Sunday, January 29, 2012

Faith and Knowledge: Opposites?


Somewhere in the history of the Christian faith there came to be a battle between ‘faith’ and ‘knowledge.’  It would seem that the two concepts are now placed on a continuum, ‘faith’ on one end, and ’knowledge’ on the other;  Christians are told to have faith, but underlying this is a suspicion, or suspension of knowledge.

The early heresy of Gnosticism made a cult of secret knowledge, and it is possible that in combating this continuing heresy, we in the body of Christ have made the equally mistaken solution of making the pursuit of knowledge an un-spiritual calling.

But ask yourself this question; “Since when is being ignorant spiritual?”

The Pharisees may have taken note that the disciples were ‘unlearned’ (see Acts 4:13) yet were preaching and teaching with boldness through the power of the Holy Spirit ; but remind yourself that these disciples had three intense years of schooling at the feet of Jesus.

Increased faith can only come from an increase of knowledge, knowledge of God, knowledge of Scripture, knowledge of the Philosophy of Religion, knowledge of Theology.  The two need to no longer be separated, they need to be joined.

In his book The Glory of the Lord, Hans Urs von Balthasar (1963) a Christian scholar wrote this on the topic of  “Faith and Knowledge”:

No more than the Old [Testament] does the New Testament shy away from united ‘faith’ and ‘knowing’ in one and the same total human act—on one condition… which is directed against gnosticism: that increase of  ‘knowledge’ should not weaken faith, but, on the contrary, strengthen it.  There can be no question of a believer, on earth, ever out growing an attitude of faith; but through a deeper knowledge of God and his revelation in Christ, he can only grow the more deeply in his faith. (p 133)

The belief that one needs to hold faith in God in a blind, unexamined way is actually a contradiction.  I will grant here that not all are called into the deeper study of Philosophy of Religion, but at a very basic level we all should be able to give a ‘defense’ of our faith, for the hope that is within us(see 1 Peter 3:15).
Balthasar writes:
It is a vital question of Christianity today, which can only commend itself to the surrounding world if it first regards itself as being worthy of belief.  And it will only do this if faith, for Christians, does not first and last mean ‘holding certain propositions to be true’ which are incomprehensible to human reason and must be accepted only out of obedience to authority. While fully upholding the transcendence of divine revelation—nay, precisely because of it—faith must bring man to an understanding of what God is in truth, and in so doing it will also (coincidentally, as it were) bring him to an understanding of himself. (p.140)
No blind faith!

Hans Urs von Balthasar. (1963) The Glory of the Lord: A Theological Aesthetics vol. 1
Ignatius Press, San Francisco

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