Believing is Not Seeing

Monday, March 15, 2010

Science tells us to believe only what we can see, hear, taste, touch, or smell. Even emotions are observable as electrical brain activity. Yet most of us know that the world is broader than our experience and that our personalities are more than a mathematical equation based on heredity and environment.

I just finished reading Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis, and it got me thinking about how much we rely on the five senses to shape our individual worlds. Since some of you may want to read the book, I won't give away the plot or the ending. However, I am going to share one of the many insights I got from the book.

Till We Have Faces is billed as a retelling of the Greek myth of Cupid and Psyche, but the main character is neither of those two. The story is told by Psyche's older sister, who labels it "a complaint against the gods." Orual's narrative shows us the war within her as she waivers between her tutor's Greek philosophy (seeing is believing) and her nation's religion (which requires faith in things unseen). And as the book progresses, the reader realizes that Orual cannot even see what she experiences; she is blind to her own motivation and the effects of her actions. So how can she judge the gods?

I'm Orual. Not only am I blind, but I also lodge complaints against God. "How can You let a good Christian friend get cancer?" "Why haven't you convinced a publisher to accept the novel I wrote to glorify You (and, okay, to glorify me, too)?" "Can't you make the Cubs win the World Series before I go mad?"

The gods answered Orual's complaints. And God answers mine in His words to Job. Since the entire passage in Chapters 38-41 of Job is way too long for a blog post, here are some highlights.

- "Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding." (38:4)

- "Have you comprehended the expanse of the earth? Declare if you know all this." (38:18)

- "Do you know the ordinances of the heavens? Can you establish their rule on the earth?" (38:33)

- "Do you give the horse his might? Do you clothe his neck with a mane?" (39:19)

- "Will you even put me in the wrong? Will you condemn me that you may be in the right? Have you an arm like God, and can you thunder with a voice like his?" (40:8-9)

Or, to put it more simply, God's answer is, "Trust me, I know more than you." (Lots more.)

I am clearly unqualified to second-guess God. Instead, I must learn to trust in what I do not see.

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Have you ever read a book where you identified with a character so much it convicted you of your own faults? Leave a comment and tell me about it.

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