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September 23, 2010
In The Village
Faith and trust
by Orson Scott Card

How can faith be stronger and better than knowledge? Because it includes knowledge, and goes farther.

Remember that what we call "knowledge" is merely opinion that we believe so strongly that we live as if we were certain it was true.

When the whole community around us shares our beliefs, we can truly say that "everybody knows" these things are true. But how many beliefs that "everyone knows" have turned out to be inaccurate? Or false? Or pernicious? Or dangerous?

Right now we live in a world that "knows" there is no God, no sin, no good and thus no evil. Many who are considered to be among our intellectual elite have persuaded each other that anyone who disagrees with them must be foolish or wicked, or both. They cannot be worth listening to!

"Knowledge" that you never test against evidence or the opinions of others is, of course, indistinguishable from prejudice and soon becomes ignorance. The term for those who seek to make such beliefs the law, stifling anyone who disagrees, is "fanatics."

We who have faith are not afraid to test our beliefs against all evidence and all contrary opinions. We do not have to shield our children from such things, for, far from confusing them, such things help them draw clear bright lines between those ideas that are part of our faith, those that might be part of it, and those that cannot be part of it.

And if from time to time we shift those lines to accommodate new revelation, new evidence, new experience, or new thoughts, what remains unchanging is our faith.

To understand how faith is better and stronger than knowledge, we need to look at how we use the idea of faith outside the continuum of speculation, opinion, belief, and knowledge.

Imagine that you're sending out your child to drive the car solo for the first time. "I have faith in you," you say -- though the very fact that you're letting him go is proof already of those words.

What do we mean by "faith" in this context?

1. I believe you have the skills to operate this vehicle, and will improve them with practice.

2. I believe you know the rules of the road and will stick to them.

3. I believe that you'll use your good sense -- and your sense of good -- to make right decisions, now that this powerful machine is under your control.

If you substitute "mortal body" for "vehicle," isn't this pretty much what God must have said to us when he sent us out into the world? Aren't we here because God has faith in us?

What he asks now is that we have faith in him -- in God the Father, in his Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Spirit.

It is rudimentary that to have faith in God, we must believe that he exists. But that is only the beginning.

Before we came to this world, we chose to follow God's plan and live by his rules. We have the skills and enough knowledge to do it well enough to meet his expectations.

The question is now: Will we keep faith with God?

When we put our faith in God, we trust him to keep all his promises to us. We trust that obeying his commandments will lead to happiness, and that breaking them will hurt us and those we love.

We trust him when he promises that this narrow road will lead us back to him. We have faith that his yoke is easy and his burden is light. And because we trust his word, we make our decisions in the firm expectation that the consequences will be as he told us.

Of what human being can we ever be so sure? Mortals, being fallible, will fail us, even when their intentions are pure. Not having perfect knowledge, they do not know all the outcomes of their decisions, and their promises cannot always be kept.

Nevertheless, we trust in each other all the time.

Banks give us credit because they have faith in our intention and ability to repay.

We trust the taxi driver who promises to pick us up and take us home.

We have enough trust in our children's judgment of their friends to allow them to date.

We trust our employer enough that we give him hours of our labor and thought, believing we will be paid as he promised.

We trust strangers on the road not to cross the line and smash into our car.

We trust babysitters, policemen, firefighters, the packagers and sellers of our food, the repairmen we allow into our house, the teachers to whom we send our children for education and training.

We trust the spouse who promised to be faithful to and supportive of us all our lives.

We trust our closest friends to know the secrets of our heart and not reveal them.

Faith is woven of knowledge, trust, and love. The better we know a person, and the more we love him, the more we trust him. Though we never fully know any other mortal soul, our lives would be impossible if we did not extend such faith.

Sometimes our faith in fellow humans is broken, and we endure the mortal consequences of betrayal.

God alone is always worthy of our trust. That is why the faith we have in him, and in his plan of happiness, can be far stronger than the trust we invest in any human being or machine.

When we put our faith in God, our eternal lives are not at risk, for as we keep faith with him, he will keep faith with us.

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