A leap of faith
Years ago, the minister at a church I was attending in Chattanooga, TN explained an important religious concept to me--a leap of faith. He said that faith consisted of believing in things that you could neither understand with your mind nor comprehend with your senses. He said that believing only what you could understand or perceive was not faith. Understanding the perceptions of the five senses were the realm of science, not religion. He called the act of believing what you could not understand, a leap of faith. He said that making a leap of faith was a joyous experience that freed you from the impossibility of understanding the mind of God.
I was primed to understand this concept because my grandfather, R. L. Cox, had previously told me a story about when his father, John Needham Cox, Jr. experienced a leap of faith, although he did not use that term to describe it. John, Jr. was the son of a lay minister in the Methodist Church and was very active in church affairs.
The only book in his home while he was growing up was a Bible. While not formally educated beyond the eighth grade, he had a passion for learning and so instilled its value in his four sons, that they all graduated from college despite great hardships.
In the early years of the 20th century, a great controversy raged about Darwin’s theory of evolution. While the rich and powerful had gleefully embraced social Darwinism as a justification for their rapacious exploitation of the poor and weak, many leaders of the religious community had condemned the biological theory of evolution as apostasy, utterly unreconcilable with the Christian Faith. John, Jr. was a farmer by trade and made no claim to being a great religious thinker. His feelings about evolution were closely aligned with those of his religious leaders. However, even John, Jr., who had been born and bred in the great evangelical movement that swept America in the 19th century, understood that there could never be any real conflict between religious faith and scientific theory.
In 1912, at the height of the evolution controversy, R. L. graduated from Wofford College. Wofford is located on the edge of the South Carolina mountains in Spartanburg. R. L. and his father took a short trip into the mountains after his graduation. John, Jr. wanted to spend a little time with his son before he launched into the rest of his life. R. L. was grateful for this interlude with his father and consciously avoided topics that might place them in conflict. However, the debate over evolution was so pervasive that it could not be completely ignored.
As fate would have it, just as the topic of evolution arose, they were standing on a hill that overlooked a deep ravine that had been cut through solid rock by a small stream. R. L. said that his father stood silent looking at that stream for a long time. Finally John, Jr. stated, “He must not have been talking about one of our days.”