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luthitarian

Faith As Acceptance And Trust

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To hear many Christians talk, the opposite or opponent of faith would be doubt. There is such fear in doubting, fear that it might destroy one's faith. "Don't question God!" Don't ask any questions!

 

Also, faith is often spoken of as if it meant 'belief' or 'creed', as in "What faith are you?" or "What is your faith?"

 

But, I would suggest, and I'm sure this is something that will resonate with many of you, that faith is not about belief in a doctrine or proposition, but about trust in a relationship. And that relationship will sustain one in tough times when questions abound. There is the acceptance that we don't have the answers, that there may be no answers, but we are called and empowered to live in that space devoid of answers if necessary. :unsure: Faith grants the courage to face the questions and to be the questioner. And in so questioning, grow in faith (something, I'm sure, many of us here have experienced on our journey to progressive Xianity.) :)

 

So, what is the opposite of, or opposition to, faith? I would say 'certitude'. Where one is certain (or believes one is certain) there is no need for faith. Where there is certitude there is no room for growth, and certitude clings to the propositions and dogmas as fixed and eternal, so the possibility for future growth is virtually nonexistent. :angry:

 

Faith, as certitude, is dead; whereas faith as open and questioning is alive and growing--just as our faith in those we love and trust grows and changes and as our relationships are grounded in more and more experience of one another.

 

Questioning and doubting can be damned uncomfortable--painful even! Bt this pain amounts to the growing pains of faith. <_<

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I'm not sure, however, that it fits with the spirit of Point 2. The traditional Christianity (as defined since the Enlightenment), may not be compelling to you or me, but it still is compelling to millions and should be honored as a valid living faith.

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I would agree with your observations, luthitarian, to the extent that fatherman's observations apply. Even in an environment of rapidly changing beliefs, such as we are all experiencing these days, the traditional forms of belief need to be respected and supported. To say that they are dead is a subjective evaluation based upon a certain perspective. This all cannot be viewed as fixed events in time, but must be evaluated as a process in time that unfolds at the core of human culture. It is organic and spiritual in nature and not material.

 

Many of us see and, to an extent, understand the rapid changes that we are all caught up in and cannot escape, but others cannot. While certain sets of beliefs will render some unable to cope and survive in the futures that are being created around them, we hope that enough belief forms will adapt and change so that a future may be created that is as supportive as it may be for differing belief systems. Unless I am greatly mistaken, that is the real purpose of this progressive movement.

 

Of course these are the sorts of cultural war games that we see each day in the news, such as the party in power's reliance upon demonization techniques to mollify its voting base in order to maintain power and control over society in certain ways. These sorts of activities are the really corrupting and destructive forces of contemporary culture in the US, IMO. To openly and legally restrict an individual's or group of individual's rights to "being" simply because they are what and who they are, and not because of their individual choices, is an open and blatant offense against life, and all of us in the end, become increasingly threatened by these activities.

 

Conflict is never pretty or fruitful. It only diminishes life force. I believe that this was the core teaching that Jesus gave us, and what leads to the eventual triumphs we have seen this century in the campaigns led by King, Ghandi, et al. Passive and peaceful resistance to conflict and confrontation were oddly enough summed up by Mayor Nagin of New Orleans when he recently won reelection. " First they laugh at you. Then they ignore you. Then they fight you. Then they lose!"

 

The pace of technological and scientific change is only going to quicken and render more and more traditional beliefs irrational and inapplicable to future human life IMO. That's what this is all about. We need to start building the right sort of busses to hold enough believers so that we can ride into the future together to experience the life that awaits us all.

 

flow.... :rolleyes:

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I would agree with your observations, luthitarian, to the extent that fatherman's observations apply. Even in an environment of rapidly changing beliefs, such as we are all experiencing these days, the traditional forms of belief need to be respected and supported. To say that they are dead is a subjective evaluation based upon a certain perspective. This all cannot be viewed as fixed events in time, but must be evaluated as a process in time that unfolds at the core of human culture. It is organic and spiritual in nature and not material.

 

Many of us see and, to an extent, understand the rapid changes that we are all caught up in and cannot escape, but others cannot. While certain sets of beliefs will render some unable to cope and survive in the futures that are being created around them, we hope that enough belief forms will adapt and change so that a future may be created that is as supportive as it may be for differing  belief systems. Unless I am greatly mistaken, that is the real purpose of this progressive movement.

 

Of course these are the sorts of cultural war games that we see each day in the news, such as the party in power's reliance upon demonization techniques to mollify its voting base in order to maintain power and control over society in certain ways. These sorts of activities are the really corrupting and destructive forces of contemporary culture in the US, IMO. To openly and legally restrict an individual's or group of individual's  rights to "being" simply because they are what and who they are, and not because of their individual choices, is an open and blatant offense against life, and all of us in the end, become increasingly threatened by these activities.

 

Conflict is never pretty or fruitful. It only diminishes life force. I believe that this was the core teaching that Jesus gave us, and what leads to the eventual triumphs we have seen this century in the campaigns led by King, Ghandi, et al. Passive and peaceful resistance to conflict and confrontation were oddly enough summed up by Mayor Nagin of New Orleans when he recently won reelection. " First they laugh at you. Then they ignore you. Then they fight you. Then they lose!"

 

The pace of technological and scientific change is only going to quicken and render more and more traditional beliefs irrational and inapplicable to future human life IMO. That's what this is all about. We need to start building the right sort of busses to hold enough believers so that we can ride into the future together to experience the life that awaits us all.

 

flow.... :rolleyes:

I would say, though, that all great traditions began as an awareness of something beyond one's self--the Ultimate, the Tao, or whatever. In some cases it was a theistic transcendence, in others, perhaps, a sense of the human spirit as transcendent, or of the web of life, or what Thich Nhat Hanh calls 'interbeing', as transcendent. There is that awareness that we are part of--and related to--that which is bigger than we are.

 

However, it doesn't seem to take long that belief becomes more important than that relationship to the transcendent. When I put my faith in a belief which points to a deeper reality, I make the mistake Buddhists call mistaking the moon for the finger pointing to it. I allow my belief to become a wall shutting me off from others even as I shut others out.

 

Anselm's view of the atomement, for example, has become the belief by which many insist God redeemed humanity. To them, if you don't believe Jesus died for our sins in quite the way that Anselm laid it out, then, your belief is wrong and you are not Christian. Still, even in Scripture and in the witness of the Fathers (and Mothers) of the Church, Anselm's argument is hardly the only way of looking at the atonement.

 

There are those today, who go way beyond anything that has been traditionally creedal in nature. If you have the wrong politics, you are not a Christian (just ask Ann Coulter or Tim LaHaye).

 

If our faith is in one whose message included a radical inclusion of everyone unconditionally, then what if our allowing belief to dictate who is 'in' and who is 'out'? With our faith in the God to whom Jesus points, it seems hard to not be inclusive and openly welcoming in the same way, instead of allowing belief to create walls and put the Transcendent into a box.

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Of all of the 8 points this is the one I have to wonder if I can really embrace. Assuming I understand it correctly.

 

I have no question that other people in the world have different names for God's realm and the ways that lead to it.

I have no question that in this world everyone should have the maximum freedom to find and follow those realms and ways.

I have no question that all human religions have elements in common and they all have things of beauty and wisdom to offer.

I have no question that they embrace their ways with the same faith and dedication that I embrace mine. Where I have a problem would be what seems to be a metaphysical assumption: all ways are true.

There are sufficient differences among religions that they can't all be true. They can all be false. They can all be a mix of true and false. They can all be a mix of true and "irrelevant differences". But where they differ and where those differences come on important issues, there must be a decision made. Not by me for everyone, but by each person for hirself. What I want to avoid is the sort of "tolerance" which says "Of course what you believe is true for you . . . because it really doesn't matter what you believe.". I don't think any person of serious faith could see that as a positive statement. It could be dismissive, as in "I don't respect the statements of your religion enough to take them seriously.". I, for one, would rather face someone who is willing to say, "I understand what you're saying, but I think your belief is wrong . . . and here's why."

 

From this can come a respectful dialogue. All too often the "All religions are true" can come from a "I don't care what you believe and don't bother me with it." or "All religions are true to the extent that they share in my (often a form of benign rational humanism or mystical New Age-ism) metareligion . . . and untrue to the extent that they don't."

I believe that my faith, in it's core, what C.S. Lewis called "Mere Christianity" is a correct description of reality and how it works.

I believe that the faithful of other religions hold the same opinions concerning their core beliefs.

I believe that other religions to the extent that they contradict this core, aren't accurate descriptions of reality and how it works.

I will no more use this to force my religion on someone else than I would want them to force their religion on me.

But I find I must maintain the rational belief that contradictions cannot both be true.

 

Can this shading of the matter still qualify as holding to the Second Point?

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i would say it is better to invest one's energy into oneself and one's own system of worship than to judge other system's.

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i would say it is better to invest one's energy into oneself and one's own system of worship than to judge other system's.

 

No question about that, you're right.

 

Maybe I'm worrying too much about a distinction I make that doesn't really matter outside my own head.

 

Won't be the first time. :)

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"their ways are true for them, as our ways are true for us"

 

It came up before there was this section here, on one of the main message boards, that some wouldn't say it this way. If I say something "works for me", I'm talking about something like the above. I don't see "truth" as so relative, but as soma suggests, it's not where one needs to be putting one's energy.

 

More important to me would be if the idea that faith is trust and devotion caught on, rather than whoever believes the hardest has the greatest faith. Faith is trusting God despite uncertainty. As has also been written elsewhere here, Marcus Borg has a nice chapter on this in The Heart of Christianity.

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David D,

 

I very much like the way you put that

"their ways are true for them, as our ways are true for us"
. I could get along with that. And yes, I agree it is a matter of where you put your energy: arguing "truth" or respecting one another and working on my own path.

 

And I agree about what faith is: trust. As a matter of fact, I often use "trust" rather than "faith" when discussing or teaching on following Christ because the word "faith" has gotten so much junk attached to it, the main part of which is that the "stronger" your faith, the more power or certainty you have. As though it all depends on how much "faith" we can muster and not on God's grace.

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Traveller, Jesus is guiding your every step. You took the first step a long time ago and believe that Christ's deeper reality is real. You have the passion and dedication and are taking the steps out of separetness to wholeness. I bow to the divinity within you.

 

David D,

 

I very much like the way you put that . I could get along with that. And yes, I agree it is a matter of where you put your energy: arguing "truth" or respecting one another and working on my own path.

 

And I agree about what faith is: trust. As a matter of fact, I often use "trust" rather than "faith" when discussing or teaching on following Christ because the word "faith" has gotten so much junk attached to it, the main part of which is that the "stronger" your faith, the more power or certainty you have. As though it all depends on how much "faith" we can muster and not on God's grace.

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Where I have a problem would be what seems to be a metaphysical assumption: all ways are true.

 

To say that 'All ways are correct, right, or true' or 'it does not matter what you believe as long as you believe' is a poorer understanding. So, Traveller, this statement also bothers me. However, this is how I understand:

 

Religions are not paths to some end like heaven or hell or eternity. Relgions--structured by people, tainted and corrupted, but inspired by real faith--are transformative processes and not means to an end.

 

So, maybe I am just repeating what was said ealier, but, to focus on "Can we all be right?" is not where our wisdom should be. Rather we should be asking "Is my faith alive?", "Am I living wisdom?". So I encourage all of my brothers and sisters to be submissive in seeing the growth of each person in the universe and not the religious stance. For I have learned that by holding to dogma and religion one eventually contradicts oneself if one has opened his heart to love and compassion. And in that way I am EXCEEDINGLY GRATEFUL that I was raised in the Christian faith, becuase the body of knowledge transforms if one submits himself. Yes, the Christian body of knowledge is not perfect, like the Muslim body of knowledge is not perfect. So then neither are the true way, but both can be transformative to right understanding.

 

So then, all religions, coupled with our human experience, contain the way, but, all relgions then are not the way and are not true. One who says, "it doesn't matter believe anything, all roads lead the same way, enjoy your life" this person is still attached to the religion and has still not come to understand the way within.

 

But now you may say to me, Socrates8, aren't you judgeing those people who say the above.

 

As children of God or oneness, we are all at different understandings within the path or religion we have chosen to undertake. We are all of the same substance and the same family. We are all at different phases, steps, or wisdoms. This is why Jesus so clearly says, but is so often ignored to "Do not judge. Or you too will be judged in the measure that you judge."

 

Beliefs that are truly lived will transform you and bring you to higher understanding. This happens as one lives by faith working together with action as James in the Bible says.

 

;) Please examine my imperfect words!!!!!

 

B) Peace and Blessings,

Socrates8

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"imperfect words"? No, I think you are speaking great wisdom. I have kept after this question"are all religions true?" and found much wisdom I hadn't realized before. What you have to say speaks volumes. In a way it was a conflict of head vs. heart. In my heart I couldn't really believe that others were all heading down the wrong road. Especially since I have found great wisom in other religions (the Sufi's especially). Meanwhile, my head (or actually, a fairly rigid and literal intepretation of the Bible) was saying "There is only one Truth! How can conflicting ideas all be true?"

 

I did some diggiing and came across the work of Huston Smith and Frithjof Schuon, both of which have an approach I can handle: all religions are right in claiming exclusive truth (on the exoteric level, the worldly level of form) and all religions are united as expressions of the Absolute (on the esoteric, mystical, metaphysical level). Now this sounded contradictory at first: all are true, yet all can claim that only they are true. But in studying, it made sense. I was especially comfortable with it because it wasn't the sort of "ecumenism" I've run into before (often in the liberal context) which buys peace at the price of denigrating other religions (i.e. all religions are equally true because they're all wrong. or "I can believe in the truth of other religions by assuming mine is mistaken")

 

In other words, my problem wasn't with the idea of all religions being true, but with the simplistic and shallow explanations of that idea.

 

Thank you for your ideas. They are keepers. ;)

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Ideas don't come from small-minded men; they first come from the higher deeper layers of the mind before they are established in the lower layers. When we reflect on unity in the higher layers of the mind, we get acquainted with different spiritual aspirations and endeavors realizing that there are different upward paths in a variety of religions. As we climb and scale the mind from the lower layers to the higher layers the differences in traditional religions diminish because all paths that ascend lead to God. Evolution of knowledge comes from inside and then is built into the life outside in a life of love and unity.

 

People who practise the religion about Jesus say other religions are not true. They are not experts in these religions and it shows they are not experts on Christianity either. Why would they spend so much time trying to prove other ways inferior? It seems they are not secure in their own faith. Those that are secure and practise the religion of Jesus by having a personal relationship with Christ and spiritual experience with the Spirit, if they study other religions it is to go deeper in their relationship and experience. They are true Christians and not the superficial ones pointing fingers. Their fingers are held together in unity, contemplation and deep prayer.

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I did some diggiing and came across the work of Huston Smith and Frithjof Schuon, both of which have an approach I can handle: ;)

 

Hey AT, have you visited http://www.cutsinger.net/articles.html ? He is an expert on Schuon and does the compiling of Schuon's work for publication. He does his own writing as well, which is very good. You can find many articles at that link.

Edited by Kay

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Kay & AT,

 

Sort of an aside to the topic, but can you recommend a book by Huston Smith? I've seen his name mentioned alot but thought he was more in the traditional category. Is he considered a Progressive?

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Huston Smith is in a category all his own. :D

 

I've read The World's Religions, a book that discusses the major world religions. It's very good if you want a well rounded view of what different people believe. I'd consider it the must have primer on the topic.

 

I've read The Soul of Christianity. In it Smith unpacks his view of Christianity, which, unless you're somewhat familiar with the perennial philosophy, can be confusing. I really enjoyed it however. Smith is easy to read.

 

I've read Why Religion Matters. It's a bit of a polemic against what Smith calls "scientism," the blind faith that some put in science while condeming religion. It's been my least favorite so far, but still a good book.

 

You might enjoy the interview (streaming video) with Smith on the Meaning of Life TV (website) before deciding to buy any of his books. It's a great site with many interesting interviews.

 

Here is his homepage, it lists everything available from him.

 

Smith would be considered a pluralist (or perhaps a universalist), so although he's Christian, you'll find other sources (Hindu, Buddhist) in his writings to explain his philosophy.

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Hey AT, have you visited http://www.cutsinger.net/articles.html ?

 

I've stumbled across Mr. Cutsinger in several books of Schuon's he's edited and an excellent book

Paths of the Heart based on a conference between Eastern Christians and Sufi's (with a strong Traditionalist element) which took place not long after 9/11. I've found his work very readable and clear.

 

I find the work of men such as Cutsinger and Smith especially good because they give an approach to religious pluralism/tolerance which doesn't involve any sort of "tossing the baby out with the bathwater" i.e. sacrificing elements that are valuable in any religion for the sake of some sort of ecumenical goal.

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... they give an approach to religious pluralism/tolerance which doesn't involve any sort of "tossing the baby out with the bathwater" i.e. sacrificing elements that are valuable in any religion for the sake of some sort of ecumenical goal.

 

That's quite true. Others that are interested in pluralism (John Hick comes to mind) are very much against the philosophies that make a tradition unique. For example, Hick is anti-trinitarian. He misses the point, I think.

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Kay,

 

Thanks for the info on Smith, sounds like he's mainly known for comparative religion...I'll look for the Soul of Christianity. (my computer can't handle streaming video, unfortunately!) Also curious about Schuon, that name was new to me.

 

I just bought The Emerging Christianity, 2006, a collection of essays. The Marcus Borg one relates to this topic: "The emerging paradigm recovers the pre-modern Christian understanding of believing. It is trust and loyalty that transform us. Beliefs may precede them or follow them or remain quite unconnected to them. But beliefs do not save us, do not transform us. Trust and loyalty do. This combination of trust and loyalty is... the primary meaning of faith. This centering is the purpose of the Christian life; centering in God and centering in God's passion for the world. This is the vision at the heart of transformation- centered Christianity."

 

[The difference he points out, is something I have experienced in my life, for sure--especially as a non-churchgoer. It's been a long and painful learning process.]

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Very well put. I especially like the phrase you use "transformation centered Christianity". That is what real Christianity is about: NOT having a set of intellectual propositions to which you give intellectual assent, but a relationship of trust (another word for 'faith') and loyalty which moves you to a life of change and development. This is, fortunately, being reborn with works like Dallas Willard, Richard Foster and the reborn interest in the disciplines of the Christian life, the work of the Desert Fathers, the Orthodox monastics, even more esoteric folks like Gurdjieff, Mouravieff, Ourspensky, the Sufis and the like.

 

It's the idea that being a Christian involves being changed. Not just in some hard-to-detect metaphysical way (being "born again") but in the day-to-day operations of life and heart and mind. It's a change of consciousness. This, of course, wouldn't be popular with more conservative folks, since the key to this sort of thing is "no more business as usual". What comes under examination is not just surface or exoteric matters (abortion, sexual morality, etc.) but the deepest assumptions of how we live (the profit motive, the place of political power, the place of ego, etc.). This is where St. Paul's phrase "work out your salvation with fear and trembling" is made real: not just saying the sinners' prayer and going back to business as usual, but the hard work of cooperating with God in the reshaping of who we are at the deepest level. When you're doing that sort of work everything is up for grabs. Very hard, very dangerous, very challenging, but very worthwhile.

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Alans nice post, I hope this doesn't offend anyone.

 

Very few people saw the ascended Christ when he was on earth because very few had achieved a measure of Christ consciousness to trust and believe that he was united with everything. Even today people think Christ is something that happened 2,000 years ago, something separate from us, but he is a living awareness constantly and continuously in pure consciousness. Every individual has the right to enter the same Christ consciousness that Jesus experienced, the ‘pure I’ consciousness by dedicating the mind to the recognition and realization of God’s omnipresence, seeing only one presence and one power in this world and that is God. When Jesus spoke of “The Father within,” he was referring to God as his consciousness, his ‘pure I’ consciousness. It is impossible to incase infinity in the body, the mind or anything else, but our consciousness can embrace infinity. One can’t know God with reason, but one can with the spiritual experience in God's pure consciousness.

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Very well put. I especially like the phrase you use "transformation centered Christianity". That is what real Christianity is about: NOT having a set of intellectual propositions to which you give intellectual assent, but a relationship of trust (another word for 'faith') and loyalty which moves you to a life of change and development.

 

Here comes Kay with another serendipitous comment ... ;)

 

Over the past few days I've been doing research into post-liberalism and neo-orthodoxy, which of course brings up "propositional theology" versus "narrative theology." Interesting stuff, with which I was relatively unfamiliar, but now I'm running into it all over the place.

 

Yes, there are propositional truths found in scripture, but there aren't as many as certain Christians think. Scripture is narrative that moves (hopefully) one to a relationship with the Divine; that allows insight into deep truths about the universe and mankind; and that gives hope for and motivation for the future. .

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