A Transcendent Hope (2 of 3)

In the absence of transcendently based purpose and meaning, everything is a tumultuous sea of circumstance viewed through the prism of survival – survival being the value underpinning all other values. Within such a paradigm the concept of hope is relegated to a mere vacuous wishing for serendipitous events to intercede and alter circumstance . . . because there is nothing outside of circumstances in which to place hope. Hope is something that existentialism and nihilism disparage as a useless waste of time and energy – Which is no surprise, given that they are philosophical systems built entirely upon the need for human action and choice, as a means of controlling circumstance.

But the only guiding principle to all of this acting and choosing is whether or not it serves the pragmatism of survival. This is why such philosophies have fostered the existential relativism of “situational ethics” – where ethics are conformed circumstantially to whatever best serves the survival of the prevailing forces placed in crisis. And nihilism’s “will to power” mandate found in “the ends justify the means” – where actions are based on whatever best serves the survival of the agenda of the prevailing force’s will. In all cases survival is the value at the top of the heap – to be served at all cost . . . because it is survival that interprets all circumstances, then in turn, adjusts how all other existential values are to be accordingly held.

9With theism, hope is the best way of describing how a theist relates to the transcendence of God, amid circumstance. In this paradigm, survival only has significance as it serves transcendent values – it doesn’t get to drive the car . . . because hope is the guiding principle. Therefore the theist acts and chooses in accordance with the transcendent values, believing that what is transcendent will prevail – this is why all hope is placed in God, the source of all transcendence. So no matter the circumstance, what is transcendent remains immutable . . . which is well beyond the purview of external efforts.

Again in contrast, where there is an absence of transcendence, survival is paramount. Therefore circumstances must relentlessly be kept out of the ditches, or from plummeting over the cliff – all presumably, by the finite external efforts of human intelligence. So even when the existentialist/nihilist has exhausted every avenue of human action and choice – ironically, he must still grudgingly rely on serendipitous hope . . . a hope placed in random chance, because he has left himself no alternative.

So I place my hope in God, not as an idle wishing, or as some sort of fallback position, but rather as a foundational cornerstone, a sustainable presuppositional context. It is a calibration of my heart and mind, allowing me to distinguish between what is merely superficial, from what has lasting value. As a Christian, I am called to a hope (Ephesians 1:18), a hope I am to give a reason for (1 Peter 3:15), a hope that ultimately defines everything about my life . . . so I place my hope in God.

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A Knowing Faith (1 of 3)

There is an allure to believing that knowing anything can be free of an accompanying faith – this is likely because the idea that knowing something for certain creates the illusion of control . . . our desire for having control being at the opposite end of the spectrum from our need for faith.

Pre-historic man sees a blinking firefly against the forced perspective of a starlit night and believes he has discovered an explanation for the heavens and in this knowledge feels a little more in control of the wild chaos that surrounds his life. Then we look back with the informed perspective of scientific explanation and conclude that pre-historic man’s knowledge was an illusion . . . which of course begs the question: What opinion will the future have of our knowledge? Is our knowledge similarly, only our own claim on a little bit of delusional certainty against a vast uncertainty?

So then is the answer to chase knowledge like a mirage, believing it functions like a complex algorithm, winding its way to a zenith point where the boogie man of fear and uncertainty can finally be subdued . . . to finally arrive where pre-historic man always dreamed of being, with enough knowledge and certainty to control the wildness of his world . . . on his own terms. But what if all the knowledge in the universe only gave you control over a very small broom closet in a vast city of rooms, what then? So maybe it’s not about quantity – but quality . . . perhaps there’s a special knowing.

It’s the Gnostic who convinces himself there must be an esoteric knowing – but ironically doesn’t realize his obsession with such a knowledge actually impedes true wisdom and understanding. Gnosticism distilled down to its core etymology is a perverse pre-occupation with being in the know, as if the meaning of life could be hemmed in and held hostage. But in truth it only ends up placing you on an epistemological treadmill that never arrives — all of that energy expended may create the illusion of accomplishment . . . but ends in self-delusion.

faith11Faith is the antidote for our Gnostic inclinations – not because it is antithetical to knowledge, but rather because it gives knowledge purpose. Knowledge is abstract and formless apart from a meaningful context. It is not self-assessing, and is most certainly not self-apparent, because in and of itself, it is completely incapable of causing belief. But faith is the very substance of belief. Faith can weigh and assesses what knowledge can only collect as disparate components — then faith peers into the mystery of the unknown and discovers the source of meaning and significance . . . because it is willing to leap!

Now you may prefer a different nomenclature for describing the very same thing: presuppositional assumptions; intuition; theory . . . but these are all feeble attempts at describing the very same epistemological leap from what cannot be proven as true – to what we choose to believe is true. The whole of human understanding is not immune to the effects of this faith axiom – therefore ALL philosophies boil down to a leaping out in faith, each assuming they’re offering the correct explanation of reality . . . in the exact same way the Christian faith does.

But faith is not only about drawing the correct conclusions as if it were merely an intellectual exercise, it is about how we live our lives in light of those conclusions, which in turn, inextricably alters who we are . . . this is why we must choose carefully where we place our faith.