Reunifying sober and radical faith

It seems to me that today, radical believers are not sober (“not
that interested in truth”), while sober believers are not radical
(“without effect”). But faith must be both, to have the right
effect. Also, only sober and radical faith will lead to
“life”, where this means a justified, appropriate and
adventurous, interesting dealing with one’s own existence.

So, can faith be sober and radical at the same time? In my personal
experience, demystifying
my faith
led to a sober but lifeless faith, as many believed
immediate experiences with God turn out to be fake. Such faith is not
radical any more. But now it seems to me that there is a sober,
justifiable and radical, practical, lively faith, and that
I’m coming in proximity to it. I will trace here the steps how such
faith emerges
from what is accessible to human perception. (I don’t view emergence as
something that arises out of its own, but as an attribute of planned
systems which have self-development capabilities planned in. So, man’s
way to God is not his own way, but following the path that God prepared
for this.)

(1) From nothing to knowing about God’s existence

I know about evolution and the proposed proofs for it, and it seems
to me obvious that there must be a creator god. Because I
found no persuading proof of any complexity-generating mechanism in
dumb matter, and whenever I read biology-related stuff I marvel at the
awful complexity of life again. So the principal alternatives to me are
theism and deism (or, natural theology),
and this persuasion seems justified and even scientifically valid to me.

Another thing to learn from nature is: in sight of the creator God’s
might and greatness, it is impossible for humans to “serve” God. God
might expect people to act morally, but if they don’t there is no way
for humans to “repair” that, as humans cannot bring anything to God
that he needs, Therefore, if justification is necessary, it can only be
by grace alone.

This is what can be learned from observing nature, but there might
be more truth regarding God. For example, nature and nature science
does provide no hint that there is resurrection, but it also
does not proove the opposite. Therefore, one now has to think how to
justifiedly aquire additional knowledge to move from natural to
revealed religion.

(2) From knowing about God’s existence to knowing God by experience

The world is full of surprises. Until now, I thought that refusing
to justify one’s faith by arguments is a small-scale, personal
phenomenon, based either in personality type or folk religion. But I
just read that it is a well-known and wide-spread theological concept,
even in Christianity!! The concept is called fideism.

“Fideism is the view that religious belief depends on faith or
revelation, rather than reason, intellect or natural theology. The word
fideism comes from fides, the Latin word for faith, and literally means
faith-ism.” [Wikipedia
on fideism

The above cited article also shows that fideism is connected to
Luther, Wittgenstein, Kierkegaard and Pascal. It’s good to have words
now for what I want to say: my faith in God and Jesus is no fideism,
but instead connected to evidentialism
and reliablilism.
I see “faith” as the opposite of works (Romans
3:28 ESV
), not of reason! My esteem for reason rests upon a very
basic observation: a human being comes into the world with an “empty
brain”, that is, everything whithin the brain (including knowledge) can
only be made up from what entered through the senses. This is
a purely experience-oriented perspective: aquiring knowledge about the
outer world is
to make sense of one’s senses. (If this view or fideism is correct
depends on the structure of reality: if reality is one continuum,
including spiritual and material reality, fideism cannot be the
to spiritual truth as it is not to truth about the material world; but
if there is a separation into two disjoint parts, the case is
different. Until now, I assume the former, as I have no hint to a
separation, and the Bible accounts for God making himself
experienceable in the material world also indicates that reality is one
big continuum.)

Information about history and God also enters through our senses, in
form of documents and artefacts. And one has to make sense of it, by
testing the reliability of the sources etc.. If any revealed religion
is true, therefore, there must be also a justified way to acquire
knowledge about this truth, i.e. to make sense of what can be perceived
from it. This calls for God to be experienced within this world, or
believing anything apart from natural religion could not be justified.
Happily, this is the case for Christianity: the Bible claims that God
was experienced on various occasions. For example, that Jesus
resurrected, proving his divinity that way.

There is also a justified Christian belief before knowing reliable
miracles: if any thing that gives hope is true, than it is the gospel
about Jesus the Christ – because Christianity adheres to justification
from grace alone (which follows
from natural theology, see above), and because Christianity is founded
in history
so that a historic proof can be sought after. This kind of faith cannot
be overthrown, and it provides for relaxedness even when one does not
yet know the proving facts that one expects to be there.

Now how to gather the knowledge that justifies believing in the god
of Christianity, if there is such knowledge? The proposal
would be: by making sense of the experiences of people who claim to
have had immediate encounters
with God. This would
use both biblical accounts and contemporary accounts (upcoming “Second
” project), as from a big continuum. That way, no special
mystical role as “holy writings” is attributed to the Bible.

One cannot understate the importance of history (experiences
of men with God) as the basis to believe. Because everything else could
for mere psychological reasons, including the effects of grace. Grace
“works”, but such pragmatic
does not make a believe true. But truth is important
for the afterlife: is there an afterlife, or not. Experiencing the
“hard reality” of God cannot be explained away, while inner-psychic
motions can. Therefore it is of such value that Christianity includes a
wealth of claimed experiences with the “hard reality of God” (esp. in
the Bible), which can be checked and hopefully result in the
persuasion that God is real and not a mere concept. In Christianity,
even the central message is inseparable from history: the gospel, in
the context of Mk.16,15
, is pimarily the message that was at hand there: the good
news that Jesus rose from the dead!!!

Now one might find it difficult to know what God or Gods
(of perhaps many ones) is behind each experience, i.e. to make sense of
experiences with invisible reality. Some thoughts: different religions
report different experiences, and from this difference it should
hopefully be clear that the God of Christianity is the only omnipotent
God (who
must therefore be the creator god, if any known God is). This God made
himself identifyable by dealing with the Jews only, for al long time:
he can be identified as “the God of the Jews”. Today, the name “Jesus
Christ”, identifying the son of this God, makes the connection to this
God; so one can expect that prayers in the name of Jesus Christ
have a different effect than those without, and this can be checked.

But is it really that complicated to come to a justified belief in
God? No way. Me thinks this is just the thinkers’ way, while there are
other approaches to the truth about God for other types of people. The
thinkers’ way is hard, with many dangers, and it is a pure gift to
arrive at the truth about God this way (see 1Cor
1:18-26 ESV
). This is just for people who don’t accept axioms, not
even the intuitively acceptable idea that a human being is an entity
that was intended to be an entity. Approaches with such axioms are also
possible, I think, but only because God provided circumstances so that
he can be found these ways. For example, a humble heart that’s
conscious about its guilt, combined with fideism, also arrives at the
faith in Jesus when being told about his grace. Therefore, due to this
epistemically correct result, fideism should not be criticized on all
occasions in Christianity.

(3) From knowing God by experience to radical faith

We are now at the point where there is (hopefully) enough evidence
to justify believing what the Bible says about God. That is, this God
is real, not a mere concept. And this statement holds true even if one
does not have immediate contact to God. Therefore, a radical faith in
this God is justified even if one does not experience God personally.
might be people who never experience God supernaturally themselves (for
example those in Hebrews
11:35-40 ESV
), but have good reason to believe from the reports
of others.

This is really an interesting finding: radical faith can be
justified even without personal, immediate encounters with God. Such
“radical but distance-accepting” faith is quite beautiful as it
answers both the desire for fervent radicality and truth (in the sense
of demystified faith, which emphasizes that there is a distance).

Oh, I forgot: what is radical faith, actually? I would define, it is
to deal with God in the same quality as if he’d be visible or otherwise
immediately accessible. This seems to be a very basic aspect of faith,
as it is said about faithful Moses that he “endured as [if] seeing him
who is invisible”
11:27 ESV
). The definition says “in the same quality”, not with the
same actions: so radical faith does not mean
to act if God would be present as a person in space and time, just
invisible, as this would lead to mystical stuff such as “feeling the
presence of God”. Radical faith accepts this distance, but is
nonetheless radical in obedience and consequence. Paul might be seen as
an example of a radical believer: his faith in Christ and the
resurrection rests on the reorted experiences of the other apostles and
his own (but past) experience of Christ, yet he emits such radical
statements as “O death, where is your victory?” [1Cor
15:1-58 ESV

Such consequent obedience means to risk something by behaving
according to
the example of Jesus and other biblical characters. For example, to
risk job,
friendships, relationships and stuff. And exactly this, taking
justified risks, is the enabler of life (where “life” means something
interesting, adventurous). And in the long run, taking risks instead of
living in a luke-warm state is very rewarding: one finds a hundredfold
of what one lost, even on earth, just as Jesus
promised (see Mark
10:28-30 ESV

People who do not believe don’t risk anything: it is an observation
that people who view the visible reality as the most important one seek
a secure place in it and won’t risk that for anything. But people who
believe in a higher, worthier reality might risk their current security
for that. Because beliefs are such a string force, it is very important
to hold the true belief. Believing lies also motivates to radical life,
but dependent on lie’s content it might result in the radical life of
jihad warriors.

(4) From radical faith to repentance

When taking Jesus seriously, one has to take seriously what he says
about sin and forgiveness, and then, to repent. This is difficult as it
implies to humble oneself, but the lack of radicality and consequence
in this point can withhold people from following Jesus at all, even if
seeing his miracles first-hand (e.g. John
7:3-5 ESV

The problem of guilt is in fact even the primary thing that drives
people to Jesus, not historic evidence, which is then added afterwards,
if at all. In this sense, these “steps to sober and radical faith” are
idealized to conform to logic, not to reality. Only intellectual people
have these additional problems which force them to seek for historical
evidence … .

(5) From repentance to love

“Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for
loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” [Luke
7:47 ESV

Love flows from being forgiven. Radicality cannot be an activity,
but must be motivated by love towards God – else it will run dry in the
long run.

(6) From love to radical practice

We are now at the point of radical faith, which wants to put itself
into action. This seems at first glance a very difficult thing: What
radical steps are justifiable from a belief where concrete, immediate
commandments from God occur rarely? How
to live with Jesus in daily life, if it cannot be an immediate
relationship on average? That is: what do you do to live out your faith
and experience faith if you cannot expect your God to interact with
your life on a daily basis (but only on surprising, special occasions).

But, the interesting thing is: radical obedience to mediate
commandments is also possible. Mediate commandments are, for example:
the timeless, general truths of the Bible; and especially the example
of Jesus. The previous article “Way
to truth and life, fifth start
” contained some rather general ideas
for a practical and lively, radical faith. Thoughts have gone further
somewhat, so here are more concrete ideas what actions and activities
fit for a faith which is sober and radical at the same time:

  • Take it for serious. Radical faith means, perhaps first
    of all, to take radically serious what one believes. So that it affects
    one’s life and decisions in a consequent way. This makes other people
    recognize that one really takes this to be the truth, and they will
    hopefully check for themselves if one’s beliefs are a mere concept or
    truth indeed.
  • Take risks. Risk something by behaving
    according to truth, which you can learn from the example of Jesus and
    other biblical figures. One example: if a friend needs a rebuke, rebuke
    him (or her). If it deems
    on you that smalltalk is not appropriate for a particular situation,
    move to more risky and effective topics. The opposite of taking risks
    is to live a totally adapted life. But how to find a situation to risk
    something when
    everyday life is filled with just recurring everyday activity? This is
    not really a problem: every day grants at least one possibility,
    and every possibility can set off an avalanche of new possibilities if
    one takes it.
  • Love one another. “If this has been done, enough has
    been done” (Apostle John, according to a tradition). Love is something
    very radical and very practical. It includes “filling the day with
    people”, as mentioned in “Way
    to truth and life, fifth start
  • Thank God for creating a world which provides plenty of food.
    If you thank God for a meal, that’s what you can thank God for. You
    cannot thank God for coordinating that exactly this meal is on your
    table, as this is a mystical belief that lets the problem arise why God
    does not do the same for all the starving people. But when we start to
    see that God created a good world without the necessity of famine, and
    that famine is purely man’s work, this problem does not arise.
  • Read the Bible as if truth-sunbathing. What view on the
    Bible is both sober and radical? For example, this: when reading the
    Bible, that’s because you seek and enjoy the long-term
    effects of being exposed to truth, and you do not search an immediate
    encounter with God. With this view, you doesn’t expect each single
    Bible time to give you concrete directions for your life, and would
    even accept if your decision couldn’t be traced back to “what God said”
    in concrete Bible times, but only to Bible truth in general.
  • Seek mediate guidance. When you seek to be led by Jesus,
    seek the timeless, general truth offered in the Bible, and not an
    immediate encounter with Jesus (which is possible nonetheless). The
    timeless, general truth is enough for nearly all cases: only if we obey
    it consequently and still lack wisdom how to live this life, there is
    reason to seek God’s immediate action.

These tips are in one word: obey. Humble yourself, pray etc., as you
see appropriate in your situation, judged by timeless, general truth.
Such a life generates a lot of positive effects that we like to call
“experiences with God” now: for example, honesty and authenticity have
loads of positive
effects, but are nothing more than human behavior, in obedience to
Jesus’ example.

(7) And perhaps: experiencing God personally and immediately

What is new to me personally here is the idea of a radical
life, founded in timeless truth, not immediate commandments. That has
to say something on the role of miracles and personal experiences.

First of all, miracles are not that necessary. They were never
intended from God
“just help” people, but to show his character and divinity. For this
purpose, some miracles
are enough, and most of them can be history. God wants to help people
not by miracles, but by transformed people: the
practical problems of this world will inevitably go away when people
start to live according to the example of Jesus. One historical example
for this is the worldwide example of abolishing slavery.

The basis of faith is not the personal experience of miracles (while
these are nice to have and they support faith), but instead faith rests
on the fact that
such experiences have been there in other people’s lifes. This is quite
relaxing, as faith may stay sober: no mystical stuff
has to be introduced to fake miracles in one’s personal life.

Now, this should not lead people to mistrust “by default” own or
other’s proposed immediate experiences with God. There are
immediate encounters with God (including
supernatural answers to prayer, impressions from the Spirit, gifts of
the Spirit). Just, it seems that one cannot provoke
them to occur in one’s own life (it did not work for those in Hebrews
11:35-40 ESV
, e.g.). They just happen.

One additional thought: there are cases where the Bible claims that
God is at work immediately, while it seems to be normal natural life to
men. For example, the Father draws people or they cannot come
to Christ; or, the mind of Christians is able to intend positive stuff
because of the Spirit. It is not clear how to detect God’s intervention
here from a sober, scientific point of view, but it is not that
important, either: the effectshould be attributed to God, but these
cases cannot serve as the basis of faith as they looks like
natural human life outwardly.

Summing up

“[W]hoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in
which he walked.” [I
John 2:6 ESV

Really believing in Jesus is taking him that serious that one starts
to live according to his example, and starts to learn his radicality.
Which makes this article to be nothing more than a fervent appeal to
start living after the
example of Jesus again: open, honest, humble, loving, radical,
fearless. We might have started this once, and got frustrated because
God did not answer as immediately as we expected. This should not
frustrate any more: there is this distance between creator and
creature, but recognizing the truth about God and living radically
according to it is possible nonetheless.

Start date: 2007-11-25
Post date: 2007-11-28
Version date: 2007-11-28 (for last meaningful change)






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