The Opposite of Faith

November 6, 2006

A quote from the sermon I heard yesterday:  “The opposite of faith is not doubt.  The opposite of faith is religious certainty.”

God requires of us trust.  When we turn that trust into an internalized self-knowledge– when we internalize a message that we need to believe in order to trust, that is not faith.

No, faith is about having the humility and trust to be open.  To be able to listen.  To hear when God says “be still and know that I am God.”

It is not about placing God into a book so that we don’t have to be still.  It is not about being so sure that we are right that we don’t have to think about it anymore.

To hear truth, we have to be open to truth.  I’m also aware that what God has to say to me may be different that what God has to say to you.

That doesn’t make God different for you than for me, but it means we may be in different places on our journey.

God’s peace to you, and may your faith grow with your willingness to open yourself to God’s everpresent tenderness.



7 Responses to “The Opposite of Faith”

  1. naturalhigh Says:

    Very well said. The difference between faith and belief is the doorway to mysticism. To true communion with the Divine.

  2. JudyW Says:

    Isn’t God saying the same thing to you as he is to me, we just don’t listen to everything? For example, if God says abortion is wrong, and I have an abortion, and you say, “I think abortion is wrong, and I wouldn’t do it, but I won’t judge you for doing it….”; then at least one of us is ignoring what God says. I know it’s not all that black and white for everything, but I have this “moral certainty”, if not religious certainty about basic truths.

  3. Jeff Says:

    I don’t believe so. I believe that God is much more personal than that. We are a diverse group of people, this human family, and God knows us as individuals. What I need to hear may be much different than what you may need to hear.
    And no, I don’t think it is that black and white. Only the person who has to make the decision can know what God is saying to her about the need for an abortion. Is it necessary to save her life? Was she raped? It is hardly a black and white question.
    All too often anti-abortion activists focus on limiting the choice of the woman after she is pregnant– hardly an effective strategy for preventing an abortion. I happen to think abortion isn’t a great idea, but I think a much more effective strategy for reducing abortions is to prevent unwanted pregnancies to start with. Abortions rose in this president’s first term because he eliminated the previous president’s policies of increased choice and increased education and birth control availability.
    Reducing choice and reducing education along with reducing available birth control does not make for successful anti-abortion policy. It may make those who want to impose their will on others feel like they have “won”, but it hardly accomplishes the objective of reducing the number of abortions. That is the moral certainty that I am talking about– knowing that it is wrong to the degree that one would impose one’s will upon another is hardly faith.
    As has been said by somebody much smarter than me: “Dogma is what you are willing to kill for. Faith is what you are willing to die for.” I think of that whenever an anti-abortion protester shoots an abortion clinic doctor.

  4. obadiahslope Says:

    I am not sure you answered Judy’s question, Jeff. From what I can see she was not asking about questions of state laws or policy or even funding. Assume for a moment that abortion is legal and free (as it is where I live). Assume also that we are not talking about somebody who has been raped, or where there is incest. Or even extreme economic pressure, and lets also assume Judy is healthy, in a good relationship.
    So would God be saying the same thing to here and you about having an abortion?

  5. Jeff Says:

    No, I don’t think that necessarily he would. (Also, I know Judy personally so I answered her from the perspective of what I know she might be interested in on the public policy stuff. I also think it is very relevant to the topic as it highlights the use of moral certitude in public policy decisions.)

    In your example, if we were “twins” in the exact same situation I suppose God might ask us to make the same decision.

    But I don’t believe in an absolute right or wrong answer to almost anything for the reasons I’ve already enumerated– God is a personal God with a personal relationship with us. To assume that there is a finite absolute truth relies only on a corporate God with a corporate relationship to us. God is both.

    We’ve already exempted out two situations– health and rape. I believe that we could come up with more. I believe God is much more compassionate than we are. And God could come up with a lot more reasons why something might be viable for us than we could that might otherwise look “unviable” from an outsider’s perspective.

    I might give my son an answer on something that is different from my daughter, because they have different issues, different strengths, different weaknesses, and are in different places. I might allow his more latitude depending on what is going on in his life (or vice versa) because I know both of my children and love them and understand them. If that is true of me and my children I believe it must be doubly true (at least) for God.

    That is the point of the incarnation. That Jesus came to be in solidarity with our suffering. To be one with us and experience humanity in all of its brokenness that we might realize that we are fully understood and loved through that brokenness.

    God’s love is bigger than we would like. That means God’s understanding and compassion is bigger than we would like, too.


  6. obadiahslope Says:

    I am not trying to argue for the “right” answer to the abortion issue here. But it struck me that you went to extreme lengths NOT to give an answer.
    “But I don’t believe in an absolute right or wrong answer to almost anything for the reasons I’ve already enumerated– God is a personal God with a personal relationship with us. To assume that there is a finite absolute truth relies only on a corporate God with a corporate relationship to us. God is both”
    I think this is an extreme position – and I suspect in your next post you may nuance it! I am sure there are some things that you believe are absolutely right or wrong. Rape would be an example. You would say the same thing to your son or daugher about that being wrong. In time we could come up with a list longer than the “almost nothing” your statement implies. Some of the list will need careful definition, such as murder or killing.
    But, yes, there will be lots of gray areas, too. For me, war would be one such thing.
    Calvin’s theory of “accommodation”; that God does give us what truth we can bear, is something I live out with my kids too. One of them is a special needs kid, and the other is mainstream and it is hard to balance “fairness” and supporting their different needs. It will only get harder.
    Does God only speak to us as individuals? That’s up to him. He certainly spoke to Israel as a nation and sometimes to humankind. And to indivduals too. He can do both.

    Yet I take the point about human brokenness, and God’s compassion. His compassion is surely greater than mine. “Brokenness” is a discription of something having gone wrong, though. Corporately and individually, or both. Jesus’ solidarity with humanity was extreme: “For the son of Man came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many”.

  7. Jeff Says:

    Granted– I did say “almost” anything… certainly I can’t think of any example where I believe that rape would be justified. Of course, I am not God, and that is the point. We have our own laws to keep order among humankind, and clearly “don’t rape each other” is among those laws. We don’t need that to be based in faith to know that it helps us keep order and from harming one another.


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