All entries for Tuesday 29 March 2005

March 29, 2005

Faith, and religious 'discussion'

I really am not a great fan of pickin religious 'fights' with people I don't know that well. My main reason is that I don't like to appear a crusader who on the slightest provocation will launch into a long, convoluted and spittle heavy explaination of why the perfectly innocent comment just made was wrong… I know of few things more irritating.
So, I feel quite award when I think I'm doing it, and kinda feel like I might have crossed that line already, and want to some more – so I move to my own blog. Which is a perfect place to rant where nobody whatsoever will hear me, but will still allow relief of pressure ;).

OK… Faith.

There's a widely held idea (refered to below as 'the idea'!) that in some way uncertainty is a necessary part of belief, because if it wasn't uncertain then belief wouldn't be necessary, and faith is the ability/capacity that enables us to deal with this act of basing our lives on something we're not really sure about.

I've got problems with that. Maybe God can be proved to exist, maybe he can't – I'm not gonna argue that here. I'm tempted to say 'the idea' is wrong, but I'm gonna settle for it not being the whole story.

Example. Jesus walks on the water. The disciples, looking out of the boat, can see him standing there on something that really doesn't look too solid. One of them, Peter, says "If it's really you tell me to come to you" and Jesus does. So Peter gets out of the boat, and starts walking. Half way he looks round at the large waves etc, gets a bit worried, and starts to sink, only to be caught by Jesus, and is told "Oh you of little faith – why did you doubt?"

Consider how little sense it makes at this point for Peter to doubt the existence of God. He's a Jew, brought up in a nation of people who believed in God, where the argument 'Who made the world then!?' wasn't so silly. He's also wandered round with Jesus for a bit, watching some fairly non-standard things happen, and if that wasn't enough, he's currently walking on water. Doubting whether or not God is there doesn't make so much sense.

Another question – did the apostles have any faith? Yes… they must have right? But if faith is the ability to believe without proof, how does it apply to the people who Did have Christianity proved to them – 100%-without-a-doubt-resurected-corpse. If they did see that, how does faith apply to them?

My solution to this – faith in God is the ability to trust him to come through when you need him to – like when you're standing on the surface of a lake, or when you're on a roof trying to convince a crowd of several thousand people, who think you're drunk, that someone rose from the dead.
The main reason I'm writing this whole thing is that having that trust is key to being Christian, and I've got a nasty feeling 'the idea' above might get in the way of it. That'd be bad.

There's a verse that appears to suggest the opposite of what I've argued – Hebrews 11 verse 1. It says this:

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

This really confused me for a bit. But… in context, ie the bible, 'things hoped for' means the promises of God, very often heaven. And the bible doesn't regard these as uncertain (for obvious reasons!). When the bible talks about Hope, that's short hand for 'really looking forward to' (at least that's my very brief definition!). No uncertainty is implied by this half of the verse. The other half – maybe. I'm not sure, which is why I haven't said the starting definiton of faith is wrong, rather than just incomplete. It should be said that this verse, and one a few verses below it, are the only verses in the bible that imply this way of looking at faith, and doctrines based on 2 verses are.. er.. you can guess.

I'm aware that the above is dangerously close to a sermon. I should add that it's not just me that thinks like this – it's a fairly established idea, as far as I know. Given that, my vague attempt to avoid being preachy probably failed. Ah well. Sorry bout that.


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