de la Bédoyère’s Maxims, No 4

Mankind lives by faith. If he does not believe what is reasonable to believe he will believe what is unreasonable to believe.

To encounter another person requires as act of faith; all we can demonstrate are the mechanical messages of our five senses. We make such acts of faith several times a day.

Doctrines are only the incidentals of religious faith. Essentially, religious faith is an encounter with the divine. We can search for such an encounter but it takes two to tango.

A person who says he envies us our faith might as well say how nice it would be to believe in fairies.

Atheism requires a greater degree of credulity than theism. It faces the difficulty of proving a negative.

We never know how someone stands with God. The most intransigent atheist may be closer than the most pious nun.

Agnosticism is often no more than a euphemism for the inability to makes up one’s mind. The true agnostic, who maintains that knowledge of God is impossible, can at least claim a respectable intellectual position

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About Quentin

Science Editor, Catholic Herald. Portrait © Jacqueline Alma
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7 Responses to de la Bédoyère’s Maxims, No 4

  1. Iona says:

    The maxim about making an act of faith to encounter another person: Autistic people are limited in their ability to make this act of faith. An adult autistic said it wasn’t until she was 7 years old that she realised there WERE other people.

  2. Iona says:

    Belief in the existence (or otherwise) of fairies is not enviable in the same sense that Christian belief is enviable. Coming to believe in fairies wouldn’t make very much difference to the way someone lived his/her life, whereas acceptance of the Christian faith could make a profound difference, and it is that difference which some unbelievers find enviable.

  3. I think Iona makes a good point about belief in fairies not having any consequences, though Peter Pan and Tinkerbell would disagree. At even the secular level it is possible to envy someone who has a strong belief (which we don’t share) but gives them a meaning in their lives. But what I would envy is this sense of meaning rather than the belief itself. I would rather that they derived meaning from something which I held to be true.

    The autism question is a more difficult one, not least because there are so many levels of autism. It seems possible that her friend did in practice recognise the reality of other people, but without any sense of needing to respond to them. I understand that very young babies, do not initially realise others as different people since they are only concerned with their own needs. But this sense, in normal development, appears quite quickly, particularly if there is close contact and interaction with other people. Is there a psychologist in the house?

  4. Frank says:

    ‘Doctrines are only the incidentals of religious faith.’ This suggests they are not essential to religious faith. But they are. What does an encounter with the divine mean? That a creature, through grace, meets his Creator. This Creator is Trinitarian and Catholics encounter Him as God-Man in the Eucharist. There is a lot of doctrine behind all this; so I would suggest that doctrine is intrinsic to faith – because it is intrinsic to language.

  5. Frank may remember that the old ‘penny’ catechism defined faith as a gift ‘which enables us to believe without doubting whatever God has revealed.’ Not untrue but misleadingly inadequate.

    Take, as a parallel, the human relationship of marriage. We would be able to describe a number of characteristics of our marriages, and a number of characteristics of our spouse. These are the equivalent of the doctrines about our relationship.

    But they are incidental, although essential. Incidental, because what matters is the direct personal encounter with our spouse and the personal trust we repose in him or her.

    Frank must decide whether his faith in God is a belief that certain propositions are true, or in his encounter and trust in God. I spent the first part of my life believing the first, and the remainder knowing the second to be true.

  6. Frank says:

    I do not see them as an ‘either’/ ‘or’. What matters is the personal encounter with God; but who is this God with Whom I (hope) I have a personal encounter? He is infinitely loving, wise, merciful, forgiving; He loved me enough to die a horrible death for me; He rose again to give me hope that I may one day meet Him face to face etc etc. All very personal and all very theological (both at the same time).

  7. I can live with Frank’s description of faith. But, were I fortunate enough to meet him I should doubtless learn a number of things about him. I might even have further information from whoever introduced us. But the key thing is that I would have met him – a personal encounter. Even a three volume biography describing him in the closest detail, would not alone do that for me.

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