Monday, February 15, 2010

A well reasoned faith-

In my prior post I presented a little video indicating (among other things) that one cannot argue unbelievers into the Kingdom of Heaven. I concluded with the statement that belief is a choice. I hold to that, because I believe it to be true.

If our faith is not based on reasoned arguments, but on something else, what is that "something else?" Ultimately, it is subjective experience. For the individual it is all that came to pass in their life that compelled them to believe in the existence of God, and all other subsequent related beliefs. 

For some it is a culture so entwined with a belief in God that it is a small step from unbelief to belief. It comes so naturally that the very thought of unbelief is itself unbelievable. For others it is a complex amalgam of internal and external compulsions driving toward a dramatic change of core beliefs. I suspect that most believers have an experience somewhere in between these extremes.

Being social creatures, the outworking of such subjective experiences in concert with other human beings leads to faith centered social orders. In other words, churches and like social bodies. Modes of organizing thoughts regarding subjectively acquired beliefs have eventually formed vast libraries of reasonings. These would be the libraries of religious thought, vast bodies of documentation. Reasons for believing, brought together from a vast history of subjective experiences relative to the creator of all things.

I have been very general here, to be inclusive of all religious experience and the whole body of religious literature. I now narrow the focus toward the Christian faith, to which I subscribe. Over time a body of that literature became recognized by authorities in the Church as authoritative and inspired by God. Within that context a well reasoned faith will be based on such literature, and cite that literature to support the faith that was acquired subjectively.

For much of history a convert to a faith has been expected to subject themselves to the religious order into which they had been inducted. Such practice insured the new believer a context in which to grow in knowledge, and provided a lot of emotional support for the individual as well as a context for correction of both behavior and thought.

Such subjugation in family, tribe and culture has been pretty much the norm for many centuries. It had the positive effect of insuring a consistent context for living and the protection of numbers. It was a herd, moving together, but far more complex in dynamics. Religious orders grew up in such contexts, shaping and being shaped by them.

Our modern era has several challenges to a well reasoned faith.

First is the growth of individualism. Where in the past a convert would subject themselves to an order which superseded their individuality to a large degree, and which would impress them with their beliefs and the reasonings behind those beliefs, now a convert is left with a lot of that to do on their own. However, a well reasoned faith still exits within the context of a system of belief.

Secondly, our era has been subjected to a new way of thinking. Prior orders depended a great deal on their authority. You believed what they said because they had authority, which was granted by God. They were the context of knowledge and truth.

In an era of individualism such an idea is distasteful in itself. In an era of scientific thinking, it is unthinkable. Truth exists objectively. I hope to address the idea of objective truth in a future post. Suffice it to say that objectivity is a rather elusive quality, and objective Truth with a capital T not all that easy to find.

The body of religious literature was largely written in ancient forms of argument. They were not designed to be subjected to scientific analysis. The religious experience is largely subjective, and the direction of science is objectivity. Religious history and literature is the context of religious experience, and is purposed to support those subjective experiences.

A well reasoned faith need not stand up to the rigors of scientific analysis. Science can dissect your faith, and some information may be gained, but your faith may well die under that cold scrutiny. Faith is a living thing, and should be nurtured as such.

We don't come by our faith through scientific inquiry and analysis. We come by our faith through living, through our experiences and through the openness of our hearts. In my own case I was driven to it, largely against my will. Yet in the end it is something I chose. 

Faith is choosing to believe, every day. Choose wisely. Choose well.

1 comment:

mac said...

Nicely put.

I'm not really a science minded person, but I lack faith also.

It may well have been my sense of self, as you mention, that causes me to doubt the existence of deities, and have disdain for religion.

I don't. But, if you have faith and it serves you well, I say good on ya :-)