The title of my book is Clear Faith: Clearing away stumbling blocks for a faith that makes sense. In my last blog I explained why the word “clear” in all its different meanings has been such a good word choice for me. Consider what your spiritual sense-of-being would be like if it were CLEAR. (Perhaps it is!) CLEAR as in transparent, open, inviting. CLEAR as in apparent, reflective, not muddy. CLEAR as in a pathway that is free of theological obstacles.
Now to the word FAITH. I define the word FAITH as a way of seeing, a point of view, one’s perspective. How do you view the world around you? What does it mean to you when bad things happen? What meanings do you give to good or bad things that happen personally, or on a world scale? Your spiritual lens is your FAITH. You peer through this lens of faith to give some meaning to what you see. As an example, recall the widespread meanings given to the 9/11 tragedy: terrorism, justified, deserved, tragedy, retribution, meaningless, helplessness, empowerment. Same event, different interpretations. How will the event be recorded in history books? That will depend on the historians, and which interpretations eventually become the condensed “truth.”
The terms faith and beliefs are sometimes used interchangeably, but I think it is useful to make a distinction between them. Beliefs are things you think are true, like “I believe in God.” “I believe that there is life after death.” These are improvable opinions (or they would be accepted by all as “facts”). A list can be made of beliefs.
Faith is more than a list of beliefs. One’s beliefs will influence one’s faith, but one’s faith is more than the sum of its belief parts. Faith is a way of life. A way of being. Here is what I do not think “faith” is: It is not just believing insomething that otherwise wouldn’t make sense, as in, “You just have to have faith that the world was created in seven 24-hour days. You just have to have faith that Jesus was physically resurrected.” No, that isn’t faith, those are beliefs. Your faith is how you behave or make decisions based on those beliefs. I view beliefs as non-essential, variable, interesting but not vital. I hold faith more dearly, recognizing that faith is made up of my values and commitments. Faith is my “treasure” [Matthew 6:21].
To have CLEAR FAITH is itself a treasure for me. My faith has undergone challenge and affirmation, and it will continue to focus and evolve as long as I live. In the past I was uneasy with my faith, thinking it had to conform to a set of beliefs that were not my own. I was troubled not being committed to the literal interpretation of scripture and to the traditional creeds of the church. When I gained respect for my viewpoints from reading and listening to progressive Christian scholars, and when I eagerly lapped up the wisdom and knowledge they had to offer [see the Bibliography in my book], my FAITH became CLEAR, and I felt light and transformed. FAITH is a hearty, heady feeling when it is truly your own and can be set free to frame your whole life and being!