Saturday, September 29, 2012

faith through questions

In conjunction with my last post on the "dedication to investigation," here is a quote from this post (responding to Richard Dawkins):

This assumption of ignorance or irrationality has rendered him culturally autistic, unable to imagine the minds of believers to explore the basis of their belief. Because of this, he hasn't touched thousands of other reasons why people believe in the reality of a spiritual world. 

I believe in God (and the veracity of the Book of Mormon) because of personal experience and the sensations of joy, gratitude, wonder, and universal love I feel when I consider and investigate these topics. Part of my belief does stem from an inability to explain certain mysterious events in my life and as such that part of my belief is vulnerable to explanation. I like that. I like being vulnerable to new information and understanding. I like how doubt provides a humble and empowering lookout from which to examine my beliefs.

And expanding on the idea of doubt as a springboard to faith, here is a quote from this post about asking questions ( I added the underlining):

...there were a couple of believers that work closely with science who described their personal journeys to reconcile science with religion and maintain their intellectual honesty while fortifying their faith. What distinguished these believers was that they had actively asked questions that they knew had caused others to extinguish the flame of their own faith, but in so doing sought Heaven’s aid. When they arrived at conclusions that were satisfactory to them, they found peace and that familiar assurance that at first had converted them to Christ’s gospel. I felt challenged to venture out and discover where I feel the two intersect. I cannot discard my faith that has been fortified by numerous unforgettable experiences, nor can I pretend that science is faulty and changes with the wind. Both evolve: one as God sees fit to endow us with additional understanding, and the other as man’s efforts and ability enable us to understand. But I can allow both to heavily influence how I see the world. For me, especially when life plays out contrary to my expectations (for better or worse), I can look back and see the scientific explanation for how something happened, but I look through the lens of faith to understand why. 
This recent journey was one that I knew came with risks. I have seen friends cast away their faith when they dug below the surface of this issue or others. Why is it that I advocate the search for truth? Is it because modern scripture instructs us to “seek learning, even by study and also by faith”? Is it because I fear to appear ignorant? For me, it is because I recognize that my faith will illuminate my understanding only inasmuch as I allow it to grow, even into the mysterious darkness. 
Learning is a magnificent process. It inspires the mind and enriches the soul. I love that Church leaders and scripture exhort us to learn constantly, because instead of shattering my faith, the process has solidified mine.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

dedication to the investigation: a world without absolutes

Thanks to marla for pointing this post out to me. It aligns perfectly with my musings about life's lack of absolutes, and the many religious-person's unfortunate expectation/need for them in order to find truth.

Here are the parts that caught my attention:

Those who refuse to leave the world of absolutes, black & white, either/or:

What is remarkable about the fundamentalist perspective, however, is an unwillingness to see spiritual life in the same light [the natural world: "built in simultaneously subtle and complicated ways"]. Instead of seeing subtlety and complication that require a lifetime of intense dedicated effort — a genuine personal investigation of the world — to understand, everything is reduced to magic-marker outlines with unwavering, absolute answers.
This world stands in stark contrast to the fundamentalist's spiritual world, a domain so sparse, so simple, that it's been bled of all color, shading and texture.

and in contrast, those who will:

What struck an atheist like me about these folks [spiritually-oriented people] was their dedication to the investigation.
What mattered most to the people I'm thinking of was not doctrine or dogma. It was their exploration of their own experience. They were searching through their lived experience of their spiritual traditions for an understanding of what was sacred in their lives. I found that dedication refreshing and exciting. They understood that there were no easy answers in life.

Friday, September 14, 2012

"Something Understood"

The following is reposted from today's RZIM "Slice of Infinity"

Something Understood

In an essay titled "Meditation in a Toolshed," C.S. Lewis describes a scene from within a darkened shed. The sun was brilliantly shining outside, yet from the inside only a small sunbeam could be seen through a crack at the top of the door. Everything was pitch-black except for the prominent beam of light, by which he could see flecks of dust floating about. Writes Lewis:

"I was seeing the beam, not seeing things by it. Then I moved, so that the beam fell on my eyes. Instantly the whole previous picture vanished. I saw no toolshed, and (above all) no beam. Instead I saw, framed in the irregular cranny at the top of the door, green leaves moving in the branches of a tree outside and beyond that, 90 odd million miles away, the sun. Looking along the beam, and looking at the beam are very different experiences."(1)

Each time I come to the gospel accounts of the woman with the alabaster jar, I notice something similar. "Do you see this woman?" Jesus asks, as if he is speaking as much to me as the guests around the table. With a jar of costly perfume, she had anointed the feet of Christ with fragrance and tears. She then endured the criticism of those around her because she alone saw the one in front of them. While the dinner crowd was sitting in the dark about Jesus, the woman was peering in the light of understanding. What she saw invoked tears of recognition, sacrifice, and much love. Gazing along the beam and at the beam are quite different ways of seeing.

The woman with the alabaster jar not only saw the Christ when others did not, Christ saw her when others could not see past her reputation. "Do you see this woman?" Jesus asked while the others were questioning her actions past and present. "I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—for she loved much."(2) Her soul's cry was heard; she herself was understood.

There are many ways of looking at Jesus: good man, historical character, interesting teacher, one who sees, one who hears, one who loves. At any point, we could easily walk away feeling like we have seen everything we need to see. When in fact, we may have seen very little. The risk of looking again may well change everything.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

the story of Christ

Today I was reading a short article musing on how and why the story of Christ survived. It's easy for most to admit, concerning the resurrection, that "something must have happened, otherwise it's hard to explain how Jesus's story endured for so long," yet the author of the article affirms that the resurrection "was shocking in its real-ness" and that

We must be wary, then, among other things, of assuming the earliest followers of Christ thought resurrection a reasonable phenomenon or miracles a natural occurrence. They didn't. Investigating the life of Paul, we might ask why a once fearful persecutor of Christ's followers was suddenly willing to die for the story he carried around the world, testifying to this very event that split history. Investigating the enduring story of Christ, we might ask why the once timid and frightened disciples were abruptly transformed into bold witnesses. What happened that led countless Jews and many others to dramatically change directions in life and in lifestyle? That something incredible happened is not a difficult conclusion at which to arrive. It takes far greater faith to conclude otherwise (Carattini).

This reminded me of a post I did a while ago about the importance of the literalness of the resurrection and the need for personal experience with divinity. That the resurrection really happened and that Christ's followers experienced its realness for themselves was powerfully altering. And thinking about that I couldn't help but recall Joseph Smith's testimony in D&C 76:22...
And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives!
...and how he was also "transformed into [a] bold witness" of Christ -- of the message Christ gave him to share. The experience Joseph had with the Lord "dramatically change[d]" his life, and left him with a story that he too was "willing to die for."
I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it J.S. Hist. 1:25
Experiences with Christ, with His story of love and atonement and resurrection, and the resulting stories we then carry with us of those experiences...they transform us too. That is the power of a personal acquaintance with Truth (one we all need).
It seems to me that the story of Christ has endured for innumerable reasons: because in the fullness of time God indeed sent his Son; because knowingly Jesus walked to the Cross and into the hands of those who didn't know what they were doing; because something really happened after his body was laid in the tomb; and because with great power and with God’s Spirit, the apostles continued to testify of the events they saw. What if the story of Christ remains today simply because it is true? (Carattini)