Saturday, June 18, 2011

A Good Basic Faith Statement...

I think this is well-said (from George Pattison's The Philosophy of Kierkegaard):

"[U]nlike several other religions, Christianity seems to make its message dependent on faith in a particular historical individual.  It... also requires us to affirm that our own salvation and our own ability to carry out its ethical demands are dependent on our believing certain things about this historical individual: that he was in a unique way the son of God, born of a virgin, that he died in such a way as to remove the burden of sin placed upon human beings as a result of the Fall, and that he rose again from the dead, sits at the right hand of God in heaven and 'will come again with glory to judge both the living and the dead', as the Nicene Creed puts it.  Although the clauses relating to Christ's current status and future work are not in any simple sense 'historical' affirmations, the preceding clauses [about his life, death, and resurrection] are.  This is a double challenge to anyone wanting to press the claims of Christianity."

The question then is: How do we respond to this affirmation?  It is here that Christianity begins to splinter... into thousands of different 'appropriate' responses.  It seems to me that most of one's journey as a believer consists in negotiating between various responses to the affirmation of faith stated above.  But it also seems to me, more and more, that this negotiation or seeking is our affirmation.  In other words, our journeys as Christians are actually a constant negotiation between our faith and lack thereof.

If faith and works are inextricably intertwined (no matter how their relation is conceived), then the extent to which we respond is the extend to which we believe.  And, given the plethora of responses and counter-responses to faith that exist within the Church (broadly speaking), I submit that what this reveals is, quite simply, our struggle to really believe what we claim.  In other words, the extent to which we are divided in our responses to the affirmation of faith is the extent to which we don't really believe the affirmation.  And that means all of us who say we believe need to remain humble in our claims and consistently re-evaluate our beliefs.

After all, there is no such thing as 'complete' belief.  That is an oxymoron.  Belief itself requires incomplete information.  To put a stamp marking a belief as 'case closed' is, in effect, to nullify the belief.  And, at that point, Christianity -- the belief in Christ -- dies.

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