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My newest academic article is out in Evangelical Quarterly: “Blessed Are Those Who Have Not Seen and Yet Have Known By Faith: Knowledge, Faith, and Sight in the New Testament.” Ricochet saw the earliest version of this article in this old post. In an early draft of the article I began, by way of illustration, with a familiar New Testament way of teaching—a story:
At the time of the initial composition of this paragraph, I am between jobs. Technically, I am unemployed. I worked for four years as an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Forman Christian College in Pakistan before my name was found on a document in the possession of a local terrorist organization. So my family and I spent the past academic year—the fifth at FC College—packing and looking for a new job. Shortly after we returned to Texas I was blessed with a job offer at Hong Kong Baptist University—another liberal arts university in Asia with a Christian heritage. HKBU, thankfully, allowed me the option of a contract beginning in January of 2018. It is now August of 2017, and my wife and I have a few months to sort through our footlockers, our crate from Pakistan, and our storage unit—and repack for moving to Hong Kong! I prefer to think of this time as a sabbatical rather than unemployment—an opportunity to do some reading, some writing on Augustine, and some writing on other projects such as this one. I’m not worried about my family’s financial situation because we’re not likely to go into debt, because I think future income is more important than how much money I have now, and because my future salary is going to be a raise as compared to my last job.
In essence, I am living on trust. I trust that our visas will be granted. I trust that, come December, the airline we select will get us safely from Texas to Hong Kong. I trust the contract I signed to hold water. I trust that I will get paid for my work in January sometime around early February. I have faith that these things will happen.
I have not seen my seat on the airliner, or the campus of HKBU, or our new home in Hong Kong, or the money in the checking account I will eventually set up in Hong Kong. I would be a fool to say “I’ll believe it when I see it.” I believe it now, and I act on that belief—packing, preparing for my spring semester courses, and so on.
I am walking by faith, not by sight.
But I also know that these things are so. My trust is paradigmatically rational; I am trusting in such things as the safety standards of modern aircraft, the professionalism of university employees such as the ones who hired me, and the solidity of a well-written employment contract. I know that the day will come when my family and I leave from George Bush Intercontinental in Houston, that I will start teaching at HKBU in January, and that I will get paid. Chances are pretty good that I know all this about as well as the storeowners from whom you purchased groceries sometime in the last week know that the credit card company will pay them on your behalf, as well as the credit card company knows that you will pay them back, and as well as you know that you will be paid by your employer for your work this month. We walk by knowledge when we walk by trust, or by faith, in those with good faith and good credit. That’s life.
Of course, I am not certain—inasmuch as I could die in a car accident tomorrow, our flight might be one of those rare ones that plunges into the sea, and so on. Nor are you, the grocer, or the credit card company 100% certain; but you have a rational belief on which you are acting and which you may reasonably call knowledge.
And this, of course, has everything to do with the Bible.
Eventually, the story dropped out of the article, but the point is still there: A lot of our lives are lived by trust, which is quite rational and very much a matter of knowledge, and this is what the New Testament also teaches.
Details in the article and earlier Ricochet material. (I’m a bit slow setting things up, but I have just secured permission to post a version of the article online, so if any of you are nerdy enough to read the article itself you might check back in, say, one week at Research Gate or PhilPeople.org.)Published in