Which came first, the trust or the understanding?

I’ve a prodigal friend who has just returned from wandering. This friend’s faith is harassed by intellectual hurdles.  As we spoke last night, I was reminded of an idea from the early Christian theologians:  belief precedes understanding.  Anselm of Canterbury writes of this in his Proslogion.

Man was created to see God. Man by sin lost the blessedness for which he was made, and found the misery for which he was not made. He did not keep this good when he could keep it easily. Without God it is ill with us. Our labors and attempts are in vain without God. Man cannot seek God, unless God himself teaches him; nor find him, unless he reveals himself. God created man in his image, that he might be mindful of him, think of him, and love him. The believer does not seek to understand, that he may believe, but he believes that he may understand: for unless he believed he would not understand.

Up now, slight man! flee, for a little while, your occupations; hide yourself, for a time, from your disturbing thoughts. Cast aside, now, your burdensome cares, and put away your toilsome business. Yield room for some little time to God; and rest for a little time in him. Enter the inner chamber of your mind; shut out all thoughts save that of God, and such as can aid you in seeking him; close your door and seek him. Speak now, my whole heart! speak now to God, saying, I seek your face; your face, Lord, will I seek (Psalms xxvii. 8). And come you now, O Lord my God, teach my heart where and how it may seek you, where and how it may find you.

Chapter 1, Proslogion, by Anselm of Canterbury

So, is Anselm correct? Must faith precede understanding?

About Laura

My name is Laura and I am on a journey, pondering the implications of God's glorious design of humanity and integrating every aspects of this design into a description of whole life health.
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One Response to Which came first, the trust or the understanding?

  1. Tyde Tualaso says:

    If I may quote your blog,

    “is it merely a leap
    of trust
    without knowledge? [referring to faith]

    rather, might it be an intertwining,
    understanding and trust
    in a complex dance,
    each informing the other?”

    I think your quote compliments Anselm here. I have noticed that for the most part, it is a leap of trust or faith without knowledge. Okay, maybe they have some or much knowledge but in the grand scheme of it all, they really only know what they are exposed to, want to hear, and explore for themselves. There fore less is left for them to worry about in terms of trying to understand something.

    Now for the person who tends to approach major matters with a bit more trepidation either because of prior cultural, social, and world views, I certainly believe that there must be a COMPLEX oh so very DELICATE and COMPLEX relationship in trying to find their path to walk with Jesus.

    I think it’s subjective. Some people just get it spiritually right away. BOOM!!! It hits them and it clicks and sticks don’t even try to waste your time showing them something new because they’ll already be reaching for the Bible lol. How blessed that person is.

    For others, it’s a much more grueling process because unfortunately we fall into that delicate and complex balance and we need things to make sense – not everything and not completely, but just enough to hold on to our faith without letting it slip away by the slightest bump in the road.

    Ya, I’d say that you don’t need total understanding to have faith but you need faith to want to understand and Anselm put it well when he said, “The believer does not seek to understand, that he may believe, but he believes that he may understand: for unless he believed he would not understand.”

    It reminds me of doing anything competitive or taking any kind of test. I am much more apt to fail or not even try if I already lose faith in my ability for what I need to do.

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