Disbelief A Failure Of Faith, Not Love
Simone Weil, the 20th-century French philosopher, intellectual and social activist, claimed never in her life to have “sought for God.”
Weil taught at a university, then quit to work at an automobile factory to better understand the workers’ plight. She also ran off, like Ernest Hemingway, to fight — albeit without using a gun — in the Spanish Civil War.
Wounded in the war, Weil’s parents took her to Portugal to recover. There a young man introduced her to 17th-century British poetry. Thus she came to faith while meditating on a poem by George Herbert:
Love bade me welcome: yet my soul drew back,
Guiltie of lust and sinne.
But quick-ey’d Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning,
If I lack’d anything.
In a letter to a friend, Weil wrote, “In a moment of intense physical suffering, when I was forcing myself to feel love, but without desiring to give a name to that love, I felt, without being in any way prepared for it (for I had never read the mystical writers) a presence more personal, more certain, more real than that of a human being, though inaccessible to the senses and imagination.”
For faith, you see, does not claim to be aligned with reason, but with love and hope.
Many people I know who have left the faith have told me it makes no sense. They have gone to college or stopped going to church or become exposed to rational thought and decided, since the existence of God cannot be proven by science, God must not be.
C.S. Lewis, another 20th-century intellectual, had a similar experience. At 15, he claimed to be an atheist. In spite of the reasoning in “Mere Christianity,” with which he has argued many an atheist into conversion, it was not logic that won his heart.
In his book, “Surprised by Joy,” he writes, “You must picture me alone in that room in Magdalen, night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet.”
As an atheist, Lewis had used the argument of Lucretius: “Had God designed the world, it would not be/A world so frail and faulty as we see.”
Lewis began to lose faith at age 10 after the death of his mother and subsequent enrollment in an English boarding school away from his home.
Many friends who have departed from the faith — though their arguments are intellectual — have suffered the loss of love, whether through death or divorce or both. And so it seems to me to be not so much a failure of faith, but of love.
In my own struggles with faith, I use reason. I turn to reality and wonder how naïve I must be to believe anything other than what is before my eyes. Then I remember times when, beyond all reason, love came to the rescue.
“Whoever is wise, let him heed these things and consider the great love of the Lord” (Psalm 107:43). Wise? Perhaps love is where reason and wisdom part paths.
Love is the root of faith. That is why faith makes no sense. We do not apprehend God through reason, but through a higher form of knowing.
Does falling in love make sense? Does love for a husband or wife or child or best friend or even a pet make sense? Does hope in the possibilities of a failed life make sense?
“And now faith, hope and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13).
As in George Herbert’s poem, love issues the invitation. Hope responds. And after a time, faith comes.