- U2, Hawkmoon 269
Although I write from a Christian perspective dealing with my experiences within Christianity, I am sure the following could be easily applicable to any other system of religious (dis)belief with only a few minor modifications. Allow your mind to apply this to whatever belief system you adhere. I regularly see people within Christianity who act as if they have the ultimate answers to everything; you name the question, they will provide you with an answer. It doesn't even need to be about spirituality. For example, if you want to know about the future, they can quickly whip out their huge theological maps detailing how they think the coming years and centuries will pan out, often in intricate detail with a lot of fine print and extremely questionable hermeneutics and interpretation. When they really don't know the answer to a question, they will not even concede defeat or even acknowledge their own uncertainty. Instead, they will state a collection of flowery and slightly cliché phrases with an air of authority, attempting to provide the listener and their own selves with an explanation that sounds satisfactory enough that they accept it.
I find it sad, really. These people masquerade as great individuals of faith, whereas in reality, they aspire to be great individuals of knowledge and fall short, often failing to recognise that they are imperfect men and women who cannot possibly provide all the answers. It's unreasonable to think all of life's questions will be answered between the covers of any single book, and it's equally unreasonable to expect the Lord to continually act as a font of knowledge. After all, he's not some sort of living toy or encyclopaedia answering our every beck and call. While the Lord may revelate much knowledge and while there are certainties within religion, there are also many unknowns and uncertainties, and they are to be cherished.
People often wonder why God does not simply reveal himself to his creation. They rage at the sky, asking him to send a sign (though as Bono asked, "if God will send a sign ... [and] his angels, will everything be alright?"). They curse God, unable to comprehend why he chooses not to present himself as an item of absolute knowledge able to be wrapped up in a textbook for humanity's close scrutiny and spiritual edification. The answer is basic. God is not an entity to be restricted by the bounds of a textbook's knowledge. There is much more to an almighty deity than can possibly be described through the statement of bare facts.
This is where faith comes in. Faith requires uncertainties, the crucial uncertainties that I discussed yesterday that drive the mind towards inquisition, discernment, and discovery. If God were to revelate himself as fully verifiable fact, we would stagnate spiritually as we would have no mysteries or uncertainties to pursue. However, God chooses to reveal himself as a divine entity in which one must have faith. Faith requires believing in that which cannot be fully objectively proven, and despite what some atheists may argue (as I once attempted to do), all systems of belief or lack thereof cannot be fully objectively proven. This, of course, creates an element of doubt, the crucial uncertainty about the unknown that stimulates the human mind and fosters growth and maturity. Faith needs a doubt to stop us stagnating in bland certainty, to stop us wilting in an existence without anything for which to strive or discover.
It must also be said the critical doubt of faith engenders trust. When one cannot be wholly certain, one must enter into trust. They must not trust too much, lest they be deceived or tricked; nor must they trust too little, lest they become cynical and disregard the truth. There is a fine line that I dare not attempt to define; it is one each individual must find and tread for themselves in their own personal faith. I would like to present an example - it would be absolutely daft for the Christian to leap off a cliff and trust that God will magically cause them to sprout wings and soar with the eagles, and it would be equally as daft to trust so little that they imagine God cannot control the given event (after all, he is omnipotent). I am sure that this vividly illustrates the fine line of trust created by faith. Trust, if held appropriately, is an extremely valuable commodity that can bring about growth, maturity, and knowledge - after all, when you were a very young child, you trusted your parents but did not think to deliberately abuse this trust.
It is clear that Bono was singing the truth when he proclaimed that faith needs a doubt. Faith, not verifiable knowledge, is essential to avoid restricting God to a box dictated by scrutinised facts, it is important for establishing a finely defined trust that fosters maturity and a close relationship, and it possesses the doubt that stimulates the mind and inspires the individual to pursue knowledge and unravel uncertainty. Faith is a truly beautiful and powerful thing.