Originally published in Sunstar Davao.
Where Faith Begins
There is an oft-quoted phrase in Christian circles that goes “faith begins where reason ends” and I’m perfectly fine with that statement as it is.
The problem I have is that a lot of people who use this phrase to defend their faith do not really go to the end of reason. They stop short of the end, refusing to take reason past a certain point, and declare that faith is now the operative agent.
I, myself, have been guilty of this many times in the past. When I reached a point when I wasn’t able to understand some theological conundrum, I then declared that at this point, I must have faith. That declaration is often coupled with prayer for more faith as in Mark 9:24, “Lord, I believe, help me overcome my unbelief.” At other times it is accompanied with thanks and praise to God for being so wise that his ways are higher than mine.
I then put the issue away from my mind, feeling assured that I am resting in the hands of a being who loves me and has a perfect plan for me, even if I do not understand it at the moment.
The Tipping Point
That went on for so many years until I was boiling with so many questions I had put away, so many unresolved issues about my faith and belief that it was impossible to simply ignore them anymore. I had experienced many ups and downs in my “spiritual” life. I had experienced putting everything on the line for faith, and I had come out unsatisfied and somewhat disappointed.
Around 5 years ago, I had a realization. God had created me to be an extremely rational being. If I put aside my rationality, would it not be a disservice to the gift that he gave me? Would I not be misusing my “talent” if I turned it off in the name of faith?
And so I prayed, “God, if you really are there, you gave me an abundance of rational ability and I want to know you more and understand you through that gift. You know of my disappointment with faith, but I believe you are also a God of reason and from this point forward, I will use your gift of reason to get to the truth of things — even if it means abandoning beliefs I have long held sacrosanct, even if it means abandoning whatever belief I have in you — because whatever I believe about you I have known from other sources. This time, I want to get to know you as you are, not as other people tell me. I want to know you directly, not just know of you from other sources.”
The Journey Thus Far
It has been 5 years and it seems that every word of that prayer has come true. I let loose with all those bottled-up questions. I talked about them with other people, tentatively at first, but more boldly as time went by. I read books I previously would not have touched and listened to speakers I would have avoided, for fear of being influenced by “the wiles of the devil.”
Over time, I learned to let go of certain “truths” I have cherished and found comfort in, and that was very difficult to do. It was like climbing a spiral staircase in a castle tower, and at every step I took, the previous step dropped back into nothingness. I could not see the top. I did not know where I was headed. Yet, there was no turning back, nothing to hold on to. There was no way to go but forward and upward.
Today, I have a very different concept of God, the Bible, church, religion, and spirituality. I have reached this point because I was willing to take reason past the point where most sensible believers stop. I was willing to cross a line I dared not cross before. I dared to question the existence of God. I dared to question the authority of the Bible, the necessity of church and religion. And when I asked these questions, I did not just dip my toe into the pool and shake off the water and declare proudly that I have already challenged my beliefs and survived. No, I dived in and learned to embrace the cold waters. It was very uncomfortable at first and I had to fight the urge to jump out of the pool and go back to warm embrace of “just” believing. But I stayed there and am still staying there because I need to know how far reason can go.
If, in the future, I do return to faith, then I can truly and honestly say that I have reached the end of reason, and it would not be an empty declaration.
But until then, the journey goes on.
Andy Uyboco is a businessman, trainer and speaker. You may email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.