Saturday, October 5, 2013

I No Longer "Believe" in God

fierce beauty

Over the summer months I would rise early and watch the sunrise in the tranquil morning moments before the heat of the day made it almost impossible to be outside. But now the season has changed. The last few mornings when I wake up, I am greeted by a gusty "Santa Ana" wind blowing through the desert canyons. It almost sounds like the ocean waves ebbing, flowing, and thundering against the shore. The wind chimes around my house are loudly sounding out the rhythm of the dawning day. The waking universe is singing a cosmic song as I am caught up in the midst of it all.  

In the summer months, mornings were peace-filled and silent.  The last few days the mornings have been anything but tranquil and silent. It has been fiercely beautiful. There is a sense of an uncontrollable, untamed passion in the air. It's so awesome as to be almost frightening. It has convinced me more and more that I no longer "believe" in God. Instead, I have "faith" in God - the two are not the same.

A few years back I had a conversation with a good friend of mine. He was having a "crisis in faith," unsure of whether or not he believed in God any longer. I remember him saying:  "Prove to me that there is a God."  He was asking for data, information to support the validity of his long-held beliefs. He was asking me to provide supportive evidence for the existence of an Almighty and eternal God, the creator of heaven and earth.

My response to my friend was: "prove to me that you are in love with your wife." After a few feeble attempts at explaining how much he had supported her over their 25-year marriage, he talked about all her good qualities. Then my friend said, "Well I can't prove that I love her- I just do." I then asked: "Do you have faith in her?" "Of course," was his response." Love isn't an affair of the mind, it is an affair of the heart. 

It's the same with God -faith in God is an affair of the heart and not a product of the mind. That's why I no longer say I "believe" in God - I no longer hold onto "beliefs" about God, but I have faith in God.  

Interestingly enough, the word "believe" as we use it today is a relatively new word usage in the English language, coming out of the 19th century age of science and reason.  In that era theologians began to use the word "believe" as "making an assent to a proposition about God." The orthodox believer was given a set of propositions about God (a creed) to which assent was expected:  I believe God is creator, omnipotent, almighty, supreme being -fill in the blanks). 

But in the pre-scienific world before the 18th century, believing meant something very, very different.  Before the 18th century, the English word "believe" never referred to assent to a proposition but to another person.  You couldn't  believe in an idea, you could only believe in a person: I "believe" in you;  I have faith in you (my beloved). 

So when I say I no longer "believe" in God, I am saying that I no longer care about beliefs about God. Even though I have studied theology all my life, beliefs about God, ideas about God, words about God  now get in the way of faith for me.  I am uninterested in the theological task of thinking about God. I am unwilling to argue about the existence of a "deity" or prove that this deity actually exists somewhere in someplace up there, out there.

I do, however, have faith in God-  a lively faith, a vibrant faith.

I sit in the midst of the fierce desert beauty and I don't "think" about anything or anyone. The wind swirls and sways, the sun breaks through, the chimes ring, a mist comes off the mountains, and I feel like I am in love.

I am caught up in the cosmic song of the universe, inundated with a sense of an abiding Holy Presence- powerfully passionate, fiercely beautiful, so awesome as to almost be frightening.  I surrender to the presence, to the Beloved One in whom we live and move and have our being. 

I am in love - I have faith in "God."



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