Friday, July 3, 2009

Vintage: Going in Blind

("Going in Blind" was written by me almost a year ago now as a Facebook note, hence the title "Vintage". I guess this means I'm getting lazy, and if you are familiar with this particular note, I'm sorry. However, I really like it (humble, ain't I?) and am reusing it here with the first paragraph modified a bit to make the thought more universal...)

Today's society enjoys scorning the idea of faith. They believe that if they can corner a Christian to admit that they are relying on faith, than the believer's ideas are nullified and illogical. Probably because in the secular world, there is a major misconception about not only the Christian understanding of faith, but the whole notion of faith itself.

By society's definition, "faith" means believing in something while lacking substantial evidence to do so. They tend to think that faith has nothing to do with truth or reality. Some would even argue that this is precisely the reason Christianity is called a "faith" in the first place - because it doesn't correspond to reality. To them, faith is something we are either brainwashed to believe (most likely when we are young) or something that we come to believe out of shear primal necessity, always in the absence of any evidence to do so (the hologram of a safety net, if you will. It's not really there, but it's mentally comforting anyway.) This has a profound impact on the discussions about God a Christian experiences with non-believers, as the questioner no longer asks for evidence/rationalities of God's existence, but rather focuses on the believers themselves and tries to find explanations as to what would cause them to believe in such absurdities in the first place.

Put in easier terms, faith is construed as the ability to believe in something that you have no idea about (a shot in the dark, a blind leap). By that measure, a strong faith would be believing in something you suspect isn't true, and the strongest faith of all is believing in something that you KNOW isn't true. By this assumption, faith disappears in the presence of knowledge and hard facts. So once the other side has me admitting faith, they could mentally draw me as an unknowledgeable crazy person clinging to my beliefs for psychological benefits in the absence of reality, and there was really (from their point of view) no more arguing left to be done. The belief in the absurdity of faith is actually more common than you might think (if you happen to be under the delusion that it's uncommon...). Apologist Michael Ramsden gave one example of how it works its way into discussion:

"When people say to me, 'Michael, I am so happy that you're a Christian, and I wish I could believe what you believe, but I can't.' What they usually mean is this, 'Michael, I am so happy that you are happy. There seems to be a joy and completeness in your life that I find attractive. But the reason you are happy is because you are a Christian. In other words, you believe in things that are not true or real.' (Now what do you call people who believe in things that are not there? The answer is: lunatics.) So rephrased one last time, 'Michael, you are actually completely insane. But the main thing is that your delusional mind keeps you happy. And I am happy that you are happy. As a matter of fact, I'm so desperate to be as happy as you, that I too would embrace insanity just to join you, but I can't do it. I've thought about it, but I just can't.'"

Sadly, this view about faith as believing what cannot be justified is held not only by secularists, but also by many Christians themselves (Yes, in a theoretical sense these "believers" consider themselves insane, and their "beliefs" unjustifiable). They downplay the human ability to know God on a personal level, question the validity of the Bible as the inspired word of God, and rely on the "feelings" they get during a worship service or other such activities as substantial evidence for their "faith" in Him. In turn, they do not engage with others about the value of Christ in their lives because they do not think that their belief is logically arguable in the first place (among other reasons...), and most importantly, while relying on shallow "feelings" they experience instead of truly seeking God, they never get to know Him very well themselves.

But faith is not a blind leap into the dark, nor is it the act of wishing something were true that we know deep down is probably not. When I say I have faith in God, I am not saying that I have placed blind hope in his existence. I KNOW he exists. Saying I have faith in God is to be measured on the same grounds as me saying I have faith in the Canadian Prime Minister (I would use the President of the United States here, but that might give off the wrong impression these days). It is making the proclamation that I believe in the Minister's moral character and his good judgment as an individual; not that I am personally hoping he exists. In the exact same sense, having faith in God means that I trust Him completely, and that I expect Him to make His decisions with my eternal best interest at heart. That is what faith is.

Furthermore, when it comes right down to it, everyone places faith in something or someone. Atheists place faith in themselves and their own ability to determine that God doesn't exist, agnostics place faith in their knowledge that God is unknowable (a contradiction unto itself I might add, if nothing can be known about God how can we know he's unknowable?), Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims... Everybody on this planet has a faith of some kind that they have placed somewhere, even the ones who want to pretend that they don't care about meta-narratives (overarching or transcendent views of reality) because denial of all meta-narratives is itself a meta-narrative. Therefore to point out where somebody begins to rely on faith is to point out the obvious and the necessary. If I am correct in my assertion that faith is a universal human trait, the question then becomes, where have you placed yours?

"Our careless feet leaving trails; never minding the fragile dirt we all end in." - Demon Hunter

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