Sunday, February 8, 2009
reflections on faith
The call to faith is a summons to engage the heart, to attune it to resonate in sympathy with principles and values and ideals that we devoutly hope are true, and to have reasonable but not certain grounds for believing them to be true.
I am convinced that there must be grounds for doubt as well as belief in order to render the choice more truly a choice-and, therefore, the more deliberate and laden with personal vulnerability and investment. The option to believe must appear on our personal horizon like the fruit of paradise, perched precariously between sets of demands held in dynamic tension. One is, it would seem, always provided with sufficient materials out of which to fashion a life of credible conviction or dismissive denial. We are acted upon, in other words, by appeals to our personal values, our yearnings, our fears, our appetites, and our egos. What we choose to embrace, to be responsive to, is the purest reflection of who we are and what we love. That is why faith, the choice to believe, is, in the final analysis, an action that is positively laden with moral significance.
I believe that we are-as reflective, thinking, pondering seekers-much like the proverbial ass of Buridan. If you remember, the beast starved to death because he was faced with two equally desirable and equally accessible piles of hay. Having no determinative reason to choose one over the other, he perished in indecision. In the case of us mortals, men and women are confronted with a world in which there are appealing arguments for God as a childish projection, for modern prophets as scheming or deluded imposters, and for modern scriptures as so much fabulous fiction. But there is also compelling evidence that a glorious divinity presides over the cosmos, that God calls and anoints prophets, and that His word and will are made manifest through a sacred canon that is never definitively closed. There is, as with the ass of Buridan, nothing to compel an individual's preference for one over the other. But in the case of us mortals, there is something to tip the scale. There is something to predispose us to a life of faith or a life of unbelief. There is a heart that in these conditions of equilibrium and balance-and only in these conditions of equilibrium and balance, equally "enticed by the one or the other" (2 Nephi 2:16)-is truly free to choose belief or cynicism, faith or faithlessness.
Why, then, is there more merit-given this perfect balance-in believing in the Christ (and His gospel and prophets) than believing in a false deity or in nothing at all? Perhaps because there is nothing in the universe-or in any possible universe-more perfectly good, absolutely beautiful, and worthy of adoration and emulation than this Christ. A gesture of belief in that direction, a will manifesting itself as a desire to acknowledge His virtues as the paramount qualities of a divided universe, is a response to the best in us, the best and noblest of which the human soul is capable. For we do indeed create gods after our own image-or potential image. And that is an activity endowed with incalculable moral significance.
* * * [Joseph Smith's] message...flamed forth because millions of men and women have freely chosen to believe. They assayed the opinions of doubters, and they gave a hearing to the critics. Like Brigham Young, they knew Joseph was human and subject to err, but they sampled his words and agreed they tasted like honey. They weighed the beauty of a god and of human origins and a human future unlike anything before imagined. They found reason to doubt, and they found reason to believe. They chose to believe.
Posted by theo at 12:21 AM