Faith and Facts
“I define knowledge as being able to deal with things as they are on an appropriate basis of thought and experience.”
Dallas Willard (The Allure of Gentleness)
There is a great deal of talk these days about “alternative facts,” and lies told as truth. It seems that one can always find a “reliable source” for whatever one wants to assert as fact. I don't know whether people believe that if they simply say something is true, it becomes so, or whether actual proven facts just don't matter any more. It's very confusing. Sometimes these alternative facts are so preposterous as to be not within the realm of possibility. But, who am I to say what is so, and what is not?
We seem to have gravitated toward our own definition of faith, too. Some people, who claim to have faith in Jesus, a gentle spirit who rejected no one, who, in fact, gathered one and all around him to teach them how to treat one another with kindness and respect, are now demanding that certain people be rejected and cast out. They're turning over grave stones and torching houses of worship. Even killing innocent people. Jesus would never have done that, nor would he condone it—he taught love and not hate. What exactly do these hate-filled people have faith in?
There is a place for faith, and also a place for facts. They are not mutually exclusive, and we should not confuse one for the other. We have gained a great deal of knowledge from inquiry—scientific, scholarly, and otherwise—but not everything can be proven, and new information sometimes cancels old. Some things must be taken on faith, but even then, we have guidance, both in our scriptures, and in the many wise and committed voices of our spiritual teachers. There is wisdom, as well as fact. Wisdom comes from disciplined study, from self-questioning, and from life experience, and fact, from controlled experimentation and measurement. Both are valuable.
Jesus did not teach about life without a context in his own religious scriptures, and the political conditions of his time. He memorized the great teachers before him, and prayed for guidance; he listened to the voices of his people, and searched his own heart. If we truly want to follow in his footsteps, we must do the same.
In the Spirit,