Wednesday, May 19, 2010


(I'm sorry, I didn't mean to write such a long post)

When I wrote to L'Abri, asking about going (coming?) in the fall, I told them, "I want to spend some time immersed in thought, surrounded by people who are doing the same, and living realistically. I want to spend time deciding what it is I believe, and preparing myself to live out those beliefs."

I'm re-reading That Hideous Strength for my summer trip, today, MacPhee said, "I wish, Ma'am, you could see your way to consider the matter without constantly using such terms as believe. Obviously, conjuring is one of the hypotheses that any impartial investigator must take into account. The fact that it is a hypothesis specially uncongenial to the emotions of this investigator or that, is neither here nor there."

Having beliefs is important to me. I don't think that we can live without them (at least, that's one of mine.) But having reasons is important to me. Having "no opinions of my own", but only objective reasons for the things that I believe.

I wondered, when I read the parts with MacPhee in them, about my own belief. "I believe in Christianity like I believe the sun has risen. Not only because I can see it, but because by it I can see all things." I want to have a true, justified belief. Now, that belief is in Christianity. There are some things that are - either backwards, or only some way different - about my belief. And these are things that I'm not sure are right. Some people - in my imagination, at least - believe in Christianity and then reconcile it to the world around them. They begin with faith, and move towards justified faith. I don't think this is wrong. I think it is... perhaps unfortunate? I'm not sure, but for some reason, I don't want that to be me. On the other hand, I try - or want to - do the opposite. Begin with the world, and use reason to see whether or not Christianity conforms to reality.

An example, perhaps, would help.

Many six day creationists start from the bible and then try to bend the world to fit into a literal interpretation of genesis. Ken Ham, I believe, does this. That is to say, they trust scripture (technically, their ability to interpret scripture) more then they trust scientific data. (Please, please understand that what the scientific data actually says matters very little here. If it contradicts their interpretation of scripture, young-earth creationists will dismiss it as false. If it agrees with their interpretation of scripture, young-earth creationists will use it as evidence.) Their result never deviates from their hypothesis, regardless of what the objective facts actually are. (Also, please, please understand that I don't mean this of all young-earth creationists)

My own position is, I think, based even more heavily on a belief in the validity of scripture. I believe that I can trust my observations of the universe (science), and that scripture wouldn't tell us something false. Therefore, if science contradicts the scriptures, one of three things must be wrong. Either the observations are inaccurate - this can be verified. My interpretation of the scriptures could be false - a different interpretation is needed. Or, my faith in either science or the scriptures is a false one. Knowing my own limitations, the one I am most likely to distrust is my own ability to interpret the scriptures. That is to say, my beliefs in the trustworthiness of observation (science) and in the truthfulness of scripture have proved themselves to be justified beliefs. In that, by them I can see all things. Reality conforms to yet another belief of mine - non-contradiction - when I accept observation and scripture.

So... what do I have faith in? I have faith in science... more, even, then I have faith in a literal interpretation of scripture. Rather, I have more faith in the truthfulness of scripture than I do in my ability to correctly interpret it.

I wonder, sometimes, if I'm making some sort of Pascal's wager. Not in the usual way, wagering that their is a God because - if right - eternal joy is mine and - if wrong - non-being isn't going to be so rough. But in acknowledging that I may be wrong, that Christianity is only one of many hypothesis and has - until this time - withstood the rigors of testing. My faith, then, is not in Christianity, but in the process by which I have derived a belief in Christianity. Seeking after truth demands that if Christianity were proved false (don't ask me how) I discredit it as a logical explanation of the universe. My faith is in one unifying truth, not in Christianity. Christianity is only the best - thus far - fit, so to speak.

I've talked to my dad about belief and faith and doubt and knowledge. He told me that faith is a feeling, a feeling that he couldn't describe and that he desperately wanted to share with me. I very nearly hate that. My search for a unifying truth is intellectual, only my desire for a unifying truth is emotional. I have an emotional need, but it must be filled intellectually. How is that?

1 comment:

  1. "Begin with the world, and use reason to see whether or not Christianity conforms to reality."

    You could. But then (if Christianity does conform to reality) you wouldn't have to necessarily believe. I think the whole point with Christianity is that it doesn't conform to reality (at least in the way people see it [specifically the people who don't believe in Christianity])

    "My search for a unifying truth is intellectual, only my desire for a unifying truth is emotional. I have an emotional need, but it must be filled intellectually."

    I think that once you find the unifying truth and understand it intellectually, it will apply straight to your emotions. They go hand-in-hand in a very real sense.