Wednesday, August 15, 2007

A reasonable faith

Phew. I'll have to address this in small bits. It's too much to cover in one response, I'm afraid.

Basically, the pull you're feeling goes back (articulately, at least) to Kierkegard* (sp? too lazy to look it up today) who drove one of the final wedges between reason and faith with his ludicrous notion of the "leap of faith." His thoughts were that the spiritual could only be understood by the spirit, and the physical and rational could only be understood in terms on mind and senses. He really intended good, I think. But it's had a horrible effect on the lifestyle of faith, as Christians throughout history began to turn off their brains in effort to turn on their souls, I suppose you could say. We've sadly even rejoiced in the idea that we could be more spiritual by simple having a "blind faith" than the "reasonable faith" that is so lauded in the New Testament writings. We've unfortunately swallowed K-gard's axiom hook, line, and sinker.

However, let me back up for a moment and say there will always be things that don't seem to reconcile... for the time being. Science may be exact science, but it's one based on adapting and proving theories and testing hypotheses to get to the truth. And then you have to take into account that philosophy and religion aren't exact sciences, and aren't written that way. A very wise person once explained to me that when my faith and my intelligence don't jibe exactly, it's either because I'm misinterpreting my faith to be something it's not intended to mean, do, or say OR that my intelligence hasn't learned all the facts yet. The rub is that I'm not in a position often to know which is the case.

But that means something entirely different than turning off my mind. It means I go back and re-examine my faith and philosophy and set about to learn more about the world, science, history, and humanity.

Ironically, prior to K-gard, the majority of the world operated under the idea the faith could be reasonable, and didn't compartmentalize the world into reason and faith, or sacred and profane. (Although I believe Augustine may have also talked in depth about this idea -- particularly in his City of God -- and been a major influence on K-gard.)

I believe as you do that "Things have to be logical to me." In other words, I have to be able to reason with them in a way that doesn't ask me to turn off my brain. I don't believe that having faith asks me to do that. Not even the Christian faith (though NOT what usually what passes for it in many churches today). If something is true, and by that I mean intrinsically** true, then it's true for mind, body, and spirit. It can't just pick and choose one or the other.

I think there's a reason that God (in Christian scripture) asks us to love him (her, it, take your pick -- God is spirit, after all, right?) with all our heart, soul, and mind. In other words, with all our emotions, spirit, and logic and reason. When we can't do that, we don't really have much of a faith at all, at least not in my opinion.

But being reasonable doesn't always mean being 100 percent sure. Look back to science. We disproof theories and hypothesis with each new century. Or it's like when the courts ask you to decide beyond a reasonable doubt. It means that even though God himself doesn't drop you a signed email, they may be other evidences to weigh in favor of faith. Even the courts don't ask you to submit proof positive, just enough to set up the case beyond a reasonable doubt. But that's really neither here nor there.

Faith is a personal matter. In many ways you either simply believe it or you don't. But I feel for you. I had a crisis very similar to this right before Lisa and I married, but I wouldn't trade anything for it now. Going through that crisis forced me to really decide what I believe and hammer it down with the evidences I mentioned in passing earlier. Before the crisis I merely believed, now I really believe, and some of those beliefs altered as they went through the experience. Hell, my beliefs about the church are changing even now as I study church history and the New Testament church in practice.

Lewis' Mere Christianity is good start at approaching faith from a purely reasonable and logical manner. Another more recent book dealing with resolving the supposed conflict between reason and faith is Ravi Zacharias' Can Man Live Without God?. Granted, both are written from the vantage point of a Christian believer. Still, both are enjoyable reads, regardless of your belief system, I'd think -- if you favor such subject matter as reason and faith and logic and philosophy, that is.

* NOTE: Arrrgh. Now that I think about it, I'm beginning to second guess myself. It may have been Hegel instead of K-gard. I'll have to look it up to be sure.

** NOTE: By "intrinsic," I mean stuff like the color blue. While the word "blue" may not be intrisically true, the nature of what we call "blue" is. Something intrinsic in its nature sets it apart from what we call "red" or "water." That's a distinction we seldom make in postmodernism -- or even in our post-postmodernism -- between our understanding of something and the something itself.

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