I think a lot about faith and what it means. What does it mean to believe in God? What does it mean to disbelieve? Is it a choice or is it something that happens to you solely depending on your experience, knowledge, or divine impartation?
Well in the past I paired faith and sureness. I thought my faith was as strong as my psychological certainty. Which really sucked because I’m never totally certain of anything like that… and the more I aim for certainty the more doubtful I feel.
Before I go on, I want to define a few words for the sake of this post:
(Or you can watch this short video)
Atheism and theism (Christianity in my case) are about what we believe. Atheists don’t believe in God or gods. Theists do believe in God or gods.
Agnosticism is about what we know and how certain we are.
When it comes to agnosticism it involves lack of choice… How we feel psychologically about our beliefs. How sure we are. How certain we feel.
However, when it comes to theism and atheism, I think they are ultimately choices. They are linked to knowledge and certainty to some degree, but ultimately are not altogether dependent on them. Whether or not to believe is, at least in my Christian context, a matter of whether I will choose to trust.
Let me give an example. When I am in a plane and contemplating skydiving out of it (something I’ve never done), I may have varying levels of certainty about if that parachute is going to open up. I simply don’t know for sure. I could change my level of certainty by reminding myself that parachutes normally do open up, that parachute packers almost always know what they’re doing, and that stuff very rarely goes wrong. Or on the flip side I could read stories of parachuting gone wrong or of all of the ways that parachutes could fail. I could look at the land below and imagine how very far down it is and how absolutely deadly it’ll be if I’m wrong. I could change my feelings about whether it is worth the risk or not by focusing on the potential reward or consequences: the beautiful ride down and the feeling of having conquered my fear or on the possibility of having a terrifying jump and going *splat*.
But in the end, the choice lies with me and whether or not I’ll jump.
I guarantee you that in that actual scenario I would never feel 100% certain (or anywhere near 100%) that the parachute will open. I am a person who rarely ever feels certain. However, I’ve learned I still need to make choices, despite my doubts.
(Side note: I wasn’t even 100% certain about marrying my husband and that was truly the most. obviously. right. thing. ever. There is just something in me that just doubts everything.)
So from where I stand, faith is about the choice you make to trust and not the level of certainty you have about it.
Now the parachute analogy does not fit religion perfectly well, I’ll grant. There is a lot of objective data about skydiving. But Christianity, well, it’s a good deal more complicated and subjective. There are no scientific studies that show the odds of the Jesus parachute failing to open.
But to make some level of comparison in my life, choosing Jesus is about jumping out of the plane despite my feelings of doubt. I’ve decided I have enough good reason to jump: The hope of a beautiful ride down. The hope of being more fully with Jesus. The hope that the Jesus way of living really is the best. The hope of landing in God’s country where he is renewing all that has gone wrong and making this world everything it was ever meant to be. Faith, to me, is the choice to hold out hope through the ups and downs. Through my moments of certainty and moments of total incredulity and everything in between.
For me the parachute is less about the promise of escape and more about the promise of life, the promise that Jesus is what God looks like and that I can be with him.
Of course one needs to feel like they have good enough reason to jump out of the plane.
If I was certain that my parachute would never open and that my venture would turn into a disaster, then I would not make that leap… But, if you’ll remember, I’m rarely certain about anything. 🙂 So because I do feel there are many good reasons to trust Jesus and to dive out of that plane, it’s a jump I make.