Friday, April 14, 2006
Belief and Faith
As children, we absorb beliefs from our parents, teachers, church and peers. We learn and correct these beliefs as we go. We know we don't understand much, and our brains soak up information like sponges.
As adults, we know that beliefs of other adults can be odd, misguided, ill-informed, poorly conceived, misbegotten, peculiar, funny, goofy, patently false, wrong, or even evil and malicious. But most of us never think these things of our own beliefs.
We think what anyone believes is beyond control. As a friend of mine said recently, "You either get it or you don't."
On this view, if we believe we must fly an airplane into the Capitol and blow it up, we cannot be held responsible for this belief. We should neither be blamed nor praised for this belief, any more than we could be praised for blond hair or blamed for brown eyes.
Also, then, faith or lack of faith deserves no judgement. "You either get it or you don't."
We do hold people responsible. We do say it is wrong to think you should use a jet as a weapon, it is wrong to kill innocent life. Even when a man claims his religion teaches this belief, we hold him morally and legally accountable for it.
The progress of science consists of refining and sometimes completely changing beliefs about the way the physical world works. We progress from a demon theory of disease, in which disease results from possession, to a germ theory of disease. Our beliefs as a culture both evolve, building on prior belief; and undergo revolutions.
As individuals, we can continue to learn and grow in our understanding. We can choose to take responsiblity for that progress. Or not.
Sadly, the end of adolesence marks the end of mental and spiritual as well as physical growth for the multitudes.
When we grow up, we put our families and loved ones first. Other interests, while important, become secondary.
Consider the formidable task of going to school, to Sunday School, to lessons and classes as an adult. Think about the challenge of fitting a decent reading schedule with good books and articles into an already full life.
Then there's the temptation to watch tv, to go to the movies, plays, games, concerts, clubs, dancing, drinking, poker, casinos, boating, golfing, etc., etc., etc. Any of these activities may increase wisdom or uplift the soul, but mostly, they don't. These entertainments have their place, but all too often their place is to displace other, more important activities.
Now, a word from Jesus: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. (Mat 7:7-8.)
And: He who has ears to hear, let him hear. (Mark 4:9.)
What could be more important than wisdom?
We Americans strive to own the biggest house, the shinest new cars, the youngest looking, most perfect bodies. We work hard to conquer our competition, and reckon our success in piles of lucre. Always, we want the best.
We know also, that beliefs guide our actions. Beliefs carry moral consequences.
Why then, do we not struggle to form the best beliefs? If beliefs form on the basis of evidence, of learning and thought, why don't we put real effort into forming the best beliefs?
A belief can be rational, clear, well-thought out, internally consistent, consistent with other knowledge and belief, helpful and good. We predict the future based on our beliefs, and can check the accuracy of our ideas by examining the results.
We must be open to the possibility of error and ready to change our minds when presented with sufficient evidence.
We must become schooled in the arts of logic and rhetoric. We must identify fallacies when confronted with the writing and speech of those who seek to deceive us.
We should take as much pride in our mental conditioning as we do in our physical conditioning. We should praise what is wise and condemn what is foolish, and struggle to become wise enough to know the difference.
Faith that grows out of this effort is hard won faith. Faith that results from work and study, from seeking wisdom, is the kind of faith I believe Jesus challenges us to earn.
If you simply soak up faith from your upbringing, how is that worthy of praise? You might as well take credit for having the right parents, or being born into a peaceful country. Those things reflect good fortune, not merit.
Of course, it is blessed to born into faith, a blessing like the grace given to us by God.
But it is also blessed to ask, and be answered; to seek, and to find; to knock, and to watch the door open.
It is blessed to have the ears to hear; and then to hear.
I believe welfare includes: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid,food stamps, government aid services, and public schools(I think that the Family/Church/State-to a much lesser extent than the previous- should be taking care of education, not the Feds) . I haven't heard of Title 8, what is that?.
In response to the verses, That is referring to the citizens, we as citizens, as Christians are supposed to take care of others, not the government. I actually just posted what I found to be the government's role and providing welfare is not liad out anywhere in the job of government. That is delegated to the people.
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