An interesting post by my friend Jamie on faith got me thinking about What I Believe, not to mention Why I Believe It.
Many years ago I used to get my Grade 12’s to read the essay “What I Believe” by E.M. Forster and then write an essay about their own personal belief system. (Good assignment. I should get back to doing that).
In more recent years I’ve noticed people using the internet, whether blogs or discussion boards, to explore what they believe. One of the best-known and loveliest examples is Teresa Nielsen Hayden’s “Things I Beleive” creed on her blog Making Light.
Less famously, Ship of Fools (where I do most of my hard thinking about what I do and don’t believe) ran a competition about a year and a half ago for people to write their own “Creed” or statement of belief, and then voted on the most popular. I am excited to report that out of 46 entries in that competition, my humble attempt came fourth. (I’m less excited to report that they only gave prizes to the top three. Story of my life).
Now that I’m thinking about what I believe, I thought I’d post that creed here and explore what I believed a year and a half ago, and what I would add to it now.
I believe I can be certain of very little.
I believe people who are certain of everything may be dangerous. Or saints.
In the absence of certainty, I walk the path of evidence to the brink, then reach across the chasm in faith.
I choose to believe….
…in a loving, personal God who created the universe and is present and accessible within that universe.
…that the Bible is a reliable guide to what this God is like and what He expects of us.
…that Jesus lived, died and rose again as recorded in the Gospels.
…that His life was the example of how to live fully as a human being.
…that His death and resurrection represent the ultimate demonstration of God’s love for humanity and an opportunity for us to experience abundant life now and eternally.
…that this flawed system we live under will someday end and God will establish His perfect kingdom.
…that because He loves me, He wants me to be in that kingdom.
I believe …
…that God calls me to do justly, love mercy, walk humbly with Him; to treat others as I want to be treated; to love God and other people with all my heart.
…that God the Spirit gives me the grace to do this, because I’m not very good at it myself.
Help Thou my unbelief.
That was my credo eighteen months or so ago. What I believe never remains static; it’s always changing. And it’s easier to express what I believe than to explain why or how I believe.
A lot of people (great thinkers as diverse as Nathan Brown, and the extremely thought-provoking “ken” on Ship of Fools) have forced me to question the extremely popular metaphor of faith as a journey — but after all the questioning, and despite the cliched nature of talking about a “spiritual journey,” it’s still the image that works best for me. There’s nothing static or particularly stable about my faith except that I always have some kind of faith, but it’s definitely a process and I’m always shifting positions, always learning something new and often jettisoning old certainties as I go. This may not be a good thing; it’s just how it works for me.
Looking back at that creed I wrote over a year ago, I would add some things. Maybe because of the setting it was intended for (and the word limits imposed on the contest), I focused mainly on what might narrowly be called theological beliefs. But I believe a lot of things, and most of them have something to do with God even though they aren’t necessarily “theological.”
Today, if I were to revise that creed, I’d add a bunch more clauses under: “God calls me to do justly, love mercy, walk humbly with Him; to treat others as I want to be treated; to love God and other people with all my heart.” Lately I am so much more interested in what it means to do justly and to love mercy; that’s what’s keeping me connected to faith and to God these days.
So I would add that —
I believe most people in the Western world, me included, have grown very comfortable living with economic systems that are inherently unjust to a great many people.
I believe we have also grown very comfortable with a system that exploits the created world over which God made us stewards.
I believe that doing justice and loving mercy means actively addressing the issues of poverty, injustice, human suffering and environmental catastrophe.
I believe that rather than being overwhelmed by the hugeness of the task and the smallness of my ability to change things, I am called to focus on the choices I can make in every moment, to do what I can do and trust that God will use my efforts.
I believe that I should attempt to do justice and love mercy both on a global scale and on a very intimate scale; if my concern for world hunger makes me unable to listen to the hurting person sitting across the table from me, then I am as sounding brass or tinkling cymbal.
I believe that the effort to live justly and mercifully should be characterized by hope, joy, trust and laughter rather than by a grim and judgemental seriousness.
I believe there are better solutions available to most of the world’s problems, and my community’s problems, than we have yet discovered, and that with humility and openness I may be able to help find a few.
And of course with all those “works” added to my creed, I’d have to go back to finishing with grace, because otherwise it all ends in despair. And so, once again:
I believe that God the Spirit gives me the grace to do this, because I’m not very good at it myself.
Help Thou my unbelief.