May 03 2009

Faith only in uncertainty

Category: philosophy,science,theology,Uncategorizedharmonicminer @ 4:48 pm

In this skeptical world, it seems everyone wants evidence of everything. Fortunately, there are two central facts that intrude:

1) Almost nothing really important can be proved in the way skeptics demand.  They can’t even prove that they exist, that there is such a thing as “thought,” or “personality,” or “identity,” or “love,” or even “memory.”  Radical skepticism allows only for electro-chemical states in the brain that don’t mean anything in particular except to other electro-chemical states in other brains…  if there are really other electro-chemical states.  What’s really funny is their touching faith that the universe can be apprehended by “logic” (who revealed THAT to them?), and that the universe somehow developed, all on it’s own, minor extrusions with electro-chemical brain states capable of acting as disinterested observers and evaluators of fact.  How did THAT work, again?

2)  Even radical skeptics believe that there is some level of evidence that a person should be willing to accept for the facts of history, human psychology, cultural development, scientific knowability of the universe, ethical presuppositions for humans, etc.  Without some willingness to accept different kinds of evidence for different kinds of propositions and assertions about the nature of reality, there is no hope of considering both science and history to be sources of “knowledge.”   And a corollary: nearly every kind of really important information or concept is “inferential,” meaning we can’t know everything about it, and we only know it because of a confluence of evidence that points to it, but doesn’t (and can’t) directly prove it in the deductive way that simple mathematical propositions can sometimes be proved (actually, less often than many people think —  ask a math geek to explain “decidability” to you sometime).

If a person is willing to accept the notion that we all make decisions based on incomplete information, that the most important decisions of our lives are based not on deductive calculation but on inferential response to incomplete evidence (what career to pursue, who to marry, who to trust, how to raise our kids, what matters more than what, what’s right and what’s wrong), then the grounds for radical skepticism are removed, about God, about a Creator who IS Intelligence and so made a Creation that includes the possibility (inevitability?) of it, and who might make provision for His creatures to know something about Him and His plans for them (special and general revelation).  If radical skepticism is no longer a rational response (and it isn’t to anything that really matters), then we’re left with sifting evidence, considering what we know and don’t know (or can‘t know), and casting our net very wide for many different kinds of information, to see if, taken together, they point to anything, if there is anything we can infer.

This is the point where just a tiny amount of faith is enough, enough to take that first step.  What is that first step?  Believing that there may be something to find, so that you don’t stop looking.  From that tiny opening, God works, in tiny steps, piece by piece, helping you build your faith a mite at a time, so that as you grow in faith and understanding (and make no mistake, genuine progress in either causes the other to grow), you find more and more ways that seemingly tiny bits of life and information fit together, and all reveal the glory of God.

There are, of course, secular zealots who hate the very idea of God. But the tide of history, contrary to their opinions, is against them, and the greatest minds of history have disagreed with them. What we need now is an infusion of courage in believers, so that they will not only stand their ground, but advance, the only rational response to the complexity of being a human being in this created order:

When that great saint Thomas More, Chancellor of England, was on trial for his life for daring to defy Henry VIII, one of his prosecutors asked him if it did not worry him that he was standing out against all the bishops of England.He replied: ‘My lord, for one bishop of your opinion, I have a hundred saints of mine.’

Now, I think of that exchange and of his bravery in proclaiming his faith. Our bishops and theologians, frightened as they have been by the pounding of secularist guns, need that kind of bravery more than ever.

Sadly, they have all but accepted that only stupid people actually believe in Christianity, and that the few intelligent people left in the churches are there only for the music or believe it all in some symbolic or contorted way which, when examined, turns out not to be belief after all.

As a matter of fact, I am sure the opposite is the case and that materialist atheism is not merely an arid creed, but totally irrational.

Materialist atheism says we are just a collection of chemicals. It has no answer whatsoever to the question of how we should be capable of love or heroism or poetry if we are simply animated pieces of meat.

The Resurrection, which proclaims that matter and spirit are mysteriously conjoined, is the ultimate key to who we are. It confronts us with an extraordinarily haunting story.

It takes faith to overcome doubt, do the right thing, and live the right way, but not blind faith.

The only blind faith on offer is the type it takes to believe in materialist atheism, which is not scientific in the slightest, since it takes a most unscientific position about where science came from.

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