I recently re-watched Ingmar Bergman’s “The Seventh Seal” (that movie with the guy playing chess with death). It’s a great film about a knight (Antonius Block) who returns from the crusades to a Europe being ravaged by the black plague. The title “The Seventh Seal,” is an allusion to Revelation 8:1- “And when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour.” The major theme of the film is the silence of God in tragedy. Very cheerful stuff. The film revolves around the characters’ coming to grips with faith and uncertainty. It’s a search for meaning in the midst of doubt. The main character is tortured with uncertainty and wants to hear, see, smell, and touch God but God does not show Himself to Block. I found aspects of the film very relatable.
As a person, I want to see and experience things. I want empirical knowledge of the world around me. I think that most people do. That’s what makes this film relatable. For Block, faith doesn’t come easily. Block earnestly tries to come to an empirical knowledge of God. But trying to filter God through empiricism didn’t work. He was left empty and saying things like, “To believe is to suffer. It is like loving someone in the dark who never answers.” At the end of the film death shows up and takes the characters with him. Although a skeptic, Block quickly cries out to a God that he has tortured himself with. Block represents what I believe the majority of people understand faith to be; something that helps us sleep at night. I think that Biblical faith is much more than that.
Faith is not a shot in the dark; it is the light by which we see everything. It’s not blindly jumping but admitting that “I was blind but now I see.” It is as radical as being reborn. Faith presumes that man is the one in the dark and that God is light. It’s only through God’s light that anything is revealed. Whatever our reality is, it is a shadow of the truth that is revealed through faith. However “real” my knowledge is of the world, faith tells me that there is something exponentially more real. Faith isn’t opposed to empirical knowledge, I believe that empirical knowledge points to the experiential knowledge that we have through faith, and ultimately the perfect knowledge that will be given to believers through Christ in the afterlife.
One of the problems that I think most people have with this model is that it asks us to admit we are incapable of knowledge. This model causes us to pray that God would give us “eyes to see and ears to hear.” It admits that apart from God we are unable to understand anything. The Bible claims, “For with you is the fountain of life: in your light shall we see light.” Psalm 36:9. The Bible asks us to admit our own inadequacy (which agnostics do) and then to move beyond that to rest through faith in God’s sufficiency. This model does not tie every loose end but it tells us to believe that there is an infinite God who not only created the world but holds it in His hand. A sparrow will not fall without God’s sovereign hand and loose ends are held firmly by those same hands. Faith forces us to surrender ourselves. At times faith seems like foolishness but it is nothing compared to the seeming irrationality of the God of the universe surrendering Himself to die for people who hated Him. What part of that is reasonable?
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written:
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
And bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.”
Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.- I Corinthians 1:18-25
To those of us who have been blessed with faith I think that it’s worth remembering that faith should only increase our charity for those without it. “You shall not curse the deaf, nor put a stumbling block before the blind, but shall fear your God: I am the LORD”- Leviticus 19:14. Christians need to stop cursing “this dark world” and start helping others through it.