Few disagree, certainly not the God of the Bible. We cannot, never can, should not believe stuff just because we wish the stuff to be true. That is a good way to end up with a pile of stuff and no truth. That’s not too controversial either. The just man wants the truth: eternal, unchanging.
Regrettably, we are broken, the cosmos is broken, what “is” is not quite what it should be. If we do not see perfectly, if we cannot assume we see perfectly, and if the cosmos cannot, quite, be trusted, then certainty is going to be hard to find. Arguments will point us to the truth and expose obvious lies, errors, mistakes, and omissions, but they cannot ever give us certainty.
Our vices and the problems of others means that being sure we are being told the truth is never possible. We move forward in a mix of hope and faith. Hope is a reasonable longing, an aspiration that could be the case, even if what is hoped for is still a “not yet.” Faith is when a hope gains enough substance to allow our intellects, our noetic capacity, to assent. Faith is the moment when hope becomes reasonable.
The just live by faith.
Human sin, our infinite ability to kid ourselves, means surety is out. We only move with probabilities, with substantial hopes. Yet if we had never been expelled from Eden, if there was no sin, love would necessitate faith and eliminate certainty in our life with persons.
The lover in a perfect world lives by faith.
Why? Takes as an example my marriage with Hope now thirty-five years old.
Hope loves me. This truth saved me early in life and sustains me late in life. I believe this to be true and little of my life would make sense if this were false. Suppose I were to ask, since ask a philosopher must, if I am sure that this true.
I am not sure, not in any way whatsoever. People are tricksy. She could be lying. I am so fallible, so foolable, that I am not sure beyond a doubt. I do not believe she is lying, there is strong evidence Hope is trustworthy, but surety is more than I can have. To say “I am sure” would be presumptuous given what I know about my own failures of judgment and human nature.
That is not so bad. Aren’t I fairly sure? After all, I know Hope very well and she has stuck by me in some very hard times, but there is more, another catch, something else standing between me and confidence: people change over time. The woman I knew in 1986, the one who took broken me and picked up the pieces, rebuilding me, has changed. These changes may all be for the better, mostly they seem to be, but this necessitates a continuation of the courtship. I must change as well, or I will discover that she has outgrown me. She is too honorable, of course, to leave me, but if my desire is to be in love, to make her happy, then I must change too.
Love always asks consent. Why? Even with a vow, a pledge on sacred honor, love does not merely wish to be tolerated, because there is no other choice given the vow. No lover wishes the beloved to stay only because of law and duty. Those are good fences that keep us faithful (God helping us!) in hard times. They are not what love wants.
Love wants love.
The lover may, after all, tolerate almost any external reversal if she thinks the beloved loves her for herself.
That is not an attack on honor or duty, merely a reminder that duty and honor are the guardrails that virtue has given to romance. We do not do as we momentarily wish to do, betraying our vows, because we should not, said we would not, and so cannot.
The lover lives by faith. He or she hopes the beloved loves and acts on that hope when evidence is gathered to make that hope substantial. Reason’s job is to give hope enough heft, intellectual warrant, to justify commitment.
I am not sure Hope loves me and that is good. This is not a result of sin, but of growth and development. The wooing is eternal and when the City of God comes, then the romance will continue in another key.
This need to grow in love can either be worrisome or delightful. In a broken world, a lack of surety is frightening. In a good world, being uncertain prevents boredom. The lover cannot ever be certain unless he is God. We are not God, so we are not certain. We always seek consent, because God, who need not do so, always seeks consent to love.
Wondering is a response to beauty. We see beauty in something and are full of wonder as we ponder the magnificence. What makes this beautiful? When seeing the stars, I often am full of wonder and that wonder has motivated learning about the heavens several different times in my life. The last year of Halley’s Comet my brother and I took an astronomy class, just so we could learn more about this wonder and do what we will never have a chance to do again: see this Wonder of Nature.
Beauty provokes love and love creates a desire to know about the beloved. Our minds and our hearts united when we are in love. Our heart has a passion for the beautiful stars and our minds are driven to tell just what the beloved is. We will take any fact, any piece of data, and rejoice in that information, because we love the stars.