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Monday, March 21, 2016

Imagining Life Without Faith -- An Empty Soul


 

I cannot imagine living a life without faith. I believe every person has a natural need for spiritual fulfillment. If a human uses free will to deny his spiritual existence, he creates a void where trust, loyalty, promise, and fidelity cannot flourish and grow.

The human soul is the incorporeal and immortal essence that allows a human being to strive for full actualization. And, faith is the vehicle by which the soul attains a greater understanding of God. Without faith, a person denies the very existence of the Almighty and anything beyond his own temporal existence, so he purports to judge all that lacks proof or direct evidence as false.

Yet, in all its exalted power and glory, even science must allow for the subjective as well as the objective, and for the relative as well as the absolute. Immanuel Kant (1724–1804), considered the central figure of modern philosophy stated:

"We cannot prove a priori (with deductive reasoning) the immateriality of the soul, but rather only so much: that all properties and actions of the soul cannot be recognized from materiality.”

Oh, yes, I absolutely think humans have a sacred duty of seeking truth. To understand how words, symbols, ideas and beliefs may properly be considered true is essential to guiding human practices. A noble human being must properly educate himself in all matters that rely upon authenticity; however, everyone striving to understand the truth soon encounters problems with accurately interpreting the entirety of its objective reality.

On this planet, not only do seemingly simple black and white matters often inherently possess large areas of gray interpretation, but the human intellect, an immaterial concept itself, struggles to understand the truth within limits of its own human abilities.

Enter the natural need for faith …

Saint Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), famed philosopher and Doctor of the Catholic Church, said that real things participate in the act of being of the Creator God, who is Subsistent Being, Intelligence, and Truth. Thus, these beings possess the light of intelligibility and are knowable.

Aquinas explained that these things (beings; reality) are the foundation of the truth that is found in the human mind when it acquires knowledge of things -- first through the senses, then through the understanding and the judgment done by reason.

For Aquinas, human intelligence (intus, “within” and legere, “to read”) has the capability to reach the essence and existence of things because it has a non-material, spiritual element, although some moral, educational, and other elements might interfere with its capability.

In his greatest work, the Summa Theologiae, Aquinas revealed his conviction of the natural harmony between faith and reason. After studying Aristotle, Aquinas realized that faith did not capitulate to reason. Instead he demonstrated that the two go together: what seemed to be reason incompatible with faith was not reason, and what seemed to be faith was not faith insofar as it was opposed to true rationality. Thus, he created a new synthesis, which shaped culture throughout the following centuries.

Allow me to apply this to my feeling that a human is incomplete without faith – that a person without faith has a gaping, mortal wound in his God-given soul.

St. Thomas Aquinas held that faith in eternal salvation shows that we have theological truths that exceed human reason. But, he also claimed that one could attain truths about religious claims without faith, though such truths are incomplete.

Aquinas believed in "a two fold truth" about religious claims, "one to which the inquiry of reason can reach, the other which surpasses the whole ability of the human reason." No contradiction can stand between these two truths. However, something can be true for faith and false (or inconclusive) in philosophy, though not the other way around. This entails that a non-believer can attain to truth, though not to the higher truths of faith.

The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy states ...

Aquinas contends that one cannot believe by faith and know by rational demonstration the very same truth since this would make one or the other kind of knowledge superfluous.

On the basis of this two-fold theory of truth, Aquinas thus distinguished between revealed (dogmatic) theology and rational (philosophical) theology. The former is a genuine science, even though it is not based on natural experience and reason. Revealed theology is a single speculative science concerned with knowledge of God. Because of its greater certitude and higher dignity of subject matter, it is nobler than any other science. 
 
Philosophical theology, though, can make demonstrations using the articles of faith as its principles. Moreover, it can apologetically refute objections raised against the faith even if no articles of faith are presupposed. But unlike revealed theology, it can err.”

(James Swindal. “Faith and Reason.” Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.)

 

To Me, Faith Is …

My faith is bolstered the most by nature and by the arts. God's natural creations are wonders that exceed rational explanations and draw us closer to the supreme Creator while the arts represent man's spiritual attempts at transcending the common understandings of the world. Faith is essential to both of these constructs – one created and orchestrated by a heavenly Master and the other designed by humans inspired by infinite faith. Both feed the soul and allow for significant human growth and understanding.

Something as simple as a blade of grass or a beautiful song defies human understanding. Even if rational thought breaks down the components of the structure, no such investigation can attain the meaning of the soulful, living existence of either. When we feel faith tugging at our souls in wonder, we understand that faith is a tangible part of us. How else do we accept that there is more … more than we will even understand without a higher belief?

For the skeptics of faith, I can say that I have no problem with accepting the Big Bang and other theories of creation. The fact that humans and everything else on the planet are stardust merely makes me understand the interplay in God's universe. The scientific explanation does not shake my faith. In fact, it strengthens it through its celestial/human connection.

Here it is …

The human body consists of around 37.2 trillion cells, each made up of different kinds of molecules, and each containing several different types of atoms that are categorized into elements. These elements, built into molecules like DNA, RNA, enzymes, proteins, haemoglobin and others, constantly execute an array of processes within your body that keep you alive and functioning.

But where do all of these building blocks come from? The answer to this question may seem somewhat surprising. The simplest elements in the universe can be traced back to the Big Bang itself, but the majority of the elements inside our bodies can be traced back to processes that occur inside stars. We are all stardust.”

(Andrew McMahon. “We Are Stardust.” I, Science. June 02, 2015.)

The dogmatic and the philosophical, the deductive and the inductive, the understood and the mystery – all of these things are human concepts relying upon human explanations of the truth as defined and perceived by those same generations of humans. God gave us life. He gave us intellect. He gave us a questioning nature. And, He gave us free will to deny or accept faith. 
 
In my opinion, I am powerless to exist with all of these wonderful gifts unless I have faith. I need faith to complete me. Although others will tell me exactly how to practice it, I feel I am personally responsible for my exercise of it. I may not fit into a religious sect or even into a subset, but I will never deny my firm belief. My faith for the Creator lives in my soul. I strive to make that soul an integral part of my being.

Faith is not something to grasp, it is a state to grow into.”

--Mahatma Gandhi
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