Faith is a given, but faith in what?

Some thoughts: 1. We try to understand our world through our reason, emotions, theology, hopes and faith, all affected and filtered by our experiences, memories, abilities, limitations and sources of information. 2. Those who put their trust in their reasoning, or what they think (or worse, feel) is their reasoning, don’t have answers to “where did my ability to reason come from?”, “how accurate are my memories?”, “what are all my filters, presuppositions, and limitations, and how do they affect my conclusions?” and “how valid are my sources of information and how well do my senses apprehend reality itself?” 3. Who or what (forces) control which events, and who is in charge of the world, the universe: The God of the Bible; some other god (Allah, Krishna, Buddha, etc); chance and randomness; physical “laws” which govern cause and effect? If the last one, who put those laws into motion? 4. Given just those preceding thoughts, isn’t it apparent that all our conclusions are a matter of faith? If so, then the question that matters most is, “ faith in what”?

ISIS and their ilk, including Book Haram, Abu Sayyaf, Al-Shabaab, and numerous others put their faith in various interpretations of the Quran (Koran) which justify murders and torture, including sexual, of whomever they define as infidels. Hindus put their faith in diverse traditions such as Vaishnavism, Shaivism, Shaktism and others. Each tradition has a long list of Hindu texts, with subgenre based on syncretization of ideas from Samkhya, Nyaya, Yoga, Vedanta and other schools of Hindu philosophy. Of these some called Sruti are broadly considered as core scriptures of Hinduism, but beyond the Sruti, the list of scriptures vary by the scholar. How does a given Hindu decide which tradition and subgenre to believe? It must matter, since the predominantly Hindu nation of India seems to be perpetually at war with the predominantly Muslim nation of Pakistan, and within those nations Hindus and Muslims frequently clash. Religious Jews put their faith in the Torah, the traditions of Moses, and Yahweh. Christians put their faith in the Trinity of the Father, the Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. The Chinese communist party-CCP-puts it’s faith in whatever keeps them in power, as do most dictatorships.

Secular scientists put their faith in the scientific method and their theories, hedonists put their faith in the pleasures of the moment. People who think they are smart put their faith in their reasoning. Well, you get the idea. Everyone has faith in something that they embrace as true, and in every case they are either not aware of or ignore other possibilities. Perhaps the best example of this comes from those who sound like, and are anointed as genuises. From his website, William Hawking (1942 – 2018) was the former Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge and author of A Brief History of Time which is an international bestseller. He was the Dennis Stanton Avery and Sally Tsui Wong-Avery Director of Research at the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics and Founder of the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology at Cambridge, his other books for the general reader include A Briefer History of Time, the essay collection Black Holes and Baby Universe and The Universe in a Nutshell. In 1963, Hawking contracted ALS and was given two years to live. Yet he went on to Cambridge to become a brilliant researcher and Professorial Fellow. Stephen Hawking is regarded as one of the most brilliant theoretical physicists since Einstein. Definitely anointed as a genius, definitely put his faith in his reasoning capacity and his instruments, definitely ruled out God. I pulled the following sentences from Hawking’s lecture, The Origin of the Universe, given in 2005. The lecture was far longer and more detailed, but I pulled sentences that illustrate his (genius) reasoning processes, and in boldprint I ask “meta-questions”, which are questions about the presuppositions underneath his reasoning.

If one believed that the universe had a beginning, the obvious question was what happened before the beginning? Is that question obvious? Isn’t the beginning of something…the beginning? What was God doing before He made the world? Was He preparing Hell for people who asked such questions? If your goal is to explain how the universe began, does it matter what God was doing before creating the universe? How can you ever know, since all the “laws” of physics you use to explain how things happen are part of the created universe. Or did you pose those two questions to make your joke? The expansion of the universe was one of the most important intellectual discoveries of the 20th century, or of any century. It transformed the debate about whether the universe had a beginning. If galaxies are moving apart now, they must have been closer together in the past. If……then. That’s a cause-effect assertion, but when you say “they must have been closer together in the past”, that implies the movement is constant and one-directional. How do you know that galaxies aren’t rebounding, like a rubber band? If they rebound, they could have been farther apart in the past. In order to understand the Origin of the universe, we need to combine the General Theory of Relativity with quantum theory. They are THEORIES. Despite having had some great successes, not everything is solved. Don’t theories suggest rather than solve? haven’t there been many “solutions” which later turned out to be lacking (i.e. then they weren’t solutions)? We do not yet have a good theoretical understanding of the observations that the expansion of the universe is accelerating again, after a long period of slowing down. Isn’t your theoretical understanding limited by the tools you use to gather information and perform experiments?New observational results and theoretical advances are coming in rapidly. Cosmology is a very exciting and active subject. We are getting close to answering the age old questions. Why are we here? Where did we come from? How can ANY “observational results and theoretical advances” answer the question “why are we here”?

Isn’t it clear from that limited dialogue that even genuises who put their faith in their massive reasoning power operate with many unverified assumptions, and perhaps aren’t aware of their own assumptions? Yesterday was Easter Sunday, commemorating the resurrection of Jesus Christ. I put my faith in His conquering of sin and death, and pulling His victory as a cloak around my shoulders, taking shelter in Him as a child in his father. “Mockery was a great ingredient in our Lord’s woe. Judas mocked him in the garden; the chief priests and scribes laughed him to scorn; Herod set him at nought; the servants and the soldiers jeered at him, and brutally insulted him; Pilate and his guards ridiculed his royalty; and on the tree all sorts of horrid jests and hideous taunts were hurled at him. O Jesus, ‘despised and rejected of men,’ how could you die for men who treated you so ill? Herein is love amazing, love divine, yea, love beyond degree.” He said, “Father forgive them, for they no not what they do.” I’ll put my faith in that kind of love!

Author: iamcurmudgeon

When I began this blog, I was a 70 year old man, with a young mind and a body trying to recover from a stroke, and my purpose for this whole blog thing is to provoke thinking, to ridicule reflex reaction, and provide a legacy to my children.

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