lawrence Lew, O.P.]