What’s so great about faith?

What’s so great about faith?  It depends on what you mean.  Most people today seem to regard faith as a so-called “leap of faith,”  in which we simply choose to believe something that can’t be demonstrated or proven.  Society, or one’s own needy self, says that I need to believe, and I do, keeping quiet about my doubts, if I even let myself have any.

Real faith is given by the grace of God.  We don’t choose faith; faith chooses us.  Nevertheless, there are things we can do to receive it.  Prime among these is humility, and living as Christ would have us live, as though we were men or women who deserve grace.

But how do I know if I have received grace?

There are two answers.  If you have to ask, you haven’t.  If you think you have received grace, you haven’t.  Just continue to live as though you were worthy of grace.  In the end perhaps this is the most we can hope for.  What’s more important: to know that you have grace, or to be worthy of it?

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Blogging about God has created a problem for me

Blogging about God has created a problem for me.  I realize that I pray to an interventionist God while I believe in a distant God.  Since I blog about God to help me figure out what I believe, this is good.  It just doesn’t bring me peace.

Most of my posts are about what other people believe about God.  Since they are smarter than I am that seems a good start.  None seem to believe in God quite like I do, but that’s OK too.   

I believe in a creator God, one who has stepped back from his handiwork.  Why is there something rather than nothing?  Philosophers ask this question, and they are serious.  People, zebras, bugs, the earth, the cosmos: everything there is has no need to exist.  It just does, and I can see no other ultimate answer than God.  Alfred North Whitehead believed something like this.    

This works on a less cosmic level as well.  Every night I thank God for the gift of my life that day, and for the wonder and beauty that exists in this world.  I pray for those I love and care about.  And I pray for desperate, afflicted people, such as the Rohingya Muslims.  That’s about it. 

I try not to pray for myself.  That seems too much like asking God for a bicycle for Christmas.  But, what would I pray for if I were seriously ill?  That I be open to God’s presence.  I’d pray for the same thing for my wife, and others whom I love.

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A sociologist who turned to God, but never understood faith: Peter Berger

A sociologist who turned to God, but never understood faith: Peter Berger, March 17, 1929-June 27, 2017.

When I was in graduate school many years ago, The Social Construction of Reality, by Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann, published in 1966, was my bible, and I was not alone.  Berger and Luckmann argued that what we experience as reality is socially constructed by men and women.  Over time, this construction is forgotten and the reality taken as given.  It’s a good argument, but it doesn’t work very well with God.  Berger acknowledged as much in a book written a few years later, A Rumor of Angels: Modern Society and the Rediscovery of the Supernatural, published in 1970. 

Where Berger was right

Berger seems right that what has failed in modernity is not a belief in God, but belief in “another reality.”  Some theologians seem to have gone along with this.  Paul Tillich understood the task of theology in terms of the “method of correlation,” by which he meant the interpretation of Christianity in the language of philosophical and psychological thought (p 11). 

Rudolf Bultmann exaggerates, but has the right idea when he says that no one who uses electricity and listens to the radio can any longer believe in the miracle world of the New Testament.  His response was to translate the Christian tradition into the contemporary language of existentialism (p. 41).

Bultmann’s definition of the disease has proven useful.  Today many of us are enthralled with the things humans have made, like smart phones.  (Confession: I bought my first smart phone a couple of weeks ago, and something about it is compelling.)  So how should religion respond?

Berger’s answer is that we should not capitulate to modernity, but anchor belief in God in human experience. Good diagnosis, poor remedy.

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