Eden Hill Journal

Comments, dreams, stories, and rantings from a middle-aged native of Maine living on a shoestring and a prayer in the woods of Maine. My portion of the family farm is to be known as Eden Hill Farm just because I want to call it that and because that's the closest thing to the truth that I could come up with. If you enjoy what I write, email me or make a comment. If you enjoy Eden Hill, come visit.

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Location: Maine, United States

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Religion Part 6 - Infallible

"I believe that The Bible is the infallible Word of God himself, which was written by God through man."
I quote this from Andy in reply to Dacia's April 12 post Porque? (1 of 3).
It would seem that in order to have a religion, any group would need something or someone "infallible" in which or in whom to believe. The Catholics have the Pope and the Virgin Mother Mary. Islam has the Prophet Mohammed and the Quran. The Mormons have the Book of Mormons and young, innocent Joseph Smith. Evangelical Christianity has the "infallible Word of God" otherwise known as "The Holy Bible." In all cases, infallibility is the key. Yet, strangely, in each case, each religion cancels out the infallibility of each other religion. Not only that, but within some religions there are sects that claim that only their sect has access to the infallibility of God's work. That seems bizarre to me.
I was thinking about all this today while I was out for a walk. In Maine, the long winter's frosts heave (lift up) all of our roads and in April the bright sun finally melts that frost leaving paved roads littered with cracks in the pavement. Sometimes to ease the sheer boredom of walking on paved roads I (almost subconsciously) pace myself so I won't step on any of these cracks. If I play with my mind hard enough, I can almost convince myself that the cracks are so situated that I can walk a natural pace and never step on a crack. That's even how it seems sometimes when I'm walking in the woods in an area where there are no trails, especially when the walk is along a steep hillside or mountain. I can convince myself that spiritual forces have already provided a natural trail for me no matter where I wish to go. Of course, that's absurd, sometimes even dangerous, but that's beside the point. The point is that it is easy to trick my mind into thinking these things and then perceiving convincing proof that they are true.
It's easy for us to trick our minds into thinking that the objects of our faith are infallible. If we allow ourselves to do it, it is easy to think that spiritual forces have already acted to create hidden perfection within that which we base our faith. But if we step back from it all and evaluate what it is we're doing, we're using circular reasoning to justify our beliefs. Because of our faith, we know that the objects of our faith must be real, must be true, because if they weren't true, we wouldn't have a basis for our beliefs. Therefore what we believe in is true. How else could I possibly convince myself that a natural pace will lead me to not step on the cracks?
I mean, if I don't step on any cracks, it's because I am continuously adjusting my stride in anticipation of what I see coming. I am the one making it happen. It's like skiing in a mogul field, you need to look ahead and plan your path ahead of you to keep from being thrown by the moguls. The same thing holds true with faith. If you're going to have faith in something and perceive it as infallible, you have to have some mechanism in your head for dealing with the reality of the situation, that is, the fact that the object of your faith isn't really infallible. You have to be able to adjust to any challenges and convince yourself that the challenge never really existed. If you're going to walk a natural walk that never steps on a crack, you need to forget the times you stepped on the cracks and chalk them up to the forgiven and forgotten past. Your faith needs a coping mechanism.
Religion's coping mechanism is circular reasoning. If you start with infallibility, what you wind up with is infallible. Any challenge must be wrong. The only thing you can allow is that your own understanding was wrong in which case you adjust your understanding but not the objects of your faith, but too many such adjustments would eventually shake your faith so you must forget any adjustments you had to make. You ignore adjusting your stride and forget stepping on any of the cracks. The final result is a hardened faith in your own assumptions of the infallibility of your faith. You wind up with your faith making a complete circle.
But when my walk was done, I brought myself back to the realization that all these notions of spiritual perfection and the natural stride were just amusements to keep my mind from being bored. There's no such thing as infallible objects of faith.


Blogger Mainline Mom said...

While I understand your argument, it also misses a key point. Faith is believing in something that is unseen, unproven, untouchable. It somewhat defies reason, though not entirely. I am a scientist, a logical person. My faith does not necessarily conflict with that. But my faith is a big step beyond the logical, the scientific.

6:59 PM, April 23, 2005  
Blogger Bill said...

Sometime it might come out here in my blog that I'm not denying that I have faith. Like everyone else, I do have faith in something. I even tend, as I admit here, that I have faith in objects, in this case the spacing of the cracks in the road. My point here is that if you have faith in objects, your mind is inclined to adjust to any challenges you meet that challenge your faith.
Gods are objects in most people's minds. With any luck, the Bible is read and believed objectively.
But there is one concept which, if it exists, is not an object. I have faith in this concept and if God is real, if God exists, this concept is true. That concept is that there is such a thing as reality, such a thing as truth - a reality and a truth that would continue to exist even if every human mind on earth should somehow cease to operate.
My beef is with those who claim that truth and reality are ultimately subjective, that there is no higher truth or reality beyond the relative view that personal faith defines reality.
This single higher truth, this ultimate reality, is what I refer to as God. My hope is that somehow I will come to know it, that I will be enlightened by it, that my thinking and my perception will transcend beyond the limited view of "my own" reality and become conscious of what truely exists.
If you think about it, isn't that the real hope of the Christian faith? Isn't that what Heaven is supposed to be all about?

7:59 PM, April 23, 2005  
Blogger Mainline Mom said...

Yes! That is exactly the hope of the Christian faith. To know God, the supposed creator of reality, the author of the truth. I am so with you on the whole relativism thing. I think there is an absolute reality and a right and wrong. Beyond my own reality. That's why, while I believe in God and the Bible, I understand that my view of reality is probably wrong in a lot of ways. Because I accept that I am a created being, with a mind limited by the Creator. I accept that there are things I can't possibly ever know or understand and God made it that way on purpose. I'm really quite surprised by your rejection of relativism. You seem pretty open minded. That's cool. I get you point about adjusting your mind and I don't disagree.

12:06 PM, April 24, 2005  
Blogger Bill said...

Sarah, you say that "there is an absolute reality and a right and wrong." I agree, but if by right and wrong you mean good and evil, then I differ with you. It was never God's plan for man to define good and evil. When right refers to that which is true and wrong refers to that which is illusion, then I agree with you. But when right refers to that which is moral by absolute standards of a faith and wrong refers to that which is condemned by that faith, then you and I differ.
You seem to be accepting that your beliefs are something you take responsibility for. I applaud that because more often than not, Bible literalists tend not to attribute their faith to themselves. Since by faith they are saved and since there is nothing any human can do to become saved, then faith must be something that God does. In practice, such Christians attribute their faith to the Holy Spirit. That has two direct effects. First, such Christians are not personally responsible for the effects or the results of their faith. Second, their faith itself, since it comes from a perfect source, is infallible beyond question.
Beliefs that are beyond question when they are used as the basis for law are something to fear.
On another point, I tend to wonder just what it is that I will have in Heaven that I don't have access to now. If, as a Christian, God's truth is alive in my heart, then just where are my limitations when it comes to knowing that truth? Aren't human limitations attributed to the fall and not to the creation?

12:43 PM, April 24, 2005  
Blogger Mainline Mom said...

Hmm...I see your point about truth and illusion but I take it a step further. Right, or good, is truth as God made it. Wrong, or evil, is an illusion created by the Prince of Lies. I do think there are moral absolutes, and I think God has spelled them out pretty clearly in the Bible. So yeah, I am for determining the law through the governing principles of faith. I take responsibility for my faith in that I don't take it at face value, because my parents or teachers or pastors said so. I believe it's very important to question religious teachings and root out their origin and determine for yourself their validity. However I do subscribe to the concept that my faith is a result of grace, given to me by God, through the Holy Spirit. It does not make my faith infallible or get me off the hook for the results of my faith. It does not mean I can use it as an excuse for anything. It just means that on some level I can't understand, God softened my heart to hear the truth. I'm not sure where I'm going with this, I expect that you probably know alot of what I think because of your background. I'm curious about your fundamentalist background and what made you turn from it.

7:55 PM, April 24, 2005  

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