Friday, October 26, 2012

What Is Faith?

While watching a favourite movie last night, Contact – starring Jodie Foster, it was interesting to see the age old conflict between science and faith play out.  Jodie Foster’s character, Ellie Arroway, plays a scientist in search of extraterrestrial life, in pursuit of the truth about the vastness of the universe.  She encounters a theologian, Palmer Joss, played by Matthew McConaughey, who is also pursuing truth, but from a faith perspective.  Ironically, Palmer’s faith journey leads him to a pursuit of God, while Ellie’s scientific search leads her to a pursuit of “little green men!”

The plot of the movie is centred around the discovery of a message from the planet Vega by Ellie who then works with the government and a private benefactor to build a inter-galactic transporter from the data received from outer-space.  When Ellie returns from her trip into the far reaches of the universe with no evidence of the journey, her perception of reality is scrutinised by government officials who demand proof.  She is left with nothing else but faith to defend what she believes to be true:

Michael Kitz: [standing, angrily] Then why don’t you simply withdraw your testimony, and concede that this “journey to the center of the galaxy,” in fact, never took place!
Ellie Arroway: Because I can’t. I… had an experience… I can’t prove it, I can’t even explain it, but everything that I know as a human being, everything that I am tells me that it was real! I was given something wonderful, something that changed me forever… A vision… of the universe, that tells us, undeniably, how tiny, and insignificant and how… rare, and precious we all are! A vision that tells us that we belong to something that is greater then ourselves, that we are *not*, that none of us are alone! I wish… I… could share that… I wish, that everyone, if only for one… moment, could feel… that awe, and humility, and hope. But… That continues to be my wish.

The once sceptical scientist had an experience that defied logic, lacked tangible proof, but demanded faith to believe what she knew to be real, had actually happened.  While Ellie and the story line is fictional, created by movie writers, her testimony provides us with a description of faith that is closely aligned with a biblical understanding of faith, which is embraced by Christians who have had a divine encounter with God.

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see…By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.” (Hebrews 11:1-3)

“For we live by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7)

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:8)

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