Jul 23 2009

Fr. Dmitiri Dudko on faith and proof

Russian Orthodox priest Father Dmitri Dudko was both a heroic and a tragic figure in Communist Russia.  He was under constant scrutiny by the KGB, but continued to teach the truth of Christianity. While Christian dialog was prohibited, in 1972 and 73 he asked his congregation to submit questions they had, which he then addressed in his sermons. Many of these were written down by those in attendance, and distributed around Russia (not unlike the spread of the NT documents, or Luther’s 95 Theses).  In 1977 many of these were published outside of Russia in a volume entitled Our Hope, which reveals much about the church in Russia in the early 70’s, as well as providing some thoughtful questions and answers about the Christian faith in the context of an overtly atheistic culture.

Dudko was eventually broken by the KGB and coerced into recanting, which was apparently televised.  He later confessed how much he regretted his mistake, writing “Compared to the hell that I then brought into my soul, anything – even torture or execution – would have been easier to bear.”  He died in 2004.

The other night I picked up the book, and opened it to page 140:

Question: What proof is there in apologetics of Christ’s resurrection?

Answer: Proofs? Nowadays we’ve begun to prove everything. Prove that you love. Prove there’s a sun in the sky, or clouds. Prove you’re a man, not a camel…  So they ask me to produce proofs of Christ’s Resurrection.  We consider proofs to be an important argument, whereas in fact they’re no argument at all.  Proofs are the fruit of our weakness and not of our strength, the fruit of our unbelief.  Forgive me, but I don’t want to know any proofs, and I wouldn’t recommend that you seek them.  The fundamental proof is our faith. If we have no faith, no proofs will help.

But then, of course, the question arises:  Does this mean that we must believe blindly?  “Believe because it’s absurd,” like Tertullian?  I would like to address precisely this: the absurdity and the “blindness” of faith.  For in fact, faith is vision.  …  Faith, as one Russian philosopher said, is profound knowledge. The knowledge we glean from books is shallow, and with its help all we can learn are earthly laws.  But knowledge of the resurrection of Christ demands profound knowledge  – that is, not merely stuffing your head full of quotations and information, but transfiguring your entire being. That brings profound knowledge: faith.  Yes, faith often contradicts the shallow variety of knowledge, and shallow knowledge in turn considers faith to be absurdity.  It is for this reason that Tertullian said, “I believe because it is absurd” – not because faith itself is agsurd, but because shallow knowledge, the sinful world, considers it to be so.  I believe, not because it is absurd in general, but only because from your point of view it is absurd. In this way, we believe Christ’s Resurrection, but we don’t “prove” it. You have no faith?  That is your misfortune. …

… I know that there are people who doubt the Gospel, who insist that it’s not convincing. It is difficult to refute such people. They can only be pitied, for those who say such things are unable to believe; they have not yet acquired profound knowledge.

This is brilliant- this is an understanding of knowledge that can’t be comprehended from within a modernist framework, which by intent considers only “shallow” knowledge as reasonable.