Sunday, July 26, 2009

proofs...we don't need your stinking proofs

Postmodernity has adopted the research of modern anthropologists and linguists, who determined that what people can and cannot see is largely determined by what they are prepared to see. "Perception," according to Charles Tart, can be "distorted by the perceiver's training and needs." One overused example is that "Eskimos have been trained to distinguish seven or more kinds of snow." I have heard as many as sixteen! "We do not see these different kinds of snow, even though they exist, for we do not need to make these distinctions. To us it is all snow." The argument is, you first have to believe there are seven different kinds of snow before you can begin to see them.
Chuch Smith Jr., This Is A Season, pp. 110-111

I suppose this could be considered a chicken-or-egg kind of question, something that can't really be answered because it's origins are not recorded. But the phrase "you first have to believe there are seven different kinds of snow before you can begin to see them" strikes me as odd. Did Eskimos believe that there were 7, 8, or 16 different types of snow before they found them? Is it not more likely that they developed the distinctions over time, and likely not all at once? That maybe they found one type of snow good for, say, traveling on, another for building, one firm, one soft, and so on?

Plus, I think he doesn't quite see that we also make some distinctions in snow--wet snow, dry snow, fluffy snow, powdery snow. They may not be the kinds of distinctions Eskimos make, but they are there.

Postmodern faith is a "believing without seeing" that results in seeing. In 1 Peter 1:8 we are told, "Though you have not seen him (Jesus Christ), you love him; and even though you do not see him, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy." This is the goal of postmodern faith, to nurture belief in the unseen in such a way that it leads to an experience of love for God and inexpressible joy. It is our love for God that motivates us to do His will. We are not motivated to conform our lves to His will on the basis of knowledge alone. Bare knowledge does not change people. (How many smokers know that cigarettes are likely to kill them?)
p. 111

In another part of this chapter, Smith Jr. makes much of the account of Thomas, when he first hears of Jesus' resurrection, and how he will not believe until he sees and feels. Very well, we can agree with him that Thomas showed a rather severe lack of faith. But the point is, not only did Thomas have the account of the other disciple's meeting with the resurrected Jesus, he had Jesus' own words that He would return. He was not asked to exercise a blind, unreasoning faith, but rather to truth that Jesus would do what He said He would do.

So, too, the believers Peter was writing to were not asked to believe without eyewitnesses, likely people like Peter himself who had know Jesus and had seen Him resurrected and alive. As well, they were likely taught what the Scriptures say about Jesus, as Philip taught when he was with the Ethiopian, as Jesus Himself taught when he was with the disciples going to Emmaus.

Christian faith, then, is not a "leap of faith" belief in what we may otherwise consider nonsense--against reason, against logic, against all that we know to be true. Nor is it saying "I believe that I believe", or having faith in faith.

Knowledge is not the enemy of faith. True, knowledge alone will not save us, but if, for example, a person does not have knowledge of Christ and His sacrifice of His life to make us right with God, then whatever faith they may have in their own efforts to live rightly will be simply misspent efforts. "Go, and teach all nations" is one part of the Great Commission, for people need knowledge before they can act on it.

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