Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do not see may become blind.”

Jn 9:39

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This passage from the Gospel of John is from Jesus encounter with the blind man who utters to Jesus these words: “Lord, I believe.”

Learned people tell us we now live in a time and place in the West in which we do not believe.  How is that so?  How can we go from being a believing people to an unbelieving people?

The divide between belief and unbelief is, of course, a radical divide – a division that alters the conditions of, and opportunity for, contact with another human being: our spouse, a parent, a sibling, neighbors, bosses, co-workers, our children.  Indeed, a life of unbelief fundamentally alters the experience of being human.

The story of the road from belief to unbelief is a long one and it has many parts to consider, many iterations along the way.  Its story is critical to understanding who we are today and how we became the “us”-of-today.  Failing to understand this we cannot ask or comprehend who it is that we are – in all our many uncomfortable manifestations.  If you don’t know where you are on the map, you cannot know in what direction you need to travel; lost, you remain lost.

Einstein’s “Principle of Relativity” can be summed up in one simple phrase: There is no absolute motion.  From this the popular world “learned” that there are no absolutes.  Albert Einstein was horrified by this extrapolation.  He himself acknowledged God and believed that there were absolute standards of right and wrong.  He lived to see and regret the emergence of moral relativism – his scientific work misunderstood and misapplied.

Absolutes.  Are there absolutes?  Ask yourself that.  No absolutes, then likely no belief.

For centuries we thought of religious narrative as conveying absolutes, as religion with absolute authority.  Liturgy and church buildings spoke to us of absolutes and authority.  We had a context for life, a context of belief.

Professor Roger Lundin in his excellent book Believing Again tells us of “large scale intellectual and cultural changes” in the 15th and 16th century and the Reformation which seemed to convert religious narrative into “ancient legends” and distance the human being from absolutes and the beliefs that flow from them.

My point is merely to say this: unbelief evolves in history and, I observe, that the further we extend from belief, the harder life becomes, the more meaning and purpose evade us, the more disorder, despair, dependence and wholesale death we produce.

Isn’t the question of belief and unbelief precisely the issue we need to address? But do we hear anything resembling intelligent comment on this from our political “leaders,” the media, TV’s “talking heads,” even our pastors and religious leaders?

If you do not know where you are on the map, you cannot know what direction you need to travel.

Shalom.

Tomorrow – a post on the extraordinary comments readers made on yesterday’s entry – “The Heart Senses God.”

 

 

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