“Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.”
It’s been said that faith is blind, but I disagree. Real faith is not blind; it thoroughly inspects reality, examines all its components, determines what is real and what is false, and finally accepts what it cannot know or rationally explain. Many wiser philosophers and theologians have attempted to explain this process, but they all seem to swing from the left side of the pendulum to the right and back again. There does not seem to be any acceptance that the process of knowing is a process of faith without which real understanding cannot take place.
One of the early doctors of the church, St. Augustine, 354-430 A.D. is credited with the philosophy of “faith seeking understanding.” This is an attempt to rationalize why we believe what we believe. This approach to religion and religious belief opened the doors to Catholic doctrines that has resulted in both some advances in thought and faith such as the doctrine that the individual has the moral obligation to follow his/her conscience as directed by the Holy Spirit. However, the Church puts qualifications on its own doctrines by insisting that the final authority in all manners of faith and morality is the Church itself. It has also led to its own ultimate demise.
This philosophy of “faith seeking understanding” is a foundational methodology of modern Christian thought as, at one time, the only authority in Christianity was the Catholic Church, and as such, established not only what was to be taught but how it was to be taught. What began as a simple thirst for understanding progressed into a brutal examination of reality that eventually became devoid of mystery as “scientific methods” of understanding and learning replaced faith-based principles. This, in turn, has led to such extreme views as those presented as “scientific” analyses of the Gospels and Jesus’ life by the participants of the “Jesus Seminar.” These views include the belief that only 18% of the sayings of Jesus were really His own words, that Jesus was not God and man, and that the Gospel of Thomas is more accurate than the Gospel of John. Other, opinions that have then been birthed by the Jesus Seminar are the views that Mary was raped by a Roman solider, married Joseph for protection and gave birth to Jesus. That Jesus did not really perform any miracles, he was simply a talented magician, and that there was no resurrection. It was simply an invention foisted upon the world by desperate believers.
So then, where does that leave us. Are we to blindly accept everything that is fed to us? Are we to never doubt, question or search for the truth? Not at all. Scripture tells us that we need to ” And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” Rom 12:2 KJV The word renewing is critical here as it means a renewal, a completion brought about by the Holy Spirit. It is both a process and an accomplished act. It is not an either or proposition. It is a combination of both, and it is to be done on a daily basis. It is faith and reason together working to both accomplish and enhance what was started with belief and accomplished on the cross. I know this sounds confusing, and I admit to getting lost in my own logic at times, but the distinction is important because if it is not understood it can lead to errors, errors which can then lead to false beliefs and apostasy.
God said, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isa 55:9 KJV That being the case is there really any hope for us in coming to know Him better? Of course there is because God also said, ” And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. Jer 29:13 KJV However, we must also realize that, there are things which we must simply accept on faith. Things that we cannot possibly understand and are not given to understand. There must be a balance between seeking, searching, learning and simple faith. In Deuteronomy 29:29 it says, ” The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever…” KJV This means that we will find answers but we will also be faced with puzzle pieces that simply don’t fit and trying to make them fit leads to the type of mental gymnastics such as those performed by the members of the Jesus Seminar. We must simply accpect that in this life there will be things that simply cannot be explained, understood or known.
This concept of things being unknowable is not a simple Christian teaching. Lao Tzu, who wrote the Tao Te Ching, wrote about this aspect of eternal goodness that:
The tao that can be told
is not the eternal Tao
The name that can be named
is not the eternal Name. Lao Tzu
The bottom line, then, is that we are to search, question, learn and renew our minds. We are not to blindly accept what is given to us like a baby accepting a bottle. Like our four-legged friends who always seem to be on the look-out for a treat or a meal, we are to be constantly on the search for new sources of spiritual manna so that we might continually grow in Him. However, we need to balance this thirst for knowledge with faith, a faith given to us by God, sustained by God and which ultimately will led back to Him.
“If God were small enough to be understood, He would not be big enough to be worshipped.”