When we come to religious faith the apparent lack of proof is the bone of contention. The TVO panel brought out the problems in believing in a god or gods--there is no proof. Or is there? Why do so many of us have an apprehension of a divine truth? "There's a divinity that shapes our ends, rough hew them how we will" said Shakespeare (Hamlet: Act V, Sc. II).
One of our hymns reminds us that "God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform". I was browsing among my books looking for "Letters to Young Churches" by J. B. Phillips, when I discovered "New Testament Christianity", a book by the same author, published over fifty years ago, that I appear not to have read before. I opened it and found a whole section on The Faith-faculty.
The panel had been asked "what is faith?" The dictionary had sent me back to belief, trust and reliance and it seemed to me obvious that we commonly use the word in a more religious sense, whether we realise it or not. J. B. Phillips wrote in a way it is a pity that we have to use the word "Faith" to describe the faculty by which the unseen dimension is grasped, drawn upon, and lived by. < For someone writing fifty years ago he uses a very modern concept: dimension. I rejoiced.
Years ago, when he was rector at All Saints, Archdeacon John Rathbone invited us, during a sermon, to read Stephen Hawking's "A Brief History of Time". It's tough going, but well worthwhile for anyone with some knowledge of physics and mathematics. I came away with a reinforced concept of dimensions--of the states of which our senses make us aware, such as time, distance, space, colour, etc.
We all have an innate faculty of imagination which takes us into another dimension, intangible, but nevertheless real. We also have a faculty for the spiritual, the sense that there must be some reason for our existence, the sense that Shakespeare called a divinity that shapes our ends, a sense of the spiritual. We can deny it, or we can cultivate it. J. B. Phillips called it the Faith faculty, but added that our faith has degenerated into a rather dogged holding on to something which we believe to be true.< We need to cultivate the Faith Faculty.
St. Paul told the people of Athens that our God is "the God in whom we live and move and have our being". To understand that fully requires a concept of the Spiritual Dimension, a faculty that we have, but that we all too often have failed to cultivate. It requires meditation, the quiet moments; we need time to ponder upon life. I suggest that it is inborn, that we are "hard-wired" for it, but it can be atrophied very early on if there are no signs of its existence in the environment. We have been prone to keep our spiritual experiences to ourselves with the result that others are denied the environment in which their own spirituality may be developed. During two thousand years we have been indoctrinated with something that we are told to believe to be true and many of us have doggedly held on to it. We have not permitted our faith faculty to embrace it and to develop our individual spirituality. Youth today is developing its own spirituality, but traditional religious institutions are, in general, failing to offer encouragement.
Did your faith stop at your mother's knees or in the presence of a favourite Sunday School teacher, or are you letting it grow as you spend a few minutes in meditation?...
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