Monthly Archives: February 2016

Hereby Know We

1 John 4:5-6

They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them.

We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error.

 

St. Thomas Aquinas once wrote, “To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.” Being that he was a magnificently intelligent and wise man, I’m not going to disagree with him. But… I never would have liked this when I was one without faith. I have a friend, too, who balks at this reasoning. It seems like just another convenient copout – “Oh, you’re not a person of faith? Well, then, you wouldn’t understand. When you become a believer, then you will understand.” Isn’t that convenient.

It sounds too much like faith and reason are opposed to one another.

And they most certainly are not. And Saint Thomas Aquinas knew that, even proved that brilliantly and often.

The thing is…

Reason and intelligible explanations can take you far, very far. Right up to the very edge of the cliff. But, no further. You can intelligently follow St. Thomas Aquinas’ five proofs of God’s existence, maybe you can even rationally calculate and weigh with Pascal and his bet – but none of this is faith. You cannot think your way into faith in a personal God. You cannot rationalize your life into a life of a believer. Reason is utterly important – a great gift to human beings from God, even of God. But, faith is also required to be fully human, to know the fullness of truth.

And, so, reason takes you to the edge of that cliff of what you can know with reasonable certainty and you stand there. You stand upon the solid ground of what you know and…. And then, what? You could just stand there, acknowledging the precipice, reminding yourself over and over again that there is no way of knowing for certain if there is anything on the other side of the gulf, clouded and fogged as it is from your eyes. You can build a life on that solid ground… but, if your mind is fully alive, then you will wonder…

And you will never know unless you leap.

The leap of faith is not like leaping to a conclusion with no facts to back you up. It is from the firm foundation of reason that you must make the leap. You can’t just go along with what other people are saying, blindly following without much thought – that’s not a leap of faith. You cannot just make-believe, pretending that a fairytale is real and enjoy the playacting – that’s not a leap of faith, either. You must never disregard reality, you must deeply consider and, with the whole strength of your being, you must commit. The leap of faith is part surrender to the beautiful embrace of Mystery and part blood oath, bodily pledge and dedication to God.

And so, to believe in Jesus Christ is to entrust your whole self to him, to love him with all of your mind, your heart, your soul, and your strength. In the Divine Mercy prayer I pray, “… take over my life and live your life through me.”

Faith is a sacred vow, the most sacred. When you make that vow, when you enter into that vow, you necessarily change. You are still a human being with a rational mind, the God-given gift of reason, but you are also a person of faith. It’s as if the world were two dimensional before, understandable and navigable, but flat. And you never knew that it was flat until you saw that it was round. Leaping from the cliff into the unknown, you saw through the clouds and fog. Now you see that the world is three-dimensional, still understandable and navigable, but needing more than one kind of tool and map to make it through.

Before I was a believer, I thought that the world was beautiful. I looked upon it as a person looks upon a great work of art in a museum. The rich and vibrant landscape lie painted before me within its frame and I loved it all. And then…

After I took the leap of faith, not all at once, but slowly, gradually, the looking changed. It was as if someone had opened a shuttered window in the room and light poured in upon the landscape. Then, the walls around it began to crumble away and the ceiling above, too. As I grew in faith, the world upon which I looked became brighter and bigger, more rich and vibrant, until I realized that the beautiful landscape upon which I had been gazing before was but only one section of reality. Through the eyes of faith, I saw clearly, the whole of the world, big and beautiful around me, until even the frame fell away. Surely this is what the composer meant when he sang, “I once was blind, but now I see.”

Reality is still real and my rational mind is still reasonable. But, now, I understand reality in the full light of day, so to speak. When people who are not believers speak about truth, they speak about scientifically provable facts. As a believer, I also speak about scientifically provable facts as truth. But, I do not limit reality to the frame of my human limitations, and, so, I do not limit truth to this frame, either. Limitations explode and no explanations as to how are necessary. And, likewise, no explanation to one who is still limited is possible.

So…

I think that’s what St. Thomas Aquinas meant.

And when we read passages in the Bible that talk about “in the world but not of the world” or “those who have ears should hear” or “He was in the world but the world did not know Him” we should also think about this meaning. As Christians, it’s not us versus them. Just as it isn’t reason versus faith or science versus religion. Like Saint Pope John Paul II said, “Faith and Reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises in contemplation of truth.”[1] As human beings, we need both reason and faith, we live most fully through both science and religion. To have one without the other is to come up short. I believe that it is wrong for a Christian to think that faith can be had without reason. Hey, after all, there is much reason to have faith. And it is also wrong to think that reason is enough without faith. We are full-blown creatures, multidimensional, and we all must strive to be fully human and fully alive if we want the fullness of truth and the fullness of life.

How would you describe the way a flower looks to someone who has never had the sense of sight? The difficulty should not only show you the limitations of someone who is blind – but also your own limitations, even as someone who can see. How necessary is an explanation of the color pink to someone who intimately knows and appreciates the fragrance of a rose? How possible is an explanation of the color pink to someone who is visually impaired, by someone who has never been? Please read no labeling of “blind” to nonbelievers or believers. It is simply that there are words and understandings for certain aspects of reality and other words (sometimes wordless) and understandings for other aspects of reality. But, all is real.

Forgive, oh Christians, those who do not believe in your Lord, my Lord, the Lord of all. And do not pull your hair out trying to explain Lordship to them – simply share the love, strength, generosity, and joy of Lordship with them.

© 2016 Christina Chase


[1] FIDES ET RATIO (Faith and Reason)