“In all important transactions of life we have to take a leap in the dark…If we decide to leave the riddles unanswered, that is a choice; if we waver in our answer, that, too, is a choice: but whatever choice we make, we make it at our peril…We stand on a mountain pass in the midst of whirling snow and blinding mist, through which we get glimpses now and then of paths which may be deceptive. If we stand still we shall be frozen to death. If we take the wrong road we shall be dashed to pieces. We do not certainly know whether there is any right one. What must we do? “Be strong and of a good courage.” Act for the best, hope for the best, and take what comes…If death ends all, we cannot meet death better.” (James Fitzjames Stephen, Liberty, Equality, Fraternity)
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.
Reason, Faith and Certitude
” From about half-past ten in the evening until about half-past midnight. Fire. The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob. Not of the philosophers and intellectuals. Certitude, certitude, feeling, joy, peace Peace.” Blaise Pascal
Reason will never take you to the certitude of God. If pure, which it never is, it regularly leads to doubting. On the other hand, love will always lead to trust (faith) and acting on faith will lead to certitude. However, in the end certitude is a gift of God. Give to those who love Him and have true faith in the Christ. The apostle John says, “He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son” ( 1 John 5:10). In chapter two of his letter John refers to this inter witness as an anointing of truth.
Moreover, Jesus also speaks about it as a revelation from the father when he asked his disciples who they believed he was in Matthews gospel. The conversation reads like this, “Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 16:16-17). This inter witness is the revelation in the believer’s heart through the spirit of God, which gives them certitude that Jesus is the Christ. This measure of faith cannot be accessed by reason alone or any human effort. It is a gift of God-given to all true believers. It is being born from above. It is given to all who truly put their faith in the Christ and love God.
The inter witness that Jesus is the Christ is not the same as the promise which Jesus made to his apostles that they will be led into all truth (John 14:16). The all truth promise was made to his apostles who form the foundation of the new temple of God (Eph 2:19-22). The early church looked to the apostle as the ultimate authority in matters of the faith and except for a few Gnostics heretics never claim, “the all truth promise”… It is obvious, that if every Christian had received the all truth promise” there would have been total unity and no division in the church from the beginning, which we know is and was not the case. Plus there would have been no need for the first-century church to ask the apostles questions about the faith, as we see early Christians do in the New Testament. Many of the writings in the New Testament are made up of the apostles answering questions that were sent to them by individuals and churches.
From the above we gather when John said, “all of you know the truth” He was taking about the fact that believers had received through the gospel the revelations that Jesus was the Christ. (John 2:20-21). There is no reason to separate this faith experience from the acceptance of the gospel and hearing the word of God preached, for that Word is the bear of the Spirit. This simply means that if a person hears the gospel preached and believes it, the Holy Spirit will confirm their faith in their heart that Jesus is the Christ resulting in a certitude given by God.
 Pascal conversion experience was recorded on a small piece of paper and sewed into the inner lining of his coat and was found after his death. It read, “The year of grace 1654. Monday, 23 November, feast of Saint Clement. . . From about half-past ten in the evening until about half-past midnight. Fire. The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob. Not of the philosophers and intellectuals. Certitude, certitude, feeling, joy, peace. The God of Jesus Christ. My God and your God. Forgetfulness of the world and everything except God. One finds oneself only by way of the directions taught in the gospel. The grandeur of the human soul. Oh just Father, the world has not known you, but I have known you. Joy, joy, joy, tears of joy. I have separated myself from him. They have abandoned me, the fountain of living water. My God, will you leave me? May I not be separated from him eternally. This is eternal life, that they may know you the one true God and J.C. whom you have sent. Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ. I have separated myself from him. I have run away from him, renounced him, crucified him. May I never be separated from him. One preserves oneself only by way of the lessons taught in the gospel. Renunciation total and sweet. And so forth.” (pp. 95-96
Why People Believe
You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Matthew 13:14-15
People believe what they actually want to believe. William James, the great psychologist and scientist, called this phenomenon the will to believe. But before we look any deeper, we need to ask the question what is the will? I refer to the will as your ‘want to’, which means that your appetite is very much a part of your will. Your will determines what you want and what you seek. It will also influence the degree to which you want to do something or believe something.
If a person does not have the will to believe, he will not want to believe, consequently it would be impossible for him to believe or even truly seek to believe. We could say that a person becomes dead to anything he does not have a will to believe in. They have eyes but don’t see, and ears but they don’t hear. In this, I am not saying that if you have a will to believe, that you will believe anything. To say that a person has the will to believe is simply to say he is willing to look at something with an open mind that is prepared to believe, if the evidence for it is there. If there is no will to believe, no amount of evidence will convince a person to believe anything.
What about reason? Reason only works when there is a will to believe or disbelief, because it reason is the handmaiden of the will. The will summons reason to make up all kinds of arguments and excuses for believing or not believing. For reason to work there must be a will and a presupposition that it can work from. Reason does not work in a vacuum.
I know a large number of people who fancy themselves as open-minded that will look at any issue for the sole purpose of reinforcing their self-image of being open minded. What they believe in is there open-mindedness. However, they have none or very little will to believe other things. These people usually only make a superficial search for the truth on any issue. Very shallow thinking is reasons way of justifying their open-mindedness.
The reason there are few people who have a true will to believe is because the human being senses that the will to believe, and the will to action, are so in intertwined they cannot be separated. This means that the things you will to believe, you will act on and act out. Your actions demonstrate and prove your will to believe. This simply means if you do not want to act, you will not have a will to believe. So the will to believe not only has to do with what you want to believe, but also in what you want to do. The person that hates his neighbor will have a hard time embracing a deity that commands him to love his neighbor and forgive him.
The will to believe is also closely connected with need. A perceived need creates an appetite and a will for something. If a person does not perceive a need for something, he will seldom have an appetite or a will for that thing or person; e.g. the person who believes that they have no sin to be forgiven of, will rarely seek a God that offers forgiveness.
Jesus said, “If any man wills to do the will of the Father, he will know the teaching…” Does this not say that a man approaches God, not through his reason but through his will? If you want to do God’s will you will know the teaching, you will find God, when you will to find him. If you do not know God it is because you do not want to. If a person wants to know the true God they will seek him and find him.
In summary, the way to God does not begin with reason; it begins with the will of man. Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” He also said, “Let the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him that heareth say, “Come!” And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, (desires) let him take the water of life freely” Revelation 22:17.