CM on Reason

Dear Reader,

One of the things I love about Charlotte Mason’s writings is how she touches on and makes me think about so many areas. Her whole fourth volume, Ourselves, is about one’s mind or soul and how to manage it. In the third volume, School Education, which I am working through now, she touches on one such topic, that of our human reason.

We live in a very reasonable society. Argument is everything. I remember being in a Bible study when I was in grad school with some law students. They were smart, intelligible people with fantastic arguing powers (they were in law school after all). But they were also new Christians. There were times I knew they were wrong, but I just couldn’t seem to win an argument with them. That was when I learned that winning an argument does not mean one is right. Nor does losing mean one is wrong.

Charlotte’s point when she talks about reason is somewhat in the same vein. Just because one’s reason provides, well, reasons for a certain course does not mean that is the right course. We tend to exalt reason and make it a master in our lives. But Charlotte sees it as a servant and not a master. In her view, there is always an idea that comes first. Or perhaps a want or some other inclination. Then our reason steps into to convince us that what we want to do or believe anyway is the right thing. Here is how she puts it:

“How necessary then that a child should be instructed to understand the limitations of his own reason, so that he will not confound logical demonstration with eternal truth, and will know that the important thing to him is the ideas he permits himself to entertain, and not by any means the conclusions he draws from these ideas, because these latter are self-evolved.” [School Education (Wilder Publication, 2008) p. 87]

My theology tells me that the whole human nature became corrupt at the Fall and that just as I should not trust my emotions to lead me in correct paths so I should not trust my reason. But truly this is not something that clicked for me to recently. We all like to think that our minds are our own, but even here we must proceed with caution and constantly check ourselves to make sure we are adhering to God’s way and will.  We know that God’s thoughts are high above our own, but still we want to trust our own judgment.

I am not saying we should be against reason. I believe our God is a God of intelligence and thought and we, His people, should be also. We just need to remember that our reason has been corrupted along with the rest of our natures and we must treat it as a servant and not allow it to always rule the day. It is easy to look at others’ lives and wonder how they have managed to reason away what we see as horrendous choices. Let us be careful that we are not doing the same in our own lives.


3 responses to this post.

  1. […] blog carnival was on narration (partly at least; it was on principles 14 and 15) but I blogged on reason, and this week it is on reason and the way of the will but I am blogging on narration. I did not do […]


  2. […] goes on here to talk about the limits of reason and how we really use our reason to justify our own preconceived ideas and cannot therefore trust it […]


  3. […] those decisions are not usually, if ever, based on logical evidence (see two earlier posts: CM on Reason and The Way od […]


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