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Vol. 78 - No. 11
November 2007

WORD FROM THE PASTOR:             

A Few More Thoughts on Faith and Doubt
            Sometimes a single religious theme so captures our society that almost every spiritual
conversation centers on that theme. That’s how it was with “The DaVinci Code” a few years ago–it
was such a massive topic, it so cried out to be addressed, that it surfaced in practically every Bible
study, lots of sermons, and many private conversations.
            Now the overwhelming religious topic that occupies our society is faith and doubt. Unlike
“The DaVinci Code” , this topic doesn’t center on one book–rather, the faith and doubt issue
manifests itself in numerous forms. One form is the atheist books that have occupied best seller lists
in recent years–books like Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion or Sam Harris’ The End of Faith.
Another book that thrust faith and doubt into the public mind was Come, Be My Light–writings of
Mother Teresa that revealed her doubts and spiritual anguish. The bad publicity religion has
received in recent years–terrorism, politicking, financial and sexual scandal–also has tended to raise
doubts in people’s minds about the truth and the value of faith.
            This topic has become so huge in our society–larger, really, than “The DaVinci Code”, since
that involved only a >single book and film–that I find myself addressing it continually in Bible study,
sermons, and conversations. I thought I had said everything about it there was to be said! But now,
like in the old Johnny Carson and Ed McMahon routine, I find I haven’t really said it all–some
recent news stories and some deeper reflection have given me a few more things to share. So share
them I will in this Messenger article.
            Reflection 1: J. K. Rowling. The author of the Harry Potter books recently made two major
revelations. One involved the personal life of one of her characters. That particular revelation
completely overshadowed the second, and much more important, revelation: she disclosed that she
is a Christian, a member of the Church of Scotland (which is a Presbyterian body), and that
Christianity inspired her books.
            My first thought upon reading that was : Holy cow! So Mother Teresa had doubts and J. K.
Rowling has faith! The world is much more complicated than one might imagine!
            However, Rowling, too, struggles with doubt. In her interview, she made an interesting
comment: “Like Graham Greene, my faith is often that someday my faith will return.” In other
words: she doesn’t always feel the faith, but she remains confident that it will come back. I think
there’s a real truth there: every Christian has days when faith feels rather weak. But because faith
is based on the work of the Holy Spirit, and not our own feelings or our own strength, we can be
confident that the Spirit will ultimately renew our faith. And that confidence in the Spirit’s power
is what gets us through those times of weakness.
            Many Christians would be uncomfortable getting spiritual advice from J. K. Rowling
(although she borrowed it from Graham Greene.) But it’s a valid and comforting insight:
“Sometimes my faith is that my faith will return.” I suspect Mother Teresa would have agreed with
that.
            Reflection 2: Dr. W. One argument believers make against atheism is that it tends to
devalue human life. The believers’ case is strengthened by another recent news story: seemingly
racist comments made by Dr. W., a genetic researcher and a Long Island neighbor. (I call him Dr.
W. because I find criticizing people by name repellent). Dr. W. seems to feel that some groups of
people are inherently less intelligent than others. Interestingly, Dr. W. is featured in one of the
more memorable passages in Dawkins’ The God Delusion, in which he lends support to Dawkins’
view that the world has no Creator and therefore no real purpose:
            In my interview with [Dr. W] at Clare, I conscientiously put it to him that,
            unlike him and [his partner], some people see no conflict between science and
            religion, because they claim that science is about how things work and
            religion is about what it is all for. [Dr. W.] retorted: “Well, I don’t think
            we’re for anything. We’re just products of evolution. You can say,’Gee,
            your life must be pretty bleak if you don’t think there’s a purpose.’ But
            I’m anticipating having a good lunch.” We did have a good lunch, too.

If one sees human beings as simply “products of evolution” who are not “for” anything, then it
becomes much easier to entertain racist ideas. If, however, one knows and affirms the Scriptural
teaching that “God made man in His own image” (Genesis 1:27), then racist ideas become much
more difficult to hold. The Christian faith affirms that we were made for something: “Thou hast
made us for thyself, and our hearts are restless till they rest in Thee” (Augustine). Each of us is
made for a personal relationship with God, and each of us is precious to God. This utterly negates
racism. I wish Dr. W. a “good lunch” every day, but I also pray that he sees the truth of God in Jesus
Christ. Perhaps an old Sunday School song might help him:
            Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world
            Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight
            Jesus loves the little children of the world.

            Reflection 3: A Personal Relationship. The thing that most effectively dispels doubt is
a personal relationship with Jesus Christ: Knowing His love, knowing His presence, knowing that
He is “ the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself up for me” (Galatians 2:20 ). Being a
Christian is not just embracing a set of ideas (although it certainly involves professing the truth of
the Creed). If one envisions Christianity as just a set of ideas–well, it’s not too hard to walk away
from a set of ideas. Just ask anyone who’s changed political affiliations. Nor is Christianity just
being part of an institution (although it certainly involves belonging to the church). If one sees
Christianity as an institution–well, it’s not terribly hard to walk away from an institution. Just ask
anyone who’s changed jobs. But if one views Christianity as a personal relationship...it’s much,
much harder to walk away from a personal relationship. And that’s what we’re called to have with
Jesus. Being a Christian is being connected to Jesus in a personal relationship of love and
devotion...connected to One who loves you with the greatest love of all, the love that took Him to
the cross. And that ultimately is what drives away our doubts!
            May we all know an intimate fellowship with Jesus in which all doubt melts away! And
when we do struggle with doubt, may we be confident that the Holy Spirit will renew our faith.
            God loves you and so do I!

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