‘Belief’ is obviously very important when it comes to faith. We even use it as a sort of code for whether a person sits comfortably in our church communities saying he or she is ‘a person of belief’. Yet I suspect if you analysed an average congregation you’d find a multitude of ‘beliefs’.
Some ecclesiastical traditions ask us to affirm our beliefs weekly by bundling
them into the creeds which nearly always begin with the phrase. ‘I believe…’.
This week I’ve been struck by Sir John Chilcot’s ‘revelation’ that he considers
Mr Blair based much of his decision making leading up to the invasion of Iraq
more on a deeply personal ‘belief’ that this was right rather than a conviction
backed up by hard evidence. Intense ‘feelings’
that such actions were right have since been proved inadequate for neither did
Iraq possess weapons of mass destruction and nor was all out war the last resort
option open to the West. Chilcot makes
for uncomfortable reading as it ultimately concludes that just because you passionately
believe something is right – if there is insufficient evidence to back up your ‘feelings',
however intense – your decisions, based on such subjectivity, are almost
Andrew Marr, in his Monday morning radio show also considered this question of
belief. One of his guests was the
scientist Richard Dawkins – not the best loved of academics in the eyes of The
Church! Dawkins made the very reasonable
point that Darwinism and Natural Selection is a beautiful theory and pretty
much the very best explanation we have for how life has developed on
earth. Of course, it cuts across
Creationism and that is a problem for some Christians and some in other faiths,
So how does a modern-day disciple view Genesis 1 and 2 today? Well, many of us have never really seen it as
a scientific account but a poetic one.
It doesn’t intend to tell us how life began in a ‘matter of fact’ way,
rather it celebrates the gift of life using images and painting word
pictures. It’s a song rather than a
Of course there are so many different kinds of belief. We Christians hold on to a sort of tension when
it comes to belief. Many of us value ‘reason’
and want to read our scriptures with our minds as well as our hearts. That means we want to put the words of The
Bible in their historic context and understand the type, or genre of literature
Personally I can no longer really agree with the Reformation dictum ‘Sola
Scripture’ – if by that we mean that our faith is entirely influenced and
defined by scripture alone.
For me I have to put ‘experience’ into the frame as well. It’s through countless ‘experiences’ in life
that my faith is honed, tested and constantly redefined. Of course, the bible remains a vital guide,
but alongside that I believe in the ‘continuous revelation’ that comes through
reason, discussion, and the hard knocks of life.
Yet, I willingly acknowledge that ‘belief’ is also about holding on to mystery,
beauty and hope. Maybe some will think I’m
contradicting myself, but I want to hold a creative and, at times
uncomfortable, tension between the mind and the heart.
For me that means I still ‘feel’ deeply moved by that verse etched into the
walls of a concentration camp over seventy years ago:
I believe in the sun
even when it is not shining.
And I believe in love,
even when there's no one there.
And I believe in God,
even when he is silent.
The words of a character from a gospel bible story still ring true in my ears - I hear them in the King James version we used in Sunday School!
'Lord, I do believe, help thou my unbelief.
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