I was born into an Adventist family. This meant feeling that pretty much everything I knew, including my religious tradition, was the sole truth.
It also meant that my most important mission was to help those who thought differently to understand how wrong they were, without having the patience to listen to what they believed and why they believed what they believed.
I was wrong for several reasons, but I was especially wrong for believing that a human can own truth and that it can be stored up somewhere, in its entirety, inside his limited being. Later on, when I started to doubt not the Truth but my ability to understand it (at least in some cases) and my willingness to properly respect even the little I understood, I realized that things are much more complicated than I believed. I felt then that I no longer had the mission to convince others to believe exactly what I believed (in reality, I did not truly believe anything), but to look for the truth, to try to do good and gradually replace the conviction that I was right with the faith in the only One who is right. It was and is not easy. Especially because, like most of us, I encountered a lot of problems: unanswered questions or questions that had an answer other than the one I wanted—such as the great problem of the existence of evil. These were obstacles of my own making. I also faced less dramatic situations, yet no less discouraging; for instance, Christians who act differently than they talk or who talk more than is appropriate.
In any case, this did not stop me from believing in the good and the truth, even if I did not always agree with the practical or dogmatic details, nor understand all that I would have wanted to. I, however, believed, and I generally interacted with people who believed, although not necessarily under the same terms. So we talked and argued our opinions to the best of our abilities, and it was good for it to be so. I now realize that I lacked the courage to start this earlier.
It seems like today the only favoured solution for differences of opinion between people is passive tolerance. You can no longer talk to the other about the truth, because they have their own truth. You can no longer suggest they are wrong, because they are right in their own way, and you can no longer appeal to high values, because they are no longer equally recognized by everyone.
Everybody believes in whatever and whoever they please, or no longer believes in anything at all, if this is what they want. Actually, no, the last part might be impossible. It seems that the person who does not believe in God does not remain faithless, but comes to believe in just about anything, for instance, money, career, life insurance, or magical syrups.
If this is how things go and the alternative to faith is not unbelief, but belief in something else, wouldn’t it be more “convenient” to believe in God? Wouldn’t this faith, like Pascal said, be the only bet you can win on and at the same the only bet where you have nothing to lose? I believe so, although this does not make things any easier to understand or explain. We need evidence and we search for it at all times, although faith, unlike science, cannot be based on hard and constraining evidence if it wishes to abide by its definition of faith.
Nor would we have it otherwise, because it would violate our freedom: any constraining evidence would force us to choose, not willingly, but out of fear, which would contradict the freedom God gifted us with and which even implies the freedom to deny Him should we wish to do so. Meanwhile, although He does not yet unequivocally show us that He exists (He will of course do so, but this will only happen at the end of the world), we have the option not to believe but we also have countless reasons to believe.
For me the universe itself is the greatest reason. Other reasons are the existence of humans and the laws of nature which are in perfect balance and the fact that, for instance, humans’ existence on this earth is only possible because all of nature’s constants have the exact value they should have in order for this to happen. I cannot bring myself to believe in chance. I cannot explain the world around me without the One who designed it and who holds it in balance, even if, for now, I cannot see or understand Him. I believe I am the one who is limited. I also cannot, for instance, imagine that a complex mechanism such as a watch found on a field just came out of nowhere, without there being a watchmaker and especially without there being a Creator who made not only the watchmaker but also the materials the watch is made of, the laws of physics, and time itself.
Another thing that never ceases to amaze me is the infinity of the universe: if I begin with myself, I will realize that I am pretty small compared to everything that is happening on my street which one can barely see on the city map, a small city that becomes non-existent on the country’s map, on the map of the continent, on the map of the whole world and so on, zooming out to the entire known universe. Were I to continue in this way, I would surely exhaust my imagination long before the universe exhausts its vastness.
But let me come back to me again! I am infinitely small compared to the big universe, and still infinitely big compared to the smaller, often hidden universe. Take a hair, or a bug. Take the smallest member of the smallest bug and put it under a microscope: a new abyss, another infinite world in each small thing. In this case, as well, I might exhaust the capacity of thinking or looking through a microscope long before the universe exhausts its capacity for wonderous things. It is very hard to believe that things exist by chance, in all their infinite and infinitesimal perfection, especially since I cannot even perfectly draw a straight line, and nature itself seems inclined towards entropy and disorganization rather than towards order.
Yet I feel that I have said some things that are not necessarily wrong, but that are pointless. Even if the world is perfectly balanced, what does this help me if I cannot find my place in it? If God exists and He created the infinite world, is He the God I need, who can know what is happening to me or who will always care about me? My faith hangs on these questions, rather than on the scholarly arguments for the origin and structure of the universe. Yes, I believe the Earth was not created by chance. I believe God made it. But where can I find God?
A Hassidic tale says that we can begin to look for God from wherever we are, because we will find Him if we try hard enough. But the Christian story says something else. It says that, at times, our efforts to look for God are incorrectly channelled, as are the attempts to find Him, to explain Him, and to prove His existence. This is not necessary. He is the One looking for us. We have been found by Him for a long time now.
Is it not the same with faith? In 1976, Nicolae Steinhardt wrote to Virgil Ierunca in response to Ierunca honestly declaring that he does not believe in God. “Is it really so?” Steinhardt asked, reminding him of the faith that comes out of everything he does, even if he declares himself an atheist. Is it not the case that he believes although he does not realize it? And does God really have nothing to say in all this? Is the act of faith so unilateral? And what of the tale of the man who rejected God and whose soul was confidently claimed by Satan? He had rejected God, right? But God alone knows what is in the soul of those who deny Him, and His answer was simple: “He might have rejected me, but not I him!” The conclusion of the letter is also simple: “The way in which you talk proves as clear as daylight that the God you say you do not believe in, believes in you!”
I believe this letter is addressed to all of us.