Faith and facts

March 5, 2017

When it comes to faith, two kinds of people can be discerned, among others. 

There are those of us who believe blindly in doctrines of faith so as to be blind to the facts that might inform a more nuanced view of the world that is nevertheless consistent with faith. 

On the other extreme are those of us who are so blindly dependant on the security which facts provide as to be, it can be safely said, blindly faithful to facts.

It seems to me that God would like us, His children, to interpret the facts that surround us carefully and shrewdly so as to thrive in the world. And so human ingenuity in science and engineering, the artifice of government, and every other constructive and creative human endeavour can benefit from such a view of the world, and in turn be of great benefit to humanity. The better course is always to put God, who is love and life, at the centre of such endeavours.

In the face of facts, the blindly faithful among us will lack the perspicacity to see what God in fact wants us to see in phenomena that can be explained scientifically, and fail to see the possibility of human ingenuity, artifice and creation. This will happen when one denies the possibility of a scientific explanation, which always can be reconciled with Scripture on a higher plane of thought, and when one prefers a more literal interpretation of the Bible. In this frame of mind, we fear a world without God and so they purge it of facts, which they see as a threat to their belief in God and their sense of security in their literal interpretation of Scripture. In this frame of mind, we deny scientific explanations that contradict a more literal interpretation of Scripture. May God bless us with all His heart and heal us of all of our fear. A childlike faith in God is to be looked upon with softness and love. But such faith must not be used to judge or to harm others.

But there happens from time to time phenomena that cannot be explained by the best rational explanation, and for which a sound explanation requires the intervention of belief in a higher cause, divinity, God Himself. 

To such situations, those of us who have an extreme faith in the facts have a dependance on the feeling of safety which certainty in the facts provides. In this frame of mind, we fear the possibility that the world is not what it appears to be, and so in the face of the panic which such a worldview threatens, we choose instead to deny the possibility of miracles altogether. And we do so by purchasing something else, a belief in the proposition “we just can’t explain it,” or “it was luck,” or “it was a coincidence,” but always “it wasn’t anything supernatural.” We fear that a belief in God will interrupt the security we feel in the facts, and so resemble our cousins, those among us who are blindly faithful in literal interpretations of Scripture. So too, those of us with blind faith in facts take a literal interpretation of the world around us. Thus we deny what is needed for a sound explanation, and choose instead a less reasonable interpretation of things. We purchase a sense of security with an unreasonable view of the world, when the word “miracle” must simply be uttered. May God bless these among us and shower them with love, for they are the children of this world who do not know the world to come, and may God relieve them of their fear.

Sooner or later we meet someone or hear a story which confronts us with the choice to believe and have faith. My wife’s grandmother just passed away, and her eighty-two year old cousin said to me as we stood watch over her bedside: “every time someone close to me dies, just before they pass away, I dream of a family member who has departed. Last night,” she told me, gesturing towards my wife’s grandmother, “her husband (who died years ago) visited me in my dream. He was dressed in a suit, looking dapper as he always did, and now she is on her deathbed. He came to tell me it was time for her to go.” The next day, my wife’s grandmother passed away. May God rest her soul.

And so if we reasonably know at least that the spiritual world exists, through stories like these, then what is holding us back from the ultimate belief, the belief in God the Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth, the unmoved mover and the first cause of all things? When the great barrier standing in the way of God is the denial of the spiritual, of the non-physical realm, then we stand face to face with God when the curtain drops, that is, when we have an encounter with the spiritual dimension. And from that point forward all the teachings of the Gospel and Christ’s living example of human fulfillment and becoming one with God compel the heart to learn God’s will and to follow it with all of its strength. We come to know what it at stake once we are convinced of the existence of God: everything.

With God, why is there so much suffering? God is the grand accountant. Nothing escapes his watch. He balances the account of our actions. Not a hair turns grey without his consent. But he has given us, His children, free will, out of love for us. For what value would there be in any prayer or cry or smile to God if it wasn’t authentic? Or in kind deed done to another if not freely? 

In this free will, God will permit us to do terrible things to one another. But the ledger does not stop at the limit of this world, but continues on to the next. God is the grand accountant who balances the account in the end. If I have sinned against my brother, the balance sheet will reflect that. And if I wish to rebalance the account in a way that permits me to meet God in heaven, then I must repent and seek forgiveness from Him with a contrite heart, and forgive all others who have sinned against me. For the Lord the giver of life will judge me by the same standard I have used to judge others, for I am equal to the others I have judged. By what right did I judge others more harshly than myself? As I have judged others, so I will be judged, and the balance sheet will read accordingly. Should I wish the balance sheet to read favourably for me, I should therefore treat others just as favourably, and judge them just as favourably too.

As Christ told his disciples, ‘Yes, if you forgive others their failings, your heavenly Father will forgive you yours; but if you do not forgive others, your Father will not forgive your failings either.’ (Matthew 6:7-15).

This life is fire and anvil. We suffer to become better, for the life to come. Otherwise, this life is senseless grief. But in life there is always order, and we can discern it. Life is not senselessness. Therefore this life is fire and anvil, God is the great blacksmith, and we His iron, which He shapes in His eternal wisdom into the finest instruments to bring peace on earth and joy in heaven. We are wheat and chaff. He separates what is good from what is bad, and takes the good to heaven and throws the bad into hellfire. Should we wish to join Him, God our loving father will always take us back, His sheep, like the prodigal son. All that is needed is repentance and a contrite heart.

As Jesus said to his disciples: ‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, escorted by all the angels, then he will take his seat on his throne of glory. All the nations will be assembled before him and he will separate men one from another as the shepherd separates sheep from goats. He will place the sheep on his right hand and the goats on his left.

‘Then the King will say to those on his right hand, “Come, you whom my Father has blessed, take for your heritage the kingdom prepared for you since the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you made me welcome; naked and you clothed me, sick and you visited me, in prison and you came to see me.” Then the virtuous will say to him in reply, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you; or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and make you welcome; naked and clothe you; sick or in prison and go to see you?” And the King will answer, “I tell you solemnly, in so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me.”

‘Next he will say to those on his left hand, “Go away from me, with your curse upon you, to the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you never gave me food; I was thirsty and you never gave me anything to drink; I was a stranger and you never made me welcome, naked and you never clothed me, sick and in prison and you never visited me.” Then it will be their turn to ask, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty, a stranger or naked, sick or in prison, and did not come to your help?” Then he will answer, “I tell you solemnly, in so far as you neglected to do this to one of the least of these, you neglected to do it to me.”

‘And they will go away to eternal punishment, and the virtuous to eternal life'(Matthew 25:31-46).

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