Monthly Archives: January 2008

The Nature of Belief

I’d like to put down in writing just where I am at now in regards to my beliefs. In some respects, most people have ‘fuzzy’ beliefs – and as such need to point to some published source as authority. Only the most egotistical can be entirely self-referential in respect to their belief system. Many base their authority in the supernatural – ‘God told me’. Our age is awash with such ‘prophets’ who act as messengers of the revelation of divine knowledge. History is replete with such prophets who claim a connection with God. And it seems that the more ‘certain’ the prophets and their followers are of these revelations, the likelihood of moral corruption increases.

I do not believe in the final authority of the Bible. The problems I have with ‘The Book’ stem from the fact that it is a collection of documents that an institution chose to be authoritative. The choice of books appears to be a political decision, for the sake of unity of the Roman church. How can we speak of God as the author of the books? How can we know that ‘the Holy Spirit’ inspired those chosen books, and guided the process of the publication of the Bible as we now know it? The truth is, such things cannot be known – they can only be imagined by faith.

The use of the word ‘imagined’ might be offensive to some who strongly believe in the inspiration of the Bible. However, when it comes to the supernatural realm, one can only speak of imagination – for it is obvious that whatever is outside of the natural world cannot be spoken of in natural terms. Henceforth, the imagination is employed to speak of things that cannot be ultimately spoken for, to picture things that cannot ultimately be pictured. This is how I see myth, as that which imaginatively describes a reality beyond what we can quantify. I view the Bible as a grand myth, for it contains descriptions of a direct relationship between God and human, supernatural and natural. Yet myth to me does not imply untruth; it rather describes a person or group’s imagination of divine experience.

That leads me to a question, do I believe in the possibility of a real experience of God? Unquestionably I do. Yet why would I do so, given that I can’t speak of a higher realm with any kind of authority? Well, that’s another fuzzy one. I believe in the reality of God intuitively. In other words, my experience of reality dictates that their must be a God in and behind the scenes. I have had to move beyond a model of spirituality based upon the afterlife, for in that view my eternal destiny was dependent upon my sustained faith. Now that I see heaven and hell as metaphorical, I had to make the choice as to whether there is any substance to belief in God and the supernatural realm. In this new phase, I began moving towards faith as highly experiential, an inner reality that cannot be defined externally.

As an inner experiential reality, I have no need to quantify or defend my faith. Evangelicals tend to promote faith as something that must be understood as external fact, such as using various ‘proof texts’ from the scriptures and the experience of Christians. There is also the focus on the afterlife, which leads to faith as being the means by which a group can escape a frightening future. With faith as a strictly inner, indefinable experience, it takes on a new life that is free from dogma and dispute. This is something that is rather new to me, and I feel I am only just at the beginning of my journey – I can see the faint glimmer of light at the far end of the tunnel, but am largely grasping in the darkness.

What I need to do now is probe more into the inner world of spirit and see what I find. It is very difficult, because I am more accustomed to dealing with reality as it is, not as I can only imagine. Yet fueled by the imagination of faith, which sees a reality beyond my senses, I can experience God – and that is where my beliefs are shaped.

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