What part does faith play in my life?

or "Why do I believe in God?"

Contents of this article:

  1. Where does my faith come from?
    1. Not does God exist, but what is his relevance to life.
    2. Inner conviction.
    3. A personal God
    4. Just as in the bible
    5. Just as in Jesus
  2. What are the characteristics of God that I experience in the relationship?
  3. Values from biblical themes to be applied in ethics.
    1. Responsibility to nurture, tend, and care for the world and its contents.
    2. An aversion to violence but not to conflict.
    3. A search for a dynamic peace.
    4. Anger at the exploitation of the vulnerable.
    5. A search for personal and corporate righteousness.
    6. Living for justice, respect and freedom.
    7. Conclusions

1. Where does my faith come from?

Not does God exist, but what is his relevance to life

There is a social argument for the existence of God. Seemingly all societies develop religion and have some appreciation of the presence of a spiritual world. There are also a whole range of other arguments for the existence of God. However I don't think I ever doubted God's existence. Whether you think of God as a being or simply as an idea, God's influence on human life is indisputable. There is therefore nothing to prove or disprove in that area.

What has really exercised my mind at times is whether God has any relevance to what I and others do day by day. There are times when God has seemed so distant that it has seemed just down to myself and my friends to make the best job of life as we can. There are other moments when God has seemed so close and relevant that you just have to include him. So for me relevance is the question, and if I am to explore relevance then I need to explore the source of my faith, as well as its content.

My faith in God rests not in beliefs about a religious book, useful though that is and I have some beliefs about such books. Neither does my faith in God rest in beliefs about the Church, a very improbable instrument of the will of God.

My faith comes from several foundations.

  1. First out of a deep inner conviction that God has always been around and has been an external and benign influence upon my life, and yet more than that.
  2. Secondly that God is willing to enter into a personal relationship with members of his creation. A real life interactive relationship in which prayer is my part in communicating with God, and through which issues raised in prayer are resolved in ways that border upon the magical.
  3. That living faith is confirmed as not just a fancy feeling. How? When I read the bible I find there the same God I experience, and historical people wrestling with the same doubts and concerns as I do.
  4. A powerful confirmation for me is Jesus. Most clearly this same God is the driving force in Jesus, in his life, works, hopes and dreams.

a. Inner conviction

Theologians refer to  a sense of the "numinous". For me this means God is present and experienced. There are parts of the world, of this creation, whose beauty so grabs attention that I feel there really is someone there. Moments when I've been simply overcome with a sense of awe and wonder at the marvels in front of me. On one occasion, pine trees that soared a hundred foot into a clear blue sky. On another occasion the Five Sisters mountains were reflected in the stillness of a morning loch. On another storm waves lashing a breakwater and promenade and seeming to hide the world. A never ending series of moments of marvel  at the variety and wonder and power at work in the world we know. (creation Stories)

And so, there has never been in any doubt in my mind is that God is creator.  When I see the order around me within the structure of things I see a logic in everything  that persuades me that there is a has to be a mind behind it all. I enjoyed the story that my wife found about Isaac Newton, who was studying a carefully crafted model of the solar system (an orary) that he had just taken delivery of. As he was enjoying this moment a friend arrived who was a non-believer, and seeing the model, he too marvelled at the beauty of the workmanship and asked who had made the model. "No-one! " said Sir Isaac, "It just came together by accident out of scrap in the workshop." (I enjoyed the story - but of course it doesn't prove anything - I believe God is creator, and the story beautifully expresses something of the belief.)

b. A personal God

There have been a range of moments when it seemed that someone was looking after me. e.g. as a teenage driver in Cornwall accidentally spinning a car between two granite hedges without touching anything. Such moments may sound trite to some. There are many who have had the same sort of experiences and when you are in the middle of it you know you have "got away with it", or been looked after. Such moments seem to speak of God who is present.

There is another area of experience that makes God personal. I remember in a time of deep searching that a sense of love  from without that swept in and wrapped my whole being. Just a fine feeling?  Not so. It brought healing and order to a troubled mind. It imparted a sense of worth, and more healed an alcoholic and brought life. For me it is the same healing power that flowed through Jesus, which brought healing to me. Fundamentally God is a God of love. (see the letters of John)

But within that same experience the nature of God was there for me. God wasn't one to rush in and do things without invitation. God was there willing to help when asked.  I find therefore God is a respecter of persons who allows me to make my mistakes, and who will  yet also guide me through them if I want some help. A God who believes in people, gives them goals and purposes, and trusts us to work them through. (therefore a God who forgives genuine regret - letters of John)

c. Just as in the bible

This is also the same God who is seen working throughout the history of the Israelite people in the Old Testament of the Bible. A God who is offended by wealth being used as a tool of oppression, a God whose righteousness demands justice for innocent, who is angry when power and influence are used to gain unfair advantage. A God infuriated by faithless and hypocritical people. A God who yearns for a peaceful  and harmonious life, not just for myself but for all people irrespective of race, colour or creed. (examples from the OT

d. Just as in Jesus

This for me is the same God I see working in and through Jesus. One who cares, and reaches out with healing and help to those in trouble.

(examples - to be written)

2. What are the characteristics of God that I experience in the relationship?

One who gives life and existence, and one in whom healing both physical and mental can sometimes be found.
Always the encounter with God and the search for healing produces valuable experiences, broadens understanding, and sometimes does not lead to the healing we searched for, but an accommodation with with our condition that enriches living.
The encounter with God as distinct from the encounter with people who believe in healing is what enriches. Some "healers", Christian and otherwise leave those seeking healing with a sense of guilt and failure because they have not been healed according to the healer's expected pattern.
One who cares about the things he has made.
God continues to be involved in the world he has made.
One who respects individuals as well as societies,  and cares about people.
free will is part of God's gift to people. Free will if real means we can make choices, and God chooses to live with the choices we make, and does not overrule us.
God is not limited by the barriers of religion, race, science.
Nothing in my experiences excludes God working within other faiths, and through other holy books. I have not lived within those other faiths and not read all those holy books. I have delved into the edge of some and those experiences raised for me interesting questions.
But what I do know is that in my upbringing, in my reading of the bible, in the life of Jesus, I see present and revealed God whom I experience. Faith is the key to this relationship and there was no need to look further. All I needed to do was to get on and live life within the parameters of that relationship.

3. Values from biblical themes to be applied in ethics.

What are the major biblical ethical themes and how do they apply here?

The themes are I see are:

  1. Responsibility to nurture, tend, and care for the world and its contents.
  2. An aversion to violence but not to conflict.
  3. A search for a dynamic peace.
  4. Anger at the exploitation of the vulnerable.
  5. A search for personal and corporate righteousness.
  6. Living for justice, respect and freedom.
  7. Conclusions
1. RESPONSIBILITY
Responsibility is one of the key themes of the bible finding its root in the creation stories in the book of Genesis. Here is the suggestion that the world and all that is in it  is our to use, but not to abuse. Is there then anything in the genetic science which is an abuse of nature.
2. CONFLICT AND VIOLENCE
Jesus persistently challenged hardened attitudes and religious thinking that was self motivated. Conflict to resolve differences of opinion was very much part of his way.
  1. The debating process was very much his way e.g. Pharisees and scribes sent to question. Discussion with the rich young ruler. etc.
  2. On one or two occasions the boundaries between conflict and violence became blurred, as when he drove the money changers out of the temple.
  3. In the garden of Gethsemane at the final point of conflict between his faith and the religion of the Sanhedrin, Jesus explicitly repudiates violence - "Could I not ask my father and would he not send legions of angels to defend me?"
3. PEACE
Not a peace of nothing happening, but a peace from satisfaction of labour completed, peace which is freedom to live and work and enjoy the fruit of ones labour. A (place of being) in which all live under the rule of God.
4. EXPLOITATION
God's anger at the exploitation of human beings is a biblical theme. This Divine anger is directed at those who exploit the weak and vulnerable. It is not about exploitation of material things, but about the exploitation of people.
From a Christian perspective then, this concept implies the need for careful checks and balances within the provisions of services where strong feelings, and deep human needs are involved.

5. RIGHTEOUSNESS
The requirement of God upon his people to live life his way, within his law, and within his grace.

6. RESPECT
Respect of the rights, freedoms, and status of another person or individual. It is unacceptable within the concept of respect that my peace should depend upon the oppression of another, or that my comfort and wealth should impoverish another.
 
7. CONCLUSIONS
These general themes that can be extracted from the bible can also be applied generally to any issue.
e.g. to see these themes explored in relation to cloning look at Discussion of the ethics of cloning - biblical perspective

AJP 4th July 2001.

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