Supernatural faith and the anti-faith of materialism

The supernatural life begins with faith because faith is the door to the unseen world.

Today we live in and have been formed by the world of anti-faith. It is important to recognize that reality of the contemporary world because it means that to live by faith in this world, we must be vigilant and even militant (at least spiritually).

Be sober and vigilant because your adversary the devil goes around like a roaring lion looking for whom he might devour; resist him, steadfast in faith. (1 Pe 5:8-9)

We could say that the whole of the modern world is built upon ‘scientific’ materialism. Properly speaking science is no more than a method of inquiry for the investigation of the measurable (and manipulable) aspects of material reality. That means that by definition not only the spiritual realm, but even the aspects of the physical world that defy measurement, fall outside the purview of science. “Scientism” then is the ideology that first reduces all knowledge to what can be known by the scientific method, then reduces all reality to what can be known. If it escapes measurement by scientific instruments, then it does not exist. Thus ‘scientism’ is necessarily ‘materialistic’, it accepts only the reality of material being.

This way of thinking is not natural nor is it capable of logical consistency, for the affirmation that only material reality exists can never be proven by the scientific method. Materialism is truly an ‘anti-faith’, a deeply rooted belief that is wholly contrary to the reality of God and faith in him. Yet, it would be difficult to overestimate how influential and pervasive truly is in the world today.

Often it is revealed by where the burden of proof lies.

For example, the anti-faith of scientism believes that consciousness, ultimately, can be explained through materialistic, scientific principles. Scientism has never provided such an explanation, but while it sees no need to prove its own presupposition, it demands that those who believe in spiritual reality prove, empirically even, the spiritual reality of the soul.

Likewise, it is demanded that traditional moral principles must be validated by scientific studies, but the rejection of those moral principles is accepted without any such validation.

As for proven miracles, the response of the scientific anti-faith is that just because the event is presently inexplicable does not mean that someday we will not be able to explain it.

Finally, think of the unquestioning acceptance of common phrases like “believe in the science” or “follow the science”.

The mentality of scientific materialism has also had a profound impact on the human imagination. The materialistic imagination is mechanical; it wants to see how things work; it wants to see the moving gears that make the machine go. About the only way that the ‘spiritual’ enters into this imaginative framework is by way of images of light, or electricity, or ‘force-fields’, all of which have modern mechanical explanations. So, in Star Wars ‘the Force’ works through the midi-chlorians, tiny intelligent microscopic lifeforms that are able to detect ‘the Force’, which is imagined as an all pervasive forcefield.

Just as the ‘spiritual’ is imagined in a material and mechanistic fashion, the human heart, that cannot sustain the meaningless of materialism, hungers for ‘something else’.

The childhood superhero with his superpowers, the search for extra-terrestrial life, and curious speculation about UFOs are different ways in which the longing for the spiritual appears in the materialistic imagination.

While materialism shuts the door to true spirituality, the longing remains in the desire for peace of mind and psychological well-being, which it is thought can be accessed through physical techniques. Hence New Age ‘spirituality’ and the popularity of oriental religion (e.g. Yoga and Zen) and healing arts (e.g. Reiki). All these more contemporary avenues like to appeal to hidden forces and like to claim scientifically verifiable ‘results’.

When none of this satisfies the soul that has closed the door to faith begins to try to open the door to the spiritual realm through ‘angels’, or through some form of witchcraft, or a revival of paganism.

Well, the unseen world of spiritual reality is not all benign and all human attempts to open the door to the spiritual realm apart from faith in Jesus Christ, the Way, the Truth, and the Life, are likely to encounter the realm of fallen spirits, the demonic kingdom. In the end, the materialism that closes the door to God, opens the door to the devil.

Contrariwise, faith [in Jesus Christ] is the foundation of things hoped for, the proof of things unseen. (He 11:1) Faith is not fantasy; before we can believe our mind must be in contact with reality, not the reduced reality of scientism, but the full reality of the created world. We live in an increasingly artificial, manmade world, but we need to have a sense of the natural. We must recover a sense of wonder in the face of living and growing things and see them as something greater than hugely complex machines. We must respond not just to might, but also to beauty, to the reality of beauty. We must be able to detect the splendor of truth.

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Fr. Joseph Levine graduated from Thomas Aquinas College and after a long journey was ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Baker, Oregon. He currently serves as pastor of St. Peter Catholic Church in The Dalles on the Columbia River.

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