Monday, February 25, 2013

Faith and Fibonacci

If Catholicism doesn’t make sense to you, do not become Catholic. Really.  We mean that. Catholics believe that faith must be reasonable. And when Christ said, “Come let us reason together” He was encouraging us to base our beliefs on that which corresponds to reality. And if after you study, truly study Catholicism with an open mind and spirit, it doesn’t seem to correspond with reality nor with logic nor with the Bible, then we would not want you to go against your conscience, nor your common sense.

Finding Truth
In general, Catholics believe that the fullness of Truth doesn’t come downloaded into one’s mental hard drive at birth, at baptism or with any revelation or by the Holy Spirit. Then all the born-again Christian has to do is just dig deeply into themselves to find Truth. No, truth is other than we are. It is outside us. However, humans have been given the capacity by God to recognize truth when it is presented. We are expected to have the “ahaa!” moment when we discover the Truth.  
And when Truth is presented to us, it is supposed to make sense.
Catholics believe that faith must be based upon reason. Faith should never be illogical or create cognitive dissonance in your thinking. Faith isn’t about accepting blindly that 2 + 2 = 5. If that is what any faith feels like to you, there is a true problem. I’m not saying truth is easy to understand, not by any stretch. Truth can be as complex as quantum physics, but once you get it, you should be able to see that it is in line with reality.

Let me explain with a personal experience.

I don’t want to sound critical, but I need to make a point using what I know. When I was a Seventh-day Adventists I thought faith was accepting or at least struggling with all your might to accept something as true that didn’t seem rational. If you keep to superficial Adventism and Sabbatarianism, you don’t see the illogic.  But when you start in-depth studying of Ellen White’s writings comparing them to her other writings and then to the Bible, you have to either let go of logic and have a blind faith that SDA doctrine somehow makes sense to someone smarter than yourself or you have to conceal your panic and pray your faith will survive this continual onslaught of disorienting theology.
It was too much for my husband and I; that kind of faith seemed ungodly, but we didn't understand why.
Then, when my husband and I left the SDA church and entered the wide varieties of Protestantism, theology seemed to be much more acquainted with the real world and the Bible. Yet, the more we studied in different denominations, we began to recognize that same old rule of faith we heard within Adventism. Faith is about the struggle to believe that which is irrational. Just believe. Have simple faith.
Protestant theology didn’t seem to work on the minute level nor on a general, overarching level. I felt pressured to accept the illogical, both on an individual and on a broad basis.

When I would question an individual denomination about how their interpretation conflicted with scripture, instead of answering my question, I would hear often, “Don’t study yourself out of the church! Just have simple faith.” Which meant to me, “We don’t have an answer, accept the illogical.” When those words are in the context of a warm, godly smile it can send you into despair, for it makes you feel you are being unfaithful to God not to just accept irrationality.

On a broader basis, Protestantism is a battle of cognitive dissonance. They claim the Bible is the sole authority and it is the infallible Word of God, but then they took out books that didn’t fit their theology and tell each Protestant that they can trust their own personal interpretation of this infallible truth. So when truly sincere, brilliant Christian scholars, who can fluently read scripture in its original languages all come up with different interpretations of truth and morals, we have the recipe for moral chaos. That is irrational. 

Truth isn’t up to us to decide. The belief that Christ left moral decisions up to the individual to figure out by using a textbook (Bible) hasn’t worked out well. The outcome has been disunity and moral confusion. That isn’t rational. 
I found the Protestant idea of faith as confusing as the Adventist idea of faith, just in different ways. Faith to them seems to be about believing the unbelievable. 

Catholic Faith

Perhaps faith isn’t supposed to be accepting the irrational. Perhaps faith is something different. Catholicism has taught me that faith is based upon reason. It isn’t accepting something that makes no sense. It is imagining that there is more, an extension of what we already know into what we do not know.

Take for example the Fibonacci sequence of numbers: 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, ... These are rational numbers placed in a sequence that is understandable when we are taught that we add the first two numbers to get the third then we add that number to the next one to get fourth number such as: 0 + 1 = 1, 1 + 1 = 2, 1 + 2 = 3 and so on.  These are not random numbers, but they build upon each other to make a pattern. They are a rational pattern. If a snarky elementary student were to ask a teacher, “What are the Fibonacci numbers to googolplex?” The teacher would respond, “I don’t know them precisely because we haven’t yet counted up to that point, but we know for a fact these sequences can go on into infinity because it is based upon rational processes.”

We can make a pretty good hypothesis about what we don’t know based upon what we do know.

Catholics idea of faith is like this. We add together scripture, philosophy, tradition, historical documents and archeology and present them in a reasonable way in order to allow someone to conclude that it is reasonable to believe in Christ as well as the Catholic Church. Protestants' faith seemed more to me, like unrelated numbers strung together and we are asked to believe they make sense.  

You may need a teacher to explain how the doctrines of Catholicism are reasonable, as it may not be evident by just a cursory look, but the more you study Catholicism, it doesn’t ask anything irrational of you. That makes me feel.... at peace and within reality.

So if Catholicism doesn’t do that for you, you shouldn’t be Catholic. However, we do ask that you don’t just throw it all up because it is hard to understand. Perhaps, if left alone you wouldn’t have understood the Fibonacci numbers either. Let a good Catholic apologist explain it, just as you would want a good algebra teacher to explain algebra. Catholic faith makes sense. It isn’t about blind faith.


Arik said...

"Catholics idea of faith is like this. We add together scripture, philosophy, tradition, historical documents and archeology and present them in a reasonable way in order to allow someone to conclude that it is reasonable to believe in Christ as well as the Catholic Church. Protestants' faith seemed more to me, like unrelated numbers strung together and we are asked to believe they make sense."-Teresa

This may be the "Catholic idea of faith" but it is hardly the Scriptural view of faith. "scripture,philosophy, tradition, historical documents, and archeology" is nothing more than an amalgamation of the holy with the profane. A simple Biblical understanding of faith is easy:

Jesus says "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God" Matthew 4:4. Paul says "The just shall live by faith" Hebrews 10:38. Now Jesus and Paul are not describing two different classes of people as though one class is living by every word that comes from God, and another class is living by faith. The class of people being described by both are one and the same. "The just shall live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God." This is faith! Seeing the world according to the eyes of God, not philosophy and vain deceit.

Teresa Beem said...


Thanks for your comment Arik! It is nice to see you are still reading. I think there has been a misunderstanding about the point in this post.

I am using an analogy outside of the Bible. A way to explain how Catholics interpret faith as opposed to how Protestants interpret faith. We both actually use the Bible's definition but see it in a totally different light. Sometimes you have to use analogies outside scripture to shed light upon scripture. Both Catholic and Protestants do this a lot. It doesn't denigrate scripture but explain it.

Also in a practical sense when we are presenting the gospel to others, we must recognize that not all people believe scripture is Truth. We must present a faith that makes sense even to atheists. Faith must be reasonable.

In the end, my point was that Protestants interpret the faith of scripture to mean a struggle to believe that which seems incoherent and irrational. Catholics interpret the faith of scripture to believe that which is based upon reason and using the elements of what we do know from science, nature, scripture, tradition, archeology to project rationally into what we have YET to know. We both take the definition of faith in scripture, but the word "faith" means something different to us. It is the interpretation I am speaking of. Does that make more sense to you?

Arik said...

I'm thinking that because I disagree with you, you think I misunderstand you? The word "faith" should not mean anything different to anyone, Protestant or Catholic, than how it is defined in Scripture. While I can agree with you that faith should be reasonable, it is not through philosophy (you left this out the second time), tradition, historical documents, and archeology that it is obtained. Paul is very clear that faith comes by hearing the word of God. After all it was the heavy use of these "elements" that brought into the early church many heretical doctrines that are still with us today.

No, in the end by adding these "elements" to "interpret" the Biblical definition of faith I would refrain from calling it "light".

Teresa Beem said...

I do sense a misunderstanding when you come back and argue a different point than what I was making. As a Christian I would indeed agree with a Biblical definition of scripture, there is no disagreement between us at all. All I am suggesting as is that we apply the Biblical definition differently.

While faith comes from the hearing of God's word (all agreed!) If one were to hear a specific text that contradicts another text, I heard from some Protestants that we just have to accept that contradiction "by faith." We don't need to understand it, nor make sense of it, must believe the contradiction on faith. For example, all the differing post-resurrection narratives in the gospels. One gospel has Jesus on the road to Emmaus and another has Him in Heaven and another has Him somewhere else. Lots of scholars doubt the texts and even the gospel itself because of these contradictions. Protestants just tell you to accept them by faith and that leave a cognitive dissonance within you.

Catholics on the other hand, look at the contradicting texts and say, "Okay, perhaps we need to look into this closer BECAUSE God never contradicts Himself." So they will then go to archeology, reason, philosophy, historical documentation to try and figure out the problem and solve it. They don't tell you to accept the illogical. Through philosophy, we can reason that God is outside of time. We know this from scripture. "A day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like a day" is one piece of evidence to prove God is outside of time as we know it.


Teresa Beem said...

So by using reason AND scripture we believe that since God is outside of human time, God CAN AND INDEED WAS both in Emmaus and in Jerusalem at the same time. He can do both because He is God.

Now do we fully understand what being "outside of time" means? No. But we can reasonably project it--even through science and Einstein's theory of relativity.

That is more what I mean even it the example wasn't the best. Catholicism seems to build faith upon that which is reasonable and rational.

Anonymous said...

The scriptural thing to do would be to take the verses that semto contridict and compare them with the rest of scripture. Not humanism.