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September 2, 2011
Once in a while, I will bring it up in conversation. That's a blik, I will say, when a discussion seems unable to leave the ground. I don't know if I've ever gotten anything other than a blank look when I've said this. Very few people seem to know this useful word.

I googled "blik" -- there's a company by that name that manufactures decorative decals with which to adorn your walls. No help there. "Blik"is also the title of a lovely Dutch animated short film about a little boy who falls in love with a girl much older than he. Google takes you through acres of decorative decals before it finally serves up the "blik" I knew, the one used in the philosophy of religion. And there were only a couple of mentions of that blik before we were off and running again among the decorative decals.

Which is a pity, because "blik" is a handy word, indeed. A blik is a belief that can be neither proven nor disproven. Neither verified or falsified. The Oxford philosopher R.M. Hare coined the term in the early fifties. I encountered it in the 1960s, and it has charmed me ever since. Here is Hare's example of a blik -- I'm afraid it is rather parochially expressed, which -- for me, at least -- only adds to its charm. To fully experience the charm, you will need to know that a don is a tutor at Oxford.

"A certain lunatic is convinced that all dons want to murder him. His friends introduce him to all the mildest and most respectable dons that they can find, and after each of them has retired, they say, 'You see, he doesn't really want to murder you; he spoke to you in a most cordial manner; surely you are convinced now?' But the lunatic replies, 'Yes, but that was only his diabolical cunning; he's really plotting against me the whole time, like the rest of them; I know it I tell you'. However many kindly dons are produced, the reaction is still the same."

You can see why the blik is charming to a religious person: one recognizes immediately that we all have a blik. Some of them are insane, like that of Hare's lunatic. Others are somewhat less damaging, like the common belief that God has a detailed plan for each of us, choosing our professions, our mates, perhaps even our dinner menus for us. Let earthquake, fire, flood and God knows what else destroy, and the answer is the same: "It's Gods will. We just don't understand God's ways."

Let me go on record with my belief that a great many things happen here under the sun that are not God's will. If it is true that every preacher has one sermon, which s/he preaches over and over again, here is mine: Life is hard, but God is good. I have found little evidence to support the idea that God's goodness has anything to do with an end run around the troubles of life. But then, a blik has little to do with evidence; it is more an unconscious decision about how one chooses to view life. My blik is realistic but hopeful -- but of course I would think so, since it's my blik. I believe that faith does not insulate us from pain, and I point to the cross as evidence that this is so. And I believe in resurrection, the bringing of good out of even the greatest of evils. I do not believe that resurrection turns bad things good -- they're still bad. But the death and decay we all fear composts our future hope. This I believe. My belief selects and shapes my evidence, not the other way round.

In the end, we do not derive matters of faith from evidence at all. All of them are bliks. One person beholds the Alps for the first time and believes anew in his Creator. His traveling companion is also thunderstruck by their majesty, but thinks only of paleontology. Consciously or unconsciously, we choose what we will believe.


Would you like to see the little Dutch film,"Blik"? It has nothing at all to do with the philosophy of religion, but warms the heart nonetheless. "Blik" means "look"in Dutch.


Or perhaps you would like to read more R.M. Hare about bliks.


The tenth anniversary of 9/11 approaches. If I do say so myself, I recommend my own MASS IN TIME OF WAR, a contemporaneous account of New York in the aftermath of the attack and of the state of war that followed upon it-- and continues to this day, making it the longest war in United States history. Get it at Amazon,
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