Faith, doubt, certainty and the leap of faith
he shall end in doubts;
but if he will be content to begin with doubts
he shall end in certainties.
—Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1626)
John Humphrys writes in a Times Online article In God We Doubt what sounds like a thinking man's agnostic position. In the lengthy article he tells of the atheist philospher AC Grayling who co-wrote the play On Religion in which
The night before I got married my brother sat me down in an Indian restaurant and (too many beers) got me to make a list on a napkin of why this girl was the right person for me to marry. One side of the napkin had all the pros and the other side the cons.I certainly find comparing faith to love to be not a stretch at all and quite helpful as the essence of the Christian faith is love. So quoting an atheist philosopher or not, this agnostic had me intrigued. Humphrys goes on to write in the the Times article,
What was fascinating about the list was that nothing I could write down – kind, pretty, warm, sexy, etc – could ever add up to “I love her”. To marry and make the love commitment is the nearest thing to faith I know because it is something done with the same degree of risk.
Would a person who needed everything fully evidenced and rationally demonstrated ever be in a position to say, ‘I love you’? Couldn’t [an atheist] make a case for love being a fiction, a function of human need, a function of biology and selfish genes? He may have many useful and persuasive things to say but there is something deeply mistaken about thinking love is simply reducible to the chemistry of the brain.
Love, like faith, is to make more of a commitment than one can prove. But there is a truth to it that I won’t—indeed can’t—back away from. Of course, there is much to say about all of this and I can think of a dozen reasons why faith and love might look different. But the truth of both is, for me, found in the poetry, not in the science.
This is not an intellectual game. Even if we know what is true – and we don’t – you cannot reduce life to a set of provable realities. Humanity is too complex for that. In the end, it comes down to whether the world would be a better place without religion; and that is a matter of judgment, not certainty.Here is a man unable to prove God's existence to himself, but quite comfortable in seeing how that belief in God has helped millions of people lived more noble lives, rather than deluded ones.
Yes, we loathe and fear the fanaticism that leads to a man strapping a bomb to his body and blowing up other human beings. But we should also fear a world in which the predominant values are materialism and consumerism, and the greatest aspiration of too many children is to become a “celebrity”. The existence of religion can offer some balance in a society obsessed with image, which turns vacuity into virtue....
As for the fanatics – religious or secular – history suggests they succeed only to the extent that we allow ourselves to be defeated by our own irrational fear. For every fanatic there are countless ordinary, decent people who believe in their own version of a benevolent God and wish no harm to anyone. Many of them regard it as their duty to try to make the world a better place.
He is looking from outside the faith in and while I can't share that viewpoint completely as I know there is a God, I can get close to his viewpoint. I do this by not looking at my own faith in God as revealed through Jesus Christ. Instead I look to the faith of a devout Buddhist. Strictly speaking, Buddhism is nontheistic, but it still works as an analogy. I do not believe in the tenants of Buddhism. I just don't. Yet, I do see that Buddhist practice has been very valuable to millions, helping them to live more enriched lives. I suspect this is something like how Humphrys views all faiths.
Where I part company with with him is that I am certain that there are different ways of knowing and some ways of knowing slip throw the net of science and reason. This is why the love analogy above works so well.
I can remove the logical obstacles to faith, but I can't reason someone all the way to heaven. There is a gap that demands a leap of faith. But what I have found, and I hope that you, gentle reader, have as well is that once you make that leap, there is another way of knowing in which one gets the blessed assurance that God is real. The problem is that I can not graft that experience on to a rational explanation and I can not give that experience to others. It takes the leap of faith first, and then comes the assurance.
That's my experience. Does it fit with yours?
The Rev. Frank Logue, Pastor
the evidence of things not seen.