In North Africa toward the end of the fourth century, Augustine pointed out that life would be impossible without trust. Most of the things we know about the world are really things we believe on the basis of someone else’s word. We can’t verify for ourselves if events in world history have really happened. But we accept testimonies that have come down to us from the past. We can’t visit every location on a map to verify that they all really exist. But we accept the word of others who have been to those places. Closer to home, the family is knit together by trust. I wasn’t there to witness the moment of my own conception. If I want to know who my father is, I will have to take my mother’s word for it. And I gladly accept her word: I would prefer to trust her than to seek independent verification. It would diminish me as a person if I went around trying to verify everything. Only by adopting an attitude of trust am I able to live and flourish as a human being. Without trust, Augustine says, “we would be unable to do anything in this life.”
Obviously not every family is an exemplar of loving trust, and not every parent proves to be trustworthy. But Augustine’s point is that we don’t have the resources to verify everything for ourselves. Social life is woven together by threads of trust. If I really wanted to live without trust I would need to remove myself from society and live in total isolation. But even then, I would need to rely on tools and technologies that I did not invent and that I do not fully understand. I would need to trust the work of others.
The tragic quality of life comes partly from the fact that human beings are not always trustworthy, yet still we cannot live without trust.
The gospel holds out to us the promise of a totally trustworthy God.
Taken from The Apostles’ Creed: A Guide to the Ancient Catechism (Christian Essentials) (Kindle Locations 201-213). Lexham Press. Kindle Edition.
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