Belief: Questions

Based on a book by Michael H Taylor: “Sorting Out Believing”

We discussed areas of questioning, doubt or unbelief. We find difficulty with different aspects of our faith; we don’t all have the same doubts. Here are some of the issues that we discussed.

  1. Absolute Truth. Most of us believe that the Bible was written by men (mostly), that they were doing their best, to relate history and to understand God. We do not expect every word to be literally true. That means we have to be discerning when we read the Bible. We cannot do the easy thing of accepting every word as true.
  2. Genocide. An aspect of our doubt about the truth of the Bible, is that we don’t believe that God ever encouraged genocide. We see the writers trying to justify their actions.
  3. Virgin Birth. Some of us find it difficult to believe the literal truth of the virgin birth. It can feel as though this is a requirement of Christian faith, particularly around Christmas time. A related point: the role and significance of Joseph is difficult to understand.
  4. Jesus Christ is God. Did Jesus think he was God, at one extreme, or did he think he was a man who had a remarkably close relationship with God? And where does our belief settle along the line between these two views.
  5. Jesus as the perfect sacrifice. We are not all sure that the death of Jesus on the cross is the direct cause of the sins of people past and present being forgiven. 
  6. Other faiths. We don’t all think that we Christians have the whole truth, and that devout Muslims (for example), when they disagree with us, are wrong on every point.
  7. Resurrection of the body. There is a range of views: some trust that God will take care of their soul; some know that they will be raised in a body given them by God.  
  8. Thy kingdom come, on earth as in heaven. Some times our Christian faith in the goodness of our brothers and sisters in Christ, and in the prospects for our world, is dented. On bad days we can feel that the world is going to hell.
  9. God of love and power. It is hard to believe that God is love, and that he has absolute power over outcomes on earth.
  10. Evil. The Bible and Christian tradition present a clear picture of an evil power that works in the world through people. We know that people can do terrible harm. But most of us do not believe in the Devil; we do not believe that people are evil; we do not believe in Hell after death.

And we talked about concerns that are not as difficult as these, but that still trouble us:

  1. Saints. The saints can be presented as perfect, and we are sure that they were not. Some of us doubt there will be choirs of angels.
  2. Tradition. Christian tradition, some of the beliefs that have been added to the Christian faith over the years, seem wrong to us, and the church seems slow to discard them. Liturgical traditions can be unhelpful, and it can seem as though they are protected, as essential to the Christian faith.

We reviewed the doubts and concerns in Michael Taylor’s book. Our own discussion covered most of them. Here are reminder notes on the ones we did not raise.

  1. Another World. The prospect of a reunion with my dead child is, I fear, wishful thinking.
  2. Making Faith Fit. What my religion told me did not fit well with my experience. I was told that my prayers would be answered.  As a child, I prayed that my father would get better but he died. 

Taking a more positive line, here are things we have said we do believe.

Growing Together: a creed for October 2009

We believe in: the incomprehensible mystery of the God of infinite and unconditional love, forgiveness and mercy who created everything; in the same God who took on human form in Jesus; and in the same God in The Spirit who works through us to build God's Kingdom on earth.

We believe that we were created: to love and worship God freely; to love one another in imitation of Jesus; and to sustain a personal and a corporate relationship with God in the power of The Spirit.

We believe that Jesus freely chose to be killed by us so that we might know that we can do nothing that will impair God's infinite love, and rose from the dead so that all humanity might know that we will be enfolded back into that infinite love.

We believe in: the universal community of believers, founded by Jesus and sustained by The Spirit; in The Word of God in The Bible; in the sacrament of Baptism which welcomes us to Christianity, in the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist which sustains us nourishes us; and in the sacrament of human encounter where we meet Jesus in the poor and the suffering, imploring us to strive for justice and peace.

Sarah Norton: a personal creed

How do I even begin to define my God when I have more questions than answers and "He" remains such an incomprehensible mystery to my mortal mind?
He is not a stranger and our relationship is my most precious.  One through which I find great peace and completeness.
My God is LOVE - unconditional, fulfilling, forgiving, merciful and redeeming.
My God exists outside of time, is everlasting and omnipresent.
My God created all life and all things.
Because His "existence" is too infinitely complex for me to understand, He transformed himself into a man called Jesus and took on all the finite characteristics of a man - He was born and He died. Through His incarnation as Jesus, as chronicled in The Gospels, He has enabled me, as a human being, to better understand His love for me and has secured a path for me to follow Him IF I chose to attempt to copy the examples of love and forgiveness that He demonstrated during His mortal life. He laid out a framework, based on love, that enables me to create a code of ethics based on love, respect and tolerance for other human beings and for every living creature on this planet that he created for us: a dynamic, diverse and evolving collection of beings each with a meaningful existence.  Jesus was willingly killed for what He came to teach me but His ultimate sacrifice only serves to confirm how much He loves me and all His creation.  He rose from the dead and ascended into Heaven thereby demonstrating that through Him my life may be everlasting.
I believe that my God is alive in me through what I call The Holy Spirit.  The gift of this Spirit to me (and others if they choose to accept it) fills my being with peace and love and activates my conscience to determine my actions.  The provision of this Spirit to me and the exchange and union of the Spirit within me with the Spirit within other human beings is for me my living church.
God has enabled the material provision of sacraments to become spiritually cleansing and nourishing so that as a human being I am sustained in His Love.


Creedal prayers from Perpetua. © Kevin Carey. Used with permission.

We are worthy of God our Parent and creation on earth and will be worthy to be with God if we:

Human beings are God’s creatures, made so that we can choose to love God. Because we are creatures we are not self-sufficient. We know that we have to look outside ourselves for completeness and some of that happens with family, friends and loved ones, but even then there is a gap. ... We all have to try to find God Our Parent. God will help us to make ourselves whole.