Friday, December 21, 2012

Thank you, St. Anselm

I am coming to a clearer understanding of how people interpret or use the word "faith", and it is quite different than the way I use it in a rather disconcerting way.

Saint Anselm of Canterbury was a Anglican archbishop, an academic theologian and philosopher.   He proposed the notion that G/god is that which exceeds our knowledge.  To put it in simpler terms, think of numbers.  A young student will probably eventually ask what the largest number is.  To this, the teacher would respond that there is no largest number, because you can always add one to the prior number, and so numbers are infinite.

The universe is also infinite, but unlike numbers, it's infinite-ness transcends our ability to understand it all.  Reason, evidence and science can advance our understanding, but we will never understand it all.

And we arrive at faith.  I am learning that one understanding is that faith is a tool used by people to believe the unbelievable, which puts faith in conflict with reason.  For me, that is not a definition of faith, but rather a definition of imagination.  Like reason, faith has a strong relationship with imagination because imagination forms the foundation upon which learning occurs.  But faith is fundamentally different than imagination because faith emerges from an experience.  Properly understood, neither faith nor reason attempt to prove or disprove the unbelievable, they just both attempt to articulate an understanding of the world using different forms of measurement.

Faith and reason are co-dependent.  Faith forms the backbone of reason, for you must have some faith in reason's potential benefit to undertake it in the first place.  Without faith in humanity, reason would eliminate itself and without reason, faith would be indistinguishable from imagination.

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