Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Off topic of the MBHC theme of this blog, here is a "comment" that I posted to a fellow Ave Maria 1L's blog. see watsonwebsite.blogspot.com. The picture hopefully helps generate some more mbhc flavoring. (Can anyone guess where specifically it was taken?) The post is in line with how intensly the mbhc are supposed to be pondering... Just some thoughts:

If we had a perfect faith would we sin? Could we sin truly knowing the dire consequences involved with acting against God?

In short, if faith then no; if knowledge then yes. Perfect faith would imply action completely aligned with the will of God, and therefore sin would be irrelevant. But if we were just acting on knowledge, then

To clarify that answer, I was going to try and distinguish between what I take "perfect faith" to be, and what "knowledge" is. But after a week of trying to wrestle it out, I still feel like I haven't wrapped my head around it. But that's OK, these are just off the top of my head thoughts, right.

OK, first, by knowledge I do not refer to the “Knowledge of God” (Prov 2:5, Hosea 6:6, Eph 4:13, Col 1:10) which is too much akin to perfect faith. Yes, I am clearly deviating from scripture here. Luther would probably not approve, but bear with me.

Let me define knowledge in a very basic way, like simply external, physical experience. Like “I watched that tree fall,” or “I saw that tree fall on TV,” or “I was hiking in the forest, and a ways off I saw a movement that could be reasonably interpreted as a falling tree, and the noise I heard strengthens that conclusion,” or even “I was told by a man that I respect greatly that trees can fall.” These kind of stimulus outside of your own thinking are what I consider knowledge. Like seeing words in a book, or watching a graph on a computer screen change while you are conducting an experiment in the underground lab at BYU, or feeling the pull back into your seat as you push on the gas pedal. This is knowledge.

Faith, on the other hand, involves the decisions we make, sometimes based on knowledge, and sometimes not based on knowledge. For example, Faith would be my decision that vanadium dioxide does in fact exhibit a phase change with hysteresis induced by temperature. I base that faith, that decision, on the countless hours I spent in the underground lab (at BYU) watching a computer screen display data from an experiment that I built on a program that I wrote. The knowledge came from seeing the data, the faith came from deciding on what I had seen.

Faith is the decision about whether or not you are accelerating based on what you see, hear and feel as you punch the accelerator. Faith is your decision that trees are mortal and can die and fall over, based on what you have seen, or have been told, etc.

Faith can be good or bad. Obviously one can decide on a principle correctly or incorrectly based on a number of factors. To me, the good version of faith is when a CORRECT conclusion is reached, according to Heavenly Father's judgment. “Bad” faith isn't necessarily immoral or evil faith, just incorrect in some way. To illustrate, consider the person flipping on the light switch. Maybe in the past they have flipped the switch thousands of times, and every time the light has come on. Based on that, they may conclude that every time the light is switched on, the light will “automatically” turn on. In this they would be incorrect, and the faith would be “bad.” There conclusion needs to account for the possibility of a lack of electricity in the circuit that may prevent the light from going on even when the switch is flipped. Good faith would be a conclusion that flipping on a light switch has the possibility of turning the light on.

Maybe the persons lack of knowledge influenced the incorrect decision, and also it really wasn't that far off, because most of the time the light does come on. Those two points are, however, irrelevant. Their conclusion was not correct. Only correct faith can be good.

I'm somewhat straying from the topic with that analogy, but it exemplifies soooo many different situations where people are questioning God because their own faith turned out to be incorrect.

Faith can also be developed not on knowledge, but also by reasoning or spiritual prompting. I think every Christian, Muslim, or Jew must admit at some fundamental level one or the other. Somehow we have to bridge the gap from the mortal to the immortal. Excepting theophany, we have to at some point say, “I have no direct knowledge of this,” and either go on our reasoning or some kind of spiritual prompting that God exists. In the underground lab, I didn't put my hand on the VO2 and “feel” its change in temperature and resistivity, or watch it with my eyes. I would not have been able to see or feel any of it. All I could do was watch my computer screen, and then reason about what all the data meant.

There is a difference, in that faith based on reason is rather weak, easily overturned. As reasoning skills get better, it gets stronger, but it can never match the impenetrable nature of faith based on spiritual prompting. I say “prompting,” but I mean a spiritual experience apart from the physical “seeing, hearing, touching,” etc. I won't go into why reasoned faith is weak, but I hope everyone can see clearly that it is true.

SO back to the main point, “Perfect Faith” means to me an all encompassing correct faith derived from a spiritual experience. Consider the one who is taught every single doctrine possible, learns it inside and out, gains external knowledge about all of it by observation, experiment, etc, and reasons completely and correctly about everything. This person would know it all, and even have a correct faith, but because he lacks in the spiritual aspect, his faith would not be perfect. I believe this person could still go against the will of God, and fall away.

I'm not sure how the adversary falls into this picture. I'm sure his knowledge of eternal law is complete, and he knows physics through and through. He knows the dictionary of heaven by heart, etc. But I think somewhere along the line his conclusions about the mind of God went astray (Moses 4:6), therefore his faith started developing holes and inaccuracies, which distinguishes him from the know it all. Clearly satan doesn't know it all. This “bad faith” continued building until a moment of massive error, and now we say: “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!” (Isa. 14: 12)

Perfect faith does not need to involve 'knowledge' of everything. Nor does it require any amount of reasoning. It must simply be correct, encompass everything, and be based in the spirit. Simple...haha. This person would still have moral agency to choose for themselves, but they would never choose anything contrary to the will of God. I want to mention pride as a big factor in ruining it, but correct faith regarding humility is encompassed in “perfect” faith.

So I've explained the “what” of my thoughts without really touching the “why.” Sorry it took over a week to write this, and its probably still all wrong. And double sorry that it probably took a week to read this because its so long. Thanks for asking the question, Mr. Watson:)


September 30, 2008 12:42 PM

Here are some pictures of the family... I ain't braggin', but my family is awesome.

Eli had his dreams fulfilled when randomly an ambulance driver invited Eli and Wesley to see the inside of an ambulance. Needless to say, such recruiting practices are sure effective in this group.