This article, based on the 20th chapter of Thirty True Things . . . (TTT), is closely related to my previous article posted five days ago. But this article starts with reference to a delightful fictional story rather than the thought of a noted sociologist.
The Secret of the “Little Prince”
One of my favorite books is The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint Exupéry, and one of my favorite quotes is this one from that delightful little book: the fox says to the Little Prince,
It is in this vein that I suggest that some things have to be believed in order to be seen.
That affirmation has sometimes been hard for this Missouri boy to affirm. Missouri is the “Show-Me State,” and we Missourians like to have visual proof of something before we believe it.
The desire for proof is not a bad one. Such a desire keeps us from being gullible, and that is good. Even though it is fairly common, gullibility is not a good thing.
Michael Moore, the social critic who is well-liked by some and maligned by others, once said, “There’s a gullible side to the American people. They can be easily misled. Religion is the best device used to mislead them.”
It is never good, though, to be misled by religion—or by anything else. Seeking proof or sufficient evidence before believing something, thus, is usually a very good thing. But that is not always possible.
In fact, it is not possible for the most foundational aspects of our existence. As the fox wisely said, “Anything essential is invisible to the eyes.”
The Insight of Pascal
Let’s move now from a charming book by a French writer to the ideas of another, more famous, Frenchman, Blaise Pascal, about whom I wrote a whole article last October (see here).
Pascal believed that true religion must be the free choice of the human heart and will. Thus, he suggests that God wishes “to appear openly to those who seek him with all their heart and hidden from those who shun him with all their heart.”
Consequently, God “has qualified our knowledge of him by giving signs which can be seen by those who seek him and not by those who do not.” On the basis of that understanding, Pascal makes this frequently quoted aphorism:
There is enough light for those who desire only to see, and enough darkness for those of a contrary disposition.
If God and the things of God were so plainly visible that there was no question about their existence, humans would have no freedom except to believe. But if God were completely hidden and unknowable, then no one could believe.
Naturally, most atheists object to Pascal’s statement—and to faith in general. They use the words blind faith to criticize the believer’s position. But it has been suggested that blind is a rude word that people who do not have faith stick on to the faith of those who have it.
Of course, theology, which is “faith seeking understanding,” is an important discipline that endeavors to counter blind faith. As Kierkegaard recognized, faith may begin as a leap, for it obviously is not based on sight from the outset.
Nevertheless, rigorous thinking, critical analysis, and careful investigation (i.e., deliberate theological activities) are certainly incumbent upon any serious person of faith.
But all of that does not change the fact that some things have to be believed in order to be seen.
[This article is from the first and last sections of Chapter 20 in TTT. Click here to access the entire chapter.]