A Danger for Every Wealth

Our Lord's teaching about rich men, camels, and needles' eyes applies directly, I believe, to the deeply learned man, to members of that extremely rare class of the world-historical variety that includes people like Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, Pascal, and Hegel. Someone with this extraordinary intellectual depth and power has the ability to prove to himself and by extension to others, with the appearance of finality—by electing and weighting whichever strands of knowledge he chooses to draw upon—anything he desires to be true, so his intellect (paradoxically, for it is supposed to be the ruling faculty) is even more under the control of his will and his passions than those of lesser minds might be.

Intuiting this, his critics suspect and sometimes mention (but cannot get behind) the primitive desires, often developed in childhood, that control his thought. But neither can they, being unable to answer him antithetically, help him. Such a man, as our Lord indicated in his teaching about wealth, can only be saved by a special act of mercy which gives rise in him to an unfeigned humility, manifest (absent prophetic infallibility) in unfeigned tentativeness about his insights. One thinks here of St. Thomas's late judgment upon the insubstantiality of his own monumental work. With God all things are possible, so even a rich man may be saved.

S. M. Hutchens is a senior editor.


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