Irenic Thoughts

Irenic. The word means peaceful. This web log (or blog) exists to create an ongoing, and hopefully peaceful, series of comments on the life of King of Peace Episcopal Church. This is not a closed community. You are highly encouraged to comment on any post or to send your own posts.


Faith, doubt, certainty and the leap of faith

If a man will begin with certainties,
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.

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.

a leap of faithWould 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.
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,
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.

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.
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.

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

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for,
the evidence of things not seen.
—Hebrews 11:1

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  • At 9/11/2007 1:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    It looks scary? Very hard to reach.

  • At 9/11/2007 2:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I'm not sure if my experience is a leap of faith, but I did receive a gift from God that sealed my faith.

    Up until a couple of years ago, I believed in God simply because I was afraid not to. I attended church regularly and prayed, but I never really felt anything or knew if God was actually with me, listening.

    One particular evening, I attended a rosary for a dying friend. The church was packed with his loving friends and family. After the rosary, he got up to speak. Even though he was dying, his faith was incredible, strong and unshaken. At that moment, something came over me and I felt the Holy Spirit as if I could reach out and touch Him. I was completely speechless for three days after. My priest at that time said that it was holiness recognizing itself, and that's why I was rendered quiet.

    Since that moment, I am able to recognize the hand of God working in my life and the lives of others every single day. I don't think I lept into faith, but was drawn into it by His loving touch.

  • At 9/11/2007 3:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    That, is what I am searching for!

    That unwavering feeling that I know he is with me always.

  • At 9/11/2007 4:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I wasn't searching...I was on my knees begging! I even wrote letters to Him and left them on the altar--everyday!!! I couldn't even be sure that He was there.

    I think when I stopped demanding what I wanted and sat quietly and opened my heart, I was able to feel Him. I knew that He had been there all along. I was simply blinded by me and my demands and too much other stuff!

    I don't believe you have to search, just sincerely make yourself available to Him and He'll let you know He's there.

    That same priest told me that he no longer felt the Holy Spirit like he once had, and the same thing happened to Mother Teresa. Maybe that's the leap of faith--knowing that you are not abandoned and continuing in His name when you no longer feel Him around.

  • At 9/11/2007 8:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I feel like I'm on my knees more than I am standing. I just don't know how to open up. I want the faith that will carry me through to where I know I need to be. I just don't know how to get to that place.

  • At 9/11/2007 9:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Stay consistent. Say all that you need to say but allow equal and quiet time for Him. Sometimes, when I am not seeing or understanding, I ask God to send angels for clarity. Don't give up! He's there! Your faith must be strong if you spend so much time on your knees in prayer! :)

  • At 9/11/2007 9:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Thank You!


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