Tag Archives: Faith

Faith Without Thinking

But not unthinking faith.

Alice Ilgenfritz Jones and Ella Merchant. 1893

I’ve been nominally a Christian since I was baptised as a baby. It’s in recent years that I’ve taken it seriously, trying to live by Christian principals. I’ve not done anything criminal or deliberately hurt anyone, nevertheless I’m probably not what you might call a good Christian.

I go to church each Sunday. I meet with Christian friends and discuss what being a Christian means. I read the Bible, sometimes. That might be part of what makes me Christian but not necessarily a good one.

Often on weekdays and when I’m not with my Christian friends, I am not thinking about behaving as a Christian. Of course it shouldn’t be necessary to be thinking about it all the time. Which is the point I probably need to explain a little more.

This post was inspired by a paragraph from a book, Unveiling A Parallel (To be reviewed later on Entertaining Angels Bookshelf). The passage is:

“Do you often hear an upright man professing his honesty? It is part of himself. He is so free of the law which enjoins honesty that he never gives it a thought. So with the man who is truly religious and no longer needs to guide himself bit by bit and rein, or measure his conduct by the written code.”
– From Unveiling a Parallel by Alice Ilgenfritz Jones and Ella Merchant 1893.

The book is fiction. We can still learn something from it, just as we learn from Jesus’ parables which were fiction but contained a truth.

The person referred to in the quoted passage never thinks about his religion which, in the book, we are not told what it is. The point is that he doesn’t need to think about it. Its principals are so deeply ingrained within him, that he doesn’t need to think about them to live by them. It is, or has become, his natural way of living, of conducting himself.

As Christians, shouldn’t we be aiming to live by Jesus’ teaching, to the extent we do not need to constantly think about it?  I’m not suggesting we should not think about or discuss The Bible and God and Jesus, just that living by its principals ought to become second nature to us, or that we should aim that it does.

In Faith We Doubt

Would faith today be so widespread without Thomas?

Doubting Thomas, by Hendrick ter Brugghen, c. 1622

I wonder what you think might be one of the crucial momnets related to Christ’s resurrection? For me, it is the moment Jesus lets Thomas see, and touch for himself his wounds, the marks of his crucifixion (John 20:24-29). Would the events have been so plausible without Thomas’ insistence on seeing the evidence himself.

All the disciples except Thomas saw Jesus on the evening of the day of his resurrection. Thomas was not with them, we do not know where he was at that time. Maybe he was out procuring supplies. It was another week before Thomas also saw Jesus when he appeared to them again.

Thomas must have had a strong character. For a week he resisted the peer pressure of his friends and fellow disciples, before Jesus appeared to them again when all were present. Thomas doubted but there is no suggestion he didn’t believe. Thomas asked the question I probably would, you probably would and I suspect most believers might ask.

Unbelief is quiet different from doubt, it includes denial, which Thomas never did. I suspect that at some time of life everyone who has a faith doubts at some time, to some degree. I have. Sometimes we all need some kind of sign.

When Jesus appeared the second time, he let Thomas see and touch his wounds then said to him “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (UKNIV). These words could easily be perceived a rebuke to Thomas, for his doubt. Perhaps it was; I do not think so.

I think Jesus’ remark was encouragement, to the disciples and future generations. Encouragement for all the people of the time and to come, who could only rely on the testimony of people like Thomas and would rely on word of mouth and later, the gospels we rely on today.

With thanks to Joanne for inspiring part of this post.

Weaving

Woven Into The Fabric Of Life.

I heard a remark on the radio, the station and programme is immaterial, about how in some places around the world the religion is “woven into the fabric of daily life”. It was one of those little moments that unexpectedly gave me pause for thought with a big question about my Christianity; how is it woven into the fabric of my daily life.

The answer I got was that it isn’t, at least most of the time it’s not anyway; not to the degree it should be. Sure I observe Sunday’s and worship in Church, and on the weeks I write and read the intercession prayer, I am reminded more of Jesus’ example and teachings as a way to try and live. There are moments throughout every day when I’m reminded of my Christianity, but there are time too when I forget it.

What does, or should, it mean for Christianity to be woven into the fabric of life? I suppose the answer might be different for everyone, and I’d love to know others views.

Perhaps just having asked the question is a small step in the right direction.

For now, I guess I’ll just have to muddle along and pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

A Good Death?

Is there really any such thing?

IMG_0085How do we we deal, or don’t deal with the only sure thing in life; death. Well for the most part, here in our comfortable, prosperous west we do not. We leave it to someone else; the doctors, nurses, care workers and ultimately the undertakers, although most of them seem to prefer to be called funeral directors these days.

We sometimes hear about ‘a good death’ or giving someone who is dying their dignity. I suspect that much of the time what we really mean is, making it more palatable for the living who must deal with the dying person. Let us face it, the dying person almost certainly does not care about dignity and in some cases, just wants to be free of pain. In these situations death can be a kind of healing, although few people see it this way, especially those of no religious belief.

I am not afraid of my own death, I never have been. I might well be afraid of the manner of my death if, when it comes close and has become foreseeable, it is to be painful. And I am afraid for my wife if I should die before her. I would cope better alone than her but I am not afraid of death itself.

Having said I am not afraid to die, my next assertion is entirely my personal opinion for which I have no objective evidence and little anecdotal evidence; I think that more people of no religion are afraid of death than people who have a faith. Regular readers will know I am Christian, and this influences my opinions.

Both my parents died some years ago. Mum in her 90s after a stroke and Dad twenty years ago in his 60s, from pancreatic cancer. Both of their deaths were in hospital and I was not present at either, as I live 80 miles away.

After Dad’s death, I saw his body at the undertakers and immediately wished I had not. Although the undertakers had done a fine job on Dad, he was not as I wanted to remember him. That image haunted (no pun intended) me for a long time, before I was able to see him again as he was before the cancer took him. Consequently, I never went to see Mum after she was laid out, so I found it much easier to remember her as she was before the stroke.

Immediately after the stroke, Mum was admitted to the stroke recovery ward in the hospital and, for a while, seemed to make good progress even though she was over 90 years of age. One piece of news I gave her that seemed to perk her up was that, although I have no children and Mum had no grandchildren by my brother either, I was to become a Godfather. Sadly she did not survive to see that day.

Later, Mum was moved from stroke unit to the elderly care ward. It is my belief, though of course I’ll never know for sure, that once she was moved to elderly care, she lost hope and gave up. She died in the elderly care ward.

Perhaps there is no good death, but just maybe there is a good time to die. Mum passed away on her wedding anniversary to Dad. It seemed an appropriate day from which my brother and I took a little comfort. Knowing Dad’s punctuality, I never knew him to be late for anything, my brother and I could imagine our parents’ reunion, “About time too, where have you been, keeping me waiting for 20 years”.

To every thing there is a season, and a
time to every purpose under the heaven: 
A time to be born, and a time to die
– Ecclesiastes 3: 1 – 2

Is Religion Man Made?

Making sense of God -sort of.

The title was a question posed in a discussion forum for an online history course. It raised an interesting discussion, that will never be answered definitively but this is my fourpennyworth on the subject.

I think it is first necessary to separate religion and faith. Secondly, who or what do we mean by God? I know I’m treading on dangerous ground here, but I am excluding man made gods and idols whether that be a statue like a golden calf or things we ‘worship’ today, like fashion, football and technology. So what are we now left with for God? Again treading on dangerously controversial ground, I dare to suggest that all religions ‘gods’, at least of the monotheistic religions may all actually be One God, who is given different names by different peoples. And that probably gives a clue already to my thinking on the original question.

Before going any further, I will state an assumption I make that, any/all atheists would argue that religion is man made. As an interesting aside, that I will not pursue here, is it a faith to believe that God does not exist or, put another way, does that mean that atheists have a kind of faith, which is not provable?

Having already separated religion and faith, I can say that I believe firmly that faith is God made, or perhaps better expressed as made available to us by God. Whether we choose to accept it is another matter entirely, as God that I believe in does not force it on anyone. Man has, on many occasions throughout history, tried to though; or has he? Is it faith man has tried to force on man, or religion? Whilst the instances of man forcing religion on man is somewhat less prevalent today, it is clear from the news media that it still goes on. What also clearly goes on, and has been reported on in news, is attempts to prevent apostasy, leaving a religion.

So, whilst faith is made available by God, religion is, I think, man made and God inspired. The need to answer questions that such a vast universe suggests to mankind, has led at least some humans to conclude that something or someone greater than they has been responsible for the creation. Religion then is perhaps humankind’s way of trying to make some kind of sense of the unimaginable, to our imperfect human mind. Man, not God, albeit inspired by Him, wrote the books about Him and devised the practices and rituals used to worship and glorify him. God gave us free will and the ability, often poorly or selfishly used, to think for ourselves, so we come up with wrong or incomplete answers, which is probably why there are different religions and even different sects within the same religion.

“Sometimes I believe 6 impossible things before breakfast”
“This is impossible” said Alice …..
“Only if you think it is” replied the Mad Hatter.
– from Lewis Carroll’s, Alice In Wonderland.

Prayer

Edited prayer, missed from Sunday 5th June 2016.

Prayer1-1-small.jpgEternal Father, creator of us all, who sent your son amongst us to be the Servant King who showed the way to freedom, help us to become His servants and find the true freedom He offers to all who have faith. Father Hear this prayer that we offer in Jesus name.

We pray for all who are not free, whether their captivity is physical, mental or of the spirit. May national and international leaders work for justice, peace and freedom where there is oppression, intolerance and dictatorship.

We pray Queen Elizabeth II, and remember her quoting her earthly father:

I said to a man who stood at the gate of the year, “Give me light that I may tread safely in to the unknown” and he replied, “Go out into the darkness, and put your hand into the hand of God. That shall be to you better than light , and safer than a known way.”

Let us follow our Queen Elizabeth II’s example, and each of us place our hand into God’s hand.

God of water, Lord of life, we pray for all being baptised today. We welcome them into Your holy family. Bless them and guide them now and throughout their lives that they may thrive.

May we who are Baptised be renewed in our baptismal promises in a spirit of love and trust.

Gracious God, we pray to You to lay your healing touch upon the unwell, the hurt and the injured, whether in mind, body or spirit. Let your healing power flow into them and fill them with renewed life and strength.

May the light of God surround them,
may Your presence enfold them,
and may Your power heal them.

Glorious and gracious Father, as we leave this place, let my ears hear you, let my eyes see You and my heart perceive you and as we feel your presence,
may we dream Your dreams, reflect Your love, do your work and may we taste your peace.

Merciful Father, accept this prayer for the sake of Your Son, our saviour, Jesus Christ.

Amen

The Others

This post was originally my response to a question in Christianity Through Its Scriptures.
How are those who belong defined or viewed by the ways in which they view or define those who don’t belong?

OthersWithin the Church of England church there seems to be a general acceptance of the ‘other’, whether that be different religions/denominations or no religion, humanists and/or atheist (if there is a difference).

The atheists, by contrast, whilst generally benign, have a significant number of members who accept no view but their own, some being quite aggressive about it.

A quick look at humanism.co.uk definition , while not explicitly anti Christian or religious, is implicitly so in the wording of their opening statement. They say in the first section of their definition, “and is therefore an atheist or agnostic”. But, since both atheism and religion is a matter of belief, with no absolute proof either way, is this fair?

It goes on to say “makes their ethical decisions based on reason, empathy, and a concern for human beings and other sentient animals”. Isn’t this what Christians do too, albeit that they express it differently?

Another preconception within the non-religious community of the UK seems to be how little the church gives to charity, and is in itself also a charity. Taking the second point first, it might be otherwise stated that it is supported by it’s members, just like the humanist society is, but is conveniently forgotten.

What the CofE gives to other charities, it runs into millions of pounds, but because it is often relatively small amounts here and there to different causes, it does not make news media like major charity initiatives such as Children In Need.

It seems that both the religious and non religious often perceive each other in an equally bad light. Christianity is a religion. At times, the non religious, in particular the humanist/atheist behave like their belief, for that’s what it is, a belief that there is no God, is a religion too.