Faith | Feb 2000

FMBR Editorial: Feb, 2000

Faith

Marshall Pease

Faith is normally thought of as a religious virtue, yet it is central to almost all desires to make a difference. It is particularly vital to any hope of making a substantial difference in the way the world understands or deals with its self or its environment. The scientist with an idea he hopes will revolutionize his or her field, the artist with a new concept of what art should be, the entrepreneur with the dream of a new kind of business, all must act out of faith. The scientist cannot know that the idea will accomplish anything, the artist can only hope his concept will touch anyone else, the entrepreneur acts in the hope that what he sees as opportunity will prove real. If they are at all sensitive to the actuality of the world, they must know that there are no guarantees. They must also know that the end will inevitably be quite different from their initial conception. Risk goes with the territory and the greater the payoff if the idea proves useful, the greater the risk. They can act only out of an inner conviction that the possibility of accomplishing something is real and that, if successful, the results will be worth the time and effort. They can only hope that what the world makes of the dream will justify the effort and frustrations that will also be part of the seeking. The dream is what they have, and they act in the faith that, whatever the ultimate reality may prove, the results will be worthwhile, perhaps even monumental. That is the essence of faith.

Religious faith is not different. It is the inner conviction that what is sought – be it “union with God,” transcendence, whatever – is worth the dedication and effort demanded by the discipline. It is the acceptance of a goal that must lie far beyond what can be known at the time of commitment. It, too, involves risks – high risks – and a willingness to override all discouragement and frustration and laying aside whatever inner doubts may remain. It is an inevitable part of the religious effort also that the final result must be quite different from what is anticipated at the beginning. Who, after all, can speak for God, or be certain that what is named as the goal will be what He offers? Indeed, it is said one cannot know before the fact what it is to be “in a state of grace.” As Kierkegaard said, what is required is a leap into the dark, embracing the unknown and accepting that it must be so.

In each of the different areas of human experience, faith has its own particular nature, and carries with it its own special risks. The scientist risks his reputation, the artist his power to express the deeper truths he thinks he sees, the entrepreneur, capital, and his power to act in the future. In each case, the risk is real but, if the dream is sound, it is well worth the venture. It is only the one who must know the end at the beginning who is truly trapped by his lack of faith.

Life itself is not different from this, though in many areas the stakes do not seem to rise to the same level. Still, each moment offers its own choice, and each carries its own risks and offers its own opportunities. Most of us do not see the possibilities of the instant. Or we willfully ignore them, content to rest in what we think we know. Indeed, most of the options facing us can properly be ignored out of “common sense,” which is the wisdom of our accumulated experience. Some, however, should not be so easily dismissed. Some, perhaps, may be dismissed out of habit, not judgment. Some may indeed be “the road less traveled,” truly offering new experiences that may lead to new understandings of reality and ourselves. What a pity when such a possibility is passed by in blindness or in the name of caution and “good sense”! What a pity when all that is lacking is faith!

Marshall Pease, Febuary 2000