Thursday, March 4, 2010


The following rambling post is written by Adam. Holly would have made it more concise and clear. That's why she gets better grades in English class, I guess.

I recently responded to a facebook status from a TBM friend-of-a-friend that read:

"Faith is nothing but a firm assent of the mind: which if it be regulated, as is our duty, cannot be afforded to anything, but upon good reason; and so cannot be opposite to it. He that believes, without having any reason for believing, may be in love with his own fancies; but neither seeks truth as he ought, nor pays the obedience due his maker, who would have him use those discerning faculties he has given him, to keep him out of mistake and error. He that does not this to the best of his power, however he sometimes lights on truth, is in the right but by chance; and I know not whether the luckiness of the accident will excuse the irregularity of his proceeding. This at least is certain, that he must be accountable for whatever mistakes he runs into: whereas he that makes use of of the light and faculties God has given him, and seeks sincerely to discover truth, by those helps and abilities he has, may have this satisfaction in doing his duty as a rational creature,that though he should miss truth, he will not miss the reward of it. For he governs his assent right, and place as he should, who in any case or matter whatsoever, believes or disbelieves, according as reason directs him. He that does otherwise, transgresses against his own light, and misuse those faculties, which were given him to no other end, but to search and follow the clearer evidence, and greater probability." -- John Locke

Now, normally I try to avoid getting into the middle of a TBM's testimonybook, but this time I actually had something to say that wouldn't make me a troll.
So I said:

Great quote! I'd love to pull that one out to stick it to the theists who say I've chosen Logic as my God instead of using faith - they never seem to see that they still have REASONS for deciding what to have faith in!

Which elicited this response from someone else:

I would compare logic to the thought process behind making decisions, and faith to taking action based on those decisions. They complement each other perfectly and both are required to succeed. If you sit in the library all day and do nothing but think the only good you have done is to give the custodian another piece of furniture to dust. If you constantly act without thinking, you give the paramedics a lot to do. God requires and expects us to think, and then to take action of our own free choice.

I found this stance frustrating. By that definition, Atheists and Theists use faith equally. Every day, I reach out my hand and flick the light switch, with full faith that it will turn on the light over head. But is that really what we talk about when we say faith? By using such a broad definition of faith, you've robbed it of its intended meaning.

Hebrews 11:1
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

(I love playing "The Devil quotes scripture"!)

Faith is about things you haven't seen. Really, it's about things you CANNOT see, because if you see it, then it's not faith anymore. So the light switch analogy would only apply to faith if the person had never seen a light, had no understanding of an electric circuit, but had been told that if he moves this piece to this position, a light will appear. That would count as faith.
The next day, when he goes to turn on the light again, it would be something different, because now he has SEEN that turning on the light switch causes the light bulb to illuminate.

Most religious people will tell you that their faith is built on prior experiences, that they have seen the light switch turn on in the past. Really though, they haven't. Ask around. Have any of them ever seen a miracle? Most will tell you yes. Ask the details. Most likely, it was "I felt really horrible and I got a blessing and I felt better", or "I paid my tithing and then even though money was tight somehow we made it through." If we want to match this to our analogy, it would be like turning on the light switch, then seeing if there's any sunlight that day. Chances are, at some point, the sun will shine through their window, making it brighter. They will believe that this was because they turned on the light switch. But there's always the caveat: if they had turned on the switch and light hadn't shone, it's because of God's will (His path for you, or a test of your faith). If they hadn't turned on the light switch and the light had shone anyway, it was God either reminding them to turn the light switch or testing them to see what they would do.

In short, they pay lip service to logic in connecting the dots to point to a conclusion, but the dots are placed arbitrarily based on the expected outcome.

Not long ago my father was trying to get some of his artwork showcased. After 3 or 4 deals fell through, he finally got one gallery to host him. To him, this was a testimony builder - God had lined things up such that he really had to work hard, keep trusting and not give up. But what would have happened if he had been successful on his first try? Well, that would have been a testimony builder, God blessing him for his righteousness. What if he had never succeeded? It would have been God showing him that this was a road he shouldn't pursue (sometimes God leads us down a dead end to show us to go the other way).

And what would have happened if my father weren't a man of faith? Well, with the same artwork, and the same dedication, he would still have had the same results. (I wonder how much effect these things had on the unraveling of my testimony? The blow that shattered the illusion was realizing that if God weren't there, everything would look exactly the same.)

A short while later, my parents were considering buying a new car. The researched that model, they trusted the dealer, all was well and they were very excited - until the day they went to sign the papers. Then Mom got a nervous feeling. She didn't say anything because Dad seemed fine. She tried to ignore it, but it got worse and worse. At the last second, when dad was about to pull out his pen and sign, she pulled him aside. They decided that even though they don't know why, they should follow that prompting of the spirit.
How does this story end? There was no "a week later someone else bought the car and it blew up!" or "a month later we had major financial problems." They never found out why they were "instructed" to not buy the car. But they still sent out an email to the whole family thanking Heavenly Father for His loving guidance. To them, that was a faith promoting experience!

Now, the next time they have a bad feeling and it turns out wrong, they'll draw a line between those two dots and find God. But where was God when they got scammed by the crappy window installer 10 years ago? Where was God with every bad stock they bought? Basically, life is a whole sheet of graph paper. Stuff happens. Sometimes it's random, sometimes it's due to our actions, sometimes it's due to the actions of others.

Logic dictates that we look for patterns, that we try to find cause and effect in the world around us. The scientific process is one where a theory is made based on observations, then future results are predicted based off that pattern. If the results don't match the prediction, the prediction must have been wrong.
Faith is where an event happens, then people assign a supernatural cause. There is only one dot, but they draw a line. Once their line is established, all dots that don't fall on that line are ignored, and many dots that don't hit the line are fudged to make them fit the predetermined pattern.

I think now that my original point was flawed. Initially, I wanted to show that Logic is inherently a part of faith - people use logic to decide what to believe in (otherwise it's just gullibility, not faith). Some people connect the dots of reading the book of Mormon, praying, and feeling the spirit. Some people connect the dots of turning to God and having their lives change. I've even had someone try to convince me that the Bible was unique among all other books by being written over the course of thousands of years, but still containing one consistent message (He obviously hasn't read the whole thing - it's anything but consistent).

I think what I'm seeing now is that Logic does play a role, but it's a very superficial role. While they may use some semblance of logic to connect the dots, it is mysteriously absent during the process of placing those dots.

So maybe I have chosen Logic as my God? So be it. At least I'm sticking to my guns instead of having one foot in each boat.