Inception and Faith

Inception was on my mind this morning when I woke, and in keeping with the spirit of this blog, I decided to explore/connect some of the ideas presented in the film with following God.

One of the central themes in the film is faith. On several occasions faith plays a pivotal role in character and plot development. Here are some examples:

The Scene where Cobb accepts the job because he has faith that Siato can deliver on his promise:

COBB
If I were to do it [inception]. If I could do
it… how do I know you can
deliver?

SAITO
You don’t. But I can. So do you
want to take a leap of faith, or
become an old man, filled with
regret, waiting to die alone?

The scene where Mal trusts Cob enough to allow them both to be run over by the train:

MAL
I’ll tell you a riddle. You’re
waiting for a train. A train that
will take you far away. You know
where you hope this train will take
you, but you don’t know for sure…

MAL
But… it doesn’t matter. How can
it not matter to you where that
train will take you?

COBB (O.S.)
Because you’ll be together.

The scene where Mal is about to kill herself. She invokes faith as justification for her actions.

MAL
No. I’m going to jump. And you’re
coming with me.

COBB
No, I’m not. This is real-if you
jump, you’re not going to wake up,
you’re going to die. Let’s go back
inside and talk about this, please.

MAL
I’m asking you to take a leap of
faith.

COBB
I can’t do that, Mal. I can’t leave
our children.

The first obvious implication with these three cases is this: faith is not categorically virtuous. In the first two cases faith seems to have positive consequences, but in the third case, faith leads to death and pain. What is the difference between the first two cases and the third? Perhaps there is something we can learn about genuine faith (the first two cases) and its more nominously noxious cousin (the third case).

The common thread in the first two cases is that the “believer” trusts in a person. They have faith in. Cobb trusts Saito. Mal trusts Cobb. The distinguishing characteristic in the third case is that Mal trusts in an idea: “The idea that her world wasn’t real… that was her own idea from her own mind.” Mal has faith that.

This slight alteration, I think, is the root of all sorts of epistemological perversion in the church. Faith in is dynamic. It responds to new experiences and new situations. Faith that is static, and destructively so. Mal’s faith that her world wasn’t real was destructive precisely because it did not respond appropriately to the change in the situation that occurred in the film: she had already left the dream world, yet she continued to think that the “real” world wasn’t real.

It seems that many of us (Christians) have faith that. Many Christians have faith that the bible is perfect. Many Christians have faith that Jesus is the Messiah. Is it possible, though, that this is that same numinously noxious cousin of faith that Mal feel susceptible to? Is it possible that the same destructive consequences that occurred in the movie are being mirrored in the pervasive Christian faith that?

Every time a woman is prevented from speaking because of that Psuedo-Pauline letter 1st Timothy, every time a gay person is discriminated against because of Paul’s remarks in Romans, and every time a church splits over petty metaphysical/doctrinal issues, the answer to the aforementioned question seems to be a resounding yes. Because if the church had faith in God perhaps they would see that His love does not command the silence of women or discrimination against homosexuals, or the destruction of the body of Christ over metaphysical issues.

But why do we slip into faith that? It seems that faith that is easier. It is not dynamic. It is static unchanging and comfortable. Subjectively, it ceases to be faith because it is perceived in such a way that it cannot be erroneous. If I believe that the bible is perfect, how can I have faith? If I believe that my knowledge of God is perfect how can I have faith? I perceive its words to be objects of knowledge. Thus, trust does not enter the equation.

The thing that I’ve realized, though, is that I am guilty of faith that. I am guilty of it just as much as orthodoxy, but just in a different sense. Out of a motivation to obtain epistemological comfort, I have sought to remove the person of God and Jesus Christ from the foundation of my faith. Instead, I have shifted my foundation to an idea: that the way of God (without the person of God) is the way to eudaimonia. Perhaps, then, the shift of my foundation is subject to the same numinously noxious effects that Mal, Cobb, and the Church experienced and still experiences.

Of course, I could be wrong about all of this.

God, give me the strength of will to determine if this is so. Thank You for Inception, and the opportunity it has given me to re-examine the foundation of my faith. Thank you for this opportunity to fix my aim on You.

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