The following excerpt is by John, G. Stackhouse, Jr. in his book Humble Apologetics.

We are accustomed to taking the greatest of relational risks in this life, whether trusting a spouse, or trusting a surgeon, or trusting a rescuer. All we can do is to perform the same exercise of trust in religious matters as well, as human beings who recognize that we do not and cannot know it all before deciding--on anything.

To be sure, in many of our personal relationships--with friends, co-workers, family members, and so on--we are wise to trust people neither too much or too little. we ought to graduate our faith, as well as our assent, according to the warrants available. In ultimate relationships, though, we have to make more radical decisions. A fiancée cannot strictly calculate what faith she can put in her groom-to-be and then act proportionately. She cannot decide to enter a marriage at 60 percent confidence and therefore get only "60 percent married," with the understanding that she will proceed to marry her husband "more thoroughly" as their relationship goes along and her warrants presumably increase. At the altar she has to decide: "I do" or "I don't." She cannot know what her husband will be like in the future. She does not even have complete or certain knowledge of what he has been like in the past. (Indeed, when one considers how little one did know at the time of one's wedding . . . !) She must, however, enter into a lifetime's commitment, all or nothing, on the basis of what she does know. She must commit herself to trusting her husband. She must exercise faith that day.

She must, furthermore, continue to exercise faith every succeeding day of her marriage, for she will never arrive at full knowledge either of her husband's character or of his activities when he is not in her presence. And we would normally say that she is entirely right to keep trusting him on the basis of her increasing knowledge of him. She ought to do so, that is, at least until the sad day, if it ever comes, when the warrants against her continuing to trust him overwhelm her faith. Strange perfume on his shirt, unknown female callers on the phone, loss of affection when he is with her: Such data eventually add up. Then, we would conclude, she must indeed change her mind and her life, accordingly.

So such faith does not mean the suspension of critical thinking. And it doesn't mean that in the religious sphere, either. You might be entirely entitled to believe in religion X, given what you have learned in life to that point. But if you run up against a challenge (what contemporary philosophers call "potential defeaters"), the intelligent person is obliged to pay attention to them. you don't need to throw your faith aside at the first sign of trouble, of course. that would be as silly as a scientist trashing his years of research whenever a lab result came up "wrong." The truly critical thinker, however, pays attention to such difficulties. She tries creatively to see if they can be met within her current scheme of thought, or whether she needs to modify her views, or--in the extreme case--whether she needs to abandon her theory (about this chemical process, about this spouse, or about her this religion) for a better one.

Believing and Willing
We might think we would gladly choose the right path if God would just become visible and speak to us audibly. If we ourselves don't think so, we probably have had conversations with people who claim that if God would just give them a sign, a miracle, and indubitable proof of his presence, they would believe. And until God comes across this way, they imply, they will not believe.
Well, that was the actual experience for a whole generation of Israelites in the wilderness of Sinai. Philip Yancey has pointed out that the ancient Israelite nation, after its exodus from Egypt, enjoyed the direct guidance of God every day through Moses. Not only did the Israelites witness the thunder and lightning of Mount Sinai, but as they travelled on from there, God was right in their midst, in the "tent of meeting." Moses would go in to consult with God "as a man speaks with his friend." With all of these warrants, did these witnesses to the presence of God therefore become especially devout?

On the contrary. They became whiny, greedy, impatient, and disobedient children who wanted God to perform now according to their immediate whims, or they would huffily march back to Egypt. God's immediate and evident presence was apparently no guarantee to spiritual goodness or wisdom. God's proximity was not the solution. It only made more obvious the real source of trouble, the hearts of the people themselves. And if we aren't convinced by this truth, we might consider how people responded when God later took human form and lived among us in the person of Jesus Christ for several decades. No, the problem is rarely that God is far away. The problem for most of us, most of the time, is what we tend to do with God whether God is distant or near.

Leave a Reply.