on faith & “faking it”
There’s a lot of bad advice on religion in the internet weirdosphere, and one of the worst pieces of advice is that, when it comes to religion, people should “fake it until they make it.”
This might seem inconsistent with what I say here:
But I really mean what I said there & that you should not fake it until you make it.
For a number of reasons, Western Christianity went down a road of increasing interiority & introspection in the later middle ages. Some of my co-religionists have decided this was a uniquely Western problem to the detriment of Western Christianity as a whole, but I think it has more to do with the material conditions of the West (and similar trends were occurring in the Byzantine Empire anyhow, but under the Turkokratia Greeks had other concerns). It’s ultimately not a very important question— the problem is how do we separate the notion of “faith” from the sort of deep psychological assent/certainty we’ve attached to it.
I don’t think this is the Biblical view of faith at all. When St. Paul says that faith is the substance of things hoped for, I don’t think the use of substance was accidental at all. Faith is participation in the substance of “hope,” it is “evidence” of things “not seen”— that is, it is participation in the Divine itself in a particular sort of way. The core experience of faith is not a psychological state then, it’s instead the acts which bring us into participation— those acts of true becoming which include works of mercy, but above all else, the sacramental life of the Church.
I honestly don’t know if I’ve ever experienced certitude about the existence of God in the same way I experience it about many other things, except in one moment and its lingerings— and that happened after I had made my decision to enter the Church.
There have been attempts to square the interior assent/certitude idea of faith with the Biblical one; John Henry Newman’s An Essay in Aid of a Grammar of Assent is the most valiant. But I think it’s best to push it aside, instead see certitude as a sort of grace some are gifted or are worthy of, and others are not.
The question for introspective, intellectual potential converts is whether or not you are willing to say that Christianity is the true philosophy, and humble yourself before your new Master, the Church. We do this in many ways throughout our life, and do not find it remarkable. In this case it is remarkable, but only because Christ really is who He claimed to be— and we can really participate in Him.
We don’t fake it, we admit we are smaller, we are weaker, we are more foolish than our Master… and we go to school.