Faithfulness and the loss of faith

I know it won’t come as a surprise to you, but my current WIP is a deeply personal piece. I’m trying to use it to come to some kind of cohesion of the various threads of my life. And, at the same time, I’m trying to make it something people will like to read. One of the big themes of Resumption of Darkness is that both Sam and Cassie are having a sort of worldview crisis. Before the tragedy that forms the backdrop of the story takes place – well, at least, before they met Eric, the instigator – they are quite comfortable in their Christian worldview. After they a pulled into Eric’s orbit, everything starts to fall apart. Then, during their trip to the rainforest, their worldviews implode.

Seven years later, they still haven’t put the pieces together.

In fact, their story mirrors mine. (I know, a big surprise! An author writes a story that has an autobiographical element!) There was an Eric of sorts, and a Sam and a Cassie. They are at once people separate from me – more or less – and they are also aspects of me.

Emotionally, I am still haunted by Eric. He’s about as dead as any ghost and yet, at times, he seems more real to me than most of the people I interact with on a daily basis.

Spiritually, I am torn between the way Sammy is responding to the crumbling of his faith and Cassie’s reaction. Sammy is slowly descending into pessimism. Cassie is trying to reconfigure her faith into something that isn’t so closely tied to the triumphalism she had before her Latin America tour

As I have been processing this, a friend sent me this link from another disillusioned Christian. The essay shows his path through intellectual disillusionment to the renewed worldview he has on the other side.

Here is a tidbit that I have found helpful:

People who doubt can have great faith because faith is something you do, not something you think. In fact, the greater your doubt the more heroic your faith.

I learned that it doesn’t matter in the least that I be convinced of God’s existence. Whether or not God exists is none of my business, really. What do I know of existence? I don’t even know how the VCR works.

I am trying to pray as he prays the following:

God, I don’t have great faith, but I can be faithful. My belief in you may be seasonal, but my faithfulness will not. I will follow in the way of Christ. I will act as though my life and the lives of others matter. I will love.
I have no greater gift to offer than my life. Take it.

My faith doesn’t need to be tied to the existence of some supernatural entity, nor does it need to be tied to that question Cassie asked: Was the tomb empty that first Easter Sunday? Instead, my faith can be a form of faithfulness to this picture of Jesus – the teacher who hung out with tax collectors and sinners. As Eric says, maybe he’d even like a monster like me.

I don’t know about tomorrow, but for today, I am betting my life on the belief that trying to live a life that Jesus would be proud of is a good way to live. Tomorrow… Who knows? Maybe I’ll make my home in the infinite grayness of a universe without meaning. Or maybe I’ll take another swing at following Jesus. I’m better off not worrying about tomorrow. Tomorrow has enough trouble to keep itself busy.

Anyway, sorry for the long, over-personal post. I hope to have Chapter 8 of Presumption of Darkness out soon. In the meantime, you can re-read it starting with Chapter 1.

As always, I’m eager to hear your thoughts.

People of faith, what do you think is the role of belief? And what do you think is the role of faithfulness?

People without faith, what are the principles by which you guide your life? What pictures drive you?

Writers, what role does writing play in the way you ask questions about who you are and what your life means?

Readers, what pictures renew you?

 

4 thoughts on “Faithfulness and the loss of faith

  1. Too great a knot for a theologically ignorant sceptic like me, as suspicious of organized religion as social media, to untie.

    I am worried about wasting your time or causing offence by blundering on……

    Your self-torture seems unnecessary. Who (which self-righteous control-freak) first decreed that a religious person be punished twice for daring to know themselves? I have faith it was not Jesus. “Faithful” appears to be for grown-ups. “Faith” is for children – and there is a child in need of comfort in all of us. Ignorance is bliss. Credulity is dangerous.

    People spared doubt and self-doubt, and regret and self-reproach, are indeed blessed, but also, more often than not, in denial, which is not a state conducive to the happiness of others.

    I dimly get there’s a “mystery” involved in Faith, but I don’t understand why a life of faith should be incompatible with an examined life.

    “Feeling” something rather than “seeing” it makes life easier for some lucky people but great writing never came out of feeling alone. You have to see clearly, from all points of view, and dare to put your hand in the wound. Is it not the same with your Faith?

    Could faith not simply be another word for empathy? If you feel Jesus’s pain, and rejoice at his metaphorical resurrection, and are grateful for his forgiveness, why should you have to believe in an empty tomb you have not seen?

    To me, Thomas was admirable, a thinking man for all times, a faithful empiricist, quite right to demand evidence rather than believe what he read in the papers. He didn’t deny Jesus, he just questioned the other disciples’ wish fulfillment. And he called Jesus, not an invisible Father in the sky, his god, just like you do.

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    1. >Too great a knot for a theologically ignorant sceptic like me, as suspicious of organized religion as social media, to untie.

      Outsiders often have incredible insight. At the very least, you can keep me honest.

      >I am worried about wasting your time or causing offence by blundering on……

      I’m not sure that you wasting my time is possible. And an offense from you is surely akin to the faithful wounds of a friend rather than the profuse kisses of an enemy.

      >Your self-torture seems unnecessary. Who (which self-righteous control-freak) first decreed that a religious person be punished twice for daring to know themselves? I have faith it was not Jesus. “Faithful” appears to be for grown-ups. “Faith” is for children – and there is a child in need of comfort in all of us. Ignorance is bliss. Credulity is dangerous.

      Jesus was concerned with hearts more than theology. So, I think you are right that He wasn’t the origin of this.

      >People spared doubt and self-doubt, and regret and self-reproach, are indeed blessed, but also, more often than not, in denial, which is not a state conducive to the happiness of others.

      I think you are right about this. An absence of regret is a sign that either one has lived a sinless life – impossible – or one is ignorant of the harm they have caused.

      >I dimly get there’s a “mystery” involved in Faith, but I don’t understand why a life of faith should be incompatible with an examined life.

      I agree.

      >“Feeling” something rather than “seeing” it makes life easier for some lucky people but great writing never came out of feeling alone. You have to see clearly, from all points of view, and dare to put your hand in the wound. Is it not the same with your Faith?
      Could faith not simply be another word for empathy? If you feel Jesus’s pain, and rejoice at his metaphorical resurrection, and are grateful for his forgiveness, why should you have to believe in an empty tomb you have not seen?

      That is a compelling idea – worthy of much investigation! Is faith another word for empathy?

      >To me, Thomas was admirable, a thinking man for all times, a faithful empiricist, quite right to demand evidence rather than believe what he read in the papers. He didn’t deny Jesus, he just questioned the other disciples’ wish fulfillment. And he called Jesus, not an invisible Father in the sky, his god, just like you do.

      He ought to be my patron saint!

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  2. There may be the faith in Jesus having come back to life, but that does not make one to have faith in Jesus as the son of God, him being the mediator between God and man, and not Jesus being God like so many believe. People should come ot believe inthe God of Jesus Christ, Who is the Unseen and only One True God.

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    1. Well, certainly if I believed he rose from the dead, it would be a lot easier for me to believe he was the mediator between God and man. As it is, my faith in either of those propositions is low at best.

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