Back to School: The Leap from the Lion’s Head

Back to School: The Leap from the Lion’s Head August 21, 2015

He took a leap of Faith.
He took a leap of Faith.

If there was ever a movie about the education of the soul, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is that movie. To gain the ultimate prize, more than gold or glory, Indy must become humble and stand on the the Word of God. Choosing wisely means passing on the mistakes of the educational grifter, the shiny cups, and taking the cup of the carpenter.

It is not easy to choose. . . . wisely … when it comes to school. The pressure is on the student to borrow money, even if the school and the degree can never give a good return on the investment. Many students choose a school for an indirect association with an athletic program that has nothing to do with their education. If you like the team, buy the sweatshirt, go to games, and enroll in a serious school.

The final test Indy faces is also the final test facing any educator or student: at some point you are standing on a lion’s head, facing a gulf, and yet you must go forward. Of course, in the case of the educator, the lion is our personal devil that attempts to stop progress by showing us our vast ignorance. There is a great gulf between where we are and where we long to be. How can we go forward? There is no certain way, only a leap of faith.

The leap of faith is not irrational. Instead, the student is like Indy in his position in this particular case. The student knows that going forward has been successful in the past. The student knows there is a God and that God’s good cosmos will sustain his examination. The reward on the other side is great and so the student decides to trust that leaping forward, pursuing wisdom, will not plunge him into meaninglessness and despair. Education has not failed him yet, so he knows there must be a way even when there seems to be no way.

The leap of faith is based on an epistemology of belief. It eschews simplistic skepticism and the fideism of the fundamentalist. True faith demands evidence for the hope it acts on, but it does not demand certainty. The person formed by an epistemology of belief trusts what it has decent experience to trust. He assumes a sensible universe until forced no to do so. He knows that faith as a foundation can grow and assumptions can be tested and modified.

By contrast, a man who begins in skepticism cannot consistently follow his own assumption. Just ending skepticism about his skepticism would be impossible! This is the childish “why” to every answer endlessly without sincere consideration of any answer. It is skepticism seeking certainty.

Equally foolish is the fideist who thinks faith is acting on his presumptions and that his unexamined life is worth living. The fideist has an epistemology of credulity. This is the person who does not read texts so much as strip mine them for support for dogmatic opining. This is the student or teacher with a bloated soul who is cocksure of his intellectual rightness and confuses name dropping with knowledge. Many can cite Plato passages grabbed from a quick Google, put into a talk as smarty sounds to support opinions they already held. This is not faith, but intellectual pride and presumption.

Instead, I come to a problem and am unsure. I see where I should go, but not a way to get there. I trust the text and Reason and leap. It is jarring, but I land on unseen solid ground. I step forward again and begin to see the pathway. Waking by faith is wonderful because it begins in wondering, rejects fear, and so finds life. Best reason and experiments in living have weeded out the irrational dreams and left our best hopes. Hope becomes faith to act when reason is moved by great love reward Truth.

God help me to leap with my students into this year. The good educator or student knows to live in faith, by faith, but not for faith. We keep eyes on the prize…The wisest choice.


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