Sunday, May 3, 2009

Faith - versus the Real World

If you have anything at all to say about Faith, you need to be objectively correct when you speak about anything else, or you will be dismissed for not knowing what you're talking about.

Both at work and away, I am frequently at odds with people who have not studied how things work in the real world. A subset of these is represented, locally and nationally, by those who would replace reason with faith, as if cities can be supplied with a loaf of bread and a fish, with some prayer.

The most conspicuous of these people use terms designed to lie about the purely religious bases of their proposals.

The lies and misrepresentations cannot succeed against an educated audience. This has been known for a long time.

Over 1600 years ago, Saint Augustine - Augustine of Hippo - had this to say about evangelists who open their mouths without knowing what they were saying:

"Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he holds to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods and on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion." – De Genesi ad literam 1:19–20, Chapt. 19 [AD 408].

Yes, the faithful have a burden: they must show that what they propose has objective support and is useful. I suggest that evangelicals are no different from any other public agency seeking attention. To be considered, they must have merit, and beyond that of simply mouthing platitudes.