Faith as Tacit Knowledge
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
Faith is seeing the invisible or is it seeing the unseen? One day I was riding with my son in law who is an avid hunter. As we were riding along he kept saying “Look, do see the deer?” My useless reply was, “Where?” Then he would point to a spot in the woods and say“There!” However, often even after he pointed out the spot I could not see the deer.
This leads me to the question why. Why could he see the deer, and I could not? I concluded that there were only four possible answers. 1. He had more practice than me. You know the old saying ‘practice makes perfect.’ 2. That he and others have a gift of seeing, i.e. they’re wired differently than other people. 3. It was a combination of both one and two. 4. He was delusional and there were no deer there.
The following is based on my thinking about the above experiences. My first observation is that the more you know about a thing the easier it is to find it and see it. My son in law knows a lot about deer, so he knows what to look for and where to look. I do not. His knowledge has come from years of his personal experience of hunting deer. His knowledge of deer is twofold, it is both objective and tacit. By tacit I mean intuitive. He has a gift of seeing and picking the deer out of the background environment. He does not have the gift because he loves to hunt; he loves to hunt because he has the gift.
My second observation was that people see what they expect to see; what they are looking for and what they want to see. This means that sometimes the knowledge of something and believing it’s there helps you to see. If you do not believe something might be there, you will not even be looking for it. Therefore, unbelief tends to close your eyes and your mind to seeing and believing.
I hike often with a friend who climbs a small mountain on a daily basis. Often he climbs it twice in one day and is on his way down the first time before I start climbing up. My friend prides himself on his awareness so I decided to put his ability to the test to see how much of his surroundings he was actually aware of. So, I began to hide from him to see how long it would take for him notice me. I began by hiding behind large obstacles like trees and rocks, but as the experiment when on I made myself more and more obvious. It finally reach the point that I simply squatted down in the middle of the trail. I was simply amazed at how close he got to me before seeing me. Of course, my last experiment was done on a steeper part of the trail where one is prone to be watching where they are stepping.
My experience lent support to the theory that you tend to see what you are looking for and fail to see what you are not looking for, even if it is self-evident. In other words, you see what you expect to see and you see what you are looking for. Also being intensely focused on one thing causes you not to see or notice other things. We could infer from this that specialization causes people to be blind to other things and to even be ignorant of their own blindness.
There are hidden clues which point to the fact that there is more than meets the eye. Ancient seers who had the ability to see the clues of the unseen labeled them as “faith or revelation”. In this, faith is the product of revelation or God lifting the veil that humans can see the clues to his existence. In this, there is nothing strange with some men seeing God better than others. In fact, it is the norm. The idea that God must show himself equal to all men comes from a Democratic ideology more than sound reason. From this, we can gather, that there is a good reason to follow some men’s opinion on spiritual things. One of the ways you can tell who to follow is laid down by Jesus when he said, by their fruits you shall know them.
The Ideal Of The Holy
Albert Einstein said, “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed. This insight into the mystery of life, coupled though it be with fear, has also given rise to religion. To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their most primitive forms — this knowledge, this feeling, is at the center of true religiousness. In this sense, and in this sense only, I belong in the ranks of devoutly religious men.”
Rudolf Otto wrote a book entitled ‘The Ideal Of The Holy’ in which he attempts to explain the spiritual experience that Einstein describes and what Otto goes on to refer to as the numinous, which he believes is a sign which points to the deity and could be likened to the voice of God that beckons man to his true center.
The sub-title to Otto’s book of ‘The Idea of the Holy’ is ‘An Inquiry into the Non-Rational Factor in the Idea of the Divine and its Relation·to the Rational’, In the book Otto points out that numinous is not rational or reasonable but it not irrational or unreasonable, it is simply outside of those categories. You might call it is super-rational.
It is this numinous experience that the atheist lacks. Because he has not experienced it, it is impossible for him to understand someone who has experienced it like Albert Einstein. Einstein had experienced the Totally Other which was beyond his explanatory powers to communicate it to those who had not experienced it, those that he referred to as dead or blind. Otto’s book is the best attempt I have seen to put the experience into words. You can get a PDF copy at the below address.
The Logic of Believing In A Supreme Being
The problem with believing in a supreme being or God is that it no longer fits in our paradigm. Our paradigm used to be one of kingship or feudalism, now it is one of democracy and egalitarianism both of which does not fit well with a belief in a supreme being. What is a paradigm? A paradigm is a framework of beliefs containing the basic assumptions or ways of thinking, that are commonly accepted by members of a culture. Often paradigms are held subconsciously by the group. They are looked upon as just the way things are, or reality itself.
Under a feudal paradigm it was much easier to believe in a supreme being because it seemed normal and natural. It actually reflected our culture. However, that is no longer true. In the west today, the dominant paradigm is democratic, which leaves the West open to atheism and agnosticism.
The loss of faith in the 20th century is largely the result of a paradigm change from hierarchy to democratic and has little to do with evidence for or against God, nor does it have much to do with one’s intelligence. The decline of faith and its institutions has more to do, for the larger part of the population, with paradigm changes and group think. Being a believer in God in a democratic society is much harder than having faith under a feudal or kingship paradigm.
This brings us to the question, is it logical to believe in a supreme being? For many, the answer would depend on the paradigm that they have accepted. If you accept the hierarchy paradigm, the supreme being would be the one on the top of the pyramid or hierarchy, and it would be reasonable. If you accept a democratic paradigm, logically you cannot have a supreme being, for all beings are equal. A hierarchy would seem strange and maybe unreasonable.
The big question, is does reality or nature support one paradigm more than another? When this question is asked the democratic paradigmatic is totally void of evidence and seems to be totally opposite of a paradigm based on nature. There is nothing democratic about the universe. Everything in nature represents hierarchy moving from the simple to the complex. In this, the natural paradigm supports a hierarchy of being. Taken to its logical conclusion it supports a supreme being paradigm. In this, it is reasonable to think that nature would reflect its creator and the created order.
The end of a democratic paradigm can be seen when you attempt to force a hive of bees to live without a queen. The obvious outcome is the death of the hive. This might explain the reason why, that when a democracy fails it usually is replaced by a totalitarian system ruled by a hierarchy. We see the force of paradigms at work in Western culture and we are witnessing the demise of the hive for accepting a paradigm which is contrary to the natural order.