Friday, January 1, 2016

The Eighth Day of Christmas: Beyond Belief to Faith

What we believe makes a difference.  Our belief in God, however, creates some real issues.  In one sense, this belief is very easy to hold, but on the other hand, it is very difficult.  It is hard to believe the idea of God presented in the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures, a God who can and does break through history. It is even more difficult to deal with Jesus of the Gospels.  This is quite obvious since there are so few authentic Christians.  John Wesley described most of us as “Almost Christian.”

To believe in God is easy, but to live with God is difficult.  Belief and faith are not the same thing.  Faith in God grows out of a real encounter in which something happens that cannot happen solely within a person’s thought life.  This encounter takes place with a God who is self-revealing and self-affirming and self-disclosing, a God who enters into our lives and history.  This God cannot be devised in human thinking.  God is always the absolute subject and can never become our object.  God is discovered only through God’s own self-disclosure.  This is why Advent and Christmas are so important— the “time” and the “story” may open us up enough for God to break through.  To believe in such a God is an affront to us, a real stumbling block.

The road of life is not easy. Bangor, Wales, 2015
Why?  Because if God is, then we are creatures!  We are not God.  This is anathema to us.  If we are creatures, we have been created by and are entirely dependent on God.  Certainly we are special creatures.  God can talk to us and we can reply.  But what irritates us is this business of being dependent upon God.  We want to go our own way.  We want to be our own God.  This attempt to emancipate ourselves from dependence has entangled us, both as individuals and as a world, throughout history, in a desperate, incurable contradiction of our own being.  Belief is one thing.  Faith is another.  Perhaps on this eighth day of Christmas we will be encountered and our belief will become faith.

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