Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The leap to faith and the irrelevancy of apologetics

“Yet Abraham believed and did not doubt, he believed the preposterous. If Abraham had doubted -- then he would have done something else, something glorious; for how could Abraham do anything but what is great and glorious! He would have marched up to Mount Moriah, he would have cleft the fire-wood, lit the pyre, drawn the knife -- he would have cried out to God, "Despise not this sacrifice, it is not the best thing I possess, that I know well, for what is an old man in comparison with the child of promise; but it is the best I am able to give Thee. Let Isaac never come to know this, that he may console himself with his youth." He would have plunged the knife into his own breast. He would have been admired in the world, and his name would not have been forgotten; but it is one thing to be admired, and another to be the guiding star which saves the anguished.” -Soren Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling

Here’s an interesting fact: Kierkegaard coined the term “leap of faith.” Only, he didn’t. You see, while that is the phrase used by laypeople, Kierkegaard is actually quoted as saying the “leap to faith.” Is there really a difference? Well, to Kierkegaard there was. To him, there wasn’t just one leap you made and there, patiently waiting, laid belief. No, the whole enterprise of following Christ is faith. See the difference?

I have struggled. Doubt is a part of me. I’ve read books and articles on creationism. I’ve read books and articles on evolution. I’ve seen videos of atheists preaching. I’ve seen videos of Christians preaching. I’ve heard arguments for the historicity of Jesus. I’ve heard arguments for Jesus as a mythical legend. I’ve learned much, but know nothing. For every fact that lines up in the bookshelf of my mind, some forgotten corner starts to crumble into dust. What obscure science experiment or historical trinket could stop this vicious cycle?

Does the Christian need more knowledge? Does he need the manual or the vehicle of faith itself? I’d argue the latter. All the books in the world couldn’t bring someone to faith. As Kierkegaard himself noted, there were no professors or associate professors during the first century of Christianity. Everyone then accepted that faith could not be proven. There were no philosophers in the pews who wondered if God could make a rock so heavy He couldn’t lift. There were no baptized biologists that thought nature made itself. No, this was a time of simplicity.

Consider Abraham, as Kierkegaard once did. He could have offered himself to the Lord instead of Issac, his beloved son. Would this not have been considered morally praiseworthy in the pagan lands? A stoic father saving his son from a crooked and wicked deity. It is not true that he was to merely “sacrifice” Issac. That’s a deceptive euphemism. No, Abraham was to murder his own son. Isn’t that what the world would have believed? That an old man lost his mind and turned homicidal?

The truth, however, known only to Abraham, made him full of fear and trembling. He told no one his revelation, not even Sarah. Abraham did one thing and one thing only: He believed. He suspended every rule that society had put in place, and had faith in God instead. Tell me, of what possible use would Paley’s Watchmaker apologetic make? Abraham decided to forgo the universal and believe in his subjective (personal) relationship with the divine.
Contrary to Hawking, we can never know the mind of God. We can know what He did for us on the cross but we look through a glass darkly. We can debate God back and forth and still not have an answer. If we were merely weighing the evidence on some sort of cosmic scale, then we would cease to be truly religious in any sense at all. We would be no better than the Roman tax collectors.

If you want to put off believing in God because you have doubts, then you’d do well to not believe anything. External reality itself is a leap to faith. If you don’t have faith in Jesus, I can guarantee you have faith in something. Consider having faith in a God who loves you. He’s helped me.

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