My supervisor, Paul, was very helpful today when I talked with him about the reaction of some people to the last few posts I had written on here. I thought I had been talking about my progress on the path of faith but found that I had caused some angst in others over matters of belief; and when people tried to engage me on matters of belief, of course the inevitable happened: we talked past each other to the mystification of both, because we were entirely missing the point. Or at least, I was.
Faith is a verb. You don't have it, you do it. It has more to do with trust than it does with belief, although it is related to belief. It is a way of seeing the world, or more completely, a way of being in the world. An image Paul gave me was of faith as a set of spectacles. I am converted. I put on faith and see the world through a different set of lenses than the ones I was using before, and everything is different. Of course as I look at the world through the new lenses, I form ideas and beliefs about what I see, and these are largely defined by the lenses through which I am looking. Faith is never still; the New Testament sometimes calls the Christian life The Way, hinting at the fact that the life of faith is a continual journey through bigger and newer landscapes. As the years go by, I undergo a series of conversions, each time slightly changing the lenses (and sometimes greatly changing them) and each time I do so, the set of ideas and beliefs I hold are changed accordingly, to fit in with the new perspective I hold. I look at the same things I saw before, but now they are sharper, the colours slightly different, the perspectives deeper. So when I discuss matters of belief, arguments and misunderstandings are almost inevitable. I and the one with whom I am talking are looking at the same things, but because we have different perspectives, both arising from the faith position through which we view the world, we cannot quite match up our beliefs.
Discussions of belief are seldom fruitful. Giving a reason for the hope which is in you can be enriching and life giving for both the one who speaks and the one who hears.