Axioms About Faith

PSST! I wrote a whole book about doubt and the science of learning to love God again after losing your faith. It's called Finding God in the Waves. Click here to learn more.

This post is going to be nerdy, but it's been widely requested. I can't put it off any longer without starting a riot among my most loyal listeners and readers. It probably won't be interesting if you don't need it, but I've found that people who need these ideas find them fascinating–even refreshing.

These are my axioms of faith. An axiom is a premise so evident as to be accepted as true without controversy (according to Wikipedia). To that note, everything on this list is something I can support with mainstream science. This is a form of faith for empiricists and skeptics–the people who need evidence to support any belief.

Some of these are more developed than others. My axiom for God is an example of one I can defend well. My axiom for sin on the other hand, could reasonably be disputed by a philosopher. It's reasonable, but far from perfect.

This system isn't perfect, but when the way you know God is crumbling (or already dust), this can be a scaffold that supports you as you build a new model for the Divine. Even in my case, these axioms don't incorporate all I believe. I'm leaning towards an Eastern Orthodox view of salvation these days, but I can't back that empirically. It's a matter of faith.

The Axioms of Faith are a ladder. The starting point is complete religious and spiritual unbelief. Each step moves you toward some form of Christian belief and practice–but never an orthodox Christian faith. There's nothing in these axioms about Christ as an exclusive means of salvation, for example. Nor is there anything about heaven or hell–the afterlife is unfalsifiable at this point.

For me, these were a fence against my most intense doubt. My ability to deconstruct and analyze every experience led me to doubt the nature of my encounter with God in the weeks after it happened. So did new insights or learnings from science, and new arguments against belief in God. This list is my search for answers in the face of The Mystery–all those things we don't know about how we got here and the why behind it all (if there is any "why" at all).

Faith is AT LEAST a way to contextualize the human need for spirituality and find meaning in the face of mortality. EVEN IF this is all faith is, spiritual practice can be beneficial to cognition, emotional states, and culture.

God is AT LEAST the natural forces that created and sustain the Universe as experienced via a psychosocial model in human brains that naturally emerges from innate biases. EVEN IF that is a comprehensive definition for God, the pursuit of this personal, subjective experience can provide meaning, peace, and empathy for others.

Prayer is AT LEAST a form of meditation that encourages the development of healthy brain tissue, lowers stress, and can connect us to God. EVEN IF that is a comprehensive definition of prayer, the health and psychological benefits of prayer justify the discipline.

Sin is AT LEAST volitional action or inaction that violates one's own understanding of what is moral. Sin comes from the divergent impulses between our lower and higher brain functions and our evolution-driven tendency to do things that serve ourselves and our tribe. EVEN IF this is all sin is, it is destructive and threatens human flourishing.

The afterlife is AT LEAST the persistence of our physical matter in the ongoing life cycle on Earth, the memes we pass on to others with our lives, and the model of our unique neurological signature in the brains of those who knew us. EVEN IF this is all the afterlife is, the consequences of our actions persist beyond our death and our ethical considerations must consider a timeline beyond our death.

Salvation is AT LEAST the means by which humanity overcomes sin to produce human flourishing. EVEN IF this is all salvation is, spiritual and religious actions and beliefs that promote salvation are good for humankind.

Jesus is AT LEAST a man so connected to God that he was called the Son of God and the largest religious movement in human history is centered around his teachings. EVEN IF this is all Jesus is, following his teachings can promote peace, empathy, and genuine morality.

The Holy Spirit is AT LEAST the psychological and neurological components of God that allow God to be experienced as a personal force or agent. EVEN IF this is all the Holy Spirit is, God is more relatable and neurologically actionable when experienced this way.

The Church is AT LEAST the global community of people who choose to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ. EVEN IF this is all the church is, the Church is still the largest body of spiritual scholarship, community, and faith practice in the world.

The Bible is AT LEAST a collection of books and writings assembled by the Church that chronicle a people group's experiences with, and understanding of, God over thousands of years. EVEN IF that is a comprehensive definition of the Bible, study of scripture is warranted to understand our culture and the way in which people come to know God.

May this scaffold support you as it supported me.