Sunday, March 23, 2008


Beliefs are man-made, or Religions of Requirements. Religions of Requirements tend to create a scale with Blind Obedience on one end (whether obedience is to itself or to God is questionable) and Doubt on the other end. They tend to equate doubt with sin. This "scale" is a false dichotomy. Reason cannot exist within a blind obedience and if reason leads to doubt it is in sin. Reason has no place. It has been worked out of the equation.

It should not be an issue of either obedience or doubt. This kind of religion of requirements does not allow for a faithful doubt but only a doubtful faith.

"Christianity has done its utmost to close the circle and declared even doubt to be sin. One is supposed to be cast into belief without reason, by a miracle, and from then on to swim in it as in the brightest and least ambiguous of elements: even a glance towards land, even the thought that one perhaps exists for something else as well as swimming, even the slightest impulse of our amphibious nature- is sin! And notice that all this means that the foundation of belief and all reflection on its origin is likewise excluded as sinful. What is wanted are blindness and intoxication and an eternal song over the waves in which reason has drowned." Nietzsche, "Daybreaks" 89, R.J.
Hollingdale translation.

How disturbing that James 1:8 could, and has been twisted into meaning the presence of reason is synonymous with doubt, and is a sin.
I have to admit, his assessment of certain forms of Christianity is accurate. Some would say Nietzsche only errs by making this a blanket statement. Nietzsche is more accurately describing religiosity: Religions of Requirement. The only valid question becomes, has Christianity become a religion of requirement? What Nietzsche is describing is Belief.
Everyone has Beliefs. It doesn’t matter if they admit it or not; doesn’t matter if they know it or not. Everyone has Beliefs.

You also cannot have Beliefs and be completely tolerant. Beliefs necessitates some degree of Intolerance by definition. Although I don’t like Intolerance, I respect it. To maintain Beliefs balanced with Intolerance is actually a sign of Integrity.

(Unless our Belief is that we are never wrong) a healthy balance of Belief-Intolerance includes a Humbly-acknowledged-ignorance (see 1 Corinthians 13:12). That is the love and desire of the Truth. This is Faith.

A healthy balance of Belief-Intolerance and Humbly-acknowledged-ignorance makes for Open-mindedness. What strange bed fellows, Intolerance and Open-mindedness! But this is the tension between Belief and Faith.

Belief find its origin in man; Belief is man-made.

"Belief provides answers to people's questions while faith never does. People believe so as to find assurance, a solution, an answer to their questions to fashion for themselves a system of beliefs. Faith (biblical faith) is completely different. The purpose of revelation is not to supply us with explanations, but to get us to listen to questions." Jacques Ellul, "The Living Faith: Belief and Doubt in a Perilous World", 1983

Faith finds its genesis in God. Faith originates in God.

When this falls out of balance, close-mindedness ensues, either as an inflexible ridged abandonment of Humbly-acknowledged-ignorance (Faith), or as a patronizing passive pretense of tolerance. They are two sides of the same coin: Close-mindedness. I’d prefer the “inflexible-ridged-abandonment-of-Humbly-acknowledged-ignorance”-type. At least you know where you stand and can choose what to do about it. It’s the ”patronizing-passive-pretense-of-tolerance”-types that bother me.

Both presume to know the truth and love the truth they’ve come to know. But they have lost the desire of the Truth. But what they love is their Belief and not their Faith. Their journey is over. They’ve discovered their goal. The gates of Open-mindedness are closed. They have closed their gates of ijtihad (Islam's lost tradition of independent thinking, as opposed to taqlid, which is imitation, really obedience to tradition.). Their ability to grow is crippled if not outright killed. Their Faith is dead.

Belief is to be seen as belief, not as fact. When we see our beliefs as facts, then we are deluding ourselves. When we see our beliefs as beliefs, then we are not. Seeing things in their true light is the most important thing in Buddhism. Deluding ourselves is the cause of much suffering. So Buddhists try to see beliefs as beliefs. They may still believe in certain things - that is their prerogative - but they do not cling to those beliefs; they do not mind or worry about whether their beliefs are true or not, nor do they try to prove that which they know cannot be proved.

I like this of what Buddhism says.
Belief says, I know the answer.
Faith says I don't.

Belief is comfortable.
Faith is scary.

Belief builds religions.
Faith threatens them.

I think we miss the point of the story of Jesus walking on water (Mat. 14:22-33).

"Tell me to come to you on the water."

Peter walked on water!! Faith is gifted. He began to sink, not because he lacked faith, but because of his dependency on Belief squeezed out his remaining Faith. He thought he needed some sort of belief-system... some sort of religion.

"You of little faith. Why did you doubt?"

Jesus asks. "Why did you choose religious-dependency over me?" Then He immediately saves Peter from drowning - from his religiosity.

This is Belief at the expense of Faith. Beliefs are constructs.

Beliefs are...



Jough said...

James 1:2-9

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. 6But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; 8he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.

When I was a fundamentalist I interpreted this scripture as saying I shouldn't doubt conservative evangelical theology. When I read it just now it seemed to be saying that you should have faith in the wisdom that God has already granted you. So if you doubt, then pray, and still doubt, then maybe the thing you're doubting about is something you should be doubting about.

Maybe doubts aren't sin but pointers to a more refined belief. If we are to say belief is comfortable and faith is scary, then following the pointers of doubt is faith.

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