Let’s move from the last post’s examination of language in Isaiah and the blending of establishment and understanding, and steer back into the realm of faith and truth:
24. Read in this light, the prophetic text leads to one conclusion: we need knowledge, we need truth, because without these we cannot stand firm, we cannot move forward. Faith without truth does not save, it does not provide a sure footing. It remains a beautiful story, the projection of our deep yearning for happiness, something capable of satisfying us to the extent that we are willing to deceive ourselves. Either that, or it is reduced to a lofty sentiment which brings consolation and cheer, yet remains prey to the vagaries of our spirit and the changing seasons, incapable of sustaining a steady journey through life. If such were faith, King Ahaz would be right not to stake his life and the security of his kingdom on a feeling. But precisely because of its intrinsic link to truth, faith is instead able to offer a new light, superior to the king’s calculations, for it sees further into the distance and takes into account the hand of God, who remains faithful to his covenant and his promises.
Truth undergirds faith, to be sure. But I’m not convinced (unless I’m reading this passage wrongly) that knowledge and truth place so highly on the list of must-haves. Sometimes, the truth is difficult to perceive. Sometimes, as in the human experience beyond death, we have no knowledge. We rely on another five-letter t-word. We trust Christ because we have reason to trust him, because he has been faithful. It’s not exactly a feeling, though it can have an affective quality.
And this reality–that some truths cannot be totally penetrated in this life–does not abrogate us from the search for the truth. Sometimes we can lean on tradition and on what others might understand. And sometimes we are beckoned to explore.
Above all, it strikes me this is deep in the land of discernment. We cannot have a formula and expect to extract the most fruitfulness from this realm of faith.