I have lost my faith. Quite the challenge when you blog at Faith-Promoting Rumor.
However, Tuesday I awoke and read the following comment by Ronan over at BCC:
This week we read Job 19:25: “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that at the last he will stand upon the earth”. We spent perhaps an hour discussing this one verse: what does Job mean? A Christian reading is clear—he is appealing to the intercession of the future Messiah, Jesus Christ. But such an interpretation will not do for a secular biblical program [for reasons Kevin has explained].
As a scholar pursuing a PhD in Near Eastern Studies, I am bound by certain rules. Objective, secular scholarship demands that I reject the notion that this passage refers to Jesus. I would not write it or suggest it, and if I were teaching a class on it I would criticise any student who raised the idea. Why? Because the only way to make this passage refer to Christ requires an injection of religious faith, which cannot be allowed to color our judgements of history, theology or literature. This is the creed of secular scholars, whose number, whilst I am being paid by a secular university, I am among. In short, I am required to see the Bible as a completely different book than the Bible I read on Sunday.
But in my other world, this passage clearly refers to Christ! Even as I sat in class I felt a strong, personal feeling towards the Saviour. Job’s trial is immense and his hope is gone, so he appeals for a redeemer, a “go’el”, who in Hebrew law was often the kinsmen who bailed you out of trouble. Is this not Jesus, our own brother who satisfies justice on our behalf? Indeed it is. But is it exactly what Job is referring to here? I don’t know and frankly, I don’t care. Jewish rabbis realised long ago that the greatest boon of the Hebrew Bible is that it lent itself to contemporary interpretation i.e. we can “liken the scriptures to ourselves.” Which is what I do as I try to balance the demands of scholarship (of which I am an an advocate) and the mysteries of religious faith (of which I am a believer). I’m not Job and I didn’t write his book, but “I know that my Redeemer lives”.
The thing which touched me most about Ronan’s comment was not what he had to say about Job, but his feelings about Jesus Christ. As I sat in bed reading this comment…I felt the spirit. My heart was pricked. I am not sure if I have felt the spirit in a meaningful way in years.
My relationship with the Church has been a positive one externally, but internally it has been rocky. After working 5 years at CES Institutions, I have grown tired of the institutional church. However, I think that as I have grown tired of the institutional church, I have allowed my faith to suffer, even die, amongst the frustration. Now this is not so much because of anything about the Church, but more the result of not being a very good company man.
Tuesday night, I went with my family to the movie Nanny McPhee Returns. It was a cute and fun show. Nanny McPhee comes in and teaches the struggling family five lessons. These include “not fighting,” and “sharing.”
At the very end of the movie, we find out that the final lesson is: have faith. As the credits started to roll, I realized that while I have little to no faith…I desire to have faith. Many of the people who I know that have abandoned faith, act as though they have overcome faith. However, faith has never been something that I have not wanted, it is just not something I am good at. Part of this is because depression has heavily clouded my head in many ways.
Now, I have decided to have faith. Not sure what that really means. I have decided that I will start by praying for more faith in Christ. We will see where that takes me.
Either way, between Ronan and Emma Thompson, I will have to thank the British for getting me back on the path.
11 Replies to “Lesson #5: Have Faith”
Good on you, Chris.
Now I understand a recent comment from you in an email, Chris. God bless.
Thanks for this personal post. Two articles come to mind that you may want to check out if you haven’t before, because they seem relevant and they helped me when I was struggling with similar problems: Taylor Petrey’s “Practicing Divinity” in Dialogue last year, and the last section of Terryl Givens’ “Lighting out of Heaven” that can be downloaded here: http://terrylgivens.com/addresses-and-essays/
Thanks for this refreshingly honest post, Chris. Know that you have friends that care about you and are praying for you. And believe it or not, comments you’ve made in the recent past have helped strengthen my own resolve to be a more faithful and committed member of the Church, for which I am grateful.
It is a decision. Banzai, brother.
Delighted to hear that the musings on the blogs can have a positive real-world effect. (ronan’s great.) Hugh B. Brown once told my mom, “Sometimes you live by the light; sometimes you live by the memory of the light,” and that phrase has stuck with me for decades. In some sense faith is the capacity and commitment to continue to walk when the light is more remembered than immediate, more neurons than photons.
I used to wonder what Jesus meant when he said that it takes only the faith of a mustard seed to move mountains. I am not so good at faith and belief; I am a skeptic by nature or by environment.
In a recent general conference, one of the Brethren referred to having a “molecule” of faith; another referred to having a “glimmer” of faith, and about miracles that can happen as a result. That level of faith is about all I can muster or feel sometimes. But I have come to believe by experience and feeling that I can be open to faith, hope and belief and that, for me, makes all the difference, sometimes a miraculous difference.
I am glad that my community of faith is open (although sometimes reluctantly so) to skeptics, like me, who sometimes feel only a molecule, or glimmer, of faith or hope or belief.
Thank you all for your kind comments. I very much appreciate it.
Your decision meshes well with the fact that you have a new living situation and a bright, fresh start. That should make it easier, I would think.
Kevin: I really do think that the new situation is making it easier. I should add that my wife and kids are very helpful in boosting me up. This helps a good bit.
Thank you for sharing this; I was moved by both the post and comments. The decision to have faith is such a huge step! I also pray for faith, though it has been a while since I have been moved spiritually by things uniquely religious–I am more touched by life in general, the birth of our last baby, or a beautiful day or exquisite meal.
I like Ronan’s approach of both acknowledging all the historical particulars of a passage but also being moved by later interpretation. I think this is ideal. I feel that the way something affects us is as real as its original intention. I am open to “dual fulfillment”–Isaiah meant Hezekiah in the oracle now found in chapter 7. Was he also aware of Jesus? Mmm… likely not. Who knows. But it certainly meant Jesus for Matthew, and for countless Christians after. So that interpretation is also valid and real.