Proverbs on Faith

Music: Prelude in C - BWV 846.
J.S. Bach. Performed by Kevin MacLeod at the Free Music Archive
under a Creative Commons Attribution license.


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Nicholas Gordon

1. Faith is a choice; knowledge, an understanding.

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2. The choice of faith can be made only outside the boundaries of knowledge. So, for example, if one knows that one is six feet tall, one need not choose to believe that one is six feet tall. Nor could one reasonably choose to believe that one is five feet tall.

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3. Similarly, if one knows that God exists, one need not choose to believe that God exists. Just as if one knows that God does not exist, one could not reasonably choose to believe that God exists.

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4. The question of God's existence is, however, beyond the boundaries of knowledge, and is therefore a fertile field for faith. For while science may eventually discover the origin of our universe, it will never discover the origin of being itself, the uncaused cause of which is a paradox that defies reason.

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5. The choice of faith ought to be made on moral or esthetic grounds rather than on epistemological or metaphysical grounds. For epistemology and metaphysics are concerned with knowledge, while one's experience of goodness and beauty is affected by faith.

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6. What, then, does it mean to say that one believes that God exists? It means that although one cannot know whether God exists, one has chosen to posit God's existence and act accordingly.

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7. Since the choice of faith can always be unmade, in every faith there must always be an element of doubt.

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8. One chooses faith because of its effect on the quality of one's life, and on the quality of the lives of those around one.

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9. In its social manifestations, faith provides a rich tradition of rites and practices that bind people together in ways that reason and knowledge cannot. This is why even some who do not choose faith choose to practice faith's rituals at various turning points in their lives.

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10. There is room for faith in even the most rational of societies, not as a substitute for knowledge, nor even as an additional way of knowing, but as something altogether different from knowledge, as ordinary movement differs from dance.

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