Dabar [theme]

He shall cover thee with His feathers, and under His wings shalt thou find refuge: His truth is a shield and buckler
Psalms 91:4

Be it ours,when we cannot see the face of God, to trust under the shadow of His wings. C.H. Spugeon

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Belief & Faith

"Belief--or disbelief--in God is not a scientific opinion... It is an element in something larger and more puzzling...the set of background assumptions by which we make sense of the world as a whole." The relationship between belief and knowledge is subtle. The relationship between belief and knowledge is that a belief is knowledge if the belief is true, and if the believer has a justification (reasonable and necessarily plausible assertions/evidence/guidance) for believing it is true. Philosophy has traditionally defined knowledge as justified true belief. The background assumptions upon which Christians base their belief is contained in the Scriptures and the understanding that these Scriptures are the revealed truth of God and the revelation of God interacting with man in an ongoing story that is the foundational basis for the interpretation of that story as it applies to human history and the existential implications of that as revealed truth. Deut. 3:2, "'O Lord God, You have begun to show Your servant Your greatness and Your mighty hand, for what god is there in heaven or on earth who can do anything like Your works and Your mighty deeds?" In this we see Christians making sense of the world by defining life in the context of truth as revealed as recorded history, and that history in the context of God as the sovereign, exerciser of rule and dominion. His governance and ruling power are seen as benign, not posing any serious threat; not particularly aggressive nor recurrent; manifested throughout time; sustaining and providential; faithful in word; merciful in deed. Psalm 145:3, "Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and Your dominion endures throughout all generations." This belief is questioned on the grounds of being justifiable because the knowledge of God is subjective. Belief is formed, as in opinions, based upon subjective feelings or intuition, not upon observation or reasoning, which can be influenced by preconception; coming more from within the observer rather than from observations of the external environment. The resulting belief is derived from or pertaining to personal mindsets or experience, arising from perceptive mental conditions established by a bias toward that which has been believed to be truth within the heart and mind and not necessarily from external stimuli.

It is this that allows people to ask, "But what makes anyone think that religion has anything to contribute? to the answering of life's existential questions because, "The entire history of the Church would seem [to be] eloquent testimony that religion provides no special insight..." Everything observable and felt can be explained in a rational and substantive manner using acceptable criteria of elaboration, quieting the suspicious and mystical claims of faith. Christianity is merely the claim that the extraordinary events that happened in the recorded history (The Bible) of a group of people is to be the impetus for the radical and astounding beliefs in a God of inestimable character. If the historical validity of any aspect of Scripture is in question then the integrity of the whole is made subject to the same criticism. In this Christians find themselves in a quandary between believing in the absurdities of the Bible as empirical truth; the dubious motives and intents revealed of God; and the problem of asserting that truth in spite of those same absurdities challenging our own sensibilities and gullibility. In this we see faith as opposed to belief. The empirical evidence and rational thought may not support the belief in an event or the reasoning behind an expectation of a future cause and effect relationship to exist by understanding that, ... "All [historical] questions must be decided, in terms of more or less probability, by historical research. They are questions of historical truth, not of the truth of faith. Faith can say that something of an (existential nature) has happened in history because the question of (existence) in being and meaning is involved."

To quote: "The Christian message provides the answers to the questions implied in human existence. These answers are contained in the revelatory events on which Christianity is based ..." The existential questions of human existence are associated with the field of philosophy and, more specifically, ontology (the study of being). Understand that there is a complimentary relationship between the questions and the theological answers, derived from Christian revelation. The task of the philosopher primarily involves developing the questions, whereas the task of the theologian primarily involves developing the answers to these questions. However, it should be remembered that the two tasks overlap and include one another: the theologian must be somewhat of a philosopher and vice versa, the notion of faith as resolving the existential dilemma necessitates that the theological answer be correlated with, compatible with, and in response to the general ontological question which must be developed independently from the answers. Thus, on one side of the correlation lies an ontological analysis of the human situation, whereas on the other is a presentation of the Christian message as a response to this existential dilemma. It is important to remember that no formulation of the question can contradict the theological answer. This is because the Christian message claims, a priori, that the logos “who became flesh” is also the universal logos. Implying that the answer is contained in and provided by God.

2 Cor. 5:7, "For we walk by faith, not by sight." While we are in the present state faith supplies the place of direct vision. Faith is for the lifetime. Here we have the testimony of God, the Bible, Church history, experience, and teaching and believe in that reality, because we don't disbelieve His word. "Faith is the state of being (existentially) concerned: the dynamics of faith are the dynamics of man's (existential) concern." To walk by faith, is to live in the confident expectation of things that are to come; in the belief of the existence of unseen realities; and suffering them to influence us as if they were seen. The simple account of faith, and of living by faith is, that we live and act as if these things were true, and invite and allow them to make an impression on our mind according to their real nature.

Atheist:I am laughing because I see what ignorant people you are, to make such a tedious journey, when you will probably have nothing but your travel to show for your effort.
Christian: Do you think we will not be received?
Atheist: Received! The place you dream about does not exist any where in the world.
Christian: But it does in the world to come.
Atheist: If I had not believed, when I was still at home, I would not have come this far to seek it; but finding nothing I am going back again, and I will seek to refresh myself with the things that I then cast away for the hopes of what I now see is not.
Christian; Is what this man says true?
Hopeful:Be careful!... are we not to walk by faith? "Cease son, to hear the instruction that causes to err from the words of knowledge." ... let us "believe to the saving of our soul."
Christian: "... let us go on, knowing that what we believe is the truth, and that no lie comes from the truth."


Anonymous said...

Bottom line I would like an absolute truth. A Fact. It seems reasonable to me to believe in something that is true and real. However, it seems that christianity, much like science gets as close as they can with what God or christianity is, and the rest is up to faith. Which I am not sure I am OK with. .....

So...back to Christianity. Why would I want to spend my whole life loving, serving, worshiping something with no guarantees? People have come close to what they think God is....but there is no guarantee. If I am going to wholeheartedly give myself to a faith or God, there has to be good reason for me to do so. Otherwise, I will live my life knowing there is potential for something else to be true. It happens all the time; look at the lives of every Christian you know - you know what they struggle with. If they were 100 percent sure, their lives would look a whole lot different. How we live says much about what we believe...more so than our words.

So...what answer am I looking for?

I want to know that Christianity is going to pan out. I want to know it is the real truth. I want God to be the absolute truth. I want to give my life 100 percent to God. I don't want to give myself wholeheartedly, and then realize the model was flawed. I want to know it is worth betting my entire life on. Because - similar to gambling, the more you risk, the greater the pay off. However, the safer I play -- I may not win much -- but I don't lose much either. I want to know that Christianity is foolproof. I want to know God is real and true - and that he does not disappoint. And I don't want cheap answers when someone dies or you have a terminal illness or something. People say, "it's God's will, or things happen for a reason." I find these cheap and rationalizations. I don't want a religion that makes excuses for God. I want the real deal. I want a God that is true.

Anonymous said...

Here is where I am at:

It is a journey with many unanswerable questions...the key word: journey. I will doubt, always will doubt....which is good. It is the doubt that drives me to know, that which is not certain in my mind. The doubt is that which carrys me to get to know, to understand, and to sort out the meaning and purpose of God. I "committed" to being a christian at a very young age...however, over the years....I have become dissatisfied with this idea. As my critical reasoning/thinking skills have improved....though, I did not always want to face - I realized, that I did not 100 percent believe in all that the Bible said. I would read Ravi Zacharias, CS Lewis, Thomas Merton, Chuck Swindoll, Beth Moore, Chuck Colson, Bill Hybels, Lee Strobel, John Ortberg, among others...and none seemed to answer my questions to a level satisfactory to me....to a point where I could look at myself and say I honestly believe all the bible says. Went to many lectures on , well...anyways...I won't go through my whole search...but I tried on many different lenses...until lately - I just really wonder....if nobody seems to know?? I've made it to the highest level of education, at a prestigious school...and these people don't know...I really have to wonder...am I chasing the wind? I also struggled with integrity. How am I supposed to call myself a christian - if I cannot wholeheartedly believe all that the bible says?

It then dawned on me...after reading the blogs... What my real struggle is. Many christians claim that they have weighed the evidence....and it makes the most sense to them...so they choose- "cross over the line of faith". Which means...that they are not entirely certain...which means... they have committed to something that they are unsure is absolutely true. Which is what I did at a young age....

However, Not one person can say with absolute certainty, that there is absolute truth and that God/Jesus/Christianity...holds the absolute truth about life. Which...is scary....and what scares me about christianity....it asks people to choose to believe something that is not proven to be true without a doubt. I think that leads to abuse and a lot of what goes on in christian churches today. People with immature minds follow that which is said to be done in the name of Christ....because they do not doubt - they are subject to manipulation and abuse of power. However, I don't think that is what Jesus meant about what it means to be a christian.

What I am finding....is I believe A Christian...is one who FOLLOWS Christs teachings. Now that I understand that....

....now I can live with myself. Let me explain. I realize...I am a christian...and always have been....I follow Christs lead...but what I won't make is a committment to believing all that is said and interpreted in the Bible, from man...if I do that, I close off my mind, I stop seeking, and I become a complacent christian. It is the very unbelief that drives me to continue to seek and follow Jesus....and to say my eyes are closed...I've chosen - this is the way, I have found absolute truth and certainty - I would be lying to myself and others. Therefore, I will always keep my mind open for the potential of something else being true. If I don't do that....I am betraying myself, and my mind - and not living with integrity. If I don't leave myself open for that...I become narrow minded....and there would be no reason to seek. Which means - shouldn't every christian be a seeker?

I will follow God/Jesus...because like most of life...you take the step, and as you follow...you learn more and more. And...as I have been following Jesus - I have found that being more loving, people do change. By being kind and humble...people do change. By forgiving....I can love better. So...all those things become real and true. At the same time...Jesus makes a lot of promises....I don't know 100 percent that they are true....but I hope they are. So...I live with the hope that they are....though I am not 100 perent sure.

Futhermore...I struggled with the thoughts.... how can I be a christian, live with integrity...and say I am wholeheartedly living for God....when I know I have doubts. And....if you love someone wholeheartedly...you don't have doubts. And....if I did love God....wouldn't I live a life more like Mother Teresa?....and I think the answer is yes....I would be much more loving and kind. So....I am OK....with committing to: FOLLOWING Jesus and his teachings. I am not committing to being completely sure of christianity. And....I guess - my fear was that I would be going to hell....when I realized that, but I guess it is better to be honest, than to pretend otherwise. So....I am committed to following Jesus/God...but not necessarily committed to christianity...and all it has developed in to. Because....I imagine there would be more mother Teresas in the church if it was truly of God/Christ...and since there are not....Jesus says...you can tell by the fruit. And....when I don't see fruit....I have to believe that that is not God/Jesus intention....so I will attend church to learn with a grain of salt, to renew my vision, and to give to causes of the poor - that can be helped when greater numbers of people are involved. But....if someone came to me and asked do you believe 100 percent in all the bible says and believe in the church, and what it is about....I would have to say...actually...still learning...but join the journey with me....we can seek together - for I am not certain of either....and don't expect to be for as long as I live....but I will continue to search.....

Also, I struggled much with making a committment to that which I was not 100% sure. I felt dishonest. However, my problem was in the fact that I thought I was committing to believing that Everything was true in the Bible, that I believed 100% in the Bible, and that is not true. I am committed to following Jesus.