My Informed Faith essay and Barbados’ “academic politics”

The 2021 version of the “Foreword” below differs from a version that I published on the Academia.edu platform in October 2020 in significant ways.

One highly significant difference is the inclusion here of references to prominent Barbadian Roman Catholic priest Monsignor Vincent (Harcourt) Blackett.

Like the historian Trevor Marshall, Monsignor Blackett had also been invited to attended my book launch and participate as a panelist. Unlike Marshall though, “Farther Harry” as Barbadians tend to call the outspoken, effeminate energy channeling cleric, never appeared at the event.

Combined with Blackett’s links to Sir Hilary Beckles and the UK-based “academic theologian” and Garveyite racial separatist Robert Beckford, this detail invites careful scrutiny of the historical-cultural “circle of care” that links Barbados’ and Britain’s academic politics and human ecologies.

The British economic historian and former Labour politician Tristram Hunt has documented features of that bidirectional, Barbados-British care cycle through his inclusion of Barbados’ capitol city Bridgetown in his book Ten Cities that built an Empire (2014).

Barbados prime minister Mia Mottley has attested to these isles’ arguably improbable, gay-marriage-mimicking interdependence more recently as she delivered the 16th United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) Raúl Prebisch Lecture on 10 September 2019 in Geneva, Switzerland.

Intriguingly, if not unsurprisingly, both Mottley and Hunt highlight issues around the kind of “late show” and “no show” that Marshall and Blackett demonstrated as they explore themes of the hidden, invisible and unseen in their spoken and written studies of Barbados’ geopolitical and socio-economic realities.

Mottley does so as she claims that Brexit has impacted Bridgetown more profoundly than Bradford (49:50) and Hunt, as he recounts the relocation of the slave-holding “Cage”, a symbol of the trans-Atlantic trade’s bestial mind-bending re-education technologies, from a prominent Bridgetown location to another considered more civilized: more discreet (pages 64, 65).

The story of my Informed Faith essay told here, before or subsequently, provides insights into the interplay of the covert and overt in Barbados’ academic politics: an interplay of the seen and unseen that I believe offers particularly poignant insights in the era of COVID-19.

Foreword

Codrington College and Barbados Community College conundrums

On November 18th 2012 I published my essay “Informed Faith” (IF) on the Intelek International website, www.intelek.net.

By 2014, as I was preparing to publish a hardcopy of IF it had disappeared from the site’s inspirational offerings in mysterious and questionable circumstances that shared points of connection with the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 on March 8 that year.

Written in 1989 or thereabout, that essay which makes a case for the compatibility of faith with reason and “common sense” remains one of the writing achievements of which I am proudest.

It demonstrates as fine a balancing of cognitive and affective intelligence as I have seen anywhere – if I may say so myself.

And sadly, today, May 3, 2021, I do feel obliged to say so myself, as it seems that none of the theologians, historians or other academics who have read IF and could (perhaps should) attest to its healthy curiosity generating genius and wider democracy nurturing social utility have done so yet.

Indeed, judging by the ambivalence and reluctance demonstrated by historian Trevor Marshall during the Barbados launch of my book “The Bible: Beauty and Terror Reconciled” (TBBTR) in 2018, it would appear that even some of those who have applauded what he has called my “pursuit of the quintessence of spirituality” in the past, have since questioned the validity of viewing my analysis of religious and related matters in that way.

During that deeply puzzling incident Marshall, one of two TBBRT foreword writers initially failed to join me at the head table of the launch, as a panelist although he had been present at the Bridgetown venue of Barbados’ National Library Service headquarters for some time.

Moreover, when Marshall did join me, belatedly, toward the end of the launch, he inaccurately suggested that TBBTR had failed to address Barbados’ deep-seated race relations challenges.

I immediately refuted this surprisingly uninformed opinion by pointing to references I have made in TBBTR to the Egyptian Ma’at and other Afro-Asiatic wisdom traditions.

This and other incidents and issues – including the failure of prominent Barbadian Roman Catholic cleric Monsignor Vincent Harcourt Blackett to even attend the TBBTR launch – have convinced me that my homeland’s “academic politics”, as Marshall’s Barbados Community College colleague and former prime minister Sir Lloyd Erskine Sandiford has called it, is the most salient of a variety of factors that prevented me from publishing IF until 1995 or so, when I released it as a booklet, in limited quantities.

Naturally, I kept one of those copies for myself.

However, in 2004 or so, I delivered that copy of the booklet to professor Canon Noel Titus, the then outgoing Principal of Codrington College – one of the most distinguished Anglican (Episcopalian) seminaries in the Americas.

My memory is shadowy, but I think I had asked Canon Titus to consider writing a foreword to the text, as I was preparing to publish a second edition of it.

Alternately, I may have merely asked him to write a review.

What I am absolutely clear about in my mind though, is that while standing at the door to Canon Titus’ residence at Codrington College and placing my booklet in his hand, I optimistically urged him to ensure that nothing amiss happened to it, as it was my last copy.

That optimistic appeal was fleeting, as I recall.

I did not belabour the point.

And that was probably because internally I questioned whether even making the point was necessary.

After all, I trusted Canon Titus.

I had known and been friends with his son Neil for a number of years. Neil and I were members of the prominent Pentecostal church Peoples Cathedral, founded by the now deceased pastor Holmes Williams.

At Neil’s request, presumably, Canon Titus had opened his home and Codrington College’s spacious, vegetation rich, meticulously manicured gardens and grounds to my brother Wayne and I, our friends and several other members of pastor Williams’ church on numerous occasions.

I had every reason, therefore, to be confident in Canon Titus’ stewardship of the last copy of my book – both in scholarly and in paternal-friendly terms.

Imagine my bewilderment and dismay therefore, when some time after that fateful visit to Canon Titus’ home, he told me that he had in fact lost that last copy of the IF booklet, as he prepared to vacate the Codrington College Principal’s residence for his successor, Reverend Dr. Ian Rock.

I recount this unfortunate turn of events here for a number of reasons, not least the time honoured teaching that we human beings will fail each other, in one way or another, despite our best intentions.

This Codrington College conundrum also reminds me of an appeal made by Reverend Dr. Marcus Lashley at a Men’s Educational Support Association (MESA) seminar held at the Caribbee Hotel in Barbados – possibly within a year or so (possibly just months before or after) I gave that ill-fated booklet to Canon Titus.

Dr. Lashley a Codrington College trained priest subsequently became a psychologist and is a well-known provider of related human resource development services to Barbados’ government and private sectors.

At the MESA seminar, Lashley appealed to fellow clerics and others in attendance to return books that he had lent them. His frustration, even desperation was clearly evident.

Lashley’s public appeal about an issue one imagines he would have preferred to deal with privately demonstrates, I think, the profound individual and social conflicts that can arise at the intersections of faith, knowledge and power: the intersection of what Sir Lloyd has called the most viscious kind of politics anywhere: “academic politics”.

And today, as I re-publish and thereby resurrect the little known IF essay that is not only an academic document but also, and at least as crucially, a deeply personal landmark on my spiritual and sociopolitical journey, I reflect upon the emphasis put on the deceased former Barbadian prime minister Owen Arthur’s academic achievements during his state funeral, as that consumate political animal’s entitlement to the label “professor” was stressed.

I reflect on what I was told about Arthur’s own “academic politics” battles by his University of the West Indies (UWI) colleague, political scientist Dr George Belle, and what I observed about those and related battles myself, as I served as a consultant to the Barbados Government Commission for Pan African Affairs (BGCPA) that Arthur established.

I also reflect on the academic political manouverings of University of UWI Vice Chancellor Sir Hilary Beckles, who has been implicated by legal principles similar to that of “joint enterprise” in his son Rodney’s killing of Khalil Campbell in January 2007, folowing a row over Campbell’s marijuana smoking competence.

According to the New Covenant-based, spiritual and psychosocial phenomena measuring principles that I have been advocating in my IF essay and elsewhere since at least the 1980s, Sir Hilary also bears COVID-19 “super-spreader” approximating culpability for the misinformation and toxic thinking propaganda excesses of Barbados’ reparations for trans-Atlantic slavery campaigning.

As previously indicated elsewhere, I believe that Beckles’, former BGCPA Director David Comissiong’s and other supposedly progressive Black leaders’ human rights advocacy shares not only primitive, but fatal informational flaws with the errant, materialism motivated sense of grievance and entitlement that apparently infested the mind of Jamaican gangster Christopher “Dudus” Coke and infects the thinking of many other Afrocentric youths and adults who rationalize knife and gun crime in London, Chicago, Toronto and elsewhere today.

Reverse racist delusions and excesses that persons alligning themselves with the Black Lives Matter movement and similar political entities risk also come to mind here.

Delusions of grandeur – A COVID-19 Caution for Barbados PM Mia Mottley

Long before the explosion of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, I focused on the highly combustible, delusion inducing germ of pride that makes knowledge “puff” us up, and related elements of these ideological inflammation inducing informational flaws in IF.

Still using the transliteration “Jesus”, instead of the English translation “Joshua” in those days, I wrote in Section 1 of that booklet,

Jesus was evidently an informed believer. It was probably his humility that distinguished him from other intellectuals of his day (and ours).

Apparently, his primary concern was not to show off his knowledge but to share it. He evidently was not aloof (Mark 2:15), but rather, manifested a quality of knowledge that God and human beings could have in common.

A quality of knowledge that is truly high, but not high-minded; a spirituality that is down to earth, or as Caribbean people would say, “rootsy”.

It is therefore an ironic tragedy that so many of Jesus’ followers throughout the centuries have scorned knowledge: we tend to confuse his lowliness with intellectual indifference or indigence.

The admonition of 1 Corinthians 8:1 (attributed to the scholarly apostle Paul) that “knowledge puffeth up” is similarly misunderstood when it is viewed as an indiscriminate denunciation of all knowledge.

Actually the only knowledge that is being denounced here is that which issues in vanity and pride. That is, that knowledge which makes one “puffed-up” (proud).

What is rejected here, it seems, is the “wisdom” (a counterfeit) that “descendeth not from above” (James 3:13-17).

The “academic greed”, as the political scientist Belle once called it, that led some of Lashley’s clerical Anglican colleagues to steal, surreptitiously “adopt” or “indefinitely borrow” some of his books is a symptom of the insatiable appetite for attention and excessive pride that powers delusion inducing, destructive academic politics.

And those familiar with the recent double-murder at the derelict former official residence of the Anglican Bishop of Barbados by a young man who is alleged to be a known, deluded, long-time mental health sufferer might see in that incident, as I do, a peculiar oracular provenance and providence: a warning, essentially, for Barbados Anglican, Roman Catholic, Rastafarian and other “officious” officials.

Notwithstanding this “double-vision” denoting oracle, in which a young photo journalist and a poisonous, cancer causing asbestos removal expert died, Lashley’s dilemma affords me comfort of a sort, as it reminds me that I am not alone in navigating the minefield of mixed-motives, culpability, innocence, best and worst intentions and the simply inexplicable of human behaviour that come into play as academics interact.

More than this though, I am reminded (and would remind my friend Lashley, Monsignor Blackett, Marshall, Canon Titus, Dr. Reverend Luther Johnson, Dr. Richard Crookendale, my brother Wayne and others in Barbados’ Christian community) that “all things work together for good” (Romans 8:28), as the Bible we all love instructs us.

And I would also note that the more informed our faith, the better we can see the good that all things, including COVID-19, are working toward in our individual and collective lives.

I would therefore urge all who read this foreword to my IF essay now, to take comfort from the fact that out of the misfortune of Canon Titus misplacing the last copy of that booklet (and subsequent, similar misfortunes and mishaps that have prevented me re-publishing and resurrecting IF until now) this on-line, freely available version of it has come about, making it more accessible to a wider readership.

Consequently, many more people, including Judeo-Christian businessman Graham Dacre in England, the evangelist Franklyn Graham in the US and other little or well known decision makers all around the world now have access to these thoughts I shared so long, long ago and which, I believe, continue to inform and inspire myself and others to be the best that we can be.

I certainly believe some of the ideas I treat in IF can benefit discussions like those that fomented around the apparent fundamentalist Christian, US Republican Party supporting hysteria that followed the 2012 re-election of president Obama.

Christians and other persons discussing same sex marriage, the appropriate response to the challenges of radical Islam and other thorny issues might similarly find common sense, COVID-19 compliant “social distancing” guidance in my IF essay, despite it being written in the late 1980’s.

The matter of militant Islamist terror and reactionary Judeo-Christian ‘consolidation’, ‘compression’ or strangulation of free thinking is particularly pertinent in this regard.

It is linked to the first ever march by the English Defense League (EDL) in Dacre’s and my home county Norfolk, in 2012, around the time that an updated, online version of IF similar to this one was published.

There, certainly, is an issue that could benefit from some informed Christian, consensus-building input.

And as I indicate in my author’s foreword to TBBTR, dated July 2010, the most pressing need for an informed faith among Christians does in fact stem from the dangers we expose ourselves to internally and therefore points to the value and viability of an informed faith as a kind of internal medicine.

And today, as in my alternative COVID-19 causation narrative (Campbell 2020), I assert without fear of contradiction, that COVID-19 has a radically psychological or spiritual dimension.

Accordingly, I can also assert that my, the historian Marshall’s, Monsignor Blackett’s, Anglican Bishop Michael Maxwell’s, Reverend Dr Sonia Hinds and other Barbadian Christians’ most pressing pandemic navigating needs stem from the perils presented by our inability or refusal to be informed and reason or be mathematical about our own faith, not Muslim’s or anyone else’s.

I thereby invoke the reconciliation of passion and reason that IF is all about.

It is about the radical rooting in reality that comes naturally when we move beyond literalistic dependence on the written New Testament and take ownership of Joshua’s yoke: the discipline of the unwritten New Covenant.

In Section 2 of IF I stressed the “mathematical” nature of this task, as I wrote:

Faith and knowledge, as I see them (or our capacity for them), are both gifts from God, intended to co-operate in the revelation of his truth.

I therefore do not view Jesus’ call to faith in him as an invitation to abandon reason and intelligence.

I see it as an appeal to truly find them in him.

“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

These words found in Matthew 11:28-30 are not an invitation to intellectual idleness.

On the contrary, the yoke (Greek zygos) was a common metaphor for discipline among the Jews.

“Learn” translates the Greek manthano from which mathetes, meaning disciple is derived.

Now while the word disciple traditionally evokes images of religious devoutness, with its associations of mysticism and spirituality, mathetes actually denotes a pupil who submits to processes of learning under a teacher.

It is in fact a more academic term than most people realize.

“Mathetes”, I point out, “has entered the English language in the term “mathematics”, which literally means “disposed to learn” (see the article Disciple, in the Wycliffe Bible Encyclopaedia, Moody Bible Institute of Chicago, 1975).

And I continue,

The use of such terms suggests that Jesus’ call to rest is not a means whereby we can escape labour.

Rather it appears to be a call to a more rewarding labour – that which yields rest.

This rest must be earned: it must be learned.

The life of a mathetes of Jesus Christ is not one of perpetual ease.

At the very least, it will take some thought.

I believe there is a particularly pertinent and urgent message here for the economic historian professor Beckles, who former Financial Times editor Hal Austin once characterized as a “wild horse” exploiting Barbadians traditional love of education, as I note in a petition I published in 2018.

Intriguingly, given the subsequent occurrence of COVID-19 pandemic, I had used epidemiological language in that petition to explore Beckles and others apparent race related psychoses forensically.

I wrote,

Beckles’ reparations foreign policy is more like the bigly bile spouting of United States president Donald Trump.

It is reminiscent of the deeply divisive, religious written language manipulated and manipulating Guyanese dictator Forbes Burnham’s moral-mental infirmity.

In fact, the economic historian Sir Hilary’s in some ways brilliant mind seems infected by an excessively backward-looking, superficially black people favoring, but actually blacks stereotyping or “super-scripting” and bullying neuro-bacterial disease.

And I would caution the probable fundamentalist Barbados prime minister Mia Mottley similarly, as she and her Barbadian, British, Canadian and other male and female fundamentalist feminist allies are recklessly tinkering with obscure and volatile, biological fundamentals of “family discipline”, consciously or unconsciously.

Ms Mottley’s recently declared intention of her government to “recognise a form of civil unions for couples of the same gender”, coupled with plans to make Barbados a republic concerns me deeply, as it suggests a determination by her and other “socialist” satellites of a global gay media-based mafia to make Barbados a colony under Sandi Toxfig, Sir Elton John, Don Lemon and other gay lifestyle proselytizing “queens” and “kings”.

Precisely how Mottley, her education minister Santia Bradshaw and other members of her Cabinet propose to reconcile the “new math” of same gender unions with the needs of population growth that she identified in the same “Throne Speech” is just one of a number of concerns that intrigue me deeply – as my first written response to Mottley’s announcement, published before I had read a copy of that speech predicts prophetically.

In an April 9, 2020 article about James K Galbraith’s book The End of Normal: The Great Crisis and the Future of Growth Austin notes the now patent fallibilities and fantasies of economic theory.

He writes “Despite this changing reality, the economic discipline continues on its own merry way.

In the meantime, it is turning the discipline into a complex algebraic warren, the final victory of mathematics over common sense.”

“Meanwhile,” Austin continues “economic policy was left to jobbing politicians and lunching journalists. It took 16-year-old school girl Greta Thunberg to tell us we have lost our way.”

“Mr Galbraith’s read is brilliant. It demystifies the discipline, and in particular the dominant consensus that infects the popular discourse, like an out-of-control virus,” concludes Austin.

My concern is that Mottley, Sir Elton and others who would propagate a “new normal” by claiming explicitly or implicitly that there is no difference between the biological principle of heterosexual procreation and legal artifice enabled “same gender” child bearing and population building arrangements risk doing violence to fundamentals of human diversity dependent interdependence that they and other gay, straight and bisexual persons cannot even begin to conceive.

As far as I am aware, despite the current reckless global rate of abortion, estimated at 40-50 million every year, according to the World Health Organization (corresponding to approximately 125,000 abortions per day, or 1.45 abortions per second), the most informed scientists, following the best science still treat every human life and sentience as a profoundly complex, sacred psychosomatic mystery.

PM Mottley, professor Beckles and other supposed “human rights” champions, seem intent on sitting with other “electronically enthroned” world leaders, like Anderson Cooper, on seats of the scornful, in the “virtual countries” (Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon and others alluded to by Austin) that have been loudly and proudly perpetrating COVID-19 paralleling depopulating abominations like headless chickens.

PM Mottley’s failure so far to respond to efforts I have been making since at least 2018 to have a constructive dialogue with her and other Barbadians and Caribbean people about an ethical development of our island home’s and the region’s orange or creative economy does not inspire confidence in her understanding of the possible similarities between population growth through adoption arrangements that effectively disintegrate or disappear one of two biological parents and the extraordinarily cruel, commercial practices of the trans-Atlantic slave trade that reduced Black people to human chattel.

PM Mottley, her Minister of Creative Economy, Culture and Sports, John King and other high profile, strategically positioned politicians and bureaucrats need to engage with us meaningfully, if they want to convince myself and other Barbadians who have been victims of the child abduction recalling, piracy, plagiarism and related modern slavery proximal abuses and violations of our personal beliefs and “identity landmarks” that they understand and value who we are, not just what we have to offer them and their supposedly altruistic programs.

An informed faith is nothing if not a listening faith, especially when professed by persons whose public utterances tend to be populated with references to “God”.

If PM Mottley knows anything about an informed faith she should know that it is forged between an individual man and a woman, in the same mystery of Godliness that sites the DNA approximating unwritten New Covenant in the sperm of the male and nurtures it, ideally for nine months, in a woman’s womb.

She should know that while this very commonplace phenomenon and the complex battle of the sexes that it can generate are a “great mystery”, according to the apostle Paul (possibly because he was a homosexual, as suggested by, John Shelby Spong, in his 1991 book Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism: A Bishop Rethinks the Meaning of Scripture) it is far less mysterious, if no lesss mind racking, perhaps, to heterosexual men and women.

And so, as I share the following, unedited version of IF today, I would urge Barbadians at home and abroad to remember the mass suicide (and the murders) of Jonestown, Guyana, led by the power mad American evangelical Christian preacher Jim Jones.

I re-published IF on my website eight years ago precisely because that was the 34th anniversary of that extremely tragic Jonestown event which, with a death toll of 918 people, was “the most deadly single non-natural disaster in U.S. history until September 11, 2001,” which claimed 2977 lives, apart from those of the murder-suicide committing Islamic terrorists.

Apart from the seismic destruction wrought around the globe by COVID-19, has anything changed fundamentally since that New York population decimating day?

Have any lessons from either Jonestown or the 9/11 attacks truly been learned?

The extraordinary Talibank thinking and other politically and socially short-sighted, suicidal behaviour evident among key Christians like American mining magnate and president Trump backer Robert E Murray has not encouraged me to think so.

And contemplation of the lesbian and gay excesses of fundamentalist feminist matriarchy and patriarchy pushers, facilitated as much by Trump’s Christian conviction professing predecessor Obama, as by Trump’s, his friend Jeffrey Epstein’s and Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein’s heterosexual excesses have similarly discouraged optimism.

All the more need then, for an informed faith, rooted in a reconciliation of natural and spiritual knowing norms.

The “Circle of Care” project that I am developing in conjunction with various health and social care interests in Barbados, the UK, Africa, India and elsewhere is both rooted in and a fruit of these norms.

It gives expression or incarnation to the “cycle of life” science that builds bridges of deeply meaningful communication and understanding between successive generations.

Conforming to my forensic physics of forgiveness protocol, it offers an opportunity for reconciliation and collaborative resilience – much like that which this article offers to persons that the elders Marshall, Monsignor Blackett, Canon Titus and I model – to all.

Informed Faith

“Easy believism is dangerous. My experience and observations have convinced me that ‘easy believism’ has caused people to commit some of the most cruel and atrocious acts against themselves and others – in ‘God’s name’.

“Quick-fix” faith and un-analytical assurance tends to be deceptive. Certainty without critical thought tends to be brutish and illusory.”

Section 1

Jesus’ example

This work is dedicated to the promotion of sound education among all people, but is particularly applicable to persons professing to know and believe in Jesus Christ.

I believe being a “fool for God” is not wise if it is just mental laziness in disguise.

The church has been accused, and justly in many instances, of encouraging intellectual suicide.

The tendency of many Christians to denounce education and underrate the value of the rational faculties has led to a virtual “institutionalization of ignorance” among them.

Ignorance breeds bigotry and prejudices which impact negatively on Christian communities and society at large.

While the espousal of, or pride in ignorance is so commonplace among Christians though, it is not characteristic of the assumed founder of Christianity, Jesus Christ.

It seems that with all else that Jesus did or claimed he displayed a highly cultivated intellect.

According to Luke 2:46,47, at the age of twelve his intelligence baffled the leading “doctors” of the law.

Also, John 7:15 records this bewildered response of the Jews as the adult Jesus taught in their temple:

“How is it that this man has learning – is so versed in the sacred scriptures and in theology – when he has never studied” (Amplified Bible)

Jesus was evidently an informed believer.

It was probably his humility that distinguished him from other intellectuals of his day (and ours).

Apparently, his primary concern was not to show off his knowledge but to share it.

He evidently was not aloof (Mark 2:15), but rather, manifested a quality of knowledge that God and human beings could have in common.

A quality of knowledge that is truly high, but not high-minded; a spirituality that is down to earth, or as Caribbean people would say, “rootsy”.

It is therefore an ironic tragedy that so many of Jesus’ followers throughout the centuries have scorned knowledge: we tend to confuse his lowliness with intellectual indifference or indigence.

The admonition of 1Corinthians 8:1 (attributed to the scholarly apostle Paul) that “knowledge puffeth up” is similarly misunderstood when it is viewed as an indiscriminate denunciation of all knowledge.

Actually the only knowledge that is being denounced here is that which issues in vanity and pride, that is, that knowledge which makes one “puffed-up” (proud).

What is rejected here, it seems, is the “wisdom” (a counterfeit) that descendeth not from above” (James 3:13-17).

There is that wisdom, that lowly, compassion tempered, communion-encouraging knowledge and wisdom “from above” that we may legitimately pursue and, indeed, are expected to (Proverbs 1:4, 8:10, 24:5 etc.).

The lack of this knowledge – which lack is most effectively concealed by the possession of a counterfeit – leads to bondage and destruction (John 8:32, Hosea 4:16).

It leads to individual arrogance and social anarchy.

Section 2

The root of the problem

Much of the problem stems from what I consider popular misconceptions about the relationship between faith and knowledge.

Some people seem to think that faith and knowledge are totally separate from and even antagonistic toward each other. They therefore equate faith with ignorance, more or less.

I do not.

The term “faith” does denote an element of ignorance, that is, trust in the unknown or unseen, but this does not mean that “faith” and “ignorance” are synonymous.

Faith is often represented in terms of absolute blindness but I think it is more accurately viewed as a species of diminished sight.

I believe that basic human intelligence (common-sense) is compatible with faith, not antagonistic toward it.

Faith and knowledge, as I see them (or our capacity for them), are both gifts from God, intended to co-operate in the revelation of his truth.

I therefore do not view Jesus’ call to faith in him as an invitation to abandon reason and intelligence.

I see it as an appeal to truly find them in him.

“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

These words found in Matthew 11:28-30 are not an invitation to intellectual idleness.

On the contrary, the yoke (Greek zygos) was a common metaphor for discipline among the Jews.

“Learn” translates the Greek manthano from which mathetes, meaning disciple is derived.

Now while the word disciple traditionally evokes images of religious devoutness, with its associations of mysticism and spirituality, mathetes actually denotes a pupil who submits to processes of learning under a teacher.

It is in fact a more academic term than most people realize.

“Mathetes” has entered the English language in the term “mathematics”, which literally means “disposed to learn” (see the article Disciple, in the Wycliffe Bible Encyclopaedia, Moody Bible Institute of Chicago, 1975).

The use of such terms suggests that Jesus’ call to rest is not a means whereby we can escape labour.

Rather it appears to be a call to a more rewarding labour – that which yields rest.

This rest must be earned: it must be learned.

The life of a mathetes of Jesus Christ is not one of perpetual ease.

At the very least, it will take some thought.

Now I am not saying that Christ’s rest is accessible only to academics.

I believe common sense, the common man, can perceive Christ’s truth.

I believe Jesus taught the essentials of life that are applicable and accessible to all.

Furthermore, I am fully aware of the sterility that goes with a purely academic and aloof approach to things religious.

I am not advocating a cold religious intellectualism.

My point here is that faith does not preclude logic.

It is not necessarily inconsistent nor incompatible with organized, logical, systematic inquiry or research.

The Bible itself demonstrates this forcefully.

There is clear and conclusive evidence that much of the wisdom literature (Proverbs, Psalms and Ecclesiastes), Old Testament historical books (Genesis, Exodus, etc.) and all of the New Testament writings except the book of Revelation, while being inspired, are also the product of normal processes of thought, historical research, exegesis of canonical (and non-canonical texts, e.g. references to Apocryphal texts in 2Timothy 3:8, Jude 8) and logical and theological reasoning.

Theologian J.I. Packer refers to this “phenomenon” as God’s divine concursus – his operation in and with human beings in the exercise of their own natural powers (New Bible Commentary, Eerdman).

You see, all that is natural is not evil, in the same way that all that is spiritual is not good.

It is erroneous to view faith in God – that which is good – as a purely spiritual dynamic and hence foreign to the natural man.

The verse of scripture which says the “natural man receiveth not the things of the spirit of God” (1Corinthians 2:14) has to be put in its historical and cultural context and reconciled with that passage which speaks of men’s ability to “do by nature the things contained in the law” (Romans 2:14).

There is good, spiritual good (and evil) in the nature of man.

Man is naturally a spiritual being. The spiritual and the natural are not absolutely distinct elements.

A contrary view, the tripartite view, still popular among many Christians, insists on dividing the human personality into three distinct entities, body, soul and spirit.

This view is behind the common fundamentalist Christian claims that “the human being is a soul who lives in a body and has a spirit” and “the soul is the seat of the emotions, and the spirit is the seat of the intellect”.

This unwholesome analysis has encouraged an artificial, unrealistic distinction between faith and knowledge.

It is an ill-founded view based mainly on the support of only two biblical passages – 1Thessolonians 5:23 and Hebrews 4:12 – both in the New Testament.

The wholistic witness of the Bible (rooted in Afro-Asiatic, Old Testament cosmology) does not support such absolute distinctions.

It has been recognized that this trichotomous view of man stems primarily from the influence of Greek philosophical dualism on the biblical writers and the first Christian “thinkers” (theologians), e.g. Origen, about AD 185.

Contemporary progressive biblical scholarship, which is committed to a historically justifiable understanding of the Bible (and the church) therefore embraces a more wholistic, “Hebraic” (Afro-Asiatic), Old Testament based understanding of the human personality (see “Soul” and “Spirit” in the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia; William B. Eerdman’s Publishing Co., 1979-1988, four volumes).

This mode of interpretation does not provide the systematic neatness of the tripartite view, but it is actually the most enlightened and integrity-guided (wholistic) viewpoint available to us.

The complexity of human nature – the essential unity of the various tangible elements which are part of the human make-up – does not allow for tidy, absolutist theological distinctions.

This basic fact is hinted at in the obscurity of the biblical testimony on human psychology – the varied usage, interchangeability and overlapping – of the relevant Greek and Hebrew words (ruah, nephesh, pneuma, soma).

Still, the tripartite view remains attractive to many Christians, especially those who follow the popular fundamentalist approach to interpreting the Bible.

The tripartite view blends well with the idyllic, seductively uncomplicated, shallow analysis of fundamentalist theology.

It reinforces fundamentalism’s simplistic, puristic division of humanity into “spiritual and natural” persons: “Christian and non-Christian”, “sinner and saint”, “good and evil”.

It provides easy answers to difficult questions.

It provides mental refuge and rest for insecure, fearful and/or lazy minds which have difficulty accepting the changeable, dynamic and/or fluid character of human nature; the variable character of life itself.

I ought to know. I was a fundamentalist Christian for approximately ten years.

Section 3

My experience of triumphant and true faith

I was once infatuated with the minimally historical Christ of Pentecostal Christianity.

I once espoused the terrific presumptions (e.g. the inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible) that appear to be the strength but are the weakness of that branch of Christendom.

Perhaps I was lazy; the unconscious victim of some mental inertia.

Maybe I was afraid.

At one time during an analytical study of the authority of scripture, I did become rather anxious at the thought of “knowing too much”.

I felt that my faith in the Bible was being eroded.

Back then, like most Christians, I did not properly distinguish between the Bible and the God, the Jesus, with whom I had associated the Bible all my life.

As far as I was concerned, faith in God and faith in the Bible were essentially one and the same thing.

I no longer think that way.

Persistence through a painful disillusionment, insistence on the truth and informing my faith has made me a more discriminating believer.

Having sought (diligently, Hebrews 11:6) for and, I believe, acquiring a more comprehensive knowledge of the scriptures – their origin and purpose – I am better able to “rightly divide” them (2Timothy 2:15).

My faith, (my zeal) has been checked by knowledge (Romans 10:2).

It has been refined.

I have come to a deeper understanding and appreciation of the first commandment, which says,

“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul and with all thy MIND.” (Mark 22:37 King James Version).

I am now fully convinced that God wants us to include our minds, our basic natural common sense and more refined rational faculties in our relationship with him.

I firmly believe that the Most High does not delight in shallow, thoughtless faith (Matthew 13:5, 6).

I am sure that God wants our faith in and knowledge of him to be the resolute, enduring product of careful thought and determination.

I have proven in my own experience that the dynamism of faith (indeed, one may say that is faith) does not detract from its consistency.

You see, true faith – time tested, enduring, sustainable, triumphant faith – is lively, not static; not literalistic.

It entails a time proven, progressive development of one’s understanding of the Most High and the Most High’s ways.

The progressive character of the biblical revelation – the development of the New Covenant out of the Old (which incidentally has been the object of a basic and tragic oversight from the dawn of Christianity – as we shall see) strongly attests to this fact.

This progressiveness is part of the essential “naturalness” of faith.

It is faith’s spirituality; its liveliness (consider John 3:8).

Thus persuaded, I encourage you, do not be afraid to question God, to know God as fully as your intellect allows.

The Most High does not expect us to have all the answers; God knows full well that only God is omniscient; that is, all-knowing.

God is not intimidated by our intelligence, by the queries of common sense. These are gifts to us reflecting God’s image in us.

Questioning and critical thinking is not only consistent with faith, it is basic to it.

It is uncertainty, not ignorance, that distinguishes faith from knowledge.

Uncertainty is a natural and legitimate response to that which is obscure or partly hidden, though evident.

God is not offended by questions.

Section 4

The “certainty” crisis

One very serious pitfall of fundamentalism is its propensity to insist on certainty where none is logically possible or required – other than by dogmatic preachers with a political, economic or other agenda.

Such insistence encourages the violation and abuse of one’s conscience: it issues in a variety of subtle and explicit antisocial and/or sociopathic forms of behaviour.

According to Genesis 18: 23 – 33, even Abraham, the esteemed “father of faith” had questions.

And what about the deep, probing reflections of the righteous Job?

Theological lecturer and editor John Rea cites Matthew 28:17, 14:31 and Acts 10: 12-21 as biblical evidence of a category of doubt, “provisional doubt” which is not sinful (see “Doubt” Wycliffe Bible Encyclopaedia).

Actually, I believe God delights in our questions, in as much as they reflect a sincere desire to know the truth: a desire to be honest with ourselves and with God; a desire to relate to the Most High in a faith that is truly one’s own.

And what, you may ask, about correct doctrine?

Well, after approximately two thousand years of scriptural revisions, recensions and recision and multiple doctrinal restatements throughout Christendom, we should know better than to become preoccupied with legalistic or literalistic doctrinal accuracy.

Indeed, there is something rather immodest in that persistence.

By now we should have recognized that while God may be fully acquainted with absolutes, human beings are not.

Humans are essentially subjective beings.

We cannot help that.

That is basically how we perceive reality – “As I see it”.

Practically all of our knowledge is influenced by an element of uncertainty – an element of faith and doubt.

The theist and the atheist are both believers.

One believes that God exists and the other believes that there is no God (or so it is claimed; the Greek philosopher Heraclitus was called an atheist but he believed in the Logos, that is, knowledge).

The human comprehension of truth will always be influenced by some degree of relativity, uncertainty and faith, for as Paul wrote,

“Now we see through a glass darkly: but then face to face; now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” (1Corinthians 13:12)

People will always have varying interpretations and understandings of the truth. The above quotation is an indication by scripture of this very thing (also see verses 8-11 and 1John 3:2).

Denominationalism (religious competitiveness and divisiveness based on simplistic “naming” and unwholesome literalistic practices) is a blatant scourge on Christendom.

This ancient, perennial scourge is not simply the result of external doctrinal or liturgical differences.

At its core it is the result of incorrect and improper motives among Christians; motives which, in my opinion are more nurtured by ignorance, than knowledge.

In the name of doctrinal accuracy we set aside and compromise the New Covenant commandment to love one another (John 13:34).

We confuse literalistic accuracy with integrity.

We assume that unity means uniformity.

It does not.

The Kingdom of God (not the church) which is the central theme of Jesus’ preaching as recorded in the four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John), is made up of diverse personalities, cultures and outlooks.

According to Jesus’ remarks about “other sheep” (John 10:16) and “he that is not against us” (Matthew 9:40) and also the apostle Paul’s commendation of those who, led by conscience, are “a law unto themselves” (Romans 2:14) there is probably considerable ethical and doctrinal variation in God’s Kingdom.

I for one am convinced that the Kingdom of God includes persons from a wide cross-section of religious and philosophical outlooks not covered by the term “Christian” in its common, institutional usage.

Remember this: hypocrites are not persons who say they believe the “wrong” thing, but live right; they are people who say they believe the “right” thing, but live wrong.

Regardless of our views, God is sovereign.

The Most High governs the divine Kingdom as mysteriously as the movement of the wind.

“The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is everyone that is born of the spirit. (John 3:8)

The important thing is not that we agree in every detail, but rather that we “…be all taught of God” (John 6:44, 45).

None of us should presume to understand the fullness of who God is and how he deals with humanity.

This does not mean that we do not hold our own convictions and have our own moral guidelines.

It simply means that we allow others the benefit of the doubt; that is, that we be mindful of our own limited understanding.

This is where I am today; this is where my inquiry into the Christian faith has brought me.

There is a paradox here: the more I find out about Christ, the more I become aware of how little I know about him.

Whatever else it may be, an informed faith in Jesus Christ is in fact an ever enquiring faith.

This though, is as it should be, for with the questions come humility and in turn, compassion, which in my opinion is the supreme value of faith in Jesus Christ – or anyone else.

Certainty without integrity – is folly.

No two people – no two Anglicans, no two Pentecostals, no two Muslims, no two Jews, no two Rastafarians – are exactly alike and believe exactly the same thing.

Not even identical twins believe identical things. I should know. I have an identical twin brother whose religious views are in many ways very similar, and yet, very different to my own.

Each of us must decide what we believe for ourselves.

We will agree on some issues, and we will disagree on others.

In the final analysis, my faith in God is a matter between God and I. Yours is a matter between God and you.

This is what spirituality is about.

It is radically personal; it is fundamentally individualistic.

This is what the New Covenant principle is about.

This is what is referred to when the scriptures say “We cry Abba Father, the spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit”.

A lot of our religious leaders today are stressing the “communion” element of faith.

This is important, but so too is the individualism of faith.

To stress one at the expense of the other is misleading.

There must be balance.

It is misleading to say that the problems of modern society stem from individualism.

Issues like divorce, indiscipline and rebellion (among the youth and adults alike), drugs and crime should not be blamed solely on individualism.

The influence of group structures and institutional dynamics – the influence of governments, religious bodies, corporate entities, class dynamics etc – has to be factored into the equation.

In many cases, individualism is merely a reaction against the “soul suppressing” pressure of collective bodies.

Of course individualism can be taken too far, but that is another matter.

Again, balance is needed.

Over-generalizations and stereo-typing, which are characteristic of fundamentalist thinking will not help.

Informing ones faith may lead to and or expose differences of opinion with others. However, while differences of opinion are inevitable, attitudes of divisiveness, bigotry and unsympathetic dogmatism are not.

The emphasis must be on GRACE and TOLERANCE in religious matters (and I use “tolerance” in the positive sense, meaning “generosity of spirit”, not licentiousness).

When the individual appreciates the importance of exercising honesty with and extending compassion toward him or herself, he or she appreciates the necessity of exercising honesty with and extending grace towards others.

When we are mindful of the limits on our knowledge – the importance, that is, of conscientious, or conscience-oriented (self-seeing) faith – we are more inclined to be tolerant of the limits of others’ knowledge.

Therefore, the way to the most enduring peace of mind at the personal level and social cohesion or consensus at the societal level is through personalized faith.

Remember, while disagreements are inevitable, divisiveness is not.

Mature self-knowledge and self-understanding (self-seeing faith) minimizes conflict.

The most disruptive conflicts are internal.

External conflicts have as much (sometimes more), to do with the challenge of understanding ourselves, as they do with the challenge of understanding others.

GRACE and TOLERANCE toward ONESELF and OTHERS is essential in all matters.

It is especially important in this age of global communications and interaction.

Indeed, it is the imperative of this age.

References
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Bible-Beauty-Terror-Reconciled/dp/0956463711
https://youtu.be/6QpEq4l4Xcs
https://www.ftadviser.com/adviser-library/2020/04/09/what-i-m-reading-hal-austin/
https://www.change.org/p/help-sir-hilary-beckles-build-a-better-more-authentically-democratic-reparations-case
https://www.thedailybeast.com/paul-the-apostle-was-a-possibly-gay-elite-radical-who-believed-in-equality-for-all
https://www.nationnews.com/2021/04/27/inniss-details-32-months-pain-humiliation/