Friday, April 1, 2011

How Faith Works in Mysterious Ways

What is faith? I believe it is an unwavering belief in something. Although its use has been mainly delegated to questions of religion, you can also have faith in yourself, in your government, in your future. Its trademark is a strong and positive conviction and outlook influencing the actions of your present and projecting optimism into the future.

Yet where does faith come from? Are you born with it or can you acquire it in later life? And how is it different from having confidence and trust in an outcome or oneself? Because of its overwhelming effect on and tie with religion, I will first try to examine its spiritual aspects before I turn to psychological matters. So what does Christian religion say about faith?

For a Christian, faith is mainly believing in God, often in Jesus Christ as the Lord and Redeemer of the world and human sins. In many cases, it is a strong feeling that illuminates your belief system and sheds light into your core being. Your life suddenly becomes imbued with a sense of direction, purpose and vocation.

Some claim that it is the Holy Spirit or sometimes Jesus himself tapping on your shoulder and giving you a glimpse of truth by changing your perspectives on life and death. St. Paul became converted through such a divine appearance and made this type of faith popular. In fact, St. Paul changed the focus and emphasis of baptism from the washing away of sins of newborns to experiencing death and resurrection in Christ as an adult. Born-again Christians use Baptism in the Pauline sense to explain their rebirth and continuous faith in Christ, while Catholics prefer to see baptism as the purging of Original Sin.

But how does faith come about? Are we chosen and predestined by God to have faith? In other words, why does the Holy Spirit refuse to give me a visit?

Some claim that you must deserve it by living an exemplary life. In such cases, it is seen as a reward for good behavior. Others may say that one needs to be prepared and ready for such a visit, or rather send out an open invitation addressed to the Holy Spirit. Notwithstanding, the Spirit makes unannounced visits as well, such was the case of St. Paul who was actually persecuting Christians and was suddenly converted into a saint.

If it was ordained and predestined by God, if the Almighty determines beforehand who has faith and who does not, then what can we do but hope? And why preach anything about faith since the “unchosen” ones will never have or be able to attain it? Would such a thing not be cruel, like eating savoury chocolate in front of a diabetic?

If, however, there is a chance of gaining faith, how would it work? What do you need to do? People say you need to believe in God, but what if you do not? What if you are incapable of believing in Him, no matter how hard you try and whatever you do? Can you accuse someone of doing something they are not “wired” or capable to do?

Belief is something that cannot be forced and if it is, it will lead to sheer hypocrisy and make-believe, and I am sure that this is not what preachers and missionaries are really after. By extension, if God has already decided who to save, then what is the point of trying to save souls that are destined to be damned anyhow? Because in the end, God has the ultimate word and authority.

But let us assume that faith is for those who deserve to have it. That it is mostly mental or psychological, just like confidence. The better you do something, the more recognition you get from others for your efforts, the higher your self-esteem and self-confidence will rise. It would work then on similar grounds for faith. Those who are pure and good at heart and live a life void of hatred and evil intentions will gain faith.

In that case, however, what about all those good people who simply doubt their own abilities and their capacity to have faith? Is doubt evil? If we do not doubt, how can we achieve any real certainty, how are we immune from misguided perceptions? It would be what is often referred to as a kind of blind faith, which can have very dangerous and disastrous consequences, as cults and sects demonstrate.

To sum up, faith can give you wings. It can make you believe in yourself and in others. It can bring you closer to God. However, it is undefined, raw and mysterious. We do not know how one has it and why others do not acquire it. We cannot know for certain that people actually have faith, as they could pretend that they do, while we have little to objectively verify and examine the faith of a person. Faith, just like the Lord Himself, works indeed in mysterious ways.


Unknown said...

One of the most horrifying things that has been personally revealed to me is that the faith of most "Christians" for far too long now is no different than the faith of other religions. For it is based solely on the Bible and the teachings of their own particular denomination. Whereas, the kind of faith that truly is of our Heavenly Father is not blind, nor deaf.

In other words, the kind of faith of faith that truly is of our Heavenly Father is based upon belief in Him--not in the book about Him, nor upon a church that claims to represent His interests. For it involves personal interaction, and in due time, a very close and personal relationship forms.

No, this is not to say that His Holy Bible, nor even the various churches, are of no value, but the cart has been put in front of the horse for far too long now. For we have not been left to fend for ourselves until His return in glory, and be assured that no one will be denied the opportunity to accept what He actually says is absolutely true before their own time as a part of this world comes to an end.

On a more personal note, you wonder why our Heavenly Father's Holy Spirit refuses to give you a visit, and yet, I hear Him speaking through you to a very great extent. For He is calling into question through you many of the things that have been taken too much for granted for far too long.

Hopefully, He will make you acutely aware of His presence much sooner than later, which is what I experienced back in '93. Be assured that nothing will be the same afterward in regards to perception, but of what value is this to those who do not want to believe it?

Arash Farzaneh said...

Thank you for your insight! I agree with you that for religion to have any real impact on a person's life, it must be felt and experienced and there needs to be an intimate connection and relationship with God. Perhaps one could say that the Bible is a kind of gateway and one needs to pass through on one's own accord?

That said, I believe that faith can be independent from the Holy Writ because it is possible to believe without relying on written sources.

I have personally found some consolation that even great men and saints have struggled with their faith. So that gives me hope and I am in good company then.

Unknown said...

Be assured that you have touched upon a very significant point, my dear Arash. For if our salvation was dependent upon the Bible, does this mean that the millions upon millions who were never given an opportunity to even hear it being preached (let alone actually read it) were destined for destruction?

This is not to say that our Heavenly Father's Holy Scriptures are of no value, however. For they were given to serve as written confirmation of what He Himself wants to personally reveal unto each and every one of us, and they truly are a very special gift that should be greatly cherished.

Brenda said...

We can have faith in anything or anyone, but if we are talking about the faith that is spoken of in the new testament of the Bible, then that faith is the 'substance' of things hoped for, and is a gift from God. Without faith it is impossible to please God. It is Jesus that is the doorway if we are talking about approaching God because He is the one mediator between man and God. No one can come to God except through Jesus and no one can come to Jesus except he is called by God.

Unknown said...

Yes, my dear Brenda, the "substance" of the kind of faith that is truly of our Heavenly Father is He Himself--albeit in the form of His Holy Spirit. For it is through His constant presence and spoken reassurances that we are able to truly accept, and keep believing in, what He actually says is absolutely true despite all apparent evidence to the contrary.

Unknown said...

Alas, my dear Brenda, just as I was hitting the "Publish" button to post that last comment, I was reminded of the fact that we would do well to not take anything too much for granted, especially in regards to what we may hear coming from some pulpit. For far too many in the Christian community have sank their teeth into something that they desperately wanted to believe and have hung onto to it--despite all of His efforts to show them that what they want to believe is absolutely true is actually something that Satan has twisted into something very false.