Saturday, January 28, 2012


~~ “Amen, I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”
--Jesus Christ (Matthew 17:20) ~~

What do you think about Faith? Not only the “religious” kind… but Faith in general.
As we live and age, it seems to become harder and harder to find that magical “believe” center of our self. We want to, but so much happens in our life that works to take away that center of Faith. Even though we are usually pleasantly surprised on those occasions where we actually do use real Faith, we still find ourselves far more often falling back to the so-called “rational” side of things.

We spend so much time hearing and seeing scientific “proof” of this and that. We often chase answers out of context of the big picture. Ironically, the minutia of fact keeps us from seeing the whole of truth… and takes us away from the extremely valuable virtue of Faith. We rely now more than ever before on “experts” to tell us the things we should know. We want them to lay it out for us so that we don’t have to think too much and make tough choices.

~~ “Faith is a knowledge within the heart, beyond the reach of proof.” --Kahlil Gibran ~~

It seems to me that Faith is, for our human spirit, the bridge between what we think we know and what we want to, but do not or cannot yet, know. It has always been this way, and there have always been people on both sides of the issue.

To some folks, the notion of Faith is ridiculous. Believing in something beyond our senses, these skeptics will say, is foolish. There is some irony—or something worse—in that, since every person relies on Faith of one sort or another every day. If they did not, then no one would ever set foot on a ship or airplane, or even walk up the stairs of their own home. After all, we take it as a matter of Faith that the ship won’t sink, the plane won’t crash, and the stairs won’t collapse and send us crashing down to a broken neck.

Is that sort of Faith the same thing as “religious” Faith? I think it’s very close. A person has Faith in the ship/plane/stairs because, after all, these things have worked before many times and there are so many people who have been helped by these things countless times, thereby proving their value and efficacy.

~~ “Do not put your faith in what statistics say until you have carefully considered what they do not say.” --William W. Watt ~~

As for the motivations driving a person of religious Faith; it would be impossible to estimate the number of human beings over the millennia who have lived their lives with strong Faith in God and His plan. For them, Faith worked in their lives many times and helped them in many different ways (thereby proving its value and efficacy, no?), just as the ship/plane/stairs have helped our skeptics.

We are peculiar machines, it would seem. Every day, we trust in things we cannot see or even explain; and if we did not, then living would become virtually impossible. There seems to be something hard-wired into us—even those of us not “religiously” inclined—requiring us to see beyond our raw intellect. It is as if our programming is such that we can function quite nicely even when we cannot see all of the facts pertaining to our situation. In fact, we no doubt function better this way, than if we were to examine every aspect of our daily lives before we moved forward. For the so-called “rational” person of science and fact, this realization must be a healthy dose of cognitive dissonance. Once they grasp the concept, though, it can be liberating.

~~ “Reason's last step is the recognition that there are an infinite number of things which are beyond it.” --Blaise Pascal ~~

I believe strongly that reason and Faith can and should work together in a harmonious way.

The challenge is to take facts and proofs and weave them into the tapestry of truth that will satisfy that part of our hearts that is always seeking it out. Philosophy—even the religious type—used to go hand-in-hand with science in numerous cases. Many of the great ancient philosophers used science to balance and even to prove aspects of their Faith… and, perhaps more importantly, they used Faith to build bridges to where their science could not yet take them.

Saint Thomas Aquinas— inarguably one of the smartest men ever to live—was a devoutly Faithful Christian, as well as a strong proponent and user of science and reason. He wrote convincingly on the subject of absolute truth and that the things we learn through our scientific and philosophical examination of nature, provided that they are unquestionably and demonstrably true, cannot ever contradict things we learn directly from God through revelation. If revelation and science disagree, then one of them is being used incorrectly. If you think about this long enough, it will make sense.

Faith, like electricity, is invisible… but its light is not. I take the philosophy of Saint Thomas to mean that we must hone both our reason and our Faith if we are to ever get at the real and absolute truth.

~~ “Faith... must be enforced by reason...When faith becomes blind it dies.” --Gandhi ~~

Another aspect of Faith is its proven ability to motivate people and get the absolute most out of them. It often works in a group environment like some kind of benevolent virus—infecting one then another as it spreads its mysterious way across the assembly. The interesting thing is how humans in groups begin to have Faith in one another. Not really so curious when you consider that the Faith in another person is usually buoyed by the reason of knowing something about him or her. In other words, we have Faith that Linda will do this one thing correctly because we have seen her do it before. This is much different from the blind Faith we would need if we had never seen Linda do the thing before. That is why I tend to think of blind Faith as more of a Hope thing.

As a case study, let’s look at the 2011 Denver Broncos and their controversial and polarizing quarterback, Tim Tebow. When he was drafted, the common opinion—supposedly derived from reason—was that it was a mistake and that he, although an unquestionably great college player, could not make it in the professional game. The experts would say in one breath that Tebow was a great athlete at this and that… but then in the next breath they would say he will fail miserably. As we all know now, once he began starting games, seemingly “impossible” things began to happen. People were calling it “miraculous” when the Broncos would produce a comeback victory with Tebow as their leader.

This reminds me of a passage from the prologue of an obscure book: “…miracles are only sparks to the fire, and the fire is Faith. Faith is the fire that has kept humanity warm since the very beginning, and miracles have been used here and there to keep it alight. Man doubts, you see. You know this because you yourself doubt. You can feel yourself slipping into dread and despair and, at those times, you call for a miracle.”

As a Bronco fan, I can tell you that I was definitely dreading and despairing of the season when we started 1 and 4 under the old quarterback. So, the “miracle” that we fans clamored for did come along for us. Was it a real miracle, though, or just a young man and his team who very quickly developed an incredible team dynamic, through which they found Faith in one another to go along with their Faith in God?

~~ If you believe, then unbelievable things can sometimes be possible. --Tim Tebow ~~

I will say that some of the things Tebow and the team accomplished were pushing the limits of believability. It was, in some instances, almost an Old Testament kind of thing, wherein God gives His champion the power to defeat foes in battle—often against all odds. Using reflection and reason, though, I can see that it was really a group of men—most of them believing strongly in God, in their own selves, and in one another—who refused to quit.

The fact is that, when mixed properly and in the right order, Faith in God, Faith in self, and Faith in others form an overwhelmingly powerful elixir. This lesson is plain to see in the Broncos.

The Tebow haters—as those pitiful souls have come to be called—are correct in one sense: Tebow is not the one winning these games… it is the TEAM. What they are missing, though, is that one man can make the difference. Ironically, the difference Tebow has made is to help the rest of his team also make a difference. He has done this through Faith, even when the experts’ reason contradicted itself.

~~ “Faith is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted in spite of your changing moods.” --C.S. Lewis ~~

An amazing part of the story of the 2011 Broncos team is how they came to really and truly believe in one another. Faith in God and Faith in oneself are difficult enough to attain and very special when attained, but once a group begins to really believe in one another, then extraordinary things can happen. I have seen this multiple times in my own experience—primarily in the Marine Corps, but also in other team dynamics. Before one game, the coaching staff asked Tebow to give a pep talk to the team. He chose to frame his short talk around a bible verse: Proverbs 27:17:

~~ “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” ~~

His teammates later told how this profoundly sank in with them. Their young quarterback was telling them that he believed in them, and that they made him better than he really was, and that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. They responded in kind.

Not one of the experts could have predicted that this pathetic 1 and 4 team would go to the playoffs and wind up defeating the number one defensive team in the league. You see, their self-proclaimed reason told them it was not possible.

~~ “Faith is believing in things when common sense tells you not to.” --George Seaton ~~

The problem is that “common sense” often is not common at all… and what may look like reason may actually be a mixed bag of faulty paradigms and personal prejudices. Ironically, if the experts had used real and true reason, it would have led them to the same expectations of the Broncos that many “true-believer” fans (and the team itself) arrived at via Faith. Real reason will tell any expert that when a team of gifted athletes begins to believe in and push themselves and one another and refuses to quit, then some good things are going to happen.

(Painting by Jessica Wersky, Copyright 2012)
[Click image for larger view]

The team had nothing else to hold onto, and so they held tightly to one another. Teamwork for the Broncos became a matter of Faith, plain and simple… and it resulted in the most dynamic thing to happen to the Broncos franchise in many, many years—all starting with one man not listening to faulty reason and refusing to be the failure that his detractors called for. This is still quite flummoxing to the haters… and they are the most blind, since they refuse to see.

As for me, I have found new energy in my own soul, thanks to Tim Tebow and his merry band of Faithful teammates. The iron of their Faith has helped me to sharpen my own. I believed, along with countless Bronco fans... and as we believed, we watched the players and coaches believe. It was an amazing group experience that no doubter can ever take away from us.

Meanwhile, those who loudly profess “reason” will continue to loudly eschew Faith— even as they unconsciously use it every day in so many ways. I will find it eternally ironic that they will remain ignorant of how Faith is the very thing—the very bridge—that can bring them closer to fundamental truth, if they would only acknowledge its power.

~~ “To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.” --St Thomas Aquinas ~~



Anonymous Anonymous said...

I mean sure the article was awesome but that painting...WOW! I want to buy it for A MILLION dollars!

2/2/12 10:31  

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