Saturday, August 2, 2008

random thoughts on faith...

The one who steps out in faith must, in essence, be willing to forsake everything, including his or her very self, for the sake of the "True Other" in whom the faith is placed. Such willing is, in the final analysis, not possible for the one stepping out; the True Other - which is often called the "object" of the faith - must ultimately make it possible. So, faith is not truly and fully faith unless it is placed in a True Other that can and will bring about its own actuality within the life of the faithful. But what of the delusional person, who is convinced that they have found some True Other, but in fact believes in a falsehood - am I suggesting that they do not have faith? Precisely.

But, what then? How are we to judge genuine faith, when a delusion may apparently lead someone to forsake everything just as surely as the True Other of genuine faith? It is important to remember that there is no reason to assume that a delusional person has forsaken anything of value to them. In fact, for the delusional, it may very well be that the idea of forsaking is the very thing that provides the means by which the delusion of faith is sustained. In other words, the delusional only forsakes something in order to gain something greater; that is, the reinforcement of the delusion.

Unfortunately, this description also seems to apply to many who claim to be true believers. How are we to tell the difference between "false" and "true" faith? There is indeed no way to rationally or empirically verify faith, but neither is there any way to disprove faith. This obviously cuts both ways, for although faith is a personal step which may lead to a True Other, it may also be a step into nothingness or folly. Absurdity... that is Kierkegaard's term. And certainly any action that seems to offer no distinction between Truth and delusion seems quite absurd. But this is the risk of faith. The true person of faith does not forsake in order to gain; the true person of faith forsakes simply for the sake of the True Other. And that risk is very great indeed.

So when a person attempts to be faithful, they must be willing to bear the consequences, to "face the music," so to speak. In seeking to be faithful, one is opened not only to the possibility of ridicule, but also abandonment, forsaking, and the loss of everything - including his or her very self - not in the hope that they will get everything back, or have something better (like "eternal life with Jesus"), but simply because it is proper as an act of faith. If a person makes a decision in faith, that decision will always involve a forsaking. In fact, anyone who claims to be acting in faith but attempts to, at the same time, hold onto their own safety, or freedom, or rights, is not acting in faith at all.

Religious persons who claim to be acting in faith, but are also pursuing some sort of self-serving agenda, are not being faithful. Their faith is betrayed by their own agenda of self-protection... true faith has no self-protective agenda, nor does it attempt to “protect” God, who needs no protection. The mere fact that believers often feel the need to defend their faith, not against real spiritual attacks (by responding in a manner appropriate to faith), but against the banal hatred and slander of the unbeliever, or, even worse, genuine criticism, reveals the lack of faith among those who claim to be faithful.

Indeed, we are, each of us, a mixture of faith and faithlessness. To the extent we, as Christians, have abandoned our agendas for the sake of the Truth of Christ, we are faithful. To the extent that we still hold onto our own agendas, we are faithless. And our faithlessness can only be healed by God... and believing this is an act of faith as well.

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