Chapter 14: Avoiding Hasty Judgments (Gaudete Sunday)
“God desires our complete subjection to Him and wants our passionate love of Him to transcend our reasoning.”
In this chapter, the medieval author sounds surprisingly post-modern. Although it is anachronistic to use the terms “modernity” and “post-modernity” in describing Kempis, the reader can see the author’s foresight in asserting the limits of reason and science. No matter how objective we try to be in executing the scientific method, we remain biased. “Our judgments,” Kempis eloquently argues, “frequently depend on our likes and dislikes and thus are far from true because we make them conform to our personal prejudices.”
Rich, white Westerners have boasted their “purely objective” outlook for centuries and have only recently come to realize that their pure objectivity is, in fact, subjected to their own desires to maintain power. Kempis held this same post-modern critique in the early 15th century when he wrote, “It often happens that there is some hidden motive within us or some outside influence acting upon us, that leads us to make such judgments.”
The scientific method, according to Kempis, has its limits and pitfalls even when used to understand and manipulate the natural world. Nuclear weapons are one example of a scientific pitfall (or, I should say, fallout). In the endeavor to understand the supernatural or spiritual world, the scientific method fails miserably. In the words of Kempis, “If you rely more on your own reasoning and logic than on the conquering power of Jesus Christ, then you will tardily, if ever, become spiritually enlightened.”
Kempis points his readers to a method of understanding the spiritual realm that surpasses logic and reason: love. “God desires our complete subjection to Him and wants our passionate love of Him to transcend our reasoning.” Post-modernity claims that all perspectives are subjective and therefore limited. Kempis invites us to subject our perspective to God and our love for Him and, in so doing, penetrate the spiritual realm.