Friday, April 20, 2007

Deep and Deeper

Some years ago I was sorting through the ideas floating around my brain, and was disturbed to discover that my Christian faith was not my most deeply-held belief. Not even close. I could imagine abandoning it long before I could imagine abandoning, say, my passion for individual liberty and economic freedom.

This bothered me, as it seemed to me that religious beliefs ought to be the most important, certainly more important than political beliefs, but I could see nothing in particular to be done about it, so it sat in the "Perplexing Things" file for a decade or so.

While reading through a fascinating series on design and creation by John Mark Reynolds, I came across this article on ordering ideas. Suddenly it clicked. Christian faith was not the core of my beliefs because it simply couldn't be--it requires understanding of a complex historical record, faith in some rather difficult doctrinal points, and above all divine revelation. It's not something you can just instinctively know. Instead, it depends on deeper things in the soul, beliefs with which it resonates, questions which it answers.

Some beliefs we can change comfortably as evidence demands; others we can hardly change without losing our minds. For me, the most fundamental core belief, the one which it would break me to renounce, is the significance of everything--most especially, the importance of every individual human being.

This leads in a fairly straightforward sequence to a deep commitment to individual rights. It leads in a slightly more complex sequence to a faith in a spiritual realm, a personal Creator God, and thence to God as revealed in the Bible and through Jesus Christ, who died for all. (And by the same token makes me always uneasy around strict Calvinism.)

No doubt because it is so fundamental, and likewise so instinctive, it is also the point at which I feel most vulnerable. I can't prove every blade of grass matters, or even that every person matters. It is where I start, not where I finish. So when I read secularists blathering on about how material existence is all there is, I get, briefly, nervous. Maybe they're right. Maybe everything is meaningless. Their case is tidy and neat.

But, as Chesterton points out the best, it is simply too small, like the lunatic who is convinced that everyone is conspiring against him. He can explain all the relevant phenomenon--this person smiling at him and that person ignoring him. It's perfectly rational. But it's still entirely wrong. The world is not, cannot be, so small as they imagine. If it was, I could not fit inside.

I am curious as to what other core beliefs are out there. Reynolds listed his as a faith in reason. DOB's most core belief is in a just order. What is yours?


Ben, Kyri & Rachelle said...

Excellent post. It has me thinking about my core beliefs. A few years ago I determined to be less vocal about my politics with people I didn't know. It was just a matter of deciding that I couldn't really believe that God was an American and therefore could not determine he was a Republican and that in the end, faith in the Triune God is more important than my position on Iraq or economics. But I would still rather talk about those things. This post helped me articulate why that is so.

I think one of my core beliefs is the unity of believers. It is one of the reasons I don't take issue with the beliefs of my Seventh Day Adventist relatives and why I hate to be around people who put down Catholics. But when I analyze it by Reynolds standard, it may be deeply held but probably not as hard and fast as the death and resurrection of Jesus.

I appreciate his thoughts on origins. I have always refused to get into the whole creation/evolution debate. This very thing is the thing I most dread about homeschooling my own children. I am not in any way convinced that the earth was created in 6 or 7 24-hour days but I am deeply convinced that God was the center of creation and in Him we live and move and have our being. As long as my children believe the latter, I will be happy with whatever conclusions they arrive at. But I know it is extremely charged.

We used to attend church with Reynolds parents and brother in VA. They have since joined him in the Orthodox church. I continue to be fascinated by his work. Wish he'd been at Biola when I was there. -rlr

Devona said...

Wow, these are good thoughts, and oddly I was just thinking about such matters 10 minutes before reading this post.

I was reading a blog by The Confessing Evangelical today about the potential for life on other planets and its impact on Christianity. Suddenly I was afraid of all the atrocious things we would do to such beings if we ever found them. This thought made me realize that I also first and foremost believe that all beings are of significant importance. And I believe this because they were specifically created by our God.

Nice to come here and read you articulating my own thoughts so well.