Monday, March 7, 2011

Check Your Brains at the Door?

Does argument produce faith? Not directly. Things we believe as a result of argument are not matters of faith. But arguments can reduce fear. One fear many modern people have if that stepping out in faith is going to require us to ignore solid rational argument that go against our faith. Atheists worry that if they accept Christianity they will be forced to give pathetic faith responses to solid scientific arguments. Protestants worry if they become catholic they will be forced to give pathetic traditional responses to solid biblical arguments. The fear is the same. There are going to be a lot of questions. I now approach these questions using reason and I can follow the evidence where ever it leads. If I accept some truth based on faith I am creating a rational no fly zone.

One thing that helps with this fear is to encounter people who have embraced the faith and still show strong reasoning skills. Not so much to argue the truth of their position but to demonstrate how reason can be empowered by faith and not destroyed by faith. That you are not putting your mind in neutral and just accepting what the church tells you to accept but that you are able to see further once you stand on the shoulders of giants. The key thing is the giant shoulders are trustworthy. You don't spend all your time wondering how you can accept all this dogma. Like you got some huge stilts and you expect to fall at any moment. But rather you have arrived on higher ground and you can explore and build like could never before. There is no fear of falling because you have come to believe what you have accepted is rock solid truth.

So when I lurked around Dave Armstrong's blog or read Scott Hahn's books it was just as important to see Catholics engaging in solid biblical discussions as it was to see them prove their thesis. The marriage of faith and reason made the Catholic church more attractive than to say they were right on one particular doctrine. This was what Christianity should be. Not bogged down in endless doctrinal disputes that never gave you a satisfying answer but going deeper and deeper into the mysteries of the faith and being awestruck by it's beauty.

We need to be that for atheists too. Not to prove to them that the supernatural exists. Rather we need to make want to believe because they can see in us how faith makes a person fully alive. That all that is good about atheism, including their love for reason and science, can be even more fully lived out as a Christian. But we need to make that point by living it rather than by arguing it. This is why so many atheists have been converted by CS Lewis. Not because the liar, lunatic, lord argument is unanswerable. But because they respect a guy who fights his corner with those kinds of arguments. They could see themselves being a Christian like that.

Often rational people only encounter people who have a very simple faith. They respect their faith but they can't adopt their faith. I know I could never have a simple faith. I ask to many questions. But many don't know any other kind. Partly it is because fewer and fewer people are willing to teach a more intellectual faith. Churches, including many Catholic parishes, have dumbed down the faith.So solid thinking Catholics or even Christians are hard to find. Even when you seek out religious people you can go a long time before you find one that is the least bit impressive in defending his faith. So one can conclude that Catholics, or Christians, are just a pathetic lot of know-nothings.

But the truth is worse than they imagine. The truth is they are but they should not be. People are ignorant of their own faith because they don't live their faith. If we believe God is important then we should treat theology as the queen of the sciences. We don't because we lack faith and we lack justice. We don't give God the intellectual effort He is due. So society is merely being logical in expecting intelligent believers to be able to articulate God's truth. When they can't they conclude that God's truth is simply not all that impressive. They don't dare guess that so many bright Catholics go to mass week after week and sit on the very edge of the most impressive truth in the world yet never bother to learn it.

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