Faith and Rationality – Stumbling Into Paradise

You have decided to buy a new computer. As the good and wise shopper that you are, you begin googling information and gathering recommendations for this so-important purchase. You are being rational. You learn, compare, question and weigh your options. When all is said, and done, you make a decision.

Rationality is about our ability to weigh, sort, compare, judge, and the such like. I like to think of it as our ability to find and pick the right berries to take back to the tribe. It can get very sophisticated, but, on its most basic level, it will always remain berry-picking. It has very little to do with “faith.”

We cannot “choose” God, for the simple reason that He is not one of a larger set. We cannot choose God for the same reason we cannot choose the sky or the sun. With the sky and the sun we can imagine other planets and think that their skies and suns would be better, but God is the only God and not subject to our shopping.

A difficulty, of course, is that “God” has become the name assigned to a concept that is indeed an object of choice, one of many versions from which we select. The relation we have with such a “God” is not faith. It is rather more like self-confidence in our own thinking. What many would describe as a religious “search,” is often little more than surfing the top of the religious world (or is it just “spiritual”?) and gathering an idea here or there.

We can read that faith is a matter of the heart, a statement that can leave us even more confused. In modern parlance, “heart,” is often synonymous with “feelings.” Nothing is more ephemeral than feelings – they are the basis for brief experiences but little more.

There may be decisions within the question of faith, but these are decisions about ourselves rather than God. “Faith” is largely a description of what we do after we have come to believe that God exists.

Of course, “God” is a very meaningless term – or, its possible meanings are so many that it is less than useful as a word. To say, “God,” immediately asks the question, “Which God?” and already matters have changed because if God is One, then “which God” makes no sense as a question.

Years ago, in the setting of an Anglican Christmas cocktail party, someone came up (I was wearing a collar) and, apropos of nothing, suddenly began to pronounce what they believed about God, some of which was nonsensical culture noise. My response was simple, “Then you are a prophet?” He was confused and asked what I meant. I explained, “It would take some kind of prophet to make such statements about God. But, I am a Christian, and it matters nothing to me what you think you think about God. God is not a matter for speculation. He is revealed.” I wasn’t a hit on the cocktail party circuit.

A Christian cannot begin with “belief in God,” for the simple reason that such a thing has no meaning in and of itself. We begin with Jesus. What we encounter in Jesus is a message regarding God that has content: God is the One whom Jesus names, “Father.” This is His witness:

All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him. (Matt. 11:27)

and this:

No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him. (Jn. 1:18)

Nor can we claim, strictly, to believe in the “God of the Bible.” God is made known in the Scriptures, but only as read through Christ. We cannot know “God before Christ,” for there is no such knowledge. There are versions of a concept that we call “God” that we read into, or infer within the Scriptures, and then seek to paste Christ onto that concept, but this is a serious error, born largely, I think, of our tendency to want to map things out in a linear, historical manner. God is neither linear nor historical. God, we may say, enters history in the moment of Jesus Christ. What is made known to us in Christ was never seen before, nor imagined. Shadows were glimpsed, with a rare exception:

…for assuredly, I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it. (Matt. 13:17)

And the exception:

Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.(Jn. 8:55-56)

But Christ does not show us God as someone apart from Himself. When asked to show us the “Father,” He points to Himself saying, “He who has seen me has seen the Father.” We engage in Trinitarian speech, not because we see “Trinity,” but because Christ has taught us to speak in this manner. “Trinity” is how we speak of what Christ reveals. He is the “Son of the Father.”

Belief in God begins with Jesus. It is His death and resurrection, His Pascha, that reveals what we could never have known otherwise. Pascha is God-in-the-world-making-Himself-known. The more fully we enter into union with Christ’s Pascha, the more fully we know and understand who He is (and who we are). Christ’s Pascha is the meaning of love, the heart of all the commandments, the journey to God and God’s journey to us.

Faith is the acceptance of Christ’s Pascha and the steadfast adherence to the life it reveals. On the practical level of our life, Christ’s Pascha is the content of the word “God” when rightly used by a Christian. For God does not name an abstraction or a concept. God is the only-begotten of the Father, united to our human nature, suffering, dying, trampling down death by death, setting at liberty those who are held captive, and seating them with Himself in the heavenly places, thereby uniting them with the Father, through the Son, by the Holy Spirit. It is the life of Jesus lived in us.

Our reason has many uses, some of them are even appropriate in doing theology. But faith is an abandonment to the work of Christ and His Pascha.

I have been present for several hundred deaths through the years. On some few occasions, I have seen death as a struggle, as something feared and resisted in futility. I have seen many, indeed most, die in the process of a coma, whether natural or induced. But I have also been present with a number of people who faced death without fear, and “gave themselves” to it, committing their lives to the hands of a good God. Most had no clear assurance beyond the end they saw in front of them. Nevertheless, they yielded themselves to the sweet embrace they could neither penetrate nor fathom.

That action has always seemed to me an act that well-expresses faith. It is an action in which we commit ourselves to something that we cannot possibly understand ahead of time. As such, it can never be a choice. But, as in the case of those dear souls, there was enough that they trusted to make their action possible. That, I believe, is grace. No matter that the Apostles had seen the risen Lord. Staring at one’s own death, holding to His promise, we can, at most, commit ourselves to the path of His Pascha. This, I believe, is the meaning of faith.

45 comments:

  1. Father,

    What would you say to those (and here I am thinking only of other Orthodox) who say and preach that it is a reduction itself to say the faith is primarily found in Pascha (or in Baptism, or “Eschaton” or in fill_in_the_blank)? I don’t mean this as a confrontational, heavy theological, “debate” question, rather as a conversation.

    I wonder about this (and hopefully it is wonder and not idealization) because suffering, fear, death – meeting these in trust or rebellian – all this seems to me to be a given to all by means of our creation. What does Christianity really add to this? Even before I was a Christian I knew in my heart that death and my encounter (i.e. the “character” of that encounter) with it defined my whole being and said more about Creation and God than anything else. Ancient peoples (Egyptians, Greeks, etc.) all the way to modern “Existentialism” has this realization at the core of their religions/philosophies.

    Beyond a mere passive (or stoic, or assertive, or…) orientation to the givenness of life-the-death, Christ (and thus Pascha) seems to me to be saying more in the “follow me” of the Cross (Pascha) in that brings the “personal” back into it (even if it is not a crude “choice”). So perhaps an abandonment to the unknown that is nonetheless “chosen” (i.e. willed properly understood) and thus a be-coming that is beyond mere existentialism?

  2. Instead of saying that God is Someone we “choose,” is it correct to say God is Someone to whom we surrender?

  3. Wow. Once again, Father, you have knit together some ideas that have been rattling around in my head/heart/soul. Because I, like most of us, came to a knowledge of God as a child in Sunday School, it has taken almost a lifetime of backtracking, as it were, to finally kneel and at times get on my face, before God. (And those are times I’ve wished I wasn’t so lazy about vacuuming)! I have discovered that faith is hard, once I took it seriously. But the God who called this world into being, apparently cares enough about even me that He continues to lead and draw me closer. And that has been some hard stuff too, cause I’m hard headed and prideful. At one point, I became a practicing Wiccan, but even that didn’t stop Him. He has worked through scripture and encounters with His people to point me to Himself. You are one of those people, Father, and many of your writings have helped me see just a bit more through “that mirror darkly”. Thank you for keeping the faith and taking the time and love to write what is in your heart.

    As a side note, having grown up in the Anglican church, I loved your cocktail party story and can only imagine that the seriousness with which you take all things of faith would not make you a hit on that circuit! And I praise God for that! Thank you again for helping us along the way.

  4. “But I have also been present with a number of people who faced death without fear, and “gave themselves” to it, committing their lives to the hands of a good God. Most had no clear assurance beyond the end they saw in front of them. Nevertheless, they yielded themselves to the sweet embrace they could neither penetrate nor fathom.”

    A hospice nurse told me she witnessed a patient, right before she died, reach her arms upward, and fixing her gaze, whisper the name of Jesus. What glory awaits us!

  5. Christopher,
    I don’t know about the Orthodox who say such things. Given the position of Pascha and it’s utter permeation of the Divine Liturgy and our gathering on Little Pascha (Sunday) every week, it’s hard to imagine anyone trying to say otherwise.

    If death is not a universal human concern, I could hardly imagine why. But, embracing Christ as revealed in His Pascha is not about what happens to me after I die, it is about everything – the whole of my life. How I die should be of a piece with that. It is that recognition that I believe I saw in the lives of some of the dying – the cases of which all involved Christians.

  6. Father,
    What a marvellous article! I had been thinking of these very notions all day long. It is an exceptional and sacrosanct blessing to have been present with a person who faced death without fear, and “gave themself” to God in authentic faith. It is like a voice whispering: “Behold the Lamb of God is with us”
    Without denouncing reason itself, the pride of the elevation of our rationalising into the level of absolute authority is a bit like making the ‘choice’ of hell, while the living faith in the Pascha that Christ has made accessible for us (to partake of), is Heaven – an in-breaking of Heaven’s foretaste ‘in the here and now’. Of course, a life of watering this latter ‘flower’ of faith and exsiccating the former ‘thorn’ (of unbelief) is required for us to become firmly established in unwavering faith – especially for those times when it might be tested by extreme suffering and ultimately in our death.
    Unwavering faithfulness to what Christ’s Pascha reveals – faith “as an abandonment to the work of Christ and His Pascha” – especially in the face of forsakenness, suffering and finally our death, is the truly decisive entry of invinciblemeaning into our being.
    ‘Pascha’, ‘Logos’ and ‘meaning’ can be considered interchangeable when speaking of these things.
    It is spiritually profitable to compel ourselves towards persistent remembrance of this magnificent truth that Christianity is the transfiguration of death, the transmutation of all suffering. The Christian faith injects utter meaning into them; the Crucified and exalted Logos Himself has entered into –otherwise meaningless– death and suffering. He, (Life and Joy), has been entrenched into them, (death and suffering), regenerating these excruciating consequences of Man’s initial turning away from God into their very own antidote: the path (though strait and narrow) to permanently encountering Him.
    Christian ‘mindfulness of death’ is therefore not so much a sort of theoretical philosophizing, it is rather predicated upon ‘another view’, one conclusively revealed as authentic in our final committing of our being to Christ: in death: in that which “we cannot possibly understand ahead of time”, and until then it is witnessed as a desire (or at least a cultivation of the desire) “to depart and be with Christ” (Phil. 1:23).

    The martyrs, the ones who incontrovertibly evangelized God with their lives and their deaths, drew everyone’s gaze not to themselves but to the Saviour – their lives and especially their deaths cried out with a curious power: “Behold the Lamb of God!” (Jn. 1:29). “He is the Strength made manifest through our weakness!”
    We could say that Christ’s Cross has bestowed on all our suffering and death, once and for all, this mysterious potential, to reveal God’s unassailable goodness through our utter weakness; the Logos of all meaning, the final Victor of all history has made Himself available to us, even in the present, through His adored ‘hijacking’ of suffering and death. To the measure that we live the resurrection, the Christian understanding of suffering and death, even in the small measure of nothing but a still nascent yearning ‘to be able to desire suffering and death with the courage and God-wards focus of the martyrs’, we find the generative cause of our indissoluble communion with Him.

  7. Thank you so much for your words, Fr. Stephen.
    When I read your words that Diana quoted, I wept. I pray that I have such an ending to my life. I am reminded of Stephen’s words right before he was stoned to death…”But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.” From reading of holy ones’ deaths a glimpse into eternity right before dying seems to not be that uncommon…not to mention the untold numbers worldwide of “sweet souls” who meet their Lord in this way.
    I hope I am recalling this correctly. The young priest, Fr. Timothy (Kallistos) Ware, had just been assigned a parish. He was called to the bedside of an elderly lady parishioner who had been in a coma for some days. As he prayed over her releasing her soul to God, she suddenly sat upright in bed, arms out stretched with eyes open looking heavenward, smiled and lay back down on the pillow, reposed peacefully in the Lord Jesus. This is what we pray in each liturgy…”a Christian ending to our life, peaceful without pain or shame….”
    Glory to God for all things!

  8. Dear Fr, Stephen,
    This article along with several if not many others needs to be included in every Orthodox priest’s catechism!
    God bless you unto “many more years” and remember your priesthood in His Kingdom!

  9. Father, I’d be happy to invite you to my cocktail party, or to my death. You are most welcome at either, or both, if we can combine them!

  10. Fr Stephen,
    At the moment I don’t have the time I need to be able to write more. But briefly, I’m very grateful for this meaty article as it differentiates and teases out the Orthodox meaning of terms that we often hear outside of the Orthodox context, appropriated by other faith systems (and by that I’m asserting ‘other faith systems’ to include western modern Christianity).

    I frequently hear assertions of some sort of ‘spiritual hierarchy’ of thinking processes among the Orthodox with which I’m not comfortable, and as far as I know, might not be strictly Orthodox, but a part of a modern veneer layered on Orthodoxy. (I welcome your thoughts on this–perhaps I’m off) When we truly love with the love of God, I’m not sure I;m able to parse out what belongs to the structure of my mind and what comes ‘from the heart’. (Perhaps this is because I’m still young in the faith) But I believe I have seen Love’s power and grace both with my mind and heart (and perhaps with my nous–but that’s harder to talk about).

    Last, what a whopper icon you’ve created! The picture you selected provokes us to consider what ‘stumbling’ means– a death of death that leads to life. Stumbling into religion is what happened to me. I really didn’t want to do though at the time. And when it happened, I might have said it was an accident. But in hindsight I see Providence, God’s grace in action.

  11. And I will add, It’s taken longer to realize that I didn’t just stumble into religion but into Paradise as you describe. But it has taken a few years of Orthodox life to realize what that means.

  12. What a great stimulus you offer us, Father Stephen, as a “sweet sharp sword”, constantly awakening our consciousness, preventing our tendency to “withdrawing into oneself” that closes the door to the unconditional welcome of our Lord, Christ !
    “Pascha is God-in-the-world-making-Himself-known. The more fully we enter into union with Christ’s Pascha, the more fully we know and understand who He is (and who we are) . Christ’s Pascha is the meaning of love, the heart of all the commandments, the journey to God and God’s journey to us.”
    Thank you, that rejoices the heart of man, with bread and wine, the supreme gift of the Lord, who raises all man !
    I am just quoting St. Paul, who came to me at the same time as reading your words:
    “But all these benefits I had, I considered them a disadvantage, because of Christ. I now consider everything disadvantageous because of the superiority of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, because of Him I accepted to lose everything, I consider everything as waste, in order to win Christ and to be found in He, having not as justice to me that which comes from the Law, but that by the Faith to Christ, that which comes from God and relies on the faith : to know Him, with the power of the resurrection and communion to his sufferings, to become conformed to him in his death, in order, if possible, to resurrect from the dead “.
    Time is given to us for this path of total abandonment, and at the same time, in the unfathomable “economy” of God, as in the example given by Diana, the arms open because it is so close… ” the veil is taken away and they see clearly what often remains hidden from others”…
    May the God of Mercy welcome us all !

  13. I’m sorry to have started writing something that was too brief and likely misunderstood. I want to add that I agree with your description of rationality.

    There is a process of inductive reasoning, which is different from rationality. And this process is not about narrowing down or reductionism but of broadening and branching out. It is not a synthesis to come to one final conclusion, but to embrace and bring together what might seem to be disparate pieces of experiences or observations into a whole that might not fit in our current theories. This is not the process of scholasticism that is the hallmark of western scholarship, but a process developed to see the world in a multi-layered way. It could be described as ‘artistic’ but one engages in this process in exploratory science–or perhaps I should say it used to be so. Such things are changing in this society. And what might have been named technology in prior decades is now called science.

    Western Christianity has attempted to isolate science and has ascribed to it the role of a ‘competitor’ in its ‘theories’. These are some of the reasons I greatly appreciate your honing in on this activity, the practice in our speech and writings to relegate God to our ‘preferred’ concepts (berry choices) as opposed to what is revealed to us.

    The practice of science I mention here isn’t something I’ve made up, but I can be criticized for not explaining the process well. Once again I shall mention that is was during such a practice of science that I stumbled (good word) into Christ’s Pascha, not knowingly searching for Pascha. The process was more like the women going to the tomb, not knowing what they will find or how the stone would be moved to apply their myrrh on Christ’s body. They were on a path to the Unknown.

  14. And the ‘what’ that is revealed to us (Pascha) ought be described as “Who is revealed” as you have mentioned and Helene emphasizes. My own writing fails. The Paschal hymns point to this, but it takes time lived in Liturgy, and in the life of Holy Spirit to begin to grasp this revelation, with both mind and heart.

  15. Dee,
    At the beginning of the call to Faith (12 years ago), I was still imbued with a “what” to find ; in fact, this “what” had permeated my whole life, more than 50 years ! “but it takes time lived in the liturgy and in the life of the Holy Spirit to begin to grasp this revelation, both mind and heart.”(as you say so well)…
    Now, the intense desire to know Christ and to be known to Him, in the best moments, makes me “leap like lambs” as a premise of exultation for the Lord !
    But the Cross is also deep and disempowering of all false conceptions, and of many other things …. Even thought and language must make work of resurrection ….
    There is Joy, already in the beginning, and the venerable fear, which stands firm in the search for Truth, which is Christ.

  16. Dee,
    I suspect that when our culture speaks of rationality, it is being reductionist about even the process of reasoning that we engage in. I think, sometimes, that models such as Mr. Spock, or brains as computers and other such fictionalized myths contribute to this sort of thinking. Modern myths are often very poor. The actual process of insight, discovery, understanding, etc., is so much larger than the rational choosing trees of logic. We often “leap” without quite knowing why – or we “stumble” into an insight, etc.

    I frequently think that our lives are filled with “happy accidents” – another term for the Providence of God that guides us towards a goal that is Christ’s Pascha.

    Somewhere, in the depths of that, is the true heart.

  17. Dear Fr. Stephen
    How was Abraham an exception, “seeing” the day of Christ?
    His hand was stayed before striking his son Isaac. He came into the promised land. He spoke with Melchizedek I think I recall. Any of those?

  18. Shannon,
    I’m not sure. It is Christ who says that Abraham “saw His day.” It could very well refer to something that is not mentioned in Genesis. It certainly references an “eschatological vision.” Abraham is seeing something that is greater than his historical moment.

  19. Father Stephen, that makes me think of a strong and invigorating saying that I heard from a priest I know :
    “Christ had a total view of all the worlds, everything that happened before, during and after, because that Christ has a meta-historical, meta-chronological perspective,
    He sees everything and when he prays with tears of blood for the world, it is also for the world that comes, the world in which we are and the world that Christ will pray that way until his own coming in glory. ”
    To kneel weakly, to stammer a prayer too …

  20. Dear Fr. Stephen,

    Thank you. Your article is like a clean stong wind that blows away the dust and cobwebs.
    I am wondering about this one thing: is not all of our life of Faith a multitude of choices? Is not a life of repentance constant choices? Is not Faith the constant choice and labor of Love, Trust, and Obedience?

    I am constantly blessed by your writing. In all this article the only line giving me pause is, “As such, it can never be a choice.” Is not our entire life in Christ a constant stream of choices to love, trust, and obey Christ, or ourselves and whatever idols or sins we deal with in any circumstance?

    As Eve and Adam choose to eat the forbidden fruit, so we too face constant choices that either draw us closer to Christ, or into death.

    Again, Dear Father, thank you for your love and faith and work for our souls. May Jesus richly bless you in every way so that your heart over flows with His new love and joy,

    Steve

  21. Thank you Fr Stephen and Helene of your respective elaborations. They are very helpful for my own understanding and express well (and better) what I’m trying to say (with difficulty and clumsiness).

  22. The key point for me is that Jesus Christ reveals Himself and consequently the Holy Trinity. He is a human/Divine person, not an idea.

    It is the reality of that revelation and the hope intrinsic in it that is handed down.

    Unfortunately, His Revelation to our hearts and minds and souls seems to be easy to miss and easy to forget despite the fact it is all around us and readily available.
    What is it called in science when one only looks for evidence to support a pet theory rather than examine the totality of the evidence at hand?

  23. Michael,
    Bias or bogus, either one. There are other words typically used in research to make a claim that there is no vested interest. Nowadays, I don’t put much stock in such statements. One needs to know the field well, study reports carefully, and know how to penetrate data manipulations.

  24. Dee, the world constantly uses all kinds of data manipulations concerning God and even ourselves, don’t you think? Even in the Church but the real Truth is here and He is a person not an idea. You get to know a person by talking to them, spending time with them, doing things with them.

  25. Steve,
    Certainly, in the sense you describe it, our life of faith has many choices. I am pressing a particular point, I suppose, that differentiates the kind of actions we take in the life of faith from that of our cultural experience of choosing – illustrated in the shallow efforts of shopping.

    Somehow, the full existential effort that is the work of faith is diminished when we use the word “choice” – inasmuch as it has become so devalued in our consumer culture.

    Vladimir Lossky’s definition of faith as “participatory adherence” simply cannot be translated as “choice.” I suppose I’m trying to push our vocabulary to somewhere deeper.

  26. ” the world constantly uses all kinds of data manipulations concerning God and even ourselves”
    Yes Michael, they’re called “presuppositions”. Everyone comes to the table with presuppositions. For Christians, it’s just a matter of transforming them wholly into Truth. We know Christ is a Person. The world…that’s another story. To them Christ is surely an idea, that can be quickly discarded as a foolish thought…a bad idea. Or for some who believe they can make the world a better place, some of Christ’s teachings fit in well…but not all. It is His teachings, not Christ Himself, that sounds good to them. This is their rationality. Our way is irrational, in opposition to worldly thought. After all, we call bread and wine His Body and Blood an acceptable, rational, sacrifice! This is utter insanity to those who do not know Christ, who do not know the presence of the Holy Spirit. Same with bodily resurrection. This is beyond the pale for them. This is where they say no…no way. Christ said He’d be the stumbling block. I see it time and time again in conversations I’ve had.
    I believe Christians in all vocations, whether it be science, education, medical, technological, civil service…are greatly challenged to live a life in Christ, considering what we are up against. We have to rest well in our presuppositions, which to me are the tenants of the faith. As mentioned here in this post, it is trust in Christ that He is fully real (as opposed to an idea) in the mysteries and reveals these mysteries as Truth…Reality, such as the Incarnation, Trinity, life after death…which we know are true but have limits in rational explanation which the world demands.

  27. Michael Bauman – When you said, “You get to know a person [in this case, the Son of God] by talking to them, spending time with them, doing things with them,” you described the difference between my Protestant and Orthodox experience very well.

  28. I enjoyed your article and so much truth there. Not to get off the beaten path & keeping with the spirit of the article I have some issues and this with a beam in my own eye. I looked into Orthodoxy attended a parish for six months, read the books. Then I was on some Orthodox sites with questions & taking in the doctrine. My conclusion there are flaws with oral tradition as there are with the ” Priesthood of the believer” that many Protestants hold to. You see even in the book of Galations” after Paul left instructing them in all righteousness & doctrine then soon left those teachings & became legalists. Peter warned that Soon after he was gone many would embrace wrong teaching becoming heretical ( paraphrasing) I know this analogy is very simplistic but remember the adage about ” have a line of people and whispering in the ear down the line and how the message changed after so many ears 🙂
    Of course the problem with Protestantism and the so called 40,000 denominations, every man has his own interpretation & true that hold a some water. I’ve been called proud because I said most of scripture is understandable & I think God intended it that way, also the advent of the printing press was in his plan to give the average Joe the written word. I would say both views have their problems written word for personal edification v/s oral tradition. For me I’ll go with the written word regardless of the heretics & false doctrine. There is enough , or better put IT is enough.

  29. Echoing Paula, who was very clear in her thought, I also noted the term “irrational” which asked me a question …. a term that represents more irresponsible forces and disorder.
    We are more, finally we can have access, with our faith, to the highest rationality, the most perfect and the purest, the unbearable Truth for forces hostile to Love.
    May the Lord give us to approach him, every day more …

  30. Great post. I think this is part of what Fr. Romanides tries to get at in his works but you are doing it in a way I can quickly absorb. God bless you Father.

  31. Keith,
    I appreciate your candor. Essentially you are restating a common Protestant understanding, viz. the Scriptures. All I can say is that if rationality were capable of rightly interpreting Scripture, then we have ample proof that there is no such thing as rationality. Because it does not and has not worked.

    Christianity is not a book, nor is it based on a book. Christianity has Scriptures that belong to the Church. There is not some sort of objective, “out there” correct way to read the Scriptures. There is the way that Christ taught us to read them, and the way the community of Christ has read them throughout the centuries. Tradition is the living presence of the Spirit at work in the life of the Church guiding it into all truth. You have described a caricature of tradition by comparing it to the whispered message.

    I would suggest reading more broadly – not just Orthodox stuff. The more you know, the more you broaden, the more likely you are to come to good conclusions.

  32. In Swedish, the word for Faith (Tro) also means “assumption”, a bit like the word “belief” in English.
    – I believe the bus will arrive at ten. I also believe in God.

    This creates some confusion. “I believe in God” is interpreted as “I suppose there is a God”.
    But at least you have the word “faith”. In Swedish we only have the vague word “tro” for this. So when people ask me if I “believe” (tror) in God, I’d rather answer:
    – I put my Trust (Tillit, in Swedish) in Him.

    I have stopped trying to understand or analyse God. I simply submit to blind Trust/Tillit.

  33. That is a lovely comparison of faith as ‘stumbling into paradise.’ It made me realize what Paul is saying in the phrase ‘things not seen.’ (After all, he certainly quite literally stumbled into his faith.) He doesn’t mean ‘not seen’ in a mystical sense, but rather that it comes on one almost from behind and even when it is not being looked for.

    I used to tell my children that the way to find a horny toad (in the southwestern back yard, that is) was not to look for one – ‘You will find it when you are not looking.’ It’s that sense of ‘not seen’ I think he means. There’s a surprise element to it that makes you realize what a gift it is – ‘incoming’.

  34. Nils,

    I once read somewhere that “to believe in God is to belong to Him”….

    I cannot remember the commentary further, but just that was enough for me to look at my faith in a different light. It helped with that trust and surrender, and in that “ceaseless presenting of my soul before God, in an undemanding contentment of my lot” (my favorite interpretation of the word to St. Silouan).

    Translations are interesting. I just realized that in the creed in English, we say “I believe in one God” (to me that refers to God’s “unity”?), while in Polish or Slavonic, it is more “the only one God” (referring more to “uniqueness”)…. Which meaning is it actually, Father?

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