There are three systems of human perception; three ways we learn things: faith, rationalism and empiricism. Both the rationalist and empiricist say that no one can know things directly but grasp knowledge by means of impressions made. These impressions are the phenomena upon which all knowledge is built. Rationalism is concerned with the impressions made on the intellect, the thinking, while empiricism, with impressions made upon the senses. The foundational question of both systems is this: Can we, knowing subjects, be certain of the existence of known objects? If so, to what extent can we be certain of their existence?
The rationalist seeks answers by deduction or reasoning while empiricists, scientific induction from observation. The rationalist says that reality is what you think to be true, that the truth can best be discovered by reason and factual analysis, rather than faith or religious teaching. Empiricism is knowledge from perception by observation and experience rather than by theory. To the empiricist, all ideas are derived from phenomena detected by the eyes, ears, nose, touch, etc, having no innate or a priori conceptions [Wikipedia].
Faith, though really put down by the modern intellectual, is the foundation for all learning. The simplest way to define faith is to say that it is the assimilation, accepting as fact, what is taught. One listens to what is taught, understands it, and then assimilates it into one’s thinking. Faith, then, requires a system of authority, the teacher, and response to that authority, humility, that is, the willingness to learn, on the part of the student. Faith is foundational because even your system of language is formed in your thinking by means of faith. You are taught a system of language when your mind is most pliable, then you build everything else upon that. You do use both rationalism and empiricism throughout your life as you accomplish your human endeavors, but faith is foundational.
Despite what the modern intellectual alleges, faith is the most important system of perception, firstly, because it is foundational to the perception of all knowledge and secondly because it is only through faith that you come to perceive what is beyond the five or six human senses, and beyond human reason, that is, the greater reality of divine truth. When you place your faith in Jesus Christ, you begin to understand as you grow spiritually, that God’s creation, the total reality of it, goes far beyond what you see. The entire spiritual life, what as a believer, you base your life on, is invisible to the senses and far supersedes anything that can be detected by the senses or thought of on one’s own. With that last sentence, I have put empiricism and rationalism in a subordinate position to faith. We all do use them, but they are subordinate to faith, based upon faith.
Faith, by its very nature, is a non-meritorious system of perception. When you learn, using faith, you must be humble or teachable and have confidence in the authority, upon their veracity. Faith is not based on your own knowledge, as is rationalism or upon your own observations, as in empiricism, but the “faithist” looks outside of himself for verifiable truth. Faith in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is the ultimate function of faith, where the individual looks to the Source of Life Himself for verifiable truth! And how are we rewarded for that search, we are given eternal life at the very outset faith, and then given a whole new system of life, the spiritual life! As a matter of fact, the proper function of faith in every other facet of human life is designed to set each individual up for faith in Christ.
Despite the fact that faith is non-meritorious, it still requires effort to build upon its initial foundation. Each child is taught the number system we use, based upon 10. Having believed 1 1 = 2, you can then, through great effort, learn calculus, trigonometry and other complex systems of mathematics. The study of language is the same: by faith, you learn linguistic basics, and then you build upon that. You can even use your knowledge of English as a foundation to learning other languages. Both the study of mathematics and language require great effort. Building your life upon your foundation of faith in Christ also takes effort in the form of positive volition. You must be aggressive in your pursuit of material upon which to build the content of your faith. Depending upon your individual situation, your pursuit may vary. The first priority in faith perception is your spirituality. You know all about that! Secondly, is to find the joint of supply, your teacher of doctrine which God has provided for you.
…from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love. Ephesians 4:16 NASB
The “joint of supply” is a reference to the pastor of the local church who supplies doctrinal teaching which leads that local congregation to spiritual maturity. Spiritual maturity gives both the individual believer and entire Church body capacity from virtue love. We’ve talked about those principles in detail in our Local Church series. Once you find a pastor teacher in your local geographical area, you need to get under his ministry and support it to the best of your ability, as God provides.
The relationship between your local pastor and his congregation (of which you are a part) is reciprocal. Under the concept of reciprocity, between a pastor and his congregation, he prepares the doctrine then serves it up to his congregation. Every pastor must do this, on his own, using whatever resources God has provided. The congregation then responds to that preparation and service by building soul capacity from spiritual growth based upon that pastor’s study and teaching. That initial response of spiritual growth should result in the desire for more faith building content, which the local pastor is responsible to provide as demanded to his local congregation. Capacity demands! God provides the necessary doctrine through the local pastor teacher. Not only does the congregation reciprocate by growing up spiritually but by prayer support and whatever means God has provided for the support of that local pastor’s ministry. The congregation always benefits from that support. It is always reciprocal! It is, initially, a closed system. Then, as God provides the means, because of the spiritually gained capacity of the congregation, it can express its capacity by reaching out beyond the needs of that local church providing for other ministries such as missionaries, evangelists and seminaries. I long for the day when this congregation has the resources and time (beyond prayer) to support other ministries. We’ll talk in more detail about the doctrine of reciprocity at another time.
Paul taught Timothy that pastors are worthy of financial support, denoting the importance of support of local pastors by their local congregations:
The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing,” and “The laborer is worthy of his wages.” 1 Timothy 5:17-18
This is the how God has designed the local church in this Post Cannon Period of the Church Age to function. To further your spiritual growth, you should, following the principle of one shepherd to one flock of sheep, follow that pastor’s spiritual leadership by the doctrine he communicates. The issue in finding a pastor is always doctrinal. Is doctrine being taught by a pastor in your local area? Is his doctrinal teaching giving you what you need to grow? Remember, God placed that pastor in your locality for a reason, so communicate with him if for any reason the doctrine communicated is not building you up spiritually! This is a big part of reciprocity! Then grow spiritually from his ministry and support him.
If there is not a pastor teaching accurate Bible doctrine in your local area, then find another pastor who is willing to offer doctrinal communication to you by another means. This second option is always second best because that person does not participate in the full dynamics a local church is designed to have. If you have been abused and traumatized at a local church at sometime in your life, leaving you unable to concentrate on the teaching of the Word at a local church. Again, in this case, maturing spiritually by pastoral communication by alternate means is certainly justified! But, I digress! This topic is fully discussed in the Local Church study.
The next phase of building your faith, which results from both spirituality and doctrine communicated from the pulpit, is your volition. We’ve talked about this in a fair amount of detail in our Faith Rest study. Now, this leads us to another aspect of faith. Faith also refers to the system of doctrine or a creed which you have allowed to become a part of your soul, by means of faith perception. It is what you believe, what you have total confidence in as true. Obviously, then, your faith must go far beyond what you understand of your salvation, if you are going to live, fully, by the faith God has designed for you. Now, these aspects of faith are found in both Hebrew and Koine Greek. Let’s look at a few words in both languages and see how they are used and what we can learn from that use.