CAN WE "BELIEVE" IN THIS
Is faith an objective decision? Is it simply
reasoned agreement with approved doctrine? Can we reduce faith, in
other words, to mere mental assent?
Consider, for example, these historic milestones:
Old "ideas" of faith—"empirical" faith,
"processed" faith, "ordained" faith, "cerebral" faith—will no longer
Old apologetics, abstract deities, philosophical
propositions, "God-in-a-box" revelations, and narrow ideologies will
no longer suffice.
Even the empty philosophies of "postmodernism"
with their disconnected dots and subjective disbeliefs are fading as
We are discovering, instead, that all
convictions—including "logical" science and "spiritual" Truth—are
empowered by belief. In other words, we must believe before we
Faith, after all, is impossible without a
personal response—it requires the contribution of the believer.
The faith of the ancient Hebrews differs, as
well, from our modern philosophical traditions. In fact, scriptural
faith offends the modern mind. In the ancient world . . .
Faith comes from the deep congruence of "faith,
hope, and love."
Though "feeling" remains a "forbidden" word in
the modern "idea" of faith, the very meaning of scriptural faith
confirms the notion of feelings.
Finally, mind and emotion—faith and feelings—are
inseparably connected. Even today, our brains have never experienced
the unfiltered "real world" outside our bodies.
In short, the world is leaving behind a narrow
knowledge about faith and embracing a new knowledge of faith—an
experiential, relational faith.
For the stories behind these milestones, read on:
Truth—in whatever form—comes only to those who
welcome it. As Scripture confirms, it comes only to those who are
"alert" and "cheerfully expectant."1 For Truth always
requires a personal response. It never intrudes where it’s not
No wonder. Even in the "real" world, every
"knowing" requires the unspoken, yet personal, contribution of the
knower. This requirement is not a weakness, but "a necessary
component of all knowledge."2 In the same way, we easily
see why a corrupt or calloused conscience seldom sees signs of
In short, "believing is seeing." Truth’s call for
a personal response is ultimately a call for faith. Admittedly,
rational understanding helps our belief. But we must believe even
before we understand!
This is Saint Augustine’s famous credo ut
intelligam—faith seeking understanding.
Paul insisted that Truth is effective only in
those who believe.3 The writer of Hebrews witnessed that
faith provides the "proof of things [we] do not see and the
conviction of their reality."4 And even the secular
Wordsworth admitted that poetic truth comes only to those who are
affected "by absent things as if they were present."5
Truth, in other words, is "caught" more than it
This faith in Truth, however, is not just any
faith. It’s not a "cerebral" faith removed from life itself. It’s
not an "ordained" faith handed down from on high. Neither is it a
prideful faith—a "faith in our own faith." For its power lies
precisely in our frailty, in our vulnerability.
Yes, the search for Truth requires a leap of
faith, but it doesn’t require a "blind leap." Yes, it requires
staking our life on things we can’t completely grasp, but somehow,
it grasps us.
This faith, in other words, is not as irrational
as we may think:
Our grasp of "logical" science and "spiritual"
Truth are both empowered by belief. We’ve been told that imagination
isn’t really true—that it’s just "imaginary." Yet, the latest
breakthroughs in quantum and string theories strongly suggest that
what’s imaginary is truer than what’s "real." And, when cutting-edge
physicists pass over the hidden line between physics and
metaphysics, they sometimes question if science is in touch with
In other words, faith in things we cannot see
does not mean these things are unreal. Indeed, faith has long proven
a prophetic vision through which ultimate reality is not only
perceived, but created as well. (Even today, we can trace this truth
through quantum and string theories.)
You must understand in order to believe, but you
must believe in order to understand.6
Of course, these claims are unacceptable. Let’s
admit it. The above notions fly in the face of modern ideas of
faith. They embrace, instead, an "ancient/future" faith requiring
the mystic interplay between faith and emotion.
The very meaning of faith confirms the notion of
feelings: "Faith is the assurance (that is, the heartfelt
encouragement) . . . of things [we] hope for." Further, it is "the
conviction (that is, the fervent belief) of their reality."7
In addition, faith is "activated . . . energized . . . (and)
expressed . . . through love."8
Here is how it works:
Desire dreams of what it wants, then faith
receives the dream as accomplished fact. Hope longs for its wistful
vision, then faith claims the vision with absolute certainty. Hope
yearns for a cherished goal, then faith declares the goal an
established reality. In other words, faith fulfills hope . . . gives
substance to hope . . . confirms hope. In faith, we forcefully
"seize and hold fast and retain without wavering the hope we
Of course, this hope is not just any "hope." C.
S. Lewis wrote, for example, "If I find in myself a desire in which
no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable
explanation is that I was made for another world."10
. . . and made for searching the Truths of
So Faith and hope require each other. Only the
coldest theologians could think otherwise. Contrary to their ivory
tower disciplines, even "intellectual" faith requires feelings as
well as facts. Pure "abstract theology," in other words, is
Yes, the objective mind and the disciplined will
remain immanently important. Revelation is indeed cognitive. And
theology is certainly "processed information." Further, the mind and
will can "test the spirits" and control the emotions. They can offer
fortitude during long hours of sterile sensations. And, they can
focus sudden and impassioned energy in new directions.
But, the mind and will also involve emotion.
Emotion boldly counters the empty abstractions of the mind. It gives
fervor and devotion to the will. And it ignites, as well, the
pursuit of Truth. In fact, feelings and affections perceive the
beauty of Truth before the mind does. And—in the end—emotions become
"much more convincing than results established by mere logic ever
So mind and emotion are inseparably connected.
"Reality" is embodied or embedded in our feelings. Every thought has
a qualitative "feel" that cannot be quantified. Though we believe
otherwise, our brains have never experienced the unfiltered "real
world" outside our bodies.
This is not a new truth. This is a new revelation
of Truth. We must catch this precipitous turn in the road. After
all, our lives are far different from our philosophical traditions.
As Paul insists, the pursuit of Truth remains possible only in our
"love of truth."12
So, in summary, Truth comes from the deep
congruence of "faith, hope, and love." And, though these categories
affront the modern mind, they steadfastly follow Paul’s spirit.
"True perception counts for nothing without love."13
A Concise Ambiguity
Obviously, we need to search for Truth in a
different way. For our old "proof" of truth is finished. It no
longer fascinates—we can take it or leave it. And our old
epistemology ("how we know what we know") is over. It no longer
charms—we hold no interest in it.
Worn-out apologetics, abstract deities,
philosophical propositions, "God-in-a-box" revelations, the pride of
mere ideas, the comfort of narrow ideologies. . . .
They’re all gone!
No theological tradition—neither conservative nor
liberal—leads society today. Both have been dealt mortal blows.
Let’s wake up! We can’t outlive a time that has already passed us
by. We can’t go on describing who God was—merely managing "the
residue of the mystery."14 Nor can we simply "improve"
ourselves, tweaking and tinkering with outdated ways in a postmodern
None of these ways will work.
Even the multitude of "postmodernism truths" are
finished. Yes, we live in a post-modern world, but the empty
"philosophies" of "postmodernism" with their disconnected dots and
subjective disbeliefs will not keep the Church alive. The freedom to
define our own "truth"—combined with ever-present selfishness—will
only turn postmodern "freedom" into a living hell. . . .
. . . and will only continue Christianity’s "free
Thankfully, most of the postmodern world shows
sure signs of leaving not only modernism behind, but "postmodernism"
as well. New tests of Truth are bringing unquestioning veracity to
our visions and increasing credibility to our beliefs. We are
leaving behind a narrow knowledge about truth and embracing a new
knowledge of Truth—an experiential, relational Truth, confirmed
endlessly and in countless ways.
Jonathan Edwards prophetically predicted that
even salvation requires a sensibility to beauty.15 He
agreed with the psalmist who encouraged us to "Taste and see that
the Lord is good."16 In other words, Truth is felt more
Does this revelation of Truth imply ambiguity?
Yes, of course. But it will prove a "concise ambiguity."
When our search for Truth takes on a new logic—a
"different" logic—a nonmodernist logic, we will move beyond the
split experience of faith and life. When our seeking spirit equals
the strength of our analytical mind, we will interpret reality with
the skills of new art and new "science." When we encounter Truth
rather than merely creating it, we will discover pristine Beauty as
well as pristine Truth. . . .
. . . not in distant abstractions, but face to
When we honor whenever and wherever the "Word
becomes flesh," total conviction will replace mere empirical
"evidence." When we move from the dialogue between man and man to a
dialogue between God and man, we will discover the profound unity of
head and heart, mind and spirit. When we explore the implied power
of Pentecost—the many ways in which the human spirit flows from the
Holy Spirit—we will share a new currency of thought, a new
commonality of language. . . .
. . . a language of both meaning and reality.
The church was never intended to provide safety
from a rapidly changing world. It was never intended to argue old
dogma while envisioning the future. Yes, this is a difficult and
momentous moment. We can lose it all or gain it all. And, perhaps
most difficult of all, there is no way we can "get there from here."
That is, there is no way we can simply "improve" the modern church
and arrive, at the same time, in a postmodern world.
After all, we are being reintroduced to God.
creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to
the present time."(Rom. 8:19-25, NIV)
© 2010 Thomas Hohstadt
1. Romans 12:10, Message Bible.
2. Michael Polanyi, Personal Knowledge:
Towards a Post-Critical Philosophy (Chicago: The University of
Chicago Press, 1958) p 312.
3. I Thessalonians 2:13, AMP.
4. Hebrews 11:1,2; AMP.
Ian Smith, "Misusing Canonical Intertexts"
6. Paul Ricoeur, quoted in Lewis Edwin Hahn,
Editor, The Philosophy of Paul Ricoeur (Chicago: Open Court,
1995) p. 426.
7. Hebrews 11:1, AMP; my paraphrase.
8. Galatians 5:6, AMP.
9. Hebrews 10:23, AMP.
(My italics and bold type)
11. William James,
12. II Thessalonians 2:10, KJ.
13. Mark Strom, Reframing Paul: Conversations
in Grace and Community (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press,
2000) p. 193.
14. LaMar Boschman, Future Worship
(Ventura, California: Renew Books, 1999) p. 86 .
16. Psalm 34:8, KJ.