Running the World on Faith

Running the World on Faith October 28, 2013

Severalyears ago on the NPR show “Fresh Air,” I heard a most thought-provoking opinionabout faith and its political ramifications, especially for the AmericanPresident. Host Terry Gross was quoting Bruce Bartlett, a former Reagan advisorand administrative official for the elder Bush. Bartlett said: “The whole thing about faithis to believe things for which there is no empirical evidence, but you can’trun the world on faith.”

Is heright? Is faith an inadequate guide for running the world? My answer goes rightto the very heart of what it means to be a person created in God’s image. Iwould argue that faith is an essential and irreducible component of everydecision every person ever makes. Not necessarily faith in God, but beliefin at least something. Why do I say that? Because the human soul is unalterablycovenantal. Or we could say we are perpetual happiness seekers. What do I mean?

Inpractical terms, this means we are constantly on the lookout for something orsomeone whom we perceive to be bigger and more powerful than ourselves,something with the power to bless us and make us happy. It might be fame,fortune, health, power, success, romance, you name it. Whatever it is wechoose, our heart makes a little private “covenant”—usually subconscious andimplicit—with our god of choice, where we agree to act in certain ways inreturn for the blessing and personal happiness our covenant god can bestow uponus. Once in place, this covenantal arrangement serves as the guide forvirtually every decision we make.

So whatdoes this have to do with faith? Everything. We make our covenants and pursueour happiness based on what we believe. None of us has all the empiricaldata on whether our choices will turn out for our good or our bad, so we haveto choose the option that looks the best to us. It’s a matter of belief. It’sall about faith.

So back toour original question: Is faith an inadequate guide for running the world?Well, considering that we all have to have faith in something to make ourchoices, let’s answer the question with another question: If some humanPresident has to run the world, wouldn’t you prefer he have faith in Someonewith unlimited knowledge, power, and love? Yeah, me too.