Jesus said that no one is his disciple unless the are willing to deny themselves, take up their cross and follow him. This is one of his many warnings to hypocrites, those who want the benefit of being perceived as saints without genuine devotion or work on character. I think that Jesus makes a further point, that those who do not make an effort in the work of character, who do not try to make good their repentance cannot be expected to endure in their belief. I think this is true in that they will no longer find belief plausible.

The rationality of faith for any person depends on what that person truly cares about. Faith is a risk and risk taking is reasonable for someone only knowing relevant facts sufficient to consider possible outcomes, one decides based on their values that the risk is worth taking. Even though many outcomes are theoretically possible, the quality of judgment in choosing can reach certainty in practical reasoning.

William James argues that this judgment can even by applied to metaphysical beliefs. One crucial step in coming to believe is to know or be shown that the belief is plausible given what we know from all our sources. Thus, we might consider metaphysical beliefs after the model of a courtroom crossexamination, rather than a demonstration, especially in choosing a philosophy of life, or a religion.

But that decision is not just going to be based on what someone takes to be the most objectively plausible belief options. It will also depend on what the person values. For example, someone who values adventure and excitement will find sky diving eminently reasonable, while someone who values peace and security will find it not so. This example also illustrates how values play a role in the subjective conviction of the person.

Jesus addresses the heart in a searching way when he dismissed the would be disciples. But I think that one who does not value self-denial will continually find Christianity reasonable and will eventually begin to focus on and collect the intellectual difficulties faced by Christians like one collects proofs of purchase until they have collected enough to rationalize giving up their faith. At such a point, they will regard their former brethren with a blank stare. Of course, such a rejection of self-denial could explain we some never come to believe in the first place.

On the other hand, appreciation for self-denial may lead to belief. One who denies self appreciatively is not expected to find divine authority onerous. It is possible that one who finds self-denial precious on their own will embrace a defendable faith when it’s proposed. They convert because they have already been converted in the crucial sense. Psychologically, what seems preposterous to one may seem to be common sense to another without either disagreeing with the other about any matter of logic or fact.

Nothing here implies relativism about either rationality or values. People are responsible to believe the truth and includes seeing to it that the factors that lead to belief formation do so properly. The fact that person relative values lead to different views of proper belief formation does not imply that there are no facts about proper belief formation.

Linus once said that to him it does not matter what you believe as long as you’re sincere. I don’t argree. But I also think it matters that whatever you are sincere about will determine what you think is reasonable to believe.

From my Facebook notes.

Advertisements