Click Map for Details

Flag Counter

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

How Pragmatism Entails Faith

August Kekulé described the eureka moment when he realized the structure of benzene:

I was sitting, writing at my text-book; but the work did not progress; my thoughts were elsewhere. I turned my chair to the fire and dozed. Again the atoms were gamboling before my eyes. This time the smaller groups kept modestly in the background. My mental eye, rendered more acute by the repeated visions of the kind, could now distinguish larger structures of manifold conformation: long rows, sometimes more closely fitted together; all twining and twisting in snake-like motion. But look! What was that? One of the snakes had seized hold of its own tail, and the form whirled mockingly before my eyes. As if by a flash of lightning I awoke; and this time also I spent the rest of the night in working out the consequences of the hypothesis. (

Ever “defend your faith”? How well did you do? How could you give a better answer for the hope you have (1Pe 3:15-16)? Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, page 1385).

Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ. Remember, it is better to suffer for doing good, if that is what God wants, than to suffer for doing wrong! (1Pe:15-17 NLT).

As an American I speak with special privileges. In America we have freedom of speech which is a law that ultimately derives from respect and empathy for all (for if I desire freedom of speech for myself, I must desire it for others). Therefore, I will discuss my faith in this spirit—with due respect and regard for the nonbeliever.

First I will point out the last sentence in the above Scripture verse: “Remember, it is better to suffer for doing good, if that is what God wants, than to suffer for doing wrong!” Suffering is a common condition of mankind, and it is for us to decide not whether we will suffer, but for what cause will we suffer.

The second thing I will identify is the most persuasive approach that one can take in American—and that is pragmatism. Americans are interested above all in what works. You may counter that this is clearly not the case. Americans devised the Bill of Rights before definitive proof was in that this approach is best. I agree with you totally. They looked at the lessons of history and proceeded not with abject proof, but with a measure of faith.

I believe that love is the better way—not because I have abject proof that it is, but because of experience as well as a measure of faith. The key component of a rationale for faith is reliance on a time-line. That is, as a measure of suffering is part of the human condition, I must never say that faith is a way to avoid all suffering. I can only say that faith in a context of love gives meaning to suffering and in the last analysis brings upon us less suffering in the long run. In the short run one can defend almost anything with only a modicum of rationalization. But faith always looks for the greater good in the long-run (ultimately, in the realm of eternity). Thus, for example, one can rationalize almost any short-run approach for raising children. But only the disciplines of nurturing love will reap abundance of life for the child in the long-run—and while this statement is based on experience, it depends as well on a heaping measure of faithas surely as instituting and implementing the Bill of Rights takes on a measure of faith. That which is truly pragmatic must always encompass the long-view, so paradoxically pragmatism must always look beyond the here and now and what is demonstrable into the future filled with uncertainty and the exigencies of faith. Thus, in a sense, pragmatism functions as an ouroboros. Like faith, it always entails a measure of circular reasoning.  Or, as the God of Love stated—I am that I am.

Print Page