Why Faith?

More from Fr Alexander’s I Believe:

More than once in my life I have had to stand at the bedside of a dying child in terrible suffering. And what? Could I explain anything at all to those who stood around the bed? Could I vindicate or justify these sufferings and this death “religiously”, as they say? No, I was only able to say: God is here, God is. I could only confess how impossible it is to measure that presence with our sorrow-filled, earthly questions.

How starkly this contrasts with the work of apologists who can explain anything and don’t hesitate to tell us why there is suffering and death. At one point, I think I may have understood why people suffer and why there is death. I don’t think I do any more. Sure, I know the textbook answers, but they seem inadequate. I know that many people find them unsatisfactory. I do know that I AM. I have faith because I AM — God is so real that I cannot escape the reality of his presense. Fr Alex goes on:

No, of course faith is not the product of my need for explanations. But then where does it come from? Does it come from fear of suffering after death? Or does it come from being frightened of total annihilation, from that passionate and ultimately egotistical inner desire not to be annihilated? No, this is not why I believe, for it seems to me that speculations about life after death and immortality—even the most intellligent philosophical speculations—are just so much childish babbling. What do I know about all this? And what can I tell others?

(Emphasis mine.) Here we clearly see apophatic theology at work. Admitting that talk about the things like the afterlife; the “rapture”; “post-”, “pre-”, or “mid-trib”; etc. sounds like “so much childish babbling” is a start in the right direction of contextualizing theology.

7 thoughts on “Why Faith?”

  1. Lament

    The following is excerpted from my sermon on Sunday. I think it ties in nicely with your post…

    My wife recently spoke with someone who does counseling for a living. This woman told of a number of people who came into her office after Hurricane Katrina. They expressed doubt and frustration with God. Many of them were fed up with God and with the church.

    What I personally found alarming was her mention of the number of people ready to give up on their faith and their belief. I wonder if this might be an indictment on the state of Christian faith in our nation? I think we’ve lost a place for grief, lament, and despair in our faith as it is currently expressed.

    Far too often, when someone gives voice to doubts, questions, or frustrations, especially in the wake of such tragedy, the church offers quick and easy answers.

    Instead of allowing space and permission to mourn, grieve and lament, we offer this sort of help:

    • It was God’s will,
    • It’s all in God’s hands,
    • God gave them what they deserved,
    • You don’t have to cry, you’ll be with them again in heaven someday,
    • All you need is just a bit more faith.

    It doesn’t help that Popular Christian authors write books like, “Your Best Life Now” and “Living the Extraordinary Life.” They market a brand of faith that too easily dismisses the hard stuff of life.

    They say: just a little more faith, just a little more trust in God, just a little larger vision, and you will soon be on the road to greater blessing and prosperity.

    But where are these folks to answer your questions when the worst of life comes crashing down on you? Where are they when grief, despair, and all the questions are more than you think you can bear?

    Our bible contains a book called the “Lamentations.” The book of Job, considered to be one of the oldest writings in the world, is one of the most frank and in depth writings on the subject of suffering, covering the depths of Jobs despair.

    Those who read the Psalms with regularity know how many of them cry out to God in grief and despair. Out of 150 psalms, 50 express and explore the “shadow” and “darker” emotions of our human experience.

    Like the Psalm we read this morning, these psalms cry out in grief and lament. They beg and implore God to break into our reality. The seek him to change the course of desperation.

    The witness of these psalms is that God can handle our lament, our grief, our doubt, our frustration. God expects us to air these things out. God is not shocked by them. I believe the psalms encourage us to pray this way.

    Thanks for letting me “preach” here…

    Jim

    1. Re: Lament

      Jim,

      That’s a good message, and it does tie right back in to what Fr Alex said.

      Today in the study I’m in, a (mennonite) grandmother asked how to talk to her grandson about faith. She wanted her grandson to know the Truth. “How do you talk about wonder and awe?”

      Which is the whole point here: we don’t have faith because God’s existance explains it all (the Intelligent Design approach). We believe because I AM.

      This has me thinking now. Thanks!

      1. Re: Thanks

        I’ve only read two others of his books — Our Father and… wait a second… maybe I have this book. Green cover with a bell on the front? Celebrations of Faith, vol1? I think I have that. It was mistakenly sent to me instead of a different book.

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