Thursday, January 07, 2010

C S Lewis on Belief and Authority

I believe it on His authority...Believing things on authority [by faith] only means believing them because you have been told them by someone you think trustworthy. Ninety‑nine percent of the things you believe are believed on authority. I believe there is such a place as New York. I have not seen it myself. I could not prove by abstract reasoning that there must be such a place. I believe it because reliable people have told me so.

--Mere Christianity, book 2, chapter 5

It is a simple but powerful observation to recognize that we take most things on faith-- or through varying degrees of faith. The extent of the faith is a function of the knowledge available to us and our expertise in interpreting knowledge and opinion from that realm.

This is certainly true with anything historical-- whether the existence of Abraham Lincoln, the divinity of Jesus Christ, or specifics about the reconstruction of our earth's history.

5 comments:

Aric Clark said...

It's true that most of what we "know" we have taken on the authority of others, but the difference between faith in New York and faith is God is that a person can, if they so choose, GO to New York and prove its existence beyond reasonable doubt unless they are a solipsist. Most things which exist can be tested with opportunity, resources, and expertise to do so. There is no comparable path of empirical proof for faith in God.

Fr. Chris Larimer said...

Aric,

Read Romans 1 and Psalm 8.

QED?

Aric Clark said...

I find it endlessly amusing that reformed conservatives spend hours and hours recycling Barthian denunciations of "natural theology" and decrying the sins of liberalism in seeking knowledge of God outside scripture, and then when confronted with questions about empirical knowledge of God immediately point back to scripture verses that say "go learn about God from nature".

Regardless, it isn't qualitatively or quantitatively the same. Yes I can know something of Michelangelo from his handiwork, but it isn't the same as meeting Michelangelo in person. Not even close.

I'll just leave it there, because it isn't worth arguing. Any God which could be empirically proven would be an idol and not a God, a creature and not the creator, in any case.

Fr. Chris Larimer said...

I'm not Barthian. Not even close. I'm a catholic Christian (as was Calvin), so I have no problem with use of reason - so long as Scripture remains the corrective authority and not visa versa.

Any god who can't be shown to have acted salvifically in covenant for his people is an idol. That's what the Psalmist and the Prophets declare.

Anonymous said...

nice post. thanks.