Posted by: gebs | October 6, 2008

Faith, Hope and Love – Beyond the Mere Intellect

Faith exists outside the realm of mere ideas.  All knowledge is ultimately a theory.  In other words, all that we take to be true is somehow based on a theory.  Knowledge changes with time as more and more ideas develop from others, or at the expense of others.  Nothing we know can be the whole picture, as our phenomenologist friends tell us. 

 

Although we may have knowledge (develop theories) about our faith, faith itself is something beyond the intellect.  It can often work against the intellect, and demand things that do not make too much sense, as the classic example of Abraham tells us –who having been given a son by God, was asked to sacrifice him!  Although the intellect, therefore, may work in harmony with our faith, it is nevertheless something distinct from mere intellectual knowledge and cognition. 

 

Perhaps this is why our efforts to intellectually prove God’s existence, or even faith itself, are most often doomed to failure.  Both history and God have told us that there are no intellectual prerequisites for faith, and often it’s is the least knowledgeable which posses the strongest faith. 

 

If faith does not rest on our own intellectual merits therefore, it must be something which is given.  That is why faith is often referred to as a gift (grace).  If this is true we must also make the observation that although a gift may be given to us, it is nevertheless our task to unwrap it, otherwise its contents will remain hidden from our senses.  As soon as we begin unwrapping this gift of faith, however, we soon realise that we are engaged in a life ling process.  Faith takes a lifetime to unwrap and quite often we stop or take brakes during the process.

 

For the sake of our argument, and to help further clarify our understanding of faith, we will talk about love as being one of the most analogous terms we can use with faith.  Let’s see how faith is like love.  Arguable there are more of us who have experienced the confusion and painfulness of trying to follow the path of love in our lives, in contrast to that of faith.  Love is a painful thing to follow and this is often so because it also demands things of us which make little sense.  Our mind often fails when it comes to adopting the path of love in our life and too often love is the casualty.  Why is it that poetry and art speak most about love?  Mathematics (or pure logic) has little to say about love, because it exists for us, much the same way as faith does, as something beyond the more intellect.    

 

Our intellect is often the strongest component of our life.  Our idea of ‘self’ is itself seated in our intellect.  This is perhaps why the self is so incapacitated when it comes to mental illness, and sometimes it can disappear altogether.  We take so much refuge in our intellect as if it were the rock of our own existence, ignorant to the fact that if someday our mind collapses, all knowledge, including that of self, would disappear in the mist which created them.  All that matters in our life, at that point in our existence, (existentially and ontologically speaking) is the willingness of those around us to care and sustain our existence.  And despite our inability to know it at the time, it is only love that matters.  When we see people in nursing homes that have lost their mind, we can witness the reality of these remarks.  For such people, knowledge is no longer possible as they have lost all power over every aspect of their lives.  They still breathe, however, and are with us.  They are not only there to show us the vanity of all knowledge but also to reveal the primacy of love in our lives.  Love does not have to make sense for it to exist, and perhaps the belief that it does, is evident in the fact that we often abandon those of which it makes no sense to love; the undeserved or the abandoned for example.  On the contrary, we demand that love makes sense in our lives; we demand that those whom we choose to love conform to our selfish preferences.  We want love to conform to us, not us to it.  Love, however, like faith, is not a conformist.  It is something beyond our intellectual abilities, and it often demands that we actively and submissively mould our intellect around it.  It is the body which we must clothe. 

 

Hope is also like this.  Hope is the ability to believe in something contrary to all facts and expectations.  It is the ability to see a brighter day ahead, despite the darkness one finds them self in.  It often exists contrary to reason.  We all hope, for example, that one day peace will rule the earth, despite the inability of our intellect to see how this will come about.  Hope is the often unseen ability to live despite the hopelessness of our existence.  Like so many of my Western counterparts, I am often puzzled by the human capacity to prolong human life despite the horror and suffering which may surround those less fortunate than our selves.  When I see poor and dying people of our world, who work for their hopeless existence, I am often amazed at the perseverance of human nature to continue fighting against all the odds.  Although, we in the West see little of the hope which lives in our hearts, it is clearly evident in the lives of those underprivileged and war torn in our world.  When all else is gone, whether we know it or not, it is hope that keeps the human being going.    


Responses

  1. You have really put your heart into this post and you do share some eye-opening insights. It is true that,”When all else is gone, whether we know it or not, it is hope that keeps the human being going” Amen to that!


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