October 23, 2012

Leap of Faith: Why Do We Believe What We Believe?

[This is the 1000th post on SoulJournaler!]

{*insert sound of cheers and wild applause here*}

Here comes another one of those deeply philosophical posts. If it's too much just bail on it. If not, stick with it and it will be worth the payoff in the end...I needed something grand for my 1000th. 

Doubt is called into play in Descartes’ Meditations (of First Philosophy). On what can be called into doubt Descartes states that we should withhold assent from anything uncertain just as much as from anything we can clearly be seen as false. If we are unsure, it should be subject to question(s). Perceiving is not just a pure passive registration by the senses. Descartes says that implicit in all perception is judgment of giving assent. We are drawing inferences or making decisions based on data. At times they can become confused or fuzzy but by the application of ideas that are clear and distinct these confused aspects can be corrected. In the end people are asked to reject faith without reason and accept a faith in reason and this is hardly a biblical stance. That so many will build off of Descartes premises makes for mixed results, many of which run way wide of Scripture. Descartes calls for what can only be construed as radical individualism. This is strangely like the American (cowboy) persona. We are called to doubt all unless one can be sure distinct and clear. Although Descartes will argue for the existence of God, his line of thought will eventually be used to preclude or dismiss God completely in favor of what can be experimentally verifiable in things like empiricism. As this line of thinking progresses through the decades and centuries that follow his Meditations that support atheistic and agnostic presuppositions. It is strange to think that thoughts of Descartes would be used so vehemently to disprove God's very existence by people that read his philosophy. Descartes who actually believed in God enough to form a critique of reasoning to justify His existence. It is his discovery of Cogito Ergo Sum or “I think therefore I exist” is a concept impossible to doubt and is, therefore, absolutely certain. It is from this point that Descartes proceeds to demonstrate God's existence and that God cannot be a deceiver. Later philosophers will use his theories to build their own godless ones including people like Hegel and Marx.

Faith of course is just the opposite. Fideism or faith as it is to be understood by a Christian is a term used in epistemology (study of knowledge) which says knowledge in faith is independent of reason. There can be intermixing variations of doubt and faith but for clarity I will maintain the extreme distinctions between the two. Faith assumes reason - faith are hostile or antagonistic to each other and faith is superior at arriving at particular truths (existence of God). To assuage doubt man needs to either turn to reason or faith to resolve the problem. Empiricism and existentialism says that we cannot rely on faith, yet the Bible and the Christian faith tells this is exactly what we can and need to rely on for the only thing that matters: Eternal Life. Since the modern world thinks in terms of empiricism and existentialism and requires truth or proofs based in a posteriori evidences (evidences through sense experience like sight, sound, touch, etc) …it is therefore epistemologically (knowledge) incompatible with one of Christianity’s basic tenants. Salvation is through faith alone (Ephesians 2:8).

We can try as much as we want through reasoning and the cosmological, teleological, anthropological and ontological and other logic arguments to prove God’s existences, it will only get us to the threshold of fideism and the need for faith. As a matter of fact it will require a “leap of faith” (a la Søren Kierkegaard) to cross the perceived chasm between the two. As the Bible says, it will require the Holy Spirit. The sole empirical “evidences” for God have been revealed through General Revelation and Special Revelation. For the empiricist or scientific type, General Revelation is just science, nothing more. Special Revelation for them does not even exist.

Although God may be evident in the Creation to a Christian because His fingerprints are all over it, an empiricist will usually only see the product of chemical reactions and scientific phenomena (physical evidences). It all boils down to how you interpret the data. As such scientific types will require a posteriori evidences to prove God’s existence. God, ironically who is a priori (before sense experience). As for Special Revelation, the empiricist will dismiss this knowledge of God as somehow empirical also and will attempt to explain it way through empirical means since Special Revelation is outside the given framework of their thinking. They limit themselves to the a posteriori. Therefore anything a priori (like God) is beyond their ability to grasp properly because they are coming to it with their very observation capabilities skewed. They have precluded and lopped off half of reality and can only view a priori through an a posteriori lens making God invisible or deny Him outright as non-existent...as many like to say, He is a “fairy tale”. The reality is that they are self-limiting their knowledge on purpose and this amounts to a myopic worldview and creates a false dichotomy. Said another way, if we use only empiricism, rationalism or reason as the sole avenue to God, we will never find Him. This is because many of the things of God are spiritual in nature and therefore spiritually discerned outside General Revelation (1 Corinthians 2:14).

There are things involved in the belief of God called risk and uncertainty because salvation and belief of what Jesus did for us is to be based in faith alone (Sola Fide). Whenever there is uncertainty and risk, there is bound to be doubt as man is sinful and usually...dumb (from sin). Man can devise as many possible avenues he wants to find God. The proper way find and understand Him starts in fideism and once found we are to use reason and rational (theological) based in what He has given us to understand Him (Jesus and the Bible), to love Him and to have a relationship with Him. The very premise of a relationship assumes knowledge of something whether it is in faith alone or faith and theological reasoning combined. We cannot have a relationship with a fairy tale. Our reality is a relationship with a real person. Our reality is based in relationship, just as the basis for the Trinity or Godhead is an existence based in relation. Without relational familial attributes, the Godhead cannot exist. The Godhead is exists in a relational manner...so too would be God's relational creations that are made in His image. Therefore our truest evidence of a true relational Triune Godhead is a cognizant relational or familial grouping of people in the will or worship of God with the mind of Christ/God. A family, a Church, a Church Family...κοινωνία/koinonia.

Not much of a leap is it? A leap would imply we needed to do something. It's like jumping into your father's arms as a child. Risky? Yes and no. Did you ever think your father would miss you and you would fall? Hardly. We believe and have faith because we trust. We trust because we have a relation based on knowledge of our loving counterpart not necessarily because there is some empirical physical evidence of that relationship. He is a Counterpart who is, among other things, a Father, our Savior and ironically...a Comforter.

I see no leap here...only a relationship based in trust and commitment to one another. Just like a family. Just like a parent to child and child to a parent. Just like a marriage. At the core of which is a self-giving sacrificial: ἀγάπη/agape love. A love of a parent to a child: στοργή/storgē. A love of of loyalty to family and friends: φιλία/philía. And even a love strangely passionate and deeply emotional with pangs of longing for one when they are absent from our lives: ἔρως/érōs

1 comment:

Pal Owen said...

I very much appreciate the above "lesson." It was no small task, in my opinion, and was very well done.

Where did you find the photo of the child jumping into his father's arms? I am doing a project from my days as a probation officer with juveniles, most of whom had no fathers involved in their ives.
My email address is palorann@gmail.com. My personal cell phone is (615) 828-3862. Am a 72 yr old grandfather of five.
Thank you, Pal Owen

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