Recently I have been confronted by statements that people “believe in Christianity”. I must say that upon reflection I do not believe in Christianity – I believe in Jesus.
SO here is a Kierkegaard quote:
The conflict about Christianity will no longer be doctrinal conflict (this is the conflict between orthodoxy and heterodoxy). The conflict (occasioned also by the social and communistic movements) will be about Christianity as an existence. The problem will become that of loving the ‘neighbour’; attention will be directed to Christ’s life, and Christianity will also become essentially accentuated in the direction of conformity to his life. The world has gradually consumed those masses of illusions and insulating walls with which we have protected ourselves so that the question remained simply one of Christianity as doctrine. The rebellion in the world shouts: We want to see action! (Soren Kierkegaard, Journals and Papers 4185)
To the above very-well phrased quote from Kierkegaard let me add: Christianity is not a doctrine, and not action alone, but a person! That is the paradox, the mystery, of the Single Individual – I am called to surrender myself to another person, I am called to a radical relationship to the Absolute – Jesus.
I have been thinking a little about “faith” – what is it? Too often we create two poles – faith and reason – and simply ask where a person stands. Is faith simply a choice to sidestep reason and accept something on authority? I wonder if it is not a little more fundamental – faith is the movement from being a human being to becoming a person, a single individual.
So I did a quick google and found this article from a psychologist, The Nature of Faith. The article has a nice start but I think the author misses something:
Finally, at least in the Judeo-Christian tradition, there is another important element to faith. Faith is not mere belief in the claim that God exists. Just believing a statement has little to do with one’s life, in many respects. The New Testament takes faith to include belief, but it goes beyond this as well. Faith also includes trust, in this case trust in God. So perhaps the best definition of faith is something like this: Faith is trusting in God, based on sound reasons.
Yes, faith in a statement about something is not faith in the Christian sense. Yet there is something more fundamental that the article misses: for the Christian tradition “faith” is not in a something but in a someone. Faith is primarily relational – it is mutual and reciprocal. It is a choice! But a choice to receive.
Some Merton for today:
I have always loved that quote. In the Prologue to No Man Is an Island, Merton expands upon the quote. For a person (like Merton) formed in the classical western Catholic tradition it is a strange place to start. Maybe a topic for another day!?
For me it is about living my identity as God-given – seeing the divine in my life and also in the life of others. Living the part of me that is undefinable, indescribable, the nothingness within me where I meet Being. And, if I am going to be honest, for most of my life I have run away from that part. In a desire to be heard, to be listened to, to be an authority, I have ignored “myself” and tried to define myself away from God. In reality God (and “me”) are completely beyond definition, completely other.
In Merton’s language I have tried to hide behind a “false self” by putting on masks to make myself acceptable to others so that they would listen to me.