ENTRY 1209 | DECEMBER
thanks to Marion Butz for joining the discussion, with this email
response to the
previous installment of this series:
is very interesting and made me reflect on a number of words
I had not heard ever or not for a long time. My belief in God
is faith and that satisfies me. I don't think faith needs logic.
I am a very logical person in my daily life and always look
for logical solutions to everyday problems. My spiritual life
is based on faith. I feel God expects us to live this way and
if our faith is as strong as it should be we are able to make
the right choices without looking for proof. Works for me.
Marion's emphasis on faith being all she needs led me to reflect on
comments my Edwardsian friend recently made on fideism. Fidei
(pronounced fee-day) is the Latin for faith, and my friend characterized
fideism as "faith in faith," implying that that is tantamount
to putting one's faith not in God but in one's own belief or belief
system. But a quick scan of the Wikipedia page on fideism quickly
exposes this as an oversimplification. More generally, fideism is
seen as believing that faith transcends reason, and that reason can
also be an idol, a prideful reliance on one's own intelligence and
the rational use of other resources.
some of his writings, the Wikipedia page reports, Martin Luther (1483-1546)
could be seen as a fideist, as he wrote in one place that reason is
the main enemy of Christian faith and is famous for the formula sola
fide, Latin for "by faith alone." But in other places
Luther is much like I described Jonathan Edwards last time, saying
also that reasonwhile not sufficient in itselfis an essential
building block of faith. Roman Catholic teaching comes down on the
side of using rational arguments for God and faith, and is critical
of fideism, based on the rational theology of Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274)
and, before him, Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109). But before either
of them, Augustine (354-430 A.D.), the most influential Catholic theologian
before Aquinas, sounds like a fideist in the quotation in today's
"Thought" in the column at right. And to close the circle,
Luther was educated by Augustinian theologians.
change in the current of the discussion fits in well with the topic
I intended to move on to this time, the great middle ground between
faith grounded in logical proofs for God and disbelief grounded in
believing that the cosmos is irrational, or in Darwinism as a philosophy
of life, or in chaos theory. I wanted to go in that direction because
most people seem to occupy middle ground. Though I agree with Socrates
(469 - 399 B.C.) that "the unexamined life is not worth living,"
it seems that manypossibly mostpeople seem to fear that
they might be able to examine their lives or what they claim to value
most in life too carefully, perhaps fearing that thinking too
much can lead to mental breakdown. Maybe they've been influenced by
Mark Twain's rejoinder to Socrates: "The unexamined life may not be
worth living, but the life too closely examined may not be lived at
all." A fear of "over examining" probably accounts for the
overuse of the mass media as a distraction that blocks out thought
though it seems to me reasonable to conclude that anyone who hasn't
thought through the implications of the existence of God has chosen
to side with the devil, Gallup polls provide little support to that
hypothesis in their surveys of the stated convictions out there. These
range from a considerable amount of reliance and trust in their Creator
and Savior to doubt that anything has any meaning. But most claim
to be at least on a talking (praying) acquaintance with God, and only
He can sort out those He actually knows from those who are kidding
themselves and trying to kid Him.
It always strikes me as odd at this time of year that people who don't
believe in the incarnation of the Creator of the Universe as a historical
fact still, by the hundreds of millions, want to celebrate the birth
of Jesus as one of the year's most anticipated and celebrated days
each December. Motivations for such behavior must range from thinking
that even if they aren't down with the Creator being born as a man,
they still like Christianity for lesser reasons, like thinking a season
for getting (and/or giving) great gifts is a nifty idea.
what do you think? Is faith alone enough? Faith in what? Is faith
blind or is it rational or something else? How do you know you have
faith as opposed to possibly just "whistling in the dark"
to get you through the night? Who is God? How do you know? Do you
feel a responsibility to share your deepest convictions on these questions?
Webmaster Jon Kennedy