Faith Versus Reason

Faith Versus Reason

To have faith is to confess bias.  However, all beliefs are grounded and based on faith, at least initially.  Our very language supports this, “I believe in reason.”  You must have faith in reason before you attempt to use it.  In the end there is a faith element in everything we believe and do, it all begins with faith.  But, in many cases the faith element is tacit, hidden or so small it remains unnoticed.  Sometimes it is referred to by other names such as a hunch, intuition or hypothesis, but however small, it is there.  Faith is the beginning of knowledge.  The affirmation “I believe” is the beginning of all thought.

Some seem to believe the way to true knowledge is by endless questioning and doubting.  However, this is a belief that in itself requires faith.  Should we doubt everything except our doubts?  Now, do not get me wrong, there is a place in our thought process for doubting, but doubting cannot be the beginning, goal or the end.  It must lead to faith, for it is faith that leads to truth and action.  For example, the agnostic is frozen between belief and unbelief by their doubting and in turn doubting their doubts, while the atheist believes their doubts, and is going nowhere.  On the other hand the theist believes their beliefs and should be open to the future of truth[1].  If skeptical-ism is taken to its logical conclusion it could lead to a stalled intellectual progress and a cynical view of truth and learning. If you question everything in the end you must question your truth and when your truth is overthrown by doubting “the truth” is not far behind and you are close to being thrown into the abyss of relativism.

Some might reply. what about science and the scientific method?  Do you not need faith in reason to believe in science and the scientific method?  Does not science have to assume (have faith) that nature has her laws for scientist to do science?  I believe this is called the uninformed of nature.[2] This belief cannot be proven because to prove it you would have to believe in it to attempt to prove it. This seems to point to the fact that all human knowledge must begin with faith on some ground (foundation) which is also to accept it by faith.

[1] If skeptical-ism is taken to extremes it can lead to a stalled intellectual progress and a cynical view of learning. There is a tendency for skeptical-ism to lead to radical relativism which guts the meaning of existence and leaves people cynical.

[2] The scientists claim they test everything by the scientific method. However, the scientific method is based on faith in the uniformity of nature and reason. Some have questioned reasoning but I know of none that have questioned the uniformity of nature, for to do so would be to question the whole enterprise of science.

From Jesus to Religion Chapter 2 A Forest of Symbols

A Forest of Symbols

“ Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden” (Gen. 3:8-10).

One of the main linguistic tools we will be using in our study of the contrast between religion and revelation is that of the symbol. In recent years, scholars have come to understand the importance of language in all areas of life. Language is the key that unlocks the door to what it means to be truly human. Along with this increased interest and understanding of language, there has been a corresponding increased interest and understanding of the importance of the uses of symbols in human communications. Increasingly, many scholars are coming to believe that symbols are not only the key to understanding much of the human language, but also the key to understanding the whole of the human enterprise. The importance of symbols can be seen in the statement of one author when he says, “To live is to live symbolically.” He said this because he realized humans live in a forest of symbols. In fact, he believes they are symbols themselves. Our very consciousness and identity are created and shaped by the symbols of our culture. Bernard Cook adds to our understanding of the importance of symbols when he says,

“For it is now becoming clearer that symbol is not something that humans use occasionally and for the most part aesthetically, even artificially. Rather, symbol is of the essence of all thought and all language. Even more basically, the very model of existing, which is distinctive of humans is symbolic; we are more than ‘symbol-making beings’ as Cassirer and Langer have insisted, We exist symbolically because the spiritual dimension of our being ‘speaks’ itself-though never with complete satisfaction-in our bodily-ness.”
“All this impinges strongly on the study of symbols, for inner consciousness, even on the level of the subconscious, is shaped and animated by symbols. More than that, the entire process of consciousness being translated into communication as a basis for society is a process of symbolizing. And conversely, the shaping influence of culture and society upon an individual’s inner existence is exerted through symbols of one sort or another.” The Distancing of God by Bernard J. Cooke (page 296, 299)

From Cooke, we can gather somewhat the importance of symbols, but we have yet to define a symbol. A symbol may be defined as “a word or object or thing or action or event or pattern or person or concrete particular…Representing or suggesting or signifying or veiling…Something greater or transcendent or ultimate: a meaning, a reality, an ideal, a value, an achievement, a belief, a community, a concept, an institution, a state of affairs.” The Power of Symbols in Religion and Culture F.W. Dillistone (page 13)

In the same section, Dillistone goes on to point out that the function of a symbol is to bridge the gulf between the world of the abstract and the concrete. In religion, the symbol is used to bridge or bring together physical facts and metaphysical truth without compromising either. Therefore, symbols are used to explain the unexplainable, yet never completely. Thus, the symbol always involves mystery, wonder, and paradoxes. This may help us to understand why God’s final and complete revelation of Himself is a person—in other words, a living symbol and not a written law. This could also be the reason why the New Testament witness has come to us in the form of story and not law as the Old Testament Torah. The God of Heaven and Earth could never reveal Himself through propositional truth. We cannot reduce God to a logic syllogism or lock Him in the narrow chambers of human reason and imagination. The only way one will come to know God is through reflecting on the symbol that mediates His image and presence, that is, His Son Jesus Christ.

Unfortunately, sometimes this one true symbol of God gets lost in a forest of religious symbols that we humans have made. I would like to think that man has done this out of ignorance. However, both Old and New Testaments bear witness to the fact that man has knavishly and knowingly subverted the symbols of God. The reason for this is obvious; man does not want to live in the presence of God nor in the presence of the pristine revelation of Jesus Christ. The simple truth is that man does not love the truth. He loves darkness instead of the light. “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil” (John. 3:19). In this passage, light stands for revelation, and Jesus confirms the fact that the majority do not want to live in the presence of revelation. So what does man do? He hides from it in a forest of religion and its symbols. We see this rejection of revelation in the story of Adam. When Adam sinned, he also hid in the forest from God. In this act, Adam prefigures the entire human race that would hide from God in its religious systems and symbols.

However, man’s hide-and-seek game with God has far-reaching consequences. For the forest he hides in, not only hides him from God, but also from his fellow man and his very self. The forest divides men religiously, politically, and culturally. When the apostle Paul speaks about the dividing wall of hostility (Eph. 2:14), he was making reference to the forest of religious symbols that separated Jews and Gentiles. He points out to his readers that this forest of symbols has been done away with in Christ. In Christ, God has cut down the forest of religious symbols that keeps people divided religiously. He did this by replacing, or in many cases, subverting the existing symbols by changing one or more of their levels of meaning. All the symbols in the old order that spoke of the presence of God or symbolized His presence were subverted to point toward Christ as their fulfillment and their end. The master symbols of religion that fit this category are the symbols of mediation such as sacred laws, places, times, and priesthood. Before the coming of Christ, these religious symbols stood for or symbolized the presence of God and the unity of His people. However, after Jesus’ coming, they stood for the absence of God and division, which is the very antithesis of God. These religious symbols still stand as a dividing wall of hostility between religious people.

In the fore mentioned case of the hostility between Jews and Gentiles, it was the sacred “master” symbols of Law, sacred days, priesthood, and sacred places that formed the dividing wall of hostility. Jews could easily accept these symbols. However, Gentiles could not easily accept them for they had no inherent meaning to them because these symbols were tied directly to the history of the Jewish people. But now that God had invited the world to become His people, the symbols of God’s acceptance and presence would have to change. The new master symbols would be Christ Himself and His spirit-filled people. In order to do this, God would have to create a new history with new symbols. This He did by raising His Son from the dead. In this mighty act, God created a new world and a new humanity. He invites all of humanity to join His Son in a new exodus out of the old order into the new; an exodus out of religion into Christ. This exodus will be completed when His Son returns from on high to lead His people into the glorious freedom of the children of God. “But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 John. 3:2). When Israel left Egypt in the first exodus of God’s people, there were many who were intimidated by their new freedom. Thus, they wanted to return to the security of bondage in Egypt. If you remember, this happened when Moses went up on the mountain to receive the Ten Commandments. Because he tarried too long, the people longed to return to Egypt and its gods. Was this not a foreshadowing of what would happen in the Christian movement? When Jesus was raised from the dead and ascended to the Father, he inaugurated a new exodus, an exodus out of religion. However, like the Hebrews, we find the people (Christians) were intimidated by the freedom they had in Christ and grew anxious over the fact that their Lord had tarried longer than they had expected. So many of them went back to religion and to the making of religious symbols, very similar to how the Hebrews had made the golden calf. God’s call today is for our generation of Christians to take up where the first generation of Christian left off: that is, in an exodus out of religion into the freedom of the children of God.

As we look anew at God’s new master symbols, we find that both of these, Christ and His people, are what we might call living symbols which are the most powerful symbols, for they are flexible and can fit into any cultural venue. This flexibility should be expected, seeing that God has invited the world to join His history. God’s history is no longer a history of a people, but rather a history of one man who now represents the new humanity that has been created by His resurrection from the dead. God now invites all to join in the history of His Son, which He is taking on to perfection in Christ.

Moreover, these living symbols of Christ and His people have the power to impart life, which other symbols do not have. “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing” (John. 6:63). No symbol, even the sub-symbols of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, have any life in themselves but rather point to the work of Christ and His life giving Spirit. Only Christ and the Spirit have the power to impart life. Even the symbol of the Bible apart from the Spirit has no power to convey life (2 Cor. 3:6). Regrettably, the church has often eclipsed the quickening symbols of Christ and His Spirit with the lifeless lesser symbols of ritual and form, at the same time claiming that this is Christianity perfected.
The implications of all this are incredible. The symbol of Christ among His people symbolizes that God is among His people. Not only is He among His people, but also He has accepted them in their sin, forgiven them and has given them the Spirit to deliver them from the bondage of sin and religion. This was all enacted and symbolized in the life of Jesus when He ate and fellowship at the table with sinners. Therefore, the symbol of Jesus in the world is symbolizing that the world has become a theater of God being with man and for man. Moreover, the symbol of Jesus as the Godman symbolizes and foreshadows the unity of God and man in the new humanity; Jesus Himself being the first fruits of that new humanity (1 Cor. 15:22). Therefore, in the resurrection of Jesus we have a promise and a preview of where God is taking humanity. “For we shall be like him” (1 John. 3:2).

Another incredible implication is that man no longer has to hide from God in a forest of religious symbols, for he no longer has to try to justify himself before God or man. For in Christ, God has accepted him and forgiven him, not because of his religiosity, but because of God’s grace and the work of Christ. Because God has delivered him from the need to be religious, He in the same act has broken down the religious wall that separates man. Therefore, man has been reconciled not only to God though Jesus, but also to one another. Consequently, we must conclude that the division in the Christian church is an indication of just how far religion is from God. The Christian church, especially in America, is the direct opposite of revelation and its division is a symbol to all the world of its disobedience and its distance from God.

Here we need to ask this question. If Christ has removed the symbols of religion that divide men, what would be the consequence of reinstating the old symbols or symbols like them? The answer is obvious: division. When men have symbols in their belief system, other than divinely authorized ones, there will be division. For people will insist that others acknowledge their symbols in order for them to be acceptable. This is why the reinstating of unauthorized religious symbols is condemned so strongly in the New Testament. In the book of Galatians we find a group of Christians contemplating reinstating the symbol of Law into the Christian movement. In turn, the apostle Paul warns them, “You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace” (Gal. 5:4). Not only does Paul give this astringent rebuke, he goes on to reinforce the fact that the main symbol in the Christian faith is Jesus Christ. “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor un-circumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love” (Gal 5:4-6). In this text we find that the only authorized symbols in the Christian movement are Christ, faith, and love. The symbol of circumcision, which is the symbol of the Law, has been negated in Christ. Law is never unauthorized Christian symbol, unless it is used as a symbol of Christ Himself, for He is the new Torah.

All other symbols of law must be rejected. Symbols like creeds, human traditions, and theological systems must not be imposed on believers as law. Even the New Testament Scripture must not be symbolized as law, for it is pure grace when mixed with a spirit of faith. Those who symbolize or image the New Testament Scripture as law will find it very difficult not to lapse into legalism. For the power of the symbol will negate and overcome any verbal effect to proclaim freedom from law. The symbol of law is one of the most powerful religious symbols because it has a cosmic counterpart behind it and is linked with the spiritual powers of sin and death (Rom. 7:7-25, 8:2, 2 Cor. 3:6-18, 1 Cor. 15:56,57, Col 2:13-15). Therefore, the symbol of law should be dealt with thoughtfully in the Christian movement, lest we crucify the Lord anew and insult the Spirit of grace (Heb. 6:4-6, 10:29).

There also are some psychological consequences to reinstating religious symbols into the faith of Christ. The most obvious would be that the more religious symbols a man has in his belief system, the more exclusive and rigid his religion will be. The danger is that this forest of religious symbols will become so thick that it will blind him to all new truth. Most religious people, especially those that are exclusionist, have layers of religious symbols that protect them from revelation and separate them from their fellow-man. The religious man fears revelation because it will strip away all the false symbols that he has trusted. It leaves him naked before God, stripped of all his self-righteousness. In this context, self-righteousness could be defined as all the religious symbols that men hide in, such as symbols that allow them to feel secure and righteous. The traditionalists hide behind the symbols of ritual. The fundamentalists hide behind the multi-level symbol of the Bible and the true church. Nevertheless, no matter how hard the religious man may try, he cannot hide his humanness behind these symbols because God is continually destroying them and exposing man’s nakedness. It is here, in his nakedness, that the religious man has the possibility of coming to faith and being clothed by God in the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ. However, nothing hinders authentic faith more than religion. In a true sense, religion is a vaccination against revelation.

In our quest for a better understanding of the distinction between religion and revelation, the symbol will help us immensely, for it will allow us to look at things from a different perspective. Most importantly for our study, the symbol will help us trace the evolution of the revelation of Christ from a simple way of life into a complex religious system. We can do this by noting when and why new symbols were introduced into the Christian movement. Through analyzing the introduction and meaning of new symbols added to the movement, we will be able to see the subtle shift in theology away from revelation to religion. We will begin that study in our next chapter

Faith

Faith

“Without faith it would be impossible to eat stew”

Faith is to believe or not to believe[1] in something on the ground of something other than objective evidence[2]. Many of our most basic beliefs are subjective without us even realizing it. However, once accepted by faith, most believes can be given  some evidence to support them.  A large percentage of our beliefs are actually based on the authority of people whom we trust or have faith in. This trust represents a subjective element in the majority of things that we believe. Our beliefs can also be strangeness or weaken by inference and reason. Outside the religious spear say as in science faith might be like what we call a hunch or a vision. Hunches and visions like faith have various degrees of intensity and clarity. These degrees are as numerous as individual.

 

For example, my neighbor goes to post office ones a week to pick up his mail and I have faith or a hunch that he will do it tomorrow. So, my expectation of seeing him at the post office grows to almost a certitude. I could say I have faith that I will see him at the post office. If he fails to show up I begin to look for a reason. I do not say he does not exist because he doesn’t act according to my expectations.

Like my experience with my neighbor, when the Bible speaks of faith it taking about a belief based on experiencing God. This experiencing of God is referred to by believer as having a person relationship with God or being born again, which is completely non-understandable to unbelievers or even to the religious person that has not experienced God in a meaningful way. In view of this a person might be what we call religious and not have true faith. In this context faith is trust-based on one’s prior experiences.

My point is that if God does not show up as you might expect do not give up on God, rather take a look at your experiences and your interpretation of those experiences on which your faith is based.

[1] I had to add this  expression for my atheists friend who make a big deal out of atheism be a non-believe and not a faith. Faith is simply trusting ones believes and I would hope that atheists have at least a little trust in what they believe in or what they do not believe in.

[2] The idea of the objectivity is somewhat of an inflated idea. Most human knowledge has some aspect of subjective-ism. This is the reason there is no end to questioning and doubting.  It is the miserable lot of the skeptics to be doubting and arguing all the time and never coming to the knowledge of the truth.

Cognitive Pathology and Consensus

Cognitive Pathology and Consensus

What is cognitive pathology?  It is the study of the source or origin of a belief, in other words, why people think the way they do.  You have probably experienced someone informing you, that you believe a certain view because of some hidden motives.  For example, someone declares that you are a Republican because you believe in capitalism, or you are Democrat because you believe in big government.

Atheists often use cognitive pathology to explain away the validity of the believer’s faith.  This has been the case from Feuerbach to Bertrand Russell.  Both Feuerbach and Russell seemed to believe like many atheists, that if you could explain the source or cause of peoples belief, that basis would invalidate those beliefs as being rational.  Of course, this kind of thinking is not unique to atheism.  It is a method used by many to attack or dismiss any arguments made against their beliefs on any subject.

I have run across this thinking in politics and science.  For instance, if you are against the theory of manmade global warming, you must be a capitalist or own stock in an oil company, For that reason you cannot face the truth about climate change therefore, I need not to bother myself with answering your arguments.  Another example would be; if you believe in smaller government, you must be a libertarian, therefore, all your criticism of government must be untrue and comes from your prejudices.  This is not to say that climate change is not real nor is it an endorsement of small government, it is simply an example of how people will use cognitive pathology to win an argument, or to avoid any possible argument against their belief system.

The problem with cognitive pathology is that it is often used as a form of reductionism  to reduce human emotions and thoughts down to one source.  This kind of thinking is common in a scientific age that has tried to reduce everything down to cause and effect; believing that everything can be reduced to one cause.  Another problem is that even if you could reduce a person’s belief on an issue to a single cause, that would not itself nullify a person’s belief or prove it to be false.  The belief itself must still be examined for its truthfulness.  Otherwise cognitive pathology becomes nothing more than a personal begging of the question, which I find often to be the case with those that continually use this kind of  circular reasoning.

A similar concept to cognitive pathology is the argument from a consensus.  In this form of argument, the person simply asserts that their position is correct because that’s what the majority believe.  This is usually done without proof as to what the majority actually believes.  Furthermore, proving what the majority believes in, is a massive job, which most people are not willing to undertake.  So, if someone uses the argument of consensus simply ask for proof, if the consensus is not self-evident.

I have run across a number of atheists who use consensus arguments to try to support their unbelief.  They say something like this, “the majority of scientists do not believe in God.”  To begin with, this is a pretty large blanket affirmation to make without any hard evidence to confirm it; and without the evidence it is nothing but  dishonest propaganda.  In fact, if you Google the question, you’ll find a lot of polling data on the subject and in my study of different polls, it looked pretty close that those  who believe in a higher power edged out the unbelievers by a couple of points[1].  One of problems with polling of this type is that it usually does not consider the difference between the types of scientists that are being interviewed.  What is called the ‘soft’ sciences like psychology, psychiatry and sociology, would to encompass a much larger number of unbelievers because much of their studies are based on a methodology other than the scientific method, which for many put them outside of a true science.

Cognitive pathology and consensus arguments are the preferred tool of the pseudo-educated class and status quo class to cover up their bias and to discredit the arguments of their opponents without answering the argument.[2]  Using these two techniques, they can dismiss arguments with little or no thought, much less a good argument.  Some use them to support an ego that has run amok.  Sometimes, I myself have practiced it, though hopefully noting it in the context of my writing, that in the end it proves nothing other than a person has the analytical skills to dissect the motives of others; and let me hasten to point out that in the majority of cases humans have more than one motive for doing or believing something.

The closest explanation, to explaining the source of faith and unbelief is William James book “The Will to Believe”[3].  In his book, James who was a psychiatrist and a philosopher postulates the theory that people basically believe what they want to believe about God.  James believed that a man’s will was their source of faith or unbelief as much as reason.  However, it is seldom reason alone that dictates whether a person believes in God or not.  He also points out that conditioning and temperament can make a person dead to a particular belief.[4]  By the expression “dead to a belief” he means that a person will not even consider looking at it or engage his reasoning to examine it.

[1] According to the poll, just over half of scientists (51%) believe in some form of deity or higher power; specifically, 33% of scientists say they believe in God, while 18% believe in a universal spirit or higher power.  By contrast, 95% of Americans believe in some form of deity or higher power, according to a survey of the general public conducted by the Pew Research Center in July 2006.  Specifically, more than eight-in-ten Americans (83%) say they believe in God and 12% believe in a universal spirit or higher power.  Finally, the poll of scientists finds that four-in-ten scientists (41%) say they do not believe in God or a higher power, while the poll of the public finds that only 4% of Americans share this view.  Pew Research Center for the People & the Press survey, conducted in May and June 2009

[2] This is done in political debate by inferring that one’s opponent is racist or homophobic.  This infers that their statements or arguments come from a racial or gender bias.

[3] “The Will to Believe: and Other Essays in Popular Philosophy”

[4] James believed that temperament and disposition are some of the major factors in what people believe about things and especially metaphysical things.  You can read about this in his book on pragmatism.

The Assumptions of Atheism

The Assumptions of Atheism

The atheism faith is based upon two assumptions that cannot be proven.  And yes, it is a faith because it is an ideal that exists in the human mind and is supported by other human beliefs.  The ideal that it is a non-belief is nothing but atheistic sophistry.  Calling atheism a non-belief is like calling it a non-idea.  It’s just more nonsense.

Let’s look at their assumptions.  The first one being that there is no God.  No one can prove that there is no God, for in order to do so they would have to be everywhere in the universe at the same time and also outside of the universe at the same time for in the very place that they were not, might be the very place that the uncreated one is present.  They would also have to know everything in the universe for if there was one thing that they didn’t know it might be that there’s a God.  In essence, they would have to be God in order to say with certitude that there isn’t a God.  The atheist always has to leave a small possibility that their might be a god, which possibly in itself negates the very idea of atheism.  However, out of their fear of the camel getting his nose into the tent many pretend to deny the possibility altogether.

The second assumption, which I have found in most atheists, is the belief that they are smarter than those who believe in a God.  I have found this trait even in those who seem to be friendly towards religion.  Of course, this is an assumption that has no scientific basis.  In fact, a recent polling of scientist’s indicate that the split is about 50-50, as to whether or not they believe in some kind of higher power[1].  There is also evidence that at higher levels of IQ there is about equal numbers of people who believe in a Higher power.  Some believe that the American philosopher and psychiatrist William James was the most intelligent man in recent times, and of course he was a believer.  He had an estimated IQ of twice that of Einstein.  Christopher Michael Langan is considered by many to be the most intelligent human being alive today, he has a confirmable IQ of somewhere between 195 and 210.[2]  Christopher Michael Langan does believe in a God.  Of course, this neither proves nor disproves the existence of a God, but it does prove that the atheists second assumption, that they are smarter than believers, is completely and utterly wrong.

[1]“The stats say that the split is about 50-50 of those who believe in God and those who do not. A survey taken by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in May and June of this year and reported by David Masci in the Los Angeles Times, found that 51% do believe in God and 41% do not.  These numbers haven’t changed much over the last 100 years either,  despite the numerous discoveries in evolution and biochemistry over the years.”  Suzanne Kennedy; bitesizebio.com 12/21/09

[2] Depending on the source or reference either in news articles, blogs, interviews, Scientific Journals or magazines over the years, Christopher Michael Langan is quoted as having a confirmable IQ of anywhere between 195-205.  He has developed a “theory of the relationship between mind and reality” which he calls the “Cognitive-Theoretic Model of the Universe” (CTMU)