I am a skeptic. I believe that almost nothing, and anyway nothing of consequence, can be known by humans with absolute certainty by the power of reason. I know for certain that something exists and not nothing, and maybe one can reliably know that oneself exists. But that's about it.
Still, I believe it is appropriate to assert beliefs that can be doubted but are nonetheless reasonable. I believe that I can mostly trust my senses and reason to partially let me perceive reality, and that, while the possibilities of me being crazy, being a brain in a vat, or being fed illusions by some evil demon may be considered, it is okay to reject them as unreasonable doubt because these assumptions can explain any conceivable perception. But I believe that optical and other perceptual illusions are possible and that reality does not behave in the ways these illusions would have me believe. Therefore I believe it is necessary to not always believe appearances and direct perceptions, in favor of a theory about how things are supposed to be that for some reason I prefer. I believe that even beyond this illustrative example, my judgments and perceptions are influenced by the beliefs I hold explicitly or implicitly. This applies the stronger the more indirect the perception is. I believe that because our perception of particulars is not direct, our judgments about the universals that govern them are even less so. For example building a scientific or philosophical theory is a rather indirect way of perceiving the world, requiring more faith than accepting the simple perceptions that these theories are abstracted from. I believe it is dangerous to not keep these things in mind when dealing with knowledge.
I believe that every act of knowing has to start at something that we accept on faith, usually without being conscious of doing so. I believe that all our skills, including knowing, involve pattern recognition and pattern generation that we have not so much been taught by declarative statements, but rather by assimilation of tradition through examples as well as trial, error, and play, thereby training the neural networks in our brains on a subsymbolic level. I believe that while with effort this implicit, nonverbal knowledge can usually be made explicit, this is not entirely possible when it comes to our skills of knowing due to issues of self-referentiality.
I believe that even every act of doubting is based on belief. You may doubt because you believe something else. You may doubt because you judge something to be merely more or less probable, but still you hold a belief about the likelihood. You may doubt because you see insufficient proof, but this implies you hold beliefs about what proofs, based on axioms, facts, and deduction rules, are acceptable. You may claim to doubt absolutely everything, but I believe this to be merely an intellectual pose. I believe that no one has ever consistently done this and that it would quickly lead to death if it could be done.
Hence I believe that it is unavoidable and natural to believe in something or someone in order to know or doubt anything. I believe every human is confronted with the choice whether this starting point of knowing and making sense of everything is something infinite and impersonal, like a materialistic universe governed by eternal natural law, or maybe the Tao or Brahman, or something finite and personal, like oneself or forest spirits or maybe a glorious leader, or whether it is someone infinite and personal, such as the Trinity, or maybe Allah.
I am a believer. I have chosen to believe that ultimate reality, the reason for all existence and the proper basis for understanding the world, is personal. This belief is not blind, but supported by my immediate experience of being a conscious person in a universe the mechanical workings of which in the form of the known laws of physics offer not even the slightest hint that something inherently subjective like personhood and consciousness should be possible or necessary to explain anything that happens. Yet I am conscious, and I believe other humans to be conscious in a similar way, not because that would be a scientific conclusion, which it is not, but because it is necessary for loving other persons to acknowledge them as subjects. I believe that an impersonal mechanical unconscious reality cannot give rise to consciousness, although I'm somewhat open to the thought that perhaps consciousness is based on purely physical processes beyond our understanding that are not reducible to or emergent from the fundamental laws of physics. Likewise, I believe that personhood is not just an absurd aberration on the face of the cosmos. I believe that people believe such implausible and unnecessarily depressing things only because they want to avoid believing that there is a personal origin of everything. I see no reason to be afraid of that other than foolish pride or intellectual laziness. Hence I consider it highly plausible that there is something, or rather someone, beyond the material and impersonal universe who has given it and also us persons within it existence.
My belief that the beginning of all being and knowing is infinite and personal is also supported by reasoning about evidence available to my senses and cognition. Not that I would believe that using our faculties of reason and perception in our own power could tell us much about ultimate reality, but they allow us to recognize the self-revelation of personal ultimate reality as that which enables an all-encompassing framework of truth, a universal that covers all the particulars, that lets us make sense of the whole human experience: Not just rationality and physics, but also at least personhood, love, justice, and purpose. I believe that in God's light, we can see the light. Together with Augustine I believe in order to understand. I believe that my mind would be greatly impoverished if I were to choose something less than the belief in the personal God who is above all creation as my starting point for knowing. For example, I assume it is their belief that ultimate reality is impersonal that makes some people hold bleak and, I daresay, silly views like
Consciousness is an illusion,
Love is only a chemical reaction,
I am a chemical machine or
There are no moral absolutes; views that often are contradictory to how they really experience, judge and act in matters important to them.
I believe that the Bible contains the aforementioned revelation of God to us. I believe that there is sufficient reason to recognize it as such so that God can rightly hold us accountable for what we choose to base our beliefs on. Because I believe that the Bible reveals who God is, I believe my hope to be justified that not only is ultimate reality personal, but also relational, encompassing love and trust. That is, I believe in the triune God. I do not believe God to be as Muhammad claimed, a God who is alone in His eternity, which would mean relationship and love were not part of ultimate reality.
I believe that just knowing facts about God is not all we are meant to do. I believe we are called to know God personally. I believe that the triune God, being love, wants us to join in His family. This personal, relational knowing is not just about the processing and storage of information, but also about doing and being. I believe that living faith in God must not remain theoretical belief, but necessitates obedient action in accordance with God's character as we get to know Him and in accordance with our identity as His beloved children. I assume God wants us to have that freedom, and therefore
hides Himself to some degree, so that those who don't really want to know Him anyways will not find sufficent evidence for His existence or true nature to overcome their confirmation and self-serving biases.
On my knowing of God I aim to base all my understanding. Let me give two basic examples of things that many people believe as axioms even though they are far from self-evident: Why Do I believe in the consistency of arithmetics, and why do I believe in induction, which is the principle that observations about the past can tell us something about how things are going to be in the future?
I believe in Gödel's second incompleteness theorem, which implies that we can never have a valid mathematical proof that mathematics is consistent, a proof that there is no mathematical proposition so that both it and its negation can be proven. Although I may not have personally checked the proof of the theorem, I believe I can trust the many intelligent people who have done so, and even if I were to check it, I would have to trust my logical capabilities and attention to rigor which is really not so much better than theirs, so I would also to some degree want to trust them anyway. But also in the light of believing God to be the only one who has aseity, who is self-sufficient, having created everything else, I would not expect mathematics to be self-sufficient. Thus, I believe in the consistency of arithmetics not because it could ever be proven or because it appears to work so far or because the alternative would be madness. I believe in it because the God I have come to know is the God of truth, and there is no falsehood in Him. I believe that the shape and validity of logic is His will, rooted in His character. Hence, I believe in the consistency of arithmetics.
I believe that logical induction is mostly valid and that we live in a universe on whose rules we can rely because the God I know is reliable and trustworthy, and it is He who not only has created the universe, but also sustains it until the day He does away with it. I hope I can learn something about God by understanding in which way He runs the universe. I believe that I can do science and comprehend the material universe at least as good as someone of equal education and talent who believes reality to be ultimately impersonal.
On the basis of my belief in the second incompleteness theorem, supported by conclusions drawn from personal experience of God's guidance and some good books, I have come to see that it is improper and an inconsistent belief to treat the Bible as a system of statements about reality that is in principle expressible as a logical formula, while at the same time believing it to teach its own freedom from contradictions. Rather, I believe that the Bible mainly tells the historical story of how God has acted throughout the millennia, so that by studying it we should get to know Him and His character more fully. I believe that studying the Bible is not the only ingredient in this process, but that I should also get to know God through contemplation of His works in nature, through His guidance manifesting in my life, through growing in His vision for love and relationship through my relations to fellow humans, and also rarely (Oh how I wish it was more often!) through hearing Him speak to my spirit in a more direct way. I believe that to fully enjoy the benefits of knowing God through the story told in the Bible about God's deeds and words, one must believe it to be historically true, because to the extent you do not believe the real God has really done and said these things, you cannot authentically believe that through the Bible you learn to know the real God, and not a version of Him you believe to be fictional.
I suspect the reason why in the Bible and in His ongoing dealings with us God puts so much emphasis on trust and faith is because there really is no other basis. If you believe you could have any real knowledge that is not rooted in some kind of faith, then I believe you are deluded. I believe that if we put our faith in our own rationality, intuition, or supposed love for truth, or in anything else that is not the personally, relationally known infinite God, we may go astray or at least miss out on the fullness of reality and of being human. I believe that learning to live by faith now is meant to prepare us to be part of God's family in eternity.
I believe that the importance of trust does not only apply to our relationship with God, but that trust in and love for each other are also essential for us humans personally knowing each other and for the flourishing of human communities. I believe it is not only our intelligence and language, but also our ability to cooperate, which enables us to rise so high above the animals. I believe that cooperation and life-giving relationships always require trust, and that because trust makes us vulnerable, we dare trust more when we know through personal experience we are loved. I believe that to properly trust and love others, one has to know them well, in a personal and not merely propositional way: To properly trust, we need to know in what matters we can rely on someone, and to properly love, we must understand each other’s true needs. I believe that we will reap what we sow: that a mere system, be it a political philosophy, a social system, a moral code, or a blockchain, cannot in the long term replace the need to know, trust, and love each other, and may even erode our ability to do so by making us think of something that should be grace as if it was our right, or by replacing acts of love with acts of duty. I believe that systems are not going to save us, and only a change of heart, a rekindling of love, and forgiveness for past denial of love and past betrayal of trust, can heal our relationships and our societies. I believe that our ability to change ourselves is limited, and that if we were left to ourselves, things would only get worse overall. I believe this trap of mistrust, fear and animosity that we find ourselves in to be part of our sinful nature, which we exhibit because we, individually and collectively, have turned away from and not trusted in the ultimate source of love, God. This is one reason why I believe we need salvation, and that God, with His inexhaustible love, forgiveness, and faithfulness, provides the source and example for the trustworthy love that this world so desperately needs and that is to be passed out to everyone by those who trust in him and have been transformed by His love.
I believe that there is a reason we live in a reality where love and trust are necessary for flourishing. This is not just a game theoretical optimum, which our collective subconscious has figured out and communicates to us through religious experiences and words of wise people, as Jordan Peterson seems to believe, if I understand him correctly. It is a valuable insight when he, by carefully thinking about the world, arrives at the conclusion that the teachings of the Bible and especially of Jesus about how we should behave in this world and towards each other are life-giving and good, but this does not imply that there is no truly transcendent, personal God. To the contrary, it is what we should expect if God is indeed not just powerful, but actually good. I do not know whether game theory necessarily emerges from the laws of logic, or just from the laws of physics, or even just from biology, but I believe that in any case the world is made in such a way as to reflect the character of its creator, and that therefore it is no wonder that we find the trace of His character in the moral law of the universe, because in His very being, love and trust are so important.
I believe that it is not only vital to know God and each other, but also ourselves. I believe we can only dare do this to the extent that we know ourselves to be loved. Each of us naturally hides behind a false self that we have constructed out of shame and based on the lie that love is something to be earned rather than a gift. I believe that our capacity for self-deception is enormous, so that we are usually unaware that the person we think we are is most likely a mask which we have started to love more than the truth, thus becoming the mask. I believe that clinging to this false identity makes us unfree and unable to be who we truly are and were made to be, which shows itself in things like pretense in place of authenticity, compulsions to do rather than to be, passions which sometimes carry us away, and grasping for things to cover the nakedness and unreality of the fake self; these problematic things only make it worse for everyone involved and are another aspect of our sinful nature. I believe that understanding the lies binding us and uncovering the true self is hard work best done in the knowledge of the loving presence of the God who already knows both the lies and the truth of our lives and who longs for us to be truly free to be who he intends us to be. I believe that unless this work is honestly done, it is easy to twist the importance of being yourself into a justification for embracing and reinforcing the false identity that so readily presents itself, so be careful what you make of these words. I believe that finding your true self cannot just be your own doing, but a gift received from others who know you, which optimally should include God, as you let them tell and show you where you're real and were you're fake. I assume the difference between the false life of our own making and the true life intended for us by our Maker explains the seeming paradox in these words of Jesus:
He who wants to keep his life (or soul) will lose it, but he who loses it for my sake will find it, that is, by striving for what we think will fulfill us we will not obtain fulfillment, but in concerning ourselves with His kingdom, His ways and will and mentality, we will find fulfillment not only in Him, but in everything He gives to us, which we no longer need to try to give to ourselves.
I believe we are not the honest seekers of truth we like to think ourselves to be, because the traditions of the art of knowing which we inhabit are broken, tainted by our sin as we try to know good and evil, true and false in our own power. I believe we are dependent on God's grace to find the truth, and to abide in it. I believe that He is the creator and the sustainer of the eternal life which, as it is in Him the Father and the Son and the Spirit, is in all who are his adopted children. I believe that we who are his children have eternal life because through our faith in Him, we are somehow united with Christ in His death, through which we can die to and overcome our old, sinful, not God-centered nature, and also united in His resurrection to new life oriented towards God, that is, eternal life. Because He has promised it, and I trust Him despite all doubt and uncertainty about the details, I believe that this new life has begun now in us, his children, and though currently still fighting with our old sinful nature, will come to fullness as our bodies are resurrected and we go on to enjoy and thereby glorify him and to know Him and each other ever more deeply together forever.
Personal Knowledge: Towards a Post-Critical Philosophyby Michael Polanyi (ISBN 0-226-67288-3)
Proper Confidence: Faith, Doubt, and Certainty in Christian Discipleshipby Lesslie Newbigin (ISBN 978-0802808561)
The Gift of Being Yourself: The Sacred Call to Self-Discoveryby David G. Benner (ISBN 978-0830846122)