Between reason and faith

I fancy that Alyosha was more of a realist than any one. Oh! no doubt, in the monastery he fully believed in miracles, but, to my thinking, miracles are never a stumbling-block to the realist. It is not miracles that dispose realists to belief. The genuine realist, if he is an unbeliever, will always find strength and ability to disbelieve in the miraculous, and if he is confronted with a miracle as an irrefutable fact he would rather disbelieve his own senses than admit the fact. Even if he admits it, he admits it as a fact of nature till then unrecognized by him. Faith does not, in the realist, spring from the miracle but the miracle from faith. If the realist once believes, then he is bound by his very realism to admit the miraculous also.

-Dostoyevsky, Brothers Karamazov

There is, I think, a strange and frustrating tendency abounding that supposes people who believe in God have quite abandoned all reason, condemning them to the asylum. It is presumed that those who closely examine the world and observe people and their ways will come to the necessary conclusion that there is no God, nor miracles nor soul nor everlasting life. These things are wish fulfilment for tragic and brief lives of suffering, they snap.

Now that we live in a comfortable world free from the threat of near extinction or war or famine, we can dispense with the primitive presupposition of a Deity governing all things.

I’ve never found that story compelling. Partly, I suppose I dislike being considered a fool for my faith. But to a greater extent, I find this story stinks like a kind of chronological chauvinism, presuming those who have gone before us were less right than we are now.

I know I’m guilty of that. I think of the way I have often regarded those of my parent’s generation, or the one before: unquestioningly assuming the mood of the day, that we are in and those before are out.

How dissatisfyingly narrow minded.

There is a reason you will rarely see me write of evidence or proof for the existence of God, or for the claims of the Bible: I do not believe these means always reach the truth. Especially the kind of truth that matters to our most basic existential needs.

Case in point: the progression from human being as image-bearer of God, to human being as outgrown ape is a most devastating kind of truth. In seeking to answer the question of our form, the answer to a far more significant question has been abandoned: our function.

Or, for what reason am I?

At this point one might accuse me of leaping back to a prescientific world where such a question, born of existential angst, needed a clerical figure to answer and thus keep me in line.

It was of such a dilemma that Dostoyevsky, the great storyteller, wrote. The young monk in his story is a child of the day, a realist who believes what he can see, yet not for one moment does this result in his apostasy, but propels him toward the fanciful and miraculous. Dostoyevsky thus illustrates a different kind of relationship between reason and faith.

It is that relationship that I hope to explore here, on this blog.

In a place where mind and body, and feeling and passion and duty and love and anger and frustration and memory and tradition are deep wells, from which we draw the many flavoured waters of abundant life.

And as far as I have experienced, it is the Christian faith which most openly welcomes such a way of being. Such a way, if you’ll humour me, of being human.

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2 Comments

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  1. I enjoyed this post. I personally would like to see you write more in depth around this to make your thinking absolutely clear to us avid readers. šŸ™‚

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    • Agreed. I’ll have a go at a proper response later (oh yes, you will see one, tee-hee-hee), but I can certainly echo the preceding sentiment.
      Perhaps here in the comments…

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