Because life is a series of edits

Guest Post: Believing That We May Understand

In Educators, Teachers on October 16, 2012 at 9:39 am


Spears, Josh(Veritas Classical Academy Upper School teacher Josh Spears is a trained philosopher and logician, adjunct professor at the University of Central Oklahoma, husband to Kirsten, and father to three boys. His guest post is a great example of how he helps his boys think critically about the supposed dichotomy between knowledge and faith.)

"Man
shall not live by bread alone,
but
by every word that proceeds
from the mouth of God
."
Jesus, Matthew 4:3

"I've seen it done, but I'd like to have a little more
scientific backing before I risk my own feet."
Grant Imahara, Mythbuster

Veritas is
committed to helping students understand God’s world and His Word. This commitment to education involves
affording opportunities to students for growth in knowledge, understanding and
wisdom and faith, hope and love. 

This desire to
combine faith and knowledge makes Veritas unique in a culture that attempts to
drive a wedge between those two. Richard
Dawkins
, for example, carelessly defines faith as "believing what you know
ain’t so." In a slight improvement, faith
is sometimes taken to be what’s left over when knowledge goes as far as it
can. Still another definition of faith takes
it to be a blind leap in the dark.

In each of these
definitions, faith and knowledge are taken to be distinct. So distinct, in fact, that having both at the
same time is impossible. Thus, the
believer faces a choice: it’s either knowledge or faith. Unfortunately, many Christians have accepted
(and initiated) definitions of faith like those above. They have bought in to the false choice and
opted to pit faith against knowledge. Christians,
however, ought to reject this choice between faith and knowledge is a false one. We needn’t choose between having faith and
having knowledge. In fact, true knowledge
involves true faith, a point that came home on a recent foray into one of my family's
favorite shows. 

My family and I
often re-watch Mythbusters and we
found in the "Fire Walking" episode a powerful example of true faith’s relation
to true knowledge. If you’re unfamiliar with Mythbusters, it’s a Discovery
Channel
show that applies the scientific method to various myths in an attempt
to determine whether the myth is true or false (I’ll flee the temptation
to digress into a discussion of true nature of myth).

In this episode, three Mythbusters – Carie,
Grant, and Tori – explore whether it takes being in a trance to master walking
barefoot on hot coals heated to more than 1,000 degrees. To test the myth, the three travel to meet a fire walking guru who trains others to walk across glowing
coals and, having spent time with him, they then spend an entire evening
watching a dozen men and women make the walk unscathed. 

With the
evidence of an authoritative instructor, the evidence of the testimony of the
coal-walkers, and the evidence of senses, Grant has a fascinating reaction. Watch this two-minute summary to see what I mean:


Despite having that evidence, he won’t step
out onto the coals.What more could he
want? Grant says that he wants to see
the science. He won’t believe until he
sees. So, he and the others spend time
making life-like feet out of rubber, running experiments on the physics of heat
transfer, and covering all their scientific bases.

So, now Grant
has the evidence of science to go with the previous evidence gained at the fire
walking demonstration. But it’s here
that things truly get interesting. It’s
most interesting that even after he has the science, Grant still doesn’t have
knowledge. Grant is looking for a
certainty – a certainty that fire walking is safe. He looks for this certainty in science, or
better, he thinks he’s looking for
certainty in science.

The trouble is
that science cannot provide the certainty necessary to drive the wedge between
knowledge and faith. Having the date is not the same thing as actually
stepping out on the coals. It is not
knowledge until feet touch heat. Grant
must literally step out in faith. Science and senses, testimony and training can only go so far. In the end, it takes that first step and that
first step is nothing less than faith. So, science and knowledge require action and acting requires faith. Grant lives by faith as much as any believer
does.

What all this
gives us is a beautiful picture of biblical faith. Faith is another way of
knowing that which is built on solid evidence. God does not call us to follow him without knowledge; he doesn’t ask us
to fling ourselves off a cliff in a desperate hope that something is there on
the other side. Faith is essentially
trust – trust that God will continue to
keep his promises, trust that the
promise-keeping God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob will be my promise-keeping God. I
see and study his work in His world and Word and step out with him in trust on that basis. He’s given me all the reason I need to trust
him, but until I actually live that out, I have neither faith nor
knowledge. 

We must
continue to combine faith and knowledge at Veritas and remain committed to training students
to live out Augustine’s maxim, "I believe
that I may understand."
There need not be a dichotomy between knowledge and faith; God has provided each to lead to the other…and both to lead to Him.

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  1. Great post Mr. Spears! I just reread one of my favorite juvenile fiction novels, “Enchantress from the Stars” by Sylvia Engdahl. In this story, the three main characters must learn to synthesize faith and knowledge in order to slay a “dragon” and save their civilizations. This theme also reminds me of the book “Many Waters” by Madeline L’Engle, which contains her famous quote, “Some things have to be believed to be seen.”

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