Belief, and Doubt, and Faith
In the Broadway hit musical The Book of Mormon there is a song called “I Believe” and in that song this line occurs a few times:
“I am a Mormon and a Mormon just believes”
And lets be honest, sometimes it feels like faith would be easier if we could say that, if we could just believe without question what others tell us to believe. But of course that is not the case, even in the song it is obvious that the singer is trying to convince himself that this is so rather than actually believing it. In reality knowing what we believe is a process of thought and discernment and evolution – many of us have slightly (or vastly) different beliefs about God and life and meaning at various times in our lives.
And so I think of another song, this one by Canadian singer-songwriter Linnea Good, where the chorus says:
“Believing may be easy but faith is slow, it takes a lot of doubting for our faith to grow!”
That sounds much more realistic to me. Faith is something that we wrestle with all our lives. Sometimes it is easy to have faith. Sometimes it is a struggle to believe in things that don't seem to make much sense from a rational, logical perspective. But I firmly believe that it is in the struggles that we learn and grow in our faith, in our understanding of God, and in our relationship with God.
One of the things I like about my faith home is that we have a tradition which encourages “Christians of each new generation are called to state it [the Church's faith] afresh...with the emphasis their age needs”. My predecessors have not handed down to me a static unchanging faith. They have handed to me a faith that is open to questions and reformulation and growth.
Another thing I like about our approach to faith is that we are what is technically called “non-creedal”. This does not mean we don't have or use statements of faith. It does not mean there are no standards about what we believe. It really just means that we do not require members or leaders or clergy to sign a piece of paper saying they agree to a specific understanding of Christian faith.
We are encouraged to ask questions. Questions and doubts do not show a lack of faith, they show an engaged faith. In every other aspect of life we are told that questions are how we learn, why should it be different in our faith and spiritual life?
Then we are invited to share where our questions and explorations have led us, so that we can invite others to share their results with us. And so here is some of where I have ended up (so far);
I believe that God is active in the world, stirring people's hearts and minds, pushing us to new understandings of how to live in the world, challenging us to change our attitudes and behaviours to match those understandings.
I believe that in Jesus of Nazareth God was doing a new thing, God was being revealed in a new way.
I believe that the experience of Easter, of encountering the reality of resurrection, changed the lives of Jesus' followers in such a profound way that their understanding of everything that had gone before was changed, including their understanding of who Jesus was.
I believe, with Hamlet, that there are “more things in heaven and earth Horatio than are dreamt of in your philosophy” and so there are things that we cannot explain rationally, which forces us to accept paradox and ambiguity, trusting that there we will meet God.
I believe that the primary purpose of being a follower of Christ is not to win a reward after our death but to make a difference in the world where we live.
I believe that the original blessing pronounced at Creation “and God said it was very good” has never been withdrawn and that it trumps all else. However in our acceptance of free will we can and do choose to act in ways that denies that blessing and turn our backs on who we are created to be.
I believe that the Kingdom of God is real and among us and slowly growing to full flower and majesty. Someday it will be revealed in all its fullness and the world will be what it could be. I believe that is very arrogant and misguided for anyone to claim to know when or how that will happen or what it will look like in the end.
What are your questions? What are your answers?