Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Faith is Weak

It was not always that way. As Matthew Arnold once wrote, the Sea of Faith was once, too, at the full. But since then has come the Enlightenment and the rewriting of the histories and lives of men.

In the past, you could believe. These days, belief is so weak that you need proof, without which you cannot believe. These days, faith is so weak that you need signs. I watch my fellow journeymen, my fellow Christians, and I realise that our common danger is that we are either Judaists or Graeco-Roman philosophers, just as is implied in this passage.

The key verses from the first epistle to the Corinthians read:

For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom — but we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; but unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

This is it. The Judaists require signs to establish faith; the Greeks require philosophy (sophia means 'wisdom') — but the Christian faith in its strength needs neither. There is no need for proof; only defence of belief and reliability of witness.

To the material world, which I sometimes spend time debating, I have one main argument: how do you know what you know? The answer normally is either given in terms of signs (sensory perception, data) or by sophistry and logic. But none of these is reliable except by itself; it is reason that makes us trust reason, and our senses that lead us to trust our senses. All these things are circular in nature.

But I assert that which I believe: that though I am doomed in my sins, I am saved by God through no inherent virtue of my own. At which point, the materialist says, "You make this assertion, you have to prove it." And I reply, "No, I need not prove it except to convince you. And only the Spirit of God can do that. I need not prove it to myself, because flawed as I am, I believe."

The materialist says, "Your God is inconsistent, he defies logic." My answer is, "If He were consistent, then He could not be God." But isn't consistency a virtue? Isn't it true that God says He is the same always? No, He never says He is logically consistent; He is always the same but He is never quite perceivable as the same, being infinite.

How else would an infinite deity behave? Any of the proofs a materialist might demand would immediately make a not-God. Any limitation on His morality, His powers, His behaviour, His reason, this would make Him the slave of the material.

And so, I rest in a faith that is stronger than I. My own faith does not avail, for I am a scientist, a teacher, a philosopher, a person who must learn to put all that aside for this most important single matter. Then only, can I believe.

Labels: , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home