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Thursday, September 9, 2010

Faith is...

by Wenda Dottridge

Bono said, "Without doubt, I do not have faith."

And my concept of God and my relationship to him fundemenatlly changed.

It's not like Bono was the first philosopher to put forward this assertion. But his words carried weight with me because...well, it was Bono, the hottest rock star on the planet, duh! And I was twenty years old.

But the heft of those seven words, cast out during one of those typical rock star interviews on some afternoon chat show never went away. Long after I'd thrown out my Joshua Tree and War cassettes (I did buy the CDs, after all), I continued to turn those words over and over in my mind.

Faith requires doubt. Doubt opens the door to faith.

You don't hear many preachers encouraging their parishoners to embrace doubt in order to experience faith. In fact, the very notion of doubt seems contrary to organized religion.

Religion is meant to provide certainty and absolutes in a crazy, messed up world.

And God is the absolute absolute. Immutable. Unchangeable. Certain. The sure thing.

(Religious Gifts 19)
And yet, the author of Hebrews defined faith this way: Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. (Heb 11:1 NIV)

We are to place our faith in the future that is unknowable and to be certain of the unseen. The untasted. The untouched. The invisible.

If we are to believe the scriptures, we are to eschew material goods as temporary and unreliable and to embrace a God we cannot see or touch. We are to believe in a resurrection that happened outside our direct experience. In short, we are to have faith. Even in the face of our doubts.

Or, according to Bono, maybe because our doubt points to our capacity for rational thought and critical thinking, we believe not blindly or as if we were drones incapable of any other response (like those poor slobs fueling the Matrix - but that's a topic for another blog). No, we believe by choice in the face of all other choices.
So, then I have to ask myself, if I doubt, why do I believe?

If I were like CS Lewis, I could build you the syllogism he used to lay out the evidence for belief in God. I love the construction of sound logic, and especially love it when it supports my beliefs. But philosophy did not bring me to faith. God did.

Jesus says before his ascension  to heaven that he will send a comforter, a friend, to be with us always. We know from scripture he referred to the Holy Spirit, the third, and often forgotten person of God. We are comfortable as little children praying to Jesus or to the Father, but are more hesitant about reaching out to God, the Spirit. The person of God who dwells with us and in us and confirms our belief and counsels our days.

It is by God's spirit that I believe. It is by accepting God's spirit in my life, by listening to him, through scripture and other believers and even to that still, small voice inside, that I come to know God and trust him. It is through hard choices and failures and the continual reassurance of his presence, that faith grows larger than doubt.

And through doubt faith is exercised. That I am pushed to seek God's presence. To become certain of what I do not see, I must trust in what I know.

What is faith to you?

14 comments:

  1. Wow, deep thoughts, and I love all the pop culture references in the midst of this very spiritual and philosophical post. My son was just telling me that one of his friends at church has been dealing with some of these same issues. I feel like that teen knows just enough about the Bible to question, but hasn't dug deep enough to understand why it actually do make sense. In fact, this post goes really well with the unofficial "education" theme that has emerged this week.

    Thanks for kicking off our new "Faith" Thursdays with a bang, Wenda.

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  2. Wow this had some great deep thoughts. I think Faith can sometimes be very mysterious in the fact that some seem to have a lot of Faith and others not so much.I guess Faith sometimes hits me as being a mystery.

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  3. Wow this had some great deep thoughts. I think Faith can sometimes be very mysterious in the fact that some seem to have a lot of Faith and others not so much.I guess Faith sometimes hits me as being a mystery.

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  4. Good Morning Dina,

    I can relate to your son's friend. I think that's why Bono's words had an impact on me as a twenty year old not quite grounded in my faith. His words gave me permission to question, and through questioning I dug more deeply, and by digging more deeply I increased in faith.

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  5. Hi Louise,

    Paul talks about faith being a spiritual gift and so like all spiritual gifts, we can all exercise each one, but some are more innate to us than to others.

    I think my gift of faith is often not so strong :-/ and yet when I call on God to provide more, he does.

    All part of our amazing, wonderful and even mysterious God.

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  6. This post speaks to me in supernatural timing. How about this question, what is doubt? Pride, worry, selfishness. Anywhere in our lives that we are grasping for the control over our lives we once laid at God's feet because let's face it - we can do it better, right? Doubt is a painful reminder that I am under construction.

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  7. Hi Bex,

    An interesting question, what is doubt?

    For me, doubt can be sinful if we are prideful in our doubt, but doubt can also instill humility. Think of Thomas, or even Peter's denial of Jesus. Their doubt wasn't punished. God used it to illuminate his glory.

    You said, "Doubt is a painful reminder that I am under construction."

    Or, as Paul said, we are "being made perfect." Not by our own strength, but by God's. We can rejoice in that!

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  8. Great post, Wenda. Like Dina, I loved the pop culture references. And U2! Man! Now I'm singing "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" in my head.

    Doubt isn't bad, in my opinion. It reveals that we're grappling. Faith is an act, not a feeling, and as such it sometimes requires a bit of work, and doubt is part of that. That said, some things are easy for me to take on by faith: I do not doubt the Resurrection or God's love. What I grapple with more often than not is that God loves *me*. Forgives *me*.

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  9. "I do not doubt the Resurrection or God's love. What I grapple with more often than not is that God loves *me*. Forgives *me*.

    Yes! Don't we all!

    I also think sometimes it is easier to believe in a big God, but it gets harder to accept grace on a more intimate, personal level.

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  10. I think doubt is the status quo of the human race, the condition in which we live *most* of the time. For me, Romans 10 has clarified a lot of my questions about what faith is, and whether or not I have it.
    When I stop doubting and start believing, it kicks my mouth into gear and I find myself speaking what I believe, declaring a thing before I see it. Believing, I therefore speak. (1 Cor 4:19) When I'm speaking my doubts, I know I haven't crossed the line into a place of heart faith about a subject.
    Great post, Wenda. And though I wasn't a huge U2 fan, Bono is a pretty amazing dude. : )

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  11. Maybe our doubt blesses God in a way. I mean, He gave us these questioning minds. He's not surprised by anything we do or think. When I doubt--and of course I do when I think about how this just can't be... and then when I turn it back around because the core of who I am says, It doesn't matter--then in some ways I'm submitting to God all over again.

    In other words, I'm using my head and realizing it may never make sense but it's still true.

    I wish I had a better way to say it. Sorry for the rambling thought.

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  12. Hi Niki and Deb,

    I love this conversation. From both your comments I see a common thread that is emerging, for me anyway. At it's root, faith is a choice, a decision, not a feeling.

    Lots to think on there.

    :-)

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  13. Awesome! Thank you for sharing your faith with me.

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