Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Thoughts On Faith

"Ninety-nine percent of the things you believe are believed on authority.  The ordinary man believes in the Solar System, atoms, evolution, and the circulation of the blood on authority - because the scientists say so.  Every historical statement in the world is believed on authority...A man who jibbed at authority in other things as some people do in religion would have to be content to know nothing all his life."
- C.S. Lewis

According to Bill Maher, “faith makes a virtue out of not thinking.” Needless to say, no Christian instructed in his religion endorses this understanding of faith. Suppose some celebrity had recently confessed that he is gay, and the first place you find this reported is the National Enquirer. Assuming you know anything about this tabloid magazine, you’d likely take this story with a grain of salt. If, on the other hand, you see it reported in the New York Times (or whichever news source you typically rely on), you’re more likely to take it at its word. Why is that, if not because you have some measure of faith (gasp!) in that news source? If we didn’t have such faith, we’d doubt most of everything there is to know - not just religious teachings - since most of what we know is learned secondhand. 

Suppose, for the sake of argument, that you've embraced the Christian faith.  You'd have little need to defend the truth of each and every Christian dogma (e.g., the Virgin Birth) since you can deduce its truth from the teaching of the Church (which St. Paul describes as the "pillar and foundation of the truth"). In this regard, Church teaching is a useful heuristic, fulfilling the same function that one's favorite news source fulfills - purveying knowledge that one cannot (at least easily) acquire through first-hand experience.

In short, the Christian is not thinking any less than he who accepts, on faith, the truth of what his favorite news source has reported. Sure, he might doubt the veracity of this or that story from time to time (hence, his faith is much weaker than the religious believer’s). However, this is simply because he correctly understands that journalists are fallible human beings, whereas Christians believe that God is infallible, and doubting a God who you profess to be inerrant is a total contradiction.