Friday, 22 August 2014

Sane Faith

Recently, I have been reflecting on 'faith'. Is faith wishful thinking; do we have faith in order to believe in the ridiculous? This issue has been raised on various occasions, in which it has affected my Christian life down the track. This misinterpretation means for some people that: faith is merely gap filler, which convinces one to believe in something without two thoughts. This is in reference to how Richard Dawkin's defines faith as "an evil[,] precisely because it requires no justification and brooks no argument". This misunderstanding has been used to credit the misunderstanding that is 'post-modern spirituality', of which touched on earlier (see here). But is Dawkin's definition of faith true? Short answer, definitely not. The long answer though will need us to explore two of faith's dimensions of trust: in testimony; and in relationship. 

Trust In Testimony - Faith's Relationship With Evidence 

For Christians, their faith predominantly is underpinned by the Bible; this means we believe that the content of the Bible is true, that it is God's word. Just to clarify, the bible wasn't compiled to form a knock-down document to demonstrate proof for God. I am sure that an all knowing and all powerful being would have plenty of other methods if that was his intention. God's intentions for the Bible is difficult to explain broadly, but in one aspect it is his tool for equipping his people, us. The Christian faith's relationship with evidence therefore, isn't one that is underpinned by body of physical artifacts that are sufficient proof for the existence God. Rather, our belief trusts in the testimonies given by God's people, and furthermore, what God's word means to and for us. Think about what proof means for a moment. The problem with proof is that it is so ambiguous to know for sure when something is actually proven. Take this definition of proof: as evidence or argument establishing a fact or the truth of a statement. If you think about it hard enough it is actually a lot messier to prove something. 

One aspect of faith is that it doesn't rely on proof, but evidence - spoken word, testimonies - that testifies to the belief. This idea may send mixed messages, as it has done to me before. Since it can be easy to say faith is an excuse to not bother to weigh the reasonableness or likeness of something. However this is not so, precisely because faith is only more credible when one does weighs the reasonableness of God's promise. Faith's relationship with evidence and the problem with proof may be expanded through this analogy:

Bob has been saving up his money for several years in order to buy his first smart phone. Just after its release, Bob manages buys an I-phone 5.  After a month of regularly using it, he inevitably learns about how many of its features work. 

Thereafter, one of Bob's work mates, Sam, received a text message from Bob saying how he has the new I-phone 5. Sam was amazed that Bob got it so early, and asked for proof that he had it. Sam explained to Bob he has to bring it with him to his house the next day as proof. 

A series of events happen and Bob found that he cannot possibly retrieve the I-phone. Measuring with this Sam's expectation of proof , Bob cannot possibly prove to Sam that he has or at least had an I-phone 5.

When Bob explained to Sam his situation, Sam refused to believe Bob's claim of his possession. After dwelling on his curiosity, Sam challenged Bob to recall everything he knew about the I-phone 5: its functions, additional and defining features, applications, graphics, processor, description of design, faults. He also had Bob ring his family and a few friends, of whom gave a testament to Bob having an I-phone to Sam. Sam was amazed at both the breadth of Bob's account and the additional testimonies. Thereafter, he decided to trust Bob that he had an I-Phone 5.

Sam believed Bob precisely because of the evidence he gave them. Does the fact that Bob cannot provide proof for his testimony mean that it is merely wishful thinking? The evidence doesn't prove its existence to Sam, however, it presents a body of information which demonstrates how Bob's claim is reliable and trustworthy. These accounts of Bob's I-phone demonstrate how believing in Bob's claim isn't wishful thinking. 

One Dimension of the Christian Faith 

This is the same for the Christian faith. When challenges and choices arise or when one prophesies, one may weigh such things with what the bible says. Christians hesitate, we are challenged. This was demonstrated through Sam's hesitance to trust in Bob. Because what are the odds of Bob losing his I-Phone just before he was going to show Sam? Thereafter, Bob's understanding of the I-Phone demonstrated an aspect of truth which made his claim more trustworthy. God provided his word for us to weigh the doubtful. Sam's willingness to seek the truth reflects a part of understanding God's word. That is to say, it is easier to explore and understand what the Bible says with a soft heart. Some people take more time to weigh their belief in God, and that's all good. When a Christian says they have faith, they look back on Jesus' story. They - we - believe in a God who so loved us, that he sent his only son, Jesus, to save us (see John 3: 16). The Bible, shows a God who recognizes our struggles, who suffered for us, and who speaks new life; we believe the Bible shines the brightest and only hope in our broken world. 

So when one asks 'is faith wishful thinking?' The answer should be precisely no! To have faith for a Christian in regards to trusting in testimony, is to be equipped with God's word. This means being steadfast in God's word, willingly seeking truth and challenge your doubts.  

This video is an amazing song that reminds what Christians believe in, so that we may be encouraged in times of hardship. Hit up the beatz, chur!

Thursday, 14 August 2014

The Lord is My Shepherd

Karen recently finished a painting she was doing for a friend. It was a painting representing Psalm 23, The Lord is my Shepherd. It's been in the corner of our lounge for the past two years, so it's strange to see it gone. The room seems empty without it. I've also noticed that I'm thinking Psalm 23 a whole lot less. You see, every time I looked at it, I thought the psalm. Which was a good thing, cause it's such a great psalm, full of some awesome truths about trusting in God and how He feels about me.

I have a similar thing at school. Opposite my chair, Karen painted me a picture of some hills and mountains and when I'm at the end of my tether (which happens regularly!), I look up to the hills from whence cometh my help. It doesn't magically solve my problems or even necessarily make things better, but it does remind me of my Father. It reminds me of my position as his son. And that's always a good thing. 

I also used to have a dot on my whiteboard and everytime I saw it I would say
Psalm 86:1

Teach me your way, O Lord,
    that I may walk in your truth;

I no longer do, but for a while, it brought God into my work, when otherwise I perhaps wouldn't have.

Other cultures and streams of Christianity repeat psalms or creeds. Some say prayers as they fiddle with beads. Sometimes these things have become empty and religious, but ultimately these things came about because, like me, people wanted to remind themselves of the truths of God on a regular basis. I think there is real wisdom in that.

It got me thinking of other ways I can place truths from the bible into my life in a regular, non-religious way. I once had the Nicene Creed on the back of the toilet door, but I never memorised anything more than the first few lines.

Perhaps there is a way you can work the bible in your life? I could probably do with something around Matthew 7:5 in my car somewhere...

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Get some perspective

Life can be hard, (no duh Belle, state the obvious) but I often find myself forgetting that struggles and hard times are all a part of the plan that God has laid out for us. Often I’ll be really struggling with something and I often find myself praying, 'God please stop this, it's too much.' But when I look back on that situation later I have this moment of just 'GOD IS SOOOOOO GOOD’ because often the hardest parts of my life have led to amazing things happening! 

Recently I've been in a production, & an actor’s job in rehearsal is to pretty much do what the director says. So when I'm struggling with something I take a step back and I get some perspective. God is like the director. He has planned the whole show out before the actor has even stood on the stage, God planned out our entire lives before we were even born. The director takes charge of the whole show; the lights, the sound, the costumes, the casting, making sure there's a person in the dressing rooms to keep your sanity intact. The director has control over these things so that the show goes as smoothly as possible. Same as God puts people in place & has everything sorted so you can fufil his plans to the best of your ability. 

when your really close up in a situation, it can be really hard to see whats really going on...
The movie ‘Soul Surfer’ which is an adaption of Bethany Hamilton’s story, Bethany was an up and coming professional surfer. At 13 her arm was bitten off by a shark while she was surfing. Bethany, after conquering many obstacles, is now once again a pro surfer living an amazing and inspiring life.  In the movie they made, her youth leader says:

 “When you’re really close up in a situation it can be really hard to see what’s really going on, stand back and get some perspective.”  

And she’s right, if you’re looking at something really close up, it’s not always easy to see what it is. So trust that God has a plan for even the hardest of moments in your life! :)

... So stand back and get some perspective

Jeremiah 29:11

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future"

Romans 8:28
28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose