This I Believe…
I believe in faith. I do not believe in belief. And while the latter of these two statements appears to run afoul of human reason, it is faith’s very betrayal of reason that compels me to wrap myself in its loving arms and to trust that there are questions and concerns for which there are no answers but faith. Reason, logic, intelligence, judgment have all provided us with a wealth of insight into the workings of the immanent, material world. But these mighty human gifts are limited to this realm. And they cannot (no matter how often we may deceive ourselves) provide insight into the transcendent which by its very definition lies beyond the powers of our finite human intellect. To have faith is to trust. It is to claim the limits of our finitude and to embrace that part of us which allows us to imagine something beyond the finite. Many people think the opposite of faith is disbelief. It is not. The opposite of faith is fear. It is the overwhelming desire to replace faith with answers we know we do not have. It is to construct beliefs that mask our ignorance in a tapestry of rationalizations.
Beliefs are grounded in fear and judgment. Faith is grounded in trust and hope. Belief claims: “I know.” Even though it does not. Faith claims: “I do not know.” And rejoices in its ignorance. Belief claims: “I am right. And you are wrong.” Even though we can never truly know who is right and who is wrong in matters of belief. Faith claims: “I trust that I will do what is right.” And says no more. The history of humanity is sown through with those willing to kill for their beliefs. And with those willing to die for their faith. I hope that given the choice, I will always choose to sacrifice my life for that which defines the very best part of me.
In times of fundamentalism and radical certitude I strive to not confuse people of intensely held beliefs with people of deep faith. Belief is grounded in the dangerous desire for answers to those things which are unanswerable. It is the desire to construct certainty for that which there is no certitude. Faith is grounded in expectation, it is the abandonment of personal, individual control and the willingness to embrace that there is a power that has a plan (a design) that is more deeply complex and more radically full that we can ever possibly conceive. I choose faith over belief. And as irrational as it might sound, I choose to believe in faith. And not to believe in belief.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.