(I) talk of Christ . . . and (I) write according to (my understanding), that (my) children (and friends) may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins. (2 Nephi 25:26)
Friday, March 15, 2013
Exercising Faith By Thinking Critically (In an Analytical Manner)
"Faith" is the substance of things "hoped for" - the evidence of things "not seen". I believe it is absolutely vital, when discussing faith, to remember this basic definition and not conflate faith with anything else.
When "faith" becomes "knowledge" it no longer is faith - at least in the mind and heart of the person who believes s/he "knows". Therefore, saying someone has no faith simply because they can't say they know something is, in my opinion, a misuse of the word "faith". In my opinion, someone who can't say they "know" but still holds to "belief" actually is exercising "faith" in the truest sense of the word - hoping in something based on unseen evidence.
So, if someone claims to have received revelation for what they are doing, I am left with three options:
1) Accept it "uncritically" (shallowly and casually), simply because they claim it. In other words, employ "blind faith" by hoping that person is correct but not examining their claims in any way - or only shallowly and casually. I don't do that, but not accepting it uncritically does not mean I have no faith. It just means my faith is not blind.
2) Accept it critically. This means I think and ponder and read and pray about it and come to believe it. I have done that regarding some revelatory claims, including at least one in which I was involved directly.
3) Examine it critically and not accept it. Same explanation as #2, but with the opposite result. I have done that regarding some revelatory claims, as well.
Joseph Smith had his experiences largely because he refused to accept things uncritically - because he was willing to examine things critically, not just shallowly and casually. "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God," is a directive to be "critical" in the purest sense of the word and in the way I use it. So is, "Seek ye out of the best books . . ." and, "receive . . . read . . . ponder . . . pray . . ." and, "plant . . . the seed . . . and . . . (observe its growth)."
I only can be sure of those experiences that happen to me - or, to a degree, to others for whom I have felt a prompting to accept them as revelators. In an important way, those experiences have "happened to me" if I have gone through the critical process of accepting the revelator as a legitimate revelator. That doesn't mean I have to believe everything they say is revelation, but it does mean it's much easier to accept revelation from them.
The onus for that decision is on me - as an exercise of my faith - as something for which I am willing to hope with some degree of evidence in the absence of actual sight.
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The opinions posted here are mine alone. They do not represent official doctrines of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.