Sunday, April 29, 2012

Faith & Reason

In last week's post, I mentioned taking time recently to watch several documentaries. Two more among these were the PBS Frontline series "From Jesus to Christ: The First Christians" and Bill Maher's "Religulous".

Despite their obvious differences, both of these works touched on the larger question of the rationality of faith. Human beings have always struggled with spiritual beliefs, as the gospel episode of "Doubting Thomas" makes clear. Our analytical minds want to know and understand the mysteries of the universe. The problem is that the mysteries of ultimate truth do not lie in the realm of rationality. Logic can take you to the edge of the chasm of belief, but cannot build a bridge across it. The leap of faith is an act of mystical courage. You either make that leap or you don't.

Unfortunately, mysticism is something we have a hard time dealing with. It is chaotic, paradoxical, and just plain messy. While we strive for knowledge, it call upon us to recognize. When we want to understand, it tells us to experience. We want clarity; mysticism looks like pure and deliberate confusion. The truth we hide from is that God, life, and love are exactly like that: gloriously and beautifully confusing.

Acknowledging this reality does not mean abandoning the pursuit of knowledge. Faith is not about settling for something of lesser intelligence. It is about acknowledging that truth is not the same as scientific or historical fact. Faith is an act of humility.

"We know you must approach us with logic, but do not get carried away by your ego ... I am not saying that you should turn off your brain. Your mind is our mind. Just see and accept your limits. Delight in them, they will teach you great things."

Faith also demands trust, something that pushes all the skeptical buttons of modern American society. We do not trust institutional authority, so why should we listen to organized religion? We cannot help but see the death, destruction, and evil that has come from corporate religion. Surely that must indicate that anything religion says is illegitimate? If that is our standard, however, what ideology or belief system would ever pass muster? Our failure to live out faith properly speaks to human imperfection, not the falseness of the faith itself.

Faith cannot be proven true or false, as much as we might want it to be. Intuition is the key. As I said last week, intuition is the voice of God within us. It speaks of what is right or wrong about a particular belief system, of what is true and trustworthy. It tells us where to find God. No amount of evidence can ever replace our intuition.

"Trust yourself. Trust your heart. She will not fail you. Believe in your own goodness, in your own loveliness. For that is what you are. Love and goodness brought to life. Turn your eyes inward, and you will see it is true."

Perhaps it is inevitable that our society views faith and reason as opposing sides in the Great American Culture Wars. There are plenty of individuals and groups happy to exploit this faux conflict for power and profit. We have allowed ourselves to be tricked into believing that easy formulas illuminate truth, when in fact they are nothing more than security blankets. It is time to wake up.

"We were created to give witness to the paradox ... to celebrate [it], to cherish it. Yet you run from your destiny. You hide in the worlds you create for yourselves. You demand truth along your lines, your logic. Truth does not exist for you. You exist for it. Stop your arrogance and embrace the paradox of love."