Evidence of Things Unseen
I have a question about the verse of St. Paul’s that says faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things unseen.
Have these words have changed in the shades of their meaning since King Jame’s day and age?
The word substance these days means a tangible solid.
Now, speaking of the tangible property of things hoped for is an odd metaphor indeed, because future things by definition are not solid and weighty in one’s hands and before one’s eyes. Tomorrow hides them.
But I propose the word if translated into more modern cant would mean the property that makes tangible solids be solid or become solid.
If so, the verse is saying faith is what gives a solid and tangible weight of assurance to the things we hope a future hour (or future life) will bring. In our present hour, no future thing has yet arrived. The sad fact is that a mere intellectual knowledge of what we know will arrive, no matter how solid the assurance, to the fickle imagination, it will seem a figment, a wisp.
It is clear enough in an opposite example: That all men die is a solid fact but it seems unreal and remote. Those of us not on the eve of battle or not warned by solemn, dry-eyed doctors that are time is short often act as if we have endless years ahead.
Our current era is one where mementos meant to remind us of our mortality are no longer in fashion, nor do we have servants whose job it is to stand in the chariot of a rich and famous man during his triumph to remind him in a whisper that he is not a god. These mementos and whispers were meant to give solidity to what otherwise is an intellectual conviction lacking in weight and immediacy.
That we have done away with such things, and instead embrace every opportunity of clamorous distraction, does not redound to the glory of this present age.
Nonetheless, if an expert more authoritative, and less prone to error, than the human witnesses who say all men die, returns from the dead to tell us we also shall return as he did, the intellectual conviction that this is so is wispy and weightless. Mere intellectual conviction is insufficient to allow a man suffering irrational fears or unhealthy mental fatigue to brush away the falsehoods mesmerizing him.
Faith is the name of the power that adds starch to the conviction and makes it solid.
This word is not limited to the supernatural sphere. A man suffering from an irrational and unfounded fear that his wife is unfaithful is likewise mesmerized by wisps of imagination. A mere intellectual conviction that the balance of evidence shows his wife to be faithful will not sooth him. He must call upon the faith in her his love demands of him to quell the unruly falsehoods.
I use this example because, while it is true that many men are deceived by unfaithful wives, and visa versa, I know of no case where a man suffered doubts, hired a detective, had his wife shadowed, and when the detective discovered nothing amiss, based on cold evidence rationally examined and based on that alone, then had his faith in his wife restored. If you are hiring a detective, there is already something acutely wrong in your marriage.
In any case, that all the faithful will rise again in Christ is a fact just as solid as the fact that all men are mortal, but, without faith to brace the merely intellectual mental image we have of it, the matter seems just as unreal and just as remote.
Again, the word evidence both means “that which proves something” but I wonder if the word in this context should have been translated by a term that means “that on which we rely for firm assurance.”
If so, the verse is not saying we produce proof out of a feeling of certainty, which is what it sounds like. The verse is saying faith is a firm assurance about the facts of the unseen order of being.
This does not mean faith is a mere supposition or hope. Unseen things can be as real and solid as seen things, or, in the case of smokes, reflections, shadows, rainbows, heat-shimmers, and so on, more real.
For example: I am not aware of my thoughts through any sense impression or medium. I am immediately aware of them directly by the nature of thought. Thoughts are unseen. No sense organ in my brain makes me aware of them: the self or soul which is aware of them is aware by means of the same immediate intuition by means of which it is aware of itself.
Likewise again, the fact that twice two is four, that no self-contradictory proposition is true, or that vertical angles are equal, are all species of the unseen order. No man has ever seen the naked magnitude of two or four with his eye, but only representations, symbols, or specific objects acting as examples; likewise no one has or could ever see an infinitesimally thin line of infinite length, because neither the infinitely long nor infinitely narrow object can exist in timespace or impinge on finite sense organs; likewise again no man has seen the naked law of logic with his eye, or hefted them in his hand.
Indeed, no man has ever seen nor heard any idea, but only ink stains in certain shapes or air vibrations in certain formations used by convention to represent these ideas by means of what we call signs and symbols, letters, words and sentences.
So let us hear no nonsense about the unseen order being uncertain because it is unseen. Pure certain alone resides in this realm, because only here do self-evident truths reside.
Ironically, any statement proposing that the non-empirical realm of the unseen order is uncertain by nature would itself be an idea in the unseen order, impalpable and invisible as a pure spirit, and even less open to verification by empirical means.
But a man can lose faith in his ability to grasp the law of non-contradiction, and likewise lose faith in his ability to say twice two is four. If the testimony of volunteers is any proof, I have ample evidence of the same right here on this blog, years upon years of comments to that effect.
The argument that faith and reason are at odds is folly and always has been: it is merely a linguistic confusion put across by those who refuse to define their terms.
Such persons as hate clarity and love darkness also, for the last several generations at least, have belittled, denigrated, and despised the craft of philosophy and the art of reasoning to the point where these sons of darkness no longer see the need to define their terms, no need to avoid self-contradiction.
They are so eager to avoid faith in any supernatural reality, that they have lost all faith in the natural reality. Imagine mutineers so eager to throw the captain overboard, and so frustrated that they cannot, that they sever each man his own head off and throws that instead into the salty waves, grinning dull grins of sarcasm as the fall.