Why Should We Have Faith? Ancient Advice

The modern world is quite materialistic. People tend to claim they believe that only those things which their senses can perceive are real. They often question why we should have faith.

And they often call this belief science, yet they do not understand the error in this because they lack knowledge of empiricism, philosophy, and logic.

And the utility of what is often called science is useful because it improves the material means of our being.

Then the false belief that science exists independently of faith leads people to reject religion and claim that faith is dead.

(Or they make some other form of the claim.)

So modern Christians and Muslims often find themselves asking the following question:

Why should we have faith?

We need to have faith because there are things which we do not know, that we cannot know, and that we must know in order to exist. We compensate for our lack of knowledge with faith that drives our belief in those things necessary for life. The best example of this is belief in the future.

Everyone everywhere believes a large number of things based on faith. Yet they are not introspective enough to realize this. In the following sections, I’ll give you some background on faith and its role in the life of every human. Then I’ll present the writings of St. Augustine on the topic.

St. Augustine was the most prolific of the Christian Church Fathers, so his views are generally esteemed above the others’. He wrote an answer to the question of faith in The City of God. I’ll be presenting it below.

What Is Faith?

Your knowledge has gaps in it. Yet you are alive, and you have to make choices while you are alive. Some of these choices are made on topics of which your knoweldge is limited. So you are forced to choose when you do nto know enough to make a perfectly informed decision.

Faith is that thing which moves you to choose one thing over another when you know your knowledge is imperfect.

Science Is Not Opposed to Faith

Consider the following statement:

“All truth is scientific.”

This is an unscientific claim. You cannot use science to defend it. If you use science to defend science, then you are committing a logical fallacy.

This is a type of question-begging.

Nor can you use science to defend the claim:

“Some truth is scientific.”

The reason for this is the same.

Yet people trust science and its capacity to move man toward truth.

Why is that?

Because they can observe its effects and enjoy their convenience.

Now, some people genuinely accept the premises which underlie empiricism. But the majority of people who claim to like science are not philosophers. They don’t know anything about the thinking which fuels empiricism, and they only know science by its effects.

And they trust it by its effects.

Yet they do not understand how the effects of science are produced.

So the common person has faith in science because of its observed effects.

Meanwhile, philosophers who value science accept the axioms which are used to construct empiricism.

They have faith in the assumptions which serve as the foundations of scientific inquiry. Examples of these include the belief in time, the constancy of rules, and the sufficiency of a human brain to know them.

Necessary Faith

Here’s a brief list of things which all people must accept on faith in order for them to bear living.

  • You must have faith that the future exists. A person cannot choose to act if they do not.
  • You must have faith that thoughts exist.
  • And that consistency exists. If it did not, then predictions and explanations could not be valid.
  • You must have faith that your senses are at least somewhat trustworthy.
  • Faith is also required in order to accept logic as a tool. You can’t use logic to justify logic.
  • Levels of value are also followed because of faith.
  • And you must believe that the capacity to exist, i.e., God, exists.

These are among the many things which all people everywhere must accept using faith.

Now, sometimes self-proclaimed nihilists and atheists will pretend they do not have faith in these things. Yet they believe that words exist. If they didn’t, then they wouldn’t be speaking, would they? They couldn’t speak if words didn’t exist.

And the existence of words is predicated on the existence of many other things.

Most of these are also accepted on faith alone.

Reflections from St. Augustine

Skeptics Question Faith in God and Ignore the Many Things They Themselves Accept on Faith Alone

Nevertheless, when we declare the miracles which God has wrought or will yet work, and which we cannot bring under the very eyes of men. And sceptics keep demanding that we shall explain these marvels to reason.

And because we cannot do so, inasmuch as they are above human comprehension, they suppose we are speaking falsely.

These persons themselves, therefore, ought to account for all these marvels which we either can or do see.

Many Mundane Things Are Accepted on Faith

And if they perceive that this is impossible for man to do, they should acknowledge that it cannot be concluded that a thing has not been or shall not be because it cannot be reconciled to reason, since there are things now in existence of which the same is true.

I will not, then, detail the multitude of marvels which are related in books, and which refer not to things that happened once and passed away, but that are permanent in certain places, where, if any one has the desire and opportunity, he may ascertain their truth; but a few only I recount.

The following are some of the marvels men tell us:— The salt of Agrigento in Sicily, when thrown into the fire, becomes fluid as if it were in water, but in the water it crackles as if it were in the fire.

Some Things Often Taken on Faith in Augustine’s Time

The Garamantæ have a fountain so cold by day that no one can drink it, so hot by night no one can touch it.

In Epirus, too, there is a fountain which, like all others, quenches lighted torches, but, unlike all others, lights quenched torches.

There is a stone found in Arcadia, and called asbestos, because once lit it cannot be put out.

The wood of a certain kind of Egyptian fig-tree sinks in water, and does not float like other wood; and, stranger still, when it has been sunk to the bottom for some time, it rises again to the surface, though nature requires that when soaked in water it should be heavier than ever.

Then there are the apples of Sodom which grow indeed to an appearance of ripeness, but, when you touch them with hand or tooth, the peal cracks, and they crumble into dust and ashes.

The Persian stone pyrites burns the hand when it is tightly held in it and so gets its name from fire.

In Persia too, there is found another stone called selenite, because its interior brilliancy waxes and wanes with the moon.

Then in Cappadocia the mares are impregnated by the wind, and their foals live only three years.

Tilon, an Indian island, has this advantage over all other lands, that no tree which grows in it ever loses its foliage.

That Odd Things Are Accepted on Faith Alone Will Always Be the Case

These and numberless other marvels recorded in the history, not of past events, but of permanent localities, I have no time to enlarge upon and diverge from my main object; but let those sceptics who refuse to credit the divine writings give me, if they can, a rational account of them.

For their only ground of unbelief in the Scriptures is, that they contain incredible things, just such as I have been recounting.

For, say they, reason cannot admit that flesh burn and remain unconsumed, suffer without dying.

Mighty reasoners, indeed, who are competent to give the reason of all the marvels that exist!

Many Things Commonly Taken on Faith are Absurd, and Many Absurdities Have Been Discovered to Be True

Let them then give us the reason of the few things we have cited, and which, if they did not know they existed, and were only assured by us they would at some future time occur, they would believe still less than that which they now refuse to credit on our word.

For which of them would believe us if, instead of saying that the living bodies of men hereafter will be such as to endure everlasting pain and fire without ever dying, we were to say that in the world to come there will be salt which becomes liquid in fire as if it were in water, and crackles in water as if it were in fire?

Could it be that there will be a fountain whose water in the chill air of night is so hot that it cannot be touched, while in the heat of day it is so cold that it cannot be drunk.?

Or that there will be a stone which by its own heat burns the hand when tightly held, or a stone which cannot be extinguished if it has been lit in any part; or any of those wonders I have cited, while omitting numberless others?

Do Not Reject a Seemingly-Silly Thing for Its Silliness

If we were to say that these things would be found in the world to come, then our sceptics might reply:

“If you wish us to believe these things, satisfy our reason about each of them,” we should confess that we could not, because the frail comprehension of man cannot master these and such-like wonders of God’s working.

Yet our reason was thoroughly convinced that the Almighty does nothing without reason. Although the frail mind of man cannot explain the reason.

And while we are in many instances uncertain what He intends, yet that it is always most certain that nothing which He intends is impossible to Him; and that when He declares His mind, we believe Him whom we cannot believe to be either powerless or false.

Nevertheless these cavillers at faith and exactors of reason, how do they dispose of those things of which a reason cannot be given, and which yet exist, though in apparent contrariety to the nature of things?

If we had announced that these things were to be, these skeptics would have demanded from us the reason of them, as they do in the case of those things which we are announcing as destined to be.

And consequently, as these present marvels are not non-existent, though human reason and discourse are lost in such works of God, so those things we speak of are not impossible because inexplicable; for in this particular they are in the same predicament as the marvels of earth.

Gene Botkin

Gene is the director of the Theosis Christian Project. He studied physics and military science before founding the Project. Gene is currently pursuing his doctorate in systems engineering at an engineering college in the Ozarks. The Theosis Christian Project is his attempt to expand Holy Orthodoxy in America.

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