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 to “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 it somehow made sense to someone smarter than yourself or you have to conceal your panic and pray your faith would survive this continual onslaught of disorienting theology.
Then, when my husband and I left the SDA church and entered the wide swath 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 recognizes 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 but 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 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 in 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 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 without thought and we are asked to believe they make sense. 

You may need a teacher to explain how Catholic doctrines 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.

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