Wednesday, September 12, 2007

What's logic got to do with it?

I suppose I spend a lot of my spare time and energy arguing that faith is a good and rational thing. Heck, it's essentially the point of my other blog, if not expressly stated, then at least in fairly obvious subtext. I have a hard time sitting back while I hear people disparage (more or less) faith by describing it as something like "belief in that which has no evidence". I'm sure I've railed on it before, if not here then in countless other venues of public expression. And yet, I'm going to take a moment to say a few things that are a baby step if not a leap in the other direction.

I remember back in my early college days, there came a time when I began to describe myself as a Christian, although in truth, I no longer consider myself to have been one at the time. The stage of personal belief I was at was that I had recently taken the time to read the New Testament for the first time, and I was impressed with what I read. There was definitely something to Christ and his early followers, and I became convinced that Christianity was Truth-with-a-capital-T as one says, and Christians were not (necessarily) idiots following nonsense blindly.

At the same time, I remember an odd moment when I was hanging out with my Christian friends, and I saw something odd. It was one of those things you can't quite explain, you just experience it, and somehow it seems right. One of the young women in my group of Christian friends was looking at another discussing some theological point, and I saw an odd gleam in her eye. At that moment I was surprised and oddly convinced that this woman was completely insane. There was something unsettling and unbalanced in that gleam, and it gave me a thought. Maybe you have to be just a little bit insane to really, truly believe in God. Not to say that belief in God was a delusion of one's insanity, but that God, being the sort of being that He is supposed to be, so totally foreign to our mundane experiences of daily life, somehow causes a sort of mental short circuit when His presence invades our consciousness.

As I write on this, it sounds a bit in the same vein as some of my previous musings on the nature of the soul, and a Christian who followed that and understood it might think I'm talking about some sort of physical analogue to the concept of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, but that's not what I'm talking about at all. I think this sort of short circuit (if indeed that is what it is) happens quite naturally, and to people of all sorts of faith. It's related to the idea espoused above that faith is a belief without evidence, but in this case, it's belief in that which is not completely logical. We live in a natural world, how can we be completely sane and yet accept the existence of the supernatural, in whatever form we might believe in it?

Yet there is a problem coming at this from the side of the skeptics and atheists. I think atheists are quite aware of this, and in reading the above, no doubt they nod their heads and say, "Finally, this Brucker guy is making sense!" There is definitely a belief among such people that there is nothing more illogical than belief in the supernatural. Nonetheless, I would like to say (and finally come to the main point of this writing--aren't essays supposed to start with the point and expand on it instead of building to it? I'm a really crappy writer sometimes...) that this is not what I am saying at all. Despite all I have said here, I still claim that faith is not illogical.

I wish to coin a term here, sort of. It's not in the dictionary, although a search on Google turns up nearly 60,000 hits, so perhaps the idea is not so new. I believe that faith is "nonlogical". In case you don't immediately grasp the term from its own form, consider this: It's logical to believe that 1+1=2. It's illogical to believe that 1+1=3. It's nonlogical to believe that 1+1 is possibly a symbolic representation of a concept such as human relationships. "Nonlogical" is the idea that something might be impossible to arrive at through logical reasoning, yet also there is no logical reasoning that can completely dismiss that something. Faith, love, beauty: these things have a truth-value based not on scientific principles or clear-cut definitions of tangible value, but simply stand on their own.

The fact is, there are statements about the world that are simply true, and other statements about the world that are simply false, but many, many statements about the world are in a gray area in between. That fictional champion of logic, "Star Trek's" Spock once said: "Logic is the beginning of wisdom...not the end." Logic can take you far in life, but it was something I realized back in those days and still remember, that in a journey to Truth-with-a-capital-T, there comes a point where logic comes to the end of itself and says, "I can take you no further." Some people get to that point and they let go of logic's hand and walk forward into the darkness. Some people get there and insist that there must simply be nothing more. Still, logic can't really tell you which one is right, can it?

1 comment:

Brucker said...

"There are times when you choose to believe something that would normally be considered absolutely irrational. It doesn't mean that it is actually irrational, but it surely is not rational. Perhaps there is suprarationality: reason beyond the normal definitions of fact or data-based logic; something that makes sense only if you can see a bigger picture of reality. Maybe that is where faith fits in." - from The Shack by Wm. Paul Young