At The Crossroads of Faith and Fact

We have a sacred choice. We can remain addicted to certainty because it seems to serve as an anchor in our often-troubling world. Or we can begin to discover the plenty that lies within the mystery as we loosen our grip on certainty.Christena Cleveland

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

One day several months ago, my husband and I were exploring a new trail when we came to a fork in the path. We hesitated, unsure of which direction to turn.

It was a hot day, we were not carrying water, and we wanted to do a short, easy run. We had done a long, difficult run the day before.

This was a trail I was slightly familiar with. Years ago, when we had two dogs, I used to walk the dogs in these woods.

I was sure we wanted to take the path on the right. Bill thought the left-hand trail was the one we wanted to follow.

Because I seemed more certain, we took the path I advocated. After looping around in the woods for over a mile, we finally came out to the point where we would have been if we had followed the trail Bill originally wanted to take.

Undaunted, we continued.

I was certain we would find a trail that switchbacked through the woods, leading us back to our car in the parking lot.

We could not find the trail.

After running several extra miles unsuccessfully searching for the connecting trail, we  bushwacked up a long, steep hill along a power line clear-cut, getting scratched by blackberry bushes and sidestepping poison ivy.

We finally made it back to our car, hot, thirsty, bleeding, and tired.

It was not the first time I was proven wrong after being sure I was right. (My husband is rolling his eyes as he reads this!)

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

There is so much certainty in the world these days. Much of it can be found on social media.

I get it. These are uncertain times.

In the U.S. we have just come through a bruising presidential election and its vitriolic aftermath. We are in the eleventh month of a pandemic. People are weary. Even though a vaccine is on the horizon, actually procuring one is chancy at best.

Fear, anxiety, and doubt are common. In the face of this, we need something we can be sure of, something we can count on.

We are, however, losing sight of the differences between fact and belief.

Inherent in the debate is the assumption that somehow facts are not only different from beliefs, they are also superior to beliefs.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

A fact is something that can be proven true or false by objective data. Facts are important, but a belief is something deeper. A belief does not require proof. Beliefs are beyond the realm of human proof.

If we could prove our beliefs to be true, they would cease to be beliefs.

We have beliefs about ourselves, some positive and some negative. We may believe we are a good, compassionate, brave person. We may believe we don’t have time for exercise. We may believe we are unworthy of receiving love.

We have beliefs about others. We may believe people are generally trustworthy. We may believe others are out to get us.

Many times our beliefs are self-fulfilling.

We also have spiritual beliefs. Faith.

When Christians recite the Apostles’ Creed, we say “I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ…I believe in the Holy Spirit… and the life everlasting. Amen.

We say we believe these things. We don’t say these things are proven facts. If they were, there would be no need for faith.

Faith is different from facts. It is  more personal, profound, and sublime.

Faith does not require us to believe the unbelievable. It does require we put our trust in a Power bigger than ourselves.

Hebrews 11:1 says, “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” That which we have faith in cannot be proved or disproved. It is beyond proof.

Or, as Madeleine L’Engle says, “Those who believe they believe in God, but without passion in the heart, without anguish of mind, without uncertainty, without doubt, and even at times without despair, believe only in the idea of God, and not in God himself.

When Bill and I took the wrong trail on our trail run last summer, my facts were incorrect. I was proven wrong. As unbelievable as it may seem (to me), I am not infallible.

It was another step down the path to being more comfortable with uncertainty. Another instance where I learn to accept doubt as both necessary and powerful.

And that is the right path to take.

You can find the places I link up here.

100 comments

  1. Ah, to be lost on a run with the only person who would be worrying about my absence. It sounds like bliss to me. Although the water thing is a bit scary. I never do trail runs without water and food. My chance of getting lost is just way to high, and the chance of bonking is even higher. — I really don’t get this post. It seems many (most) of our current problems are stemming from beliefs with no facts to back them up: I believe the election was stolen; I believe the virus is a hoax; I believe that Hillary and her cronies procure children and drink their blood. I realize that spiritual belief is important or mandatory for many, but even that seems to cause so much intolerance and self-righteousness. I’d prefer to live in a fact-based world where faith in the unproven can still be respected.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Ha! I never thought about it that way, Jeff. We definitely should have carried water that day. I get your point about beliefs. the only thing I think is this – we can prove that the election wasn’t stolen. We have a set of facts to back up that belief. We have facts to prove the virus isn’t a hoax and that Democrats do not drink children’s blood. We might call these things beliefs, but the facts dispute those opinions, so really these are just like what I did on the trail run. I had an opinion that was proved wrong by the facts. There are no facts that can prove or disprove God. That is a belief. I want to live in a world where the facts are respected too. Global warming is real. Evolution happens. These are not opinions or beliefs. These are facts. Supported by evidence. I think maybe it’s a question of semantics – opinion versus belief???

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Laurie, Happy Valentine’s Day! And for sure, most everything we prized as certain has totally shifted and morphed and changed. I’m so grateful that God doesn’t change like shifting shadows. More than ever we lean on our faith in Him, His comfort, wisdom, grace, and mercy.

    Where would we be without Jesus …

    Liked by 1 person

    • Happy Valentine’s Day, Linda. I am grateful too that God is constant. When so much of our world seems to have shifted this past year, it is wonderful to have something (or Someone) we can count on!

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  3. I love the Madeleine L’Engle quote. It took me a long time to figure this out and to realize that doubt is NOT unbelief. It’s a part of belief. BTW, I hate it when I am sure I am right about something and am proven wrong. Very humbling.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thought provoking post Laurie.
    I’m glad that I enjoy & believe the following in these unsettling times;
    ‘…for I know Him, Christ Jesus [and I am personally acquainted with Him] whom I have believed [with absolute trust and confidence in Him and in the truth of His deity], and I am persuaded [beyond any doubt] that He is able to guard that which I have entrusted to Him until that day [when I stand before Him].’ 2Tim 1:12
    Blessings,
    Jennifer

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Hi Laurie, your fork in the road example is a great analogy to the uncertainty we live with these days. I’m pleased to read you finally found your way back to your car! I think faith and hope are words that come to mind a lot these days. They get us through. At least they do me! Hope you have a wonderful week. xo

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  6. Yet another thought-provoking and satisfying post, Laurie!

    “If we could prove our beliefs to be true, they would cease to be beliefs.” That’s why Faith, right? It is certainly challenging, particularly in this season of Calamity & Craziness. With Lent coming up, that is my prayer – that I will turn my thoughts not to answers, but to what I can do to be Christ-like.

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  7. What a great delineation between fact and faith! “Facts” can be oh so comfortable at times, but they can also be harsh, unbendable. Faith is dynamic, hopefully, growing deeper, richer, more fulfilling. I love being in a time of life where I don’t feel compelled to explain or try to prove my faith. Thanks and blessings for your affirmation!

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  8. If someone replies “I don’t know” I often ask the same question again, hoping that magically the other person will suddenly “know” if I ask the question twice.

    Being comfortable with uncertainty is hard!

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  9. It’s interesting to read your thoughts on facts, belief and faith. I think there are times when we do need to put our trust in facts but beliefs are certainly important too, although sometimes our beliefs can lead us down a different direction than the one we intended (as with your run!). Good point too about faith not requiring us to believe in the unbelievable but requires us to put our trust in a power bigger than us. #MMBC

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  10. This reminds me of a passage I read a few weeks ago for my spiritual development group–I can’t remember verbatim, but it’s along the lines of If you’re no longer questioning, you’re no longer engaging. Certainty–a dangerous path to take! (Something I say a lot–when my husband says, Are you sure?–is, No–I’m not 100% sure of ANYTHING!)

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Laurie, with all the fact checking that now can go on, I think we can lose sight of the difference between fact and belief. I am so grateful that the journey of faith is based on trust. I am grateful I do not need to prove anything. I am grateful God gives us the evidence in and of Himself – in a sunrise, the birth of my granddaughters, in a rainbow, in the expanse of the ocean, in the vastness of the sky. It’s true and you are right 🙂 – our faith is beyond proof.

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  12. Faith is so important. And it doesn’t have to have religious overtones, either. Faith can simply be believing in an outcome — or yourself. It can be a deep conviction. I have definitely had that (and I do have faith in a higher power, as well).

    Beliefs — those can change! They are not written in stone, or they shouldn’t be.

    But faith, while it can be shaken, is rarely broken.

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  13. Deep stuff, Laurie. The quote about faith embracing doubt and uncertainty nails it for me. I’ve always thought that extremism and fanaticism are largely fueled by an inability to deal with ambiguity and uncertainty.

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  14. Mmm. Let me think on this…wife wrong, husband right…mmm. Nah, good one, and such a great relationship you have where right/wrong are no longer absolutes but just a part of the journey.

    Thank you so much for linking up for #lifethisweek. Next week, the optional prompt is
    8/51 Explore. 22 Feb. I hope to see you there and I wish you well for the week ahead. Denyse. #lifethisweek #linkup #Mondays https://www.denysewhelan.com.au

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  15. There was a couple of times in my life when I took a leap of faith and made life-changing decisions based on blind faith against scientific facts. I’ve never regretted my decisions since.

    Surrender to Him and He will take care of everything.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I’m not a religious person but my mother certainly is and my brother and I attended church until high school so I feel as if we got to have a choice. My mum is very friendly with many Ministers and so I meet them a lot and I like their lack of judgement. I think that’s a really important element of faith, that people are accepting of others. Similarly, though I might not believe, it doesn’t mean I don’t respect my mum and her friends and their beliefs. So you’re very right about about there being a balance.

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    • It is good that you feel the ministers you met were not judgemental. I think you are right – being accepting is an important aspect of faith. Faith should be inclusive.

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  17. Even if I want something to be true on social media, I do my own fact-checking before I pass it on. I’m glad I don’t have to do that with God! I know what I believe about Him!

    It’s great to see your link at ‘My Corner of the World’ this week!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. As soon as you started talking about beliefs, I immediately started thinking that it was not the same as having faith. You certainly put it all across very eloquently, and I love how you incorporate your life stories to get your message across. (We all get a little lost sometimes.)

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  19. You just gave me two more great quotes for my Uncertainty files. Thanks, Laurie!

    And what a wonderful definition of faith: “Faith does not require us to believe the unbelievable. It does require we put our trust in a Power bigger than ourselves.

    My husband knows never to trust my “certain” judgment about which direction to go. I typically advise him if that if I think we should go left, we’d better go right. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  20. Am adding Romans 12:2 “be transformed by the renewing of your mind….because that is often an entry point where the devil manages to come in. Somewhere else it says (it may be paraphrased “by the washing of His word …”
    Thanks for coming by! Am not a runner, I am not even a walker, so I skipped your post on that, lol (in our 18 years of vacations in Yosemite Nat. park, I painted with the artists, while Hubby was hiking the mountains)

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  21. It’s hard to choose the right path sometimes Laurie, even if it is staring you in the face. Reading about your running ordeal reminded me of my own ordeal and getting lost on a very hot August day and seemingly going in circles. I won’t do that again – ever. After I had time to think about it, I realized it was not smart to venture off on my own in the middle of a huge marsh area. We’ve got a lot of kooks around these days and the marsh and woodlands was home to 250+ wild animals. But I lived to tell about it. Back to the present … times are tough and I agree we’re weary and it’s eleven months into our “new normal” and yes, with a horizon of hope albeit faraway. Sometimes you have to just keep the faith – it’s all we’ve got.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I am very wary of walking in isolated places by myself too, Linda. I am glad you eventually found your way out of the marsh! We do need to keep the faith. It’s the only way out of this mess we are in!

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      • Getting older has some benefits Laurie – you get smarter. It is hard to keep the faith with things swirling about these days. I hope that one day we will look back on this time period and pat ourselves on the back for getting through in one piece.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, you do get smarter. You understand what is going on with people better – you understand what makes them tick. I hope we can pat ourselves on the back when this is all over too.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, youth does not afford that advantage like we have at our age. We deserve it … I heard part of the ceremony marking the 500,000th American death due to COVID. The 500 candles marking the sad event really gives you cause to pause.

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      • I watched some on the Twitter videos, but didn’t hear the whole ceremony either. It is refreshing seeing tribute being paid to those people who died and genuine emotion abut it. I agree – if masks were instituted at the beginning, we would have cut down the deaths substantially. Today they mentioned a double-lung transplant done at U of M hospital. The donor lungs were tested for COVID – not thoroughly enough and the recipient died of COVID! The doctor also contracted COVID, but recuperated. That was horrible. How did that happen?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Oh, my goodness!!! How sad – to get a new set of lungs and die from COVID. I’m glad the doctor recuperated. Maybe the viral load was too small to detect at the time they tested it but grew after the transplant.

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  22. I admittedly did a double take when I read the lines, “Inherent in the debate is the assumption that somehow facts are not only different from beliefs, they are also superior to beliefs. Nothing could be further from the truth.” As a strong believer in science and an advocate for facts I read this as carrying dangerous connotation. Then after I read your comments to Jeff I realized what you meant by it.

    It’s such a hard time right now with all of the misinformation. The facts that so many people ignore. It’s hard not to defend facts with an unreasonable level of zeal. So often the ones who are shunning facts are also boasting their faith, and it makes it hard for someone who isn’t in faith to treat them both with respect. Then I hear from people like you who believe in facts and have faith, and I see the beauty in it. Thank you for sharing your beliefs and allowing people like to me to have a space where they can see the lighter and deeper side of faith.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sorry for the misunderstanding. I should have found another way to express my thoughts there. I would never advocate discounting the importance of facts. There is way too much of that going on in this country right now. I too am disheartened when this happens by people who extoll their faith. I am a retired science teacher. I know how important facts are. I also believe some things cannot be proved or disproved by facts. That’s where faith comes in.

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  23. Thanks for sharing, Laurie. I appreciated how you articulated, “A fact is something that can be proven true or false by objective data. Facts are important, but a belief is something deeper. A belief does not require proof. Beliefs are beyond the realm of human proof.”

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  24. I love this! -“We say we believe these things. We don’t say these things are proven facts. If they were, there would be no need for faith.” So thankful for the faith my Lord has instilled in me.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Great post, Laurie. I appreciate the way you expressed this, “A fact is something that can be proven true or false by objective data. Facts are important, but a belief is something deeper. A belief does not require proof. Beliefs are beyond the realm of human proof.”

    Liked by 1 person

  26. What an insightful post Laurie! It really did make me stop and think. We all need a little faith, it gets us through.

    Have a lovely weekend.😃 #MMBC

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  27. Laurie, I love the opening quote. And your analogy here about the trail is a powerful one! Perhaps certainty ranks up there with control for most of us. Be we never really have control. And just as Hebrews 11:1 reminds us, faith is the evidence of things not seen-uncertain. I’m just thankful in an uncertain world, there’s an undeniable hope, an unshakable anchor for our soul. Jesus!

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