Faith, Humility, and Plato’s Dilemma

As noted previously, when I was typing my post on Plato’s Dilemma, I got to the two words “be humble” and was suddenly struck by the idea of my religious faith being a metaphor for the issues surrounding Plato’s Dilemma. The parallel runs something like this:

God exists. God is truth. God is knowable, but only as something unknowable; what we ultimately come to know of God is God’s ultimate un-knowable-ness. So, we acknowledge that there is Truth, we acknowledge that somehow it can/should/does guide our lives, but we also acknowledge we cannot fully ascertain nor articulate it. We must address the idea of God, of relationship with God. We must decide notions of faith for ourselves. But doing so involves making claims. It involves abiding in an ideology. We cannot/should not/must not make absolute claims. We cannot say our faith is superior to another person’s faith without claiming to be God ourselves, which we most certainly are not. We must not judge another. In the face of this, we form a faith of our own (as Paul said, we work our salvation “with fear and trembling”) and we hold it in the utmost of humility. We know it is frail because we have worked it out. We know it is precious because God has made it so. The key comes down to holding our faith in deep, profound humility before God and other human beings.

In other words, faith involves living according to a personal ideology concerning Truth, one that we must value, therefore live by, and therefore in some way espouse for it to be a faith worth having. Yet, we cannot universally verify or validate a given faith in human terms. And, since we cannot verify or validate it, we understand that each person’s humble faith is just as valid as our own. Yet from a particular point of view, to say that every faith is valid is to negate the idea of Truth, and therefore the value of faith. Plato’s Dilemma.

However, after years of wrestling with this issue in terms of faiths, I have resolved it to my satisfaction with this idea of humility; with this idea that it is not the intellectual particulars of faith which make it faith. Rather, it is the heart, the spirit, the humility of the faithful which is the key. The view needs to be elaborated upon to explain well, but it is a workable solution. I like to say in metaphorical terms that we religious folks spend a lot of time arguing over what kind of clothes (causal, dress, business) we are supposed to wear in the sight of God, but God only cares about the fabric; not the style or cut of the garments. Likewise, God cares about our heart, our humility, our submission and devotion to him at a deeply personal level. I don’t think God is interested in doctrine and dogma.

And so. Reading Gee’s work on Plato’s Dilemma, when I understood Gee’s point intuitively, as if it were a long lost friend suddenly formally introduced, and when I recognized that (contrary to Gee’s claim) a solution exists, and it rests in intellectual humility, I was thunderstruck by the parallel to my personal view of faith. And I had to ask myself, which is the chicken, and which is the egg? As a born existentialist, have I worked out my faith as a response to a pre-existing intuition of Plato’s Dilemma, or is my intuitive grasp of Plato’s Dilemma, and the solution to it that I see as perfectly natural, born of my pre-work performed in working out my faith?

An interesting question, and one that could be asked more directly by asking if my view of God, Man and faith is based largely (merely?) in my existentialist mind. At present, I would wager that both my faith, and my grasp of Plato’s Dilemma, are based in my existentialist nature. Which gets back to my posts of this year regarding belief, reality, and faith. We truly believe only what are minds of capable of truly believing; we can do nothing else.

A closing point? A takeaway? I left it sitting on a doorstep in my previous post: be humble. To read, to hear, to interpret, to speak is to take a stand. Our stand may not be superior to any other. Or perhaps it may be. We may never know. This doesn’t make our stand unimportant. But it does mean that we should stand humbly in a humility that recognizes it may be wrong, and in an even greater humility that recognizes it may be right.

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