The Daily ReTORt

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Friday, October 15, 2010

Why Bother Believing?

The question of belief in anything presupposes a degree of uncertain reliance on some external intangible. By definition, that reliance requires continual effort.

It’s simply easier NOT to believe in something that’s unseen or has any degree of uncertainty.

That’s mainly because the pain, loss and suffering of the observable, material world are so unrelentingly in your face.

So much so, that Nobel Laureate and philosopher Albert Camus [see photo insert] is famously quoted as saying that the only real philosophical question for humanity is suicide – because in his view, when he made that quote, the futility of life was so meaningless that ending the pain might provide meaning.

I strongly disagree with that position even though the Bible states in the book of Ecclesiastics that life is merely “…vanity, vanity…all is vanity.” In my view, the solution for that vanity and pain is precisely a belief in the unseen.

Here’s a passage I read this morning from the book Reaching for the Invisible God by author Philip Yancey that clearly articulates the tension between believing and simply not – noting that tension exists in most of us from time to time:

Yancey's final sentence here is profoundly true for me, and ironically it seems to have been true in some degree at sometime for Camus who said – in stark contrast to his previous statement cited above, I would rather live my life as if there is a God and die to find out there isn't, than live my life as if there isn't and die to find out there is.”
“I must exercise faith simply to believe that God exists, a basic requirement for any relationship. And yet when I wish to explore how faith (belief) works, I usually sneak in by the back door of doubt, for I best learn my own need for faith during its absence. God’s invisibility guarantees I will experience times of doubt.
            Everyone dangles on a pendulum that swings from belief to unbelief, back to belief, and ends – where? Some never find faith.
            I feel kinship with those who find it impossible to believe or find it impossible to keep on believing in the face of apparent betrayal. I have been in a similar place at times, and I marvel that God bestowed on me an unexpected gift of faith. Examining my own periods of faithlessness, I see in them all manner of unbelief.
            Sometimes I shy away for lack of evidence, sometimes I slink away in hurt or disillusionment, and sometimes I turn aside in willful disobedience. Something, though, keeps drawing me back to God. What? I ask myself.
            ‘This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?’ said Jesus’ disciples in words that resonate in every doubter. Jesus’ listeners found themselves simultaneously attracted and repelled, like a compass needle brought close to a magnet. As his words sank in, one by one the crowd of onlookers and followers slouched away, leaving only the twelve. ‘You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked them in a tone somewhere between plaintiveness and resignation. As usual, Simon Peter spoke up: “Lord, to whom shall we go?”
            That, for me, is the bottom-line answer to why I stick around. To my shame, I admit that one of the strongest reasons I stay in the fold is the lack of good alternatives, many of which I have tried. Lord, to whom shall I go? The only thing more difficult than having a relationship with an invisible God is having no such relationship.”


  1. Wow, I really admire Yancey for being so honest! and for stating so well what many of us have experienced or felt at one time or another.
    I agree, better to live as if there is, than die and find out for sure. And God promised all we need is the smallest bit of faith, the size of a mustard seed..

  2. @wife, I agree Yancey is a great writer and thinker! Thanks for the mustard seed reminder - it's easy to forget that nugget of knowledge. Love you like a crazy!!!!

  3. Tor,
    Thanks for the great post. These are the very things I often ponder, and of course, being a huge fan of Yancey myself, the excerpt was something that I could have written (well, if only I had the skills to write).

    "...Everyone dangles on a pendulum that swings from belief to unbelief, back to belief, and ends – where? Some never find faith."

    Wow. Like his book "Rumors of Another World" - Profound, and so true. (for me, at least)

    ("Reaching..." is one of his books that I have not yet read, but will now hasten to do!)