Here we are again with Jay’s entry for our Radix Fidem booklet. It’s been edited a bit and he added a final paragraph that ties it all up nicely. Now if I could just get a few more of you to take up a part of this…
2. Fundamentally super-rational, not cerebral (working above the intellect)
Faith, and how humans “come to” faith lies, ultimately, beyond human comprehension. The workings of the metaphysical domain are conducted on a level humanity is not able to fully understand — though, obviously, we are able to experience it in some manner while living in our fallen condition, in our current, physical, domain. Much like how we react to an object of beauty or wonder, it’s perhaps best described as an experience (a continuum of experiences, really) and not a series of objects apprehended with our material reasoning toolkit.
With all of the technological advances in the last hundred years or so, it may seem that the idea that, eventually, we will arrive at a comprehensive view of the universe is a recent one. This idea was around long before modern times, in many different forms and degrees. Nowadays it has taken the form of “scientism,” where one places an undue burden on the process of scientific discovery as a means of discovering all things that are knowable. If so inclined, you can trace and find bits of the idea all throughout the various trends of thought in history, from the ancient Greeks, to the medieval era through Francis Bacon and the Enlightenment, and into the modern technological age. Whatever form it takes, it involves a very important assumption: that all knowable things are within the reach of human intellect. This idea is incompatible with the internal workings of faith, since only God can implant faith, hence it doesn’t arrive to us, or is sensed, by material means. Scientism, since it fails to acknowledge God as a possibility through it’s very framework, falls under the rubric of “idolatry,” effectively removing God from the throne and putting something else in His place. In this case, it’s placing the scientific process as the ultimate source of something — knowledge — instead of God.
Logic and reasoning are limited tools, for sure, but this idea isn’t limited to spiritually-minded folks — common sense bears it out. Humans operate mostly through non-logical means, being guided through most of our days via a mix of the senses, memory and routine, heuristics, reliable authority, and instinct, with limited instances of the two logic forms (inductive and deductive) to tackle things like unfamiliar situations. Pure reasoning is notoriously ineffective when dealing with things that aren’t immediately contextual and “bite-sized.” Take something that demands mountains of logic to accomplish, like any kind of large-scale engineering project. It requires lots of engineers, of differing expertise and strengths, to work on individual components of the device, plus another layer of lead engineers, quality assurance folks, and managers to make sure all those small parts work together. One man alone, even the smartest of us, would require a whole lifetime (or more) of calculating, building, and testing to come up with something of equal complexity. How, then, could one come to “know” a being infinitely more vast, such as God, if this were the case?
Forgetting the coldness of logic for a minute here… if we consider God to be a person, which He is, then material reasoning will come up wanting for the kind of knowledge God requires of us. We speak of “knowing” another person in ways that go well beyond a list of understanding some facts about them. We come to know and love, for instance, our friends or spouses through a incomprehensible webwork of epistemological inputs and a good dose of time and reflection. If we were to use this as an analog for approaching how we could understand God, as a personal being, our “sense” of God would be more properly aligned.
If one reads through enough writings of the faithful through the centuries, not to mention scripture itself, one could glean a bare-bones idea of genuine faith and the knowledge of God, and the way it works. In many ways, it could be a basic form of knowledge: faith doesn’t rest on something else — like others’ perceptions, material facts of the universe, or the sentiments of a culture — in order for it to work as intended. Faith is its own creature, an incomprehensible gift from the Creator. The “head knowledge” of how faith works comes to us a skeleton; it’s up to us to flesh it out by putting faith into actual practice.